Monday, January 21, 2013

The Impossible Review

Well that title sounds interesting. Is this review impossible? If it is, I am doing it anyways and that makes me pretty legit. I'm like Ender or something. No, in complete seriousness, with this blog post I am reviewing the movie called The Impossible, but I am sure you already knew that. I just decided to have a little fun with it. If you have never heard of The Impossible, it is a fairly new movie. Yes, it has technically been out since December 21st, but camped out in only 15 theaters for all of December. Just after New Years it jumped up to 500 theaters and the second weekend in January it barely qualified for a nationwide release with 800 theaters. So it's not everywhere right now, but it's in enough places for you to find a local theater near you to check out. The movie is about the Tsunami in southeast Asia in 2004, telling the true story of a family who got trapped in it. And oh my goodness, it is quite the theatrical experience. Queezy stomachs beware and emotional movie goers make sure you have your box of tissues ready.

The biggest thing I took from this movie was that nature at times is a cold-hearted, cruel monster. We hear about natural disasters all the time and we always feel bad for them, but we often don't fully understand the term natural disaster, emphasizing the word disaster, until we have experienced one ourselves. This movie does a fantastic job of putting you right in the middle of a natural disaster, namely one of the worst natural disasters the world has experienced in our lifetime anyways. It was the day after Christmas in 2004 when an underwater earthquake of a magnitude of 9.3 hit. This earthquake was the biggest earthquake in the past 40 years and the second largest in recorded history. The earthquake set off a huge tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people. Going into this movie, I knew that it was going to be about this event, but what caught me off guard was the high level of realism that came with it. It was very graphic and very PG-13. The scene when the tsunami hit was very intense as was the scenes where the main family we followed were getting carried away, thrown around, and bloodied up by this disaster. And as hard as that was, the aftermath was equally as hard if not more as we saw broken up and bloodied bodies every scattered among the dead. Then we spent a good majority of the movie in a third-world hospital setting that was scattered with injured people. Yes, this is very much an adult film that is probably really close to an R-rating. Keep young children far away from it. There was even a brief half second where Naomi Watts' character realizes that her shirt got half ripped off by the tsunami. It's not sexual, but yet a half second of nudity nonetheless that I didn't appreciate, so beware of that.

Let's walk away from the tragic aspect of the movie to different things. The movie starred Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Now those two have been around the movie scene recently, but this is the first time that I personally have seen either one in a movie, so that was refreshing for me. And let me give a ton of praise to both of them. They both did a fantastic job. Now Naomi Watts was the one that got an Oscar nomination for her performance and she definitely deserved every bit of that nomination. I don't know if she will actually win the award because there are some pretty solid candidates for the Best Actress award this year, but she would definitely get my vote. Ewan McGregor I think did a good enough job to get a nomination, but the Best Actor category this year is even stiffer competition than the ladies, so it would be hard to point at one of the nominees to replace with Ewan. But in addition to Ewan and Naomi, the rest of the cast did a great job and I especially liked the three kids, the oldest kid Lucas (Tom Holland) being my favorite. The cinematography in the movie was fantastic, especially when it came to the tsunami scene. And the music really added a lot to the movie, both when it was present and when it was absent. What I mean by that is that there were certain scenes where the music was playing, but immediately went silent when the movie cut to being underwater. It really felt like you were underwater with the victims.

Overall, I didn't have a ton to complain about when it came to this movie. It truly was an excellent movie that portrayed the events of this tragic tsunami very well. It's also an inspiring story as far as the family goes. I won't say much about what specifically happens to them as that will take away the element of surprise, but it is based on an actual family and if you stay to the end of the credits, you will get a thank you note/poem from one of the family members thanking the makers of this movie for telling their story. But with that said, given the subject matter of this movie, it is one that despite the praise I have for it, I really only need to see it that once, if that makes any sense. But I will still give it a strong 9 out of 10.

Jack Reacher Review

The end of December was a quite the crowded month for movies and everyone, myself included, chose mainly to see the Hobbit, Les Mis, and Django Unchained. However, at the end of the Holiday season, just after New Years I decided to give the movie Jack Reacher a shot. Turns out that I made a big mistake in neglecting it in favor of the other movies because it ended up being my favorite movie from the holiday season. Now I actually didn't see Django, but knowing my taste in movies Jack Reacher being my favorite would've held true had I seen it. What did I expect when I went to see the movie? I expected some sort of James Bond or Jason Bourne type of series. What did I get? I got a movie that was actually quite different from those two and instead played into the type of movie/book/TV show that I have always enjoyed since I was little. That genre that I would classify it would be the mystery/detective genre. It was fantastic and I highly recommend you give it a shot.

Let me give you a quick history of myself with this genre. Ever since I could first read, I was into mystery/detective books. In second grade I enjoyed reading the Box Car Children books. Later in Elementary I was extremely invested in the Hardy Boys books. Even as I have gotten older, it's still a genre I hold on to. Nowadays there are a lot of TV shows that I enjoy that fit into this category. To name a few there is NCIS, Bones, Numb3rs, House, Supernatural, Castle, and Criminal Minds. A lot of those have to do with police forces or FBI, but that is still the same thing. There is also Sherlock Holmes and the various adaptions of those via film, TV, and book and I typically enjoy those. When I try to describe Jack Reacher, yes it is true that he does have a lot of similarities to James Bond and Jason Bourne, but the detective and investigation TV shows and books that I have mentioned is more of what I would associate Jack Reacher.

What is the story line of the movie? Well, I won't tell you very much because in my opinion the less you know about the actual story, the better the movie will be. What the movie is based off of is the book series by Lee Child. This specific book is in fact based off of the ninth book in that series he has written called One Shot. Why they started with nine and not one is a mystery in my mind, but I don't think it matters too much because having not read the books myself I was not one bit confused. Jack Reacher is a very intelligent man. He is also in the books a very large man, which might have some question the casting of Tom Cruise, a very short man. But this, however, is a non issue because the physical strength is not the important part here, it is the genius aspect that is important and in that Tom Cruise pulls it off very well. Sure, there are a lot of action sequences, but Reacher kicks trash not because he is super big and huge, but rather because he is so intelligent that he knows exactly what move to make at the exact right time. If you want to know a little bit about the story to get you sucked in, there is a secret group of people in this specific town that are out to get Reacher and they are good enough to evade the detection of the police force. Reacher just wants to be left alone, so he goes whatever means he can to bring them down, even if it does come down to fighting the police officers who might wrongly be trying to arrest him. Is it the most mysterious and original story you have ever seen? Certainly not, but it is very intelligent and fun to watch.

Overall, Jack Reacher is a very good film that had me thoroughly entertained throughout the whole movie. It's two hour length I thought was perfect. Not too short, but not dragged on. This is a movie that was obviously intended to be the start of a franchise, being that there are 17 books out there so far. Personally I would love for this movie to be the start of a very long series of movies similar to the James Bond movies. That would be fantastic. Unfortunately that will probably not be the case as it didn't get enough box office attention to even guarantee a second movie, which is a shame. It is very good and if they don't do any more movies, I suppose that means I have a new book series that has been put on my list of books to read. But like I said, I highly recommend this movie. I didn't see it in time for it to gain consideration to be in my top 10 movies of 2012; but if I had, it would've made the list ahead of Skyfall. Yes, that is a very bold claim, but true for me, so I suggest you give it a shot. I give Jack Reacher an 8 out of 10.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2012 NFL Conference Championship Predictions

#2- San Francisco 49ers @ #1- Atlanta Falcons - Sun 20 Jan 13 - 3:00 PM ET - FOX - The great thing that I love about the NFL is that you can be a person who is extremely knowledgeable about football and make these fancy, detailed, elaborate predictions and yet have most or all of them fail. Its the unpredictability of the league that makes it really fun. Out of the three games I picked wrong, though, the Niners were the team that surprised me the most. I still feel bad for Alex Smith, that has never been changed, but Colin Kaepernick was amazing. And as I was watching him, I was actually having nightmarish flashbacks. College football-wise I am a big BYU fan and I remember the day we played Kaepernick's Nevada team and Kaepernick ran all over us. The man was insane and made me depressed that no matter what we did, we couldn't stop him. Packer fans now know how I feel. Now CK and the Niners get to travel to Atlanta for a chance to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. Now as far as Atlanta goes, they are feeling pretty stoked right now because Matty Ice finally get his first playoff win. And it was a good playoff win against a good Seahawks team. They look to take that momentum into this game. Now if we look at a huge pattern, the Niners actually haven't won three games in a row yet this season, which might be surprising to you, but is true. And following that pattern, they have now won two straight and so following that they might just tank and get blown out by the Falcons, but my gut impression says that they will not fall into that trap and will come victorious. Here is my deciding factor. The Falcons actually have one of the worst run defenses in the league. And they are going up against Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore. Not a good sign. I do think that the Falcons will keep it close for the majority of the game, but San Fran will pull this off and be the first team of the day to set them up for the Super Bowl.  Prediction: 49ers 27 - Falcons 20

#4- Baltimore Ravens @ #2- New England Patriots - Sun 20 Jan 13 - 6:30 PM ET - CBS - It's almost amusing to think that the last time there was a rematch in the AFC Championship game, as in both teams made it to the game two years in a row, the Cleveland Browns were one of those two teams. Yeah, can you believe it? The Browns were actually good at one point. It is always fun watching the Ravens and the Patriots play because you know it will be a close game. The last two times these two teams played, once in the AFC Championship game last year and again in earlier this year, the game was decided by a field goal, the former in favor of the Patriots and the latter in favor of the Ravens. A lot of people will be counting the Ravens out of this one, and I can see why. The Pats are playing extremely good football right now and it is tough to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs. Joe Flacco has had a good winning career in the playoffs, but he has yet to lead his team over the hump and into the Super Bowl. Last year when the Ravens lost in the AFC Championship game to the Pats, Ray Lewis had the following to say: "We gotta come back and go to work and make sure we finish it next time." Well, they have done the first part of that, come back. The second part of that will be a little tricky, but I actually believe it will happen. This is Ray Lewis' last season and it would be really fantastic to see him go out on a Super Bowl win. And I think that I am not the only one who thinks this. I think that his teammates want this to happen and will play inspired ball because of him. I am predicting that yet again the game will go down to a late field goal, but in favor for the Ravens this time. Prediction: Ravens 33 - Patriots 30

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mockingjay: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

Continued from my Hunger Games review followed by my Catching Fire review

And now for the controversial grand finale! Mockingjay was my initial purpose of writing all these Hunger Game reviews. Almost everyone I have talked to expressed to me that they hated the ending of this series. Of course I never let them tell me why, but after finishing it, I didn't hate the ending and now I plan on defending it along with the rest of the series by giving my thoughts on it.

Up to this point in the series, the perspective of first person present has worked beautifully and is rather ingenious. This is where it starts to fail. The Hunger Games is the beginning of everything, Catching Fire is where the rebellion picks up, and Mockingjay is full out war. Katniss is chosen by the lead of the rebellion to be the face of the war. The Mockingjay. After some debate in her mind, she accepts the role. With this, the main goal of the rebellion leaders is not to put a 17 year old girl at the head of the army. They want to keep her alive and so she is protected. I think this adds to the realistic part of things. Katniss is not a soldier. Sure she is trained with a bow and has survival experience from the Hunger Games, but she is not a perfect choice for the leader of the army and immediately putting her in that position would be poor writing. However, given the style of the first person present, we are stuck inside the confines of Katniss's mind and the consequence for this book is actually a rather boring first three-fourths of the book. Not only is she hidden in the underground living quarters of District 13, but she is a complete mess. Suzanne Collins actually does a fantastic job of putting us in the mind of a 17 year old girl who has gone through quite the traumatic experience in the past couple of years. The Hunger Games have really set her back emotionally and mentally. Not only did she spend several weeks inside of a stadium fighting for her life, worrying every second of that about being killed, but she has to worry about dangers to all of her family and friends. To add to that, she has two guys that are in love with her and she has no idea what to do about it. Given all that circumstance, yes, Collins does a very good job of giving us the emotions and feelings of someone who just went through that and in one aspect it is very interesting. In another aspect, being inside the mind of a 17 year girl who is going through all of this is not really the place I want to be. So thus for most of the book, all of the action and conflict that are being held away from Katniss is also being held from us as readers. We get most of the intense action and story line from second hand sources instead of experiencing it ourselves and that is not what I want from an epic finale.

Keeping in mind this previously mentioned thought, let's go off on a quick tangent to talk about this Mockingjay movie. I'm interested to see what they plan on doing with this. First off they are splitting it into two movies. This could be extremely bad or it could be fantastic. It all depends on the point of view. If they decide to go strictly with the book and follow Katniss the whole time, the last half of the second Mockingjay movie will be good, but the first movie will be completely awful and boring. However, if they choose to not focus solely on Katniss, this could be great. The book can't show us all of the action that is happening around the land because it is confined to Katniss's head. But the movie can. It can veer away from Katniss while she is whining, complaining, and suffering underground in 13 and show us the war. For example, there is a point in the book where a group of people go to rescue the captured Peeta. We don't see anything in the book. We just get the report of what happened when they return. However, in the movie we can travel with that group and watch them first hand as they rescue Peeta and that will be a lot more interesting. Moral of the story, the storyline of the final book is actually a really good one, but the perspective that it is forced to follow holds it back a lot in this one whereas it made it really interesting in the first two.

Let's now fast forward to the ending. After much drudgery in the first three-fourths of the book, the finale comes about with Katniss finally training as a soldier and going out with a special group to attack the capital. What happens is a total non-happy, non-fairy tale ending. It was heart wrenching and awful. After I finished, I sat and just pondered about the book for at least an hour digesting what I had just read. After much pondering, I decided that I really liked the ending. This is a book that initially seems like your run of the mill fictional story, but in fact it is quite unique in that it takes a surprisingly realistic approach. Think about it. This is a war. Are wars happy? No. Specifically this is a civil war against a tyrannical leader and that tyrannical leader only cares about staying in power and doesn't really care too much about the welfare of the people under him. Is one 17 year old girl going to march into that capital and save the world with a perfectly happy ending, no harm done? In a fairy tale story, of course. That's what the readers want. Realistically, though? No. And Katniss doesn't save the day. Well, not in this instance anyways. She ends up running on a goose chase through the capitol, watching a bunch of her good friends in her group get killed. It ends up with her being stranded on her own, almost making it to the capitol, but watching her sister get blown up right in front of her, while she catches on fire and almost burns to death herself. The capitol was defeated, but not by a 17 year old girl that started to go mentally insane.

Second part of the great ending was actually sort of a fairy tale ending, but tied up a theme that had been present since Catching Fire. That theme was remembering who the enemy was. After the capital was taken over and President Snow was taken into custody and the newly elected President Coin comes up with a revenge plan to make the Capital people do a Hunger Games with their kids. Earlier we learned how President Snow came to power and what we can see here is President Coin doing the same thing without people realizing it. When Katniss is granted her wish to execute President Snow, she shocks everyone, the reader included, when at last second she decides to aim slightly higher with her bow and murder President Coin. This here is the fairy tale ending coming in a way that no one expected it. By murdering Coin, Katniss has just saved the land from years more of dictatorship and is the cause of bringing back a normal government and this is actually quite genius.

Last but not least, the last part of the ending that I will talk about is the resolution with the relationships. The love triangle ends with Katniss being with Peeta and not Gale. I was surprisingly perfectly fine with this, even though I was a Gale fan for most of the series. Why was I fine with this? Mainly it was because Katniss couldn't be with Gale after what happened with her sister. He was one of the masterminds behind the plan to attack the Capital in the way that they did that caused the death of Prim. Sure, Gale wasn't directly responsible for the death of Prim, but in Katniss' mind, with her strong personality, this was something that she couldn't forgive and if she had, it would've been out of character and would've ensued in a poor ending. In the end I was still a fan of Gale, even if Katniss wasn't, but I determined that he deserved someone better. After Katniss' shocking murder of Coin, which seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back for her mentally, she went completely insane and was even suicidal. While being in the mind of someone in that mental state can be frustrating at times, I also appreciated it because it was very realistic. Someone who went through all that she went through would definitely feel and act that way, which is something most fictional books don't portray with their hero. But Katniss gets better and it is because of one person, Peeta. After her trial, the send her back to District 12 to start that rebuilding it and while she is almost a vegetable for a long time, she eventually gets out of it and that is because she has Peeta by her side. For most of the book, their love story is an act. While Peeta loves Katniss, Katniss doesn't feel the same. Does she love him in the end? Is it real? Yes, it is. It just took her a very long time to realize it.

To wrap things up, the moral of the whole series is presented in the final paragraphs before the epilogue. It states the following: "What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow light that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good." Yes, life is rough at times. And while we all may not have gone through everything that Katniss went through, we all have our struggles. And while it is perfectly normal to be scared, angry, sad, and depressed at times because of all that has happened to us, life does go on. And life does get better. This is the message that Suzanne Collins is teaching through the Hunger Games. Quite honestly, I feel that it is beautiful.

Catching Fire: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

Continued from my Hunger Games review.

Most people thought that The Hunger Games was the best book in the trilogy. While I really enjoyed the Hunger Games, I personally felt that Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, was the best. I took a break from reading during the semester, but when I picked it up at the start of Christmas break, I couldn't put it down. I finished the whole book in its entirety in three days. And if you know me, you will know that that's really impressive.

In Catching Fire, we get a little bit of a calming down period to start things off after the dramatic ending of the first book and the action in the second book. This differs quite a bit from the transition from book two and book three as Catching Fire and Mockingjay essentially act as if they were one book. The big drama in Catching Fire comes with the 75th annual Hunger Games, or the Quarter Quell as it is called, so its almost a year between the ending of the first book and the big events of the second. But we start out by setting the tone. First off Katniss gives to live a normal victor's life for a few months. She gets a new home in District 12 and gets spoiled with food and riches, something she's never been accustomed to. She gets to settle things with Gale, explaining to him that it was all an act between her and Peeta. The love triangle officially starts as Gale expresses his love for Katniss. Katniss is a somewhat typical teenage girl in this aspect in the sense that she needs attention from all her male friends but doesn't want to even think about marriage. Relationships are also out of the question, which does make her quite different at the same time. She is also experiencing nightmares from the Hunger Games, which is excellent because the element of realism starts to set in. If you went through what Katniss went through, you would have nightmares and other PTSD-like symptoms which is an element that most movies or stories just brush right over.

While not the ultimate conflict of the story, the Victory Tour is the first major event in the book and that is when Katniss gets her first glimpse into what she has unintentionally started. That conflict that is started that puts Katniss in a pretty big conundrum and that is what makes this a brilliant book. President Snow gives Katniss a personal visit, telling her that she's sparked a rebellion and that she needs to stop it or else he is going to kill everyone she cares about. How to do this? Convince everyone on the Victory Tour that her controversial actions were all for love. Katniss attempts such a feat and fails miserably. Now she decides that she has officially given up the "mend her actions" goal, but what is she going to do instead? Is she going to run away with Gale? No, especially not after he finds out there is an uprising? So what does she do? Well, put her plans on pause and jump to the Quarter Quell because her and Peeta are going back into the arena as the competitors are chosen from a pool of previous victors.

When I first read this, I was a little disappointed as the book had such a great start and now appeared that it was just going to duplicate the same plot of the first one. Turns out that it doesn't really. I mean it kinda does at first, but the arena they get put into is quite ingenious as it is a clock shape and there is a different threat for each hour that they have to work through. Also new characters Finnick and Johanna have been suspiciously teamed up with Peeta and Katniss which puts them in a much different position then previously. But through all of this, the reminder by Haymitch rings through the mind of Katniss and the reader as well. Remember who the real enemy is. That remains a theme throughout this book and into the last one as well. Who is the real enemy? Right now its the capitol and at the end of this book when Katniss has the opportunity to kill the other competitors in the Quarter Quell she remembers this and pulls off quite the feat that leads to a fantastic ending. Through a complicated series of events mainly led by inventor victor Beetee, she destroys the arena, halting the games and throwing the already rampant revolution into full force.

Then all at once we as the readers get clued in on what in the heck has been happening at the same time Katniss does after being rescued on a hovercraft of rebels led new head gamemaker Plutarch and Haymitch. Rebellion is in full force. Plutarch has been the head of a secret rebellion alliance for quite some time. A lot of the victors knew parts of this plan and agreed to protect Katniss and Peeta. District 13 exists and will be key to the rebels overthrowing the capital. Peeta and Johanna are two that have been captured by the capitol now. How does Katniss respond to all of this? She acts like a 17 year old teenage girl and throws a tizzy fit. Only person that can calm her down is Gale, who tells her that although her mom and Prim are among those who are safe, District 12 has been blown up.

All of this equates to a book that it quite suspensful, dramatic, and action packed, with a touch of romantic tension/confusion. Excellent beginning, excellent body of the book, and absolutely fantastic ending. Once again, my favorite of the three.

Continue with my Mockingjay review.

The Hunger Games: Book Review

WARNING: The following contains lots of SPOILERS. Only continue if you have read the Hunger Games trilogy.

I'll be honest with this one, I had not read any of the books before I went to see the Hunger Games movie in the theater. For some reason I missed the initial Hunger Games book craze. Suddenly, when the movie was announced, everyone was going crazy and was super excited for the upcoming movie. That's when the books caught my attention. Did I read them then? Nope, not yet. I waited for the movie to come out and saw it opening weekend along with the rest of the world. Some people claimed the movie, or at least the back story of the movie was hard to follow without having read the books. Nope, not the case for me. I followed perfectly fine and came away from the movie officially sold.

After being very impressed with the movie, I eventually grabbed the book and read it over the course of the Summer. Yes, I take my time reading sometimes, especially when I already know everything that happens. But nonetheless, I was super impressed with the book. Although the movie did a great job in following the book, the book was better. And it was because of the perspective of the book that was obviously really hard to duplicate in a movie.  I've seen the first person style done before, but I've never seen the first person present. You are literally inside the head of Katniss. You are reading her thoughts the whole series and everything you see the way she sees things. Writing like this would obviously take some talent and effort to pull off and Suzanne Collins does just that. It is one of the more brilliantly written books because of that uniqueness. If the movie tried to pull that off, quite honestly it be a horrible movie, but they did a good job displaying it film the best they could. The advantage that the movie has is that because they aren't limited to Katniss's mind, they can show us more. They can show us things from Gale's perspective that we don't learn until the second or even third book. They can show the rebellions that went on during the games that Katniss doesn't know about until later. Lastly they can show us things from the gamemakers' point of view, specifically the storyline between Seneca Crane and President Snow, something that we don't about at all until Snow talks to Katniss personally in book two. Speaking of Snow, we get an early look into his evil ways, which we also don't get in the first book. But even with all this, the first book is still better than the first movie, although the tide could change in later movies, but I'll get to that later.

Beyond all this, the first book does a great job of setting the scene for everything, like the first book in a good trilogy should do. We are set in the distant future in the United States, but long after the United States has been destroyed and a completely new civilization has been set up. There is a capitol and 13 districts, although we don't learn about the rebellious district 13 until much later in the series.  We essentially have a dictatorship that is set up and has been going on for quite some time. 74 years before the first book took place, there was a rebellion that the Capitol suppressed, supposedly destroying District 13. The other 12 districts were punished by the setup of the Hunger Games, which consists of each of the 12 districts selecting one boy and one girl ages 12 - 18 to fight to the death with only one winner. The winner in theory gets spoiled by the capitol. However, we learn later that the victors actually get abused by the Capitol, making this worse.

 Is this a gruesome premise? Probably. This is definitely not a children's book and certainly doesn't have a fairy tale ending, which I will get into in greater detail in later books. But here in this first book, we have Katniss Everdeen fighting in the 74th annual hunger games after bravely volunteering for her 12 year old sister Prim. A fake romance is set up between her and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark that causes tension between her and her long time friend Gale. Does she mean for that to happen? No, she's just trying to stay alive. In the end when it comes down to her and Peeta, after initially being informed that both of them could survive, they are informed that only one can survive. Katniss pulls out some poisonous berries and comes up with a double suicide plan. Does she mean to defile the capitol by doing this and in turn spark a rebellion that spreads throughout the whole land? No, but this is exactly what happens and that beautifully sets the tone for the rest of the series as we end with Peeta learning her romance was all a game after it is all said and done, while Katniss gets to go home and face whatever consequences her actions have caused.

Continue with my Catching Fire review, followed by my Mockingjay review.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions

#4- Baltimore Ravens @ #1- Denver Broncos - Sat 12 Jan 13 - 4:30 PM ET - Four weeks ago these two teams met in Baltimore with playoff implications on the line. The game wasn't very close. Since then the Ravens saved themselves by beating up on the Giants, took a week off in Cincinnati, and thanks to a great second half they won an emotional game in the Wild Card round against the Colts. The Broncos on the other hand have essentially taken 3 weeks off since beating up on Baltimore as they ended the season with the Browns and Chiefs and thanks to some failures by the Patriots and Texans, they were rewarded with the #1 seed and a first round bye. In picking this game, it would be easy to say that the Broncos will win because they dominated the Ravens earlier, but I think that would be a mistake. The Ravens have picked up their game recently and as we saw last week with the Packers and Vikings, the revenge aspect often has a big play in the playoffs. You may think that I am building up to a Ravens upset prediction, but that actually isn't the case. I think the Ravens will put up a good fight and thus make it a closer game then people will be expecting, but I still think the Broncos will pull off the victory and thus end Ray Lewis's excellent career. Prediction: Broncos 24 - Ravens 21

#3- Green Bay Packers @ #2- San Francisco 49ers - Sat 12 Jan 13 - 8:00 PM ET - This game is a tough one to pick. The Packers haven't had their most impressive season in recent years, but you can never count them out in the playoffs. The 49ers have been a really good team this year and at times it seems like they are an easy Super Bowl contender. The problem with the 49ers is that they haven't been consistent. If you go check out their schedule, they haven't won more than two games in a row all season long. They have won games that make you think they are Super Bowl bound like I said and then the very next week they go out and perform like they don't even belong in the playoffs. The other thing with the 49ers is that Alex Smith got shafted. Now Collin Kaepernick is a great young player, but Alex Smith did nothing wrong this season except for getting hurt. When he was healthy, he should've been back as a starter but he wasn't. Had Alex Smith been given his rightful job back, I believe he has had the playoff experience from last year needed that could take this team to the Super Bowl. But instead he will be sitting on the bench watching the young and inexperienced Kaepernick fight the Packers and this is what I believe will cost the 49ers. I'm going to have to go with the experience of Aaron Rodgers over the Niners in this game and I think the Niners at the end of the day will be regretting the decision to bench Alex Smith. Prediction: Packers 38 - 49ers 28

#5- Seattle Seahawks @ #1- Atlanta Falcons - Sun 13 Jan 13 - 1:00 PM ET - The Falcons are one of the luckiest teams in the NFL right now. They are currently owners of the number one seed in the NFC  which means they got the first round bye and the homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. However, this is not a title they really deserved but thanks to the scheduling gods, they got it. They are owners of the league's easiest schedule by far and the embarrassing thing about that is they struggled through about half of their games at least. They have lost 2 of their last 4 games, losses coming to the Panthers and Bucs, wins coming to the underachieving Lions and Giants. In comes Seattle on Sunday and they should be scared. If you follow me on facebook, you'll notice that I did talk about picking the Seahawks just to curse them. That was me joking around. I picked them against the Redskins because I felt they were the better team and I am going to do the same here. I feel that the Seahawks are a better team than the Falcons. I think the game will be close because of Atlanta's homefield advantage, but I do think the Seahawks are going to pull it off and punch their ticket to the Conference Championship game. Prediction: Seahawks 30 - Atlanta 27

#3- Houston Texans @ #2- New England Patriots - Sun 13 Jan 13 - 4:30 PM ET - Week 14 in the NFL saw the 9-3 Patriots hosting the 11-1 Texans. What everyone thought was going to happen was a high powered, entertaining game between two of the best teams in the NFL. What they got was the Patriots making a joke out of the Texans with a 42-14 win. The Texans have really been a mediocre team at best ever since and even dropped their choke hold they had on the top spot. I was rather entertained by some people's reactions after the Texans win last week. People were saying the Texans found their offense and were back. Did they watch the same game I did? Sure the Texans dominated offensively, but they couldn't score touchdowns to save their life and despite an awful performance by the whole Bengals offense, the Bengals were very much in the ballgame for the entire 60 minutes. Well the Texans are going to have a much tougher opponent than the Bengals this week. Bost Globe had an article saying the Patriots are the first team in the NFL to get two straight byes in the playoffs heading into the Conference Championship week. That has made the Texans mad and might get them motivated to play hard, but I just laugh at it because with the way the Texans have been playing, it's practically true. This game is going to be a massacre. Prediction: Patriots 45 - Texans - 20

Saturday, January 5, 2013

15 Movies of 2013

This here, if you couldn't figure it out by the title, is my preview of the 2013 year in movies. Now obviously there are a lot more than just 15 movies coming out this year, but this is a list of 15 movies coming out this year that I am excited for. I actually like the number 10 when it comes to lists, so that was my original goal. I went through a list of all the officially announced movies, and wrote down a bunch. I then whittled that list all the way down to 15. I stared at that for list for like 10 minutes trying to figure out how to bring it down to 10. Couldn't do it. So thus it is 15. Now as far as the order, I did one list recently that was done by popularity. I did a second list that was ordered by personal opinion. Now I am going to throw in yet another curveball and do this list a third way. Yes, the movies chosen are ones that I personally am looking forward to, so that would go towards the personal opinion category, but the specific order of this is listed Chronologically - 1 being soonest to come out and 15 being furthest from coming out. So without any further ado, lets start.

1- Jack the Giant Slayer - This was originally going to be apart of an odd fairy tale craze last year where we were to have four fairy tale movies in four months, but it, along with Hansel and Gretel, decided to cower away from a crowded 2012 and instead move to 2013. I'm not sure what they accomplished with this other than deciding that Jack was a slayer of giants instead of a killer of giants, but after both Snow Whites last year disappointed and Hansel and Gretel looking way over the top, Jack the Giant Slayer looks to be the best of the four. The trailers for it are awesome.

2- Oz: The Great and Powerful - I'm not sure if having Sam Raimi at the head of this project totally excites me and I am nervous that it will turn out just like Alice in Wonderland, an over-the-top pretty movie with little substance to it, but nonetheless I am interested in another attempt to jump into the world of Oz. It seems like after all these years, someone finally realized that there is a ton of material to go off of. The 1939 classic was based off only one out of like fourteen or so books. I'm also a fairly decent James Franco fan. I thought he was probably the best part of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.

3- Iron Man 3 - After a very successful Avengers phase one, Avengers phase two will begin with the third installment in the Iron Man series. After the monsterous success of Avengers, it'll be interesting to see how that effects the follow-up movies. Standing alone without Avengers, the Iron Man series did rather well, although a somewhat disappointed second installment would usually lead to a decline financially. But as said, Avengers should prevent that. Iron Man 3 is actually looking a lot darker and a lot better than number two.

4- Star Trek Into Darkness - I still hate this name. I don't know if I will ever like it. But its a don't judge a movie by its name scenario here as the movie is looking quite good. Now, I'm not a huge trekkie, but I have family that is and so Star Trek is something that I have always enjoyed. Early trailers for this make me think that this movie is more of a pure action film and less of an actual Star Trekkie movie if that makes any sense at all, but I did enjoy the first one and I plan on enjoying this second one, regardless of whether its an action film or a Star Trek film.

5- Fast & Furious 6 - The Fast and Furious movies are movies that I would probably consider to be guilty pleasures. They are all about the sweet car races and pretty girls. However, the fifth movie in this series surprised me by actually being a great movie with a lot more depth than the first four as well as an actual semi-decent story to go along with it. However, it also resolved itself quite well. Then there was the post credits scene that unresolved things. "Do you believe in ghosts?' If you saw it then you know what I am referring to. I'm interested to see where they take this sixth one.

6- Man of Steel - A Justice League movie has been in the works for a long time, but never has panned out and so it has never happened. However, Justice League creators got all giddy when The Avengers had record breaking success and so like Hollywood likes doing, Justice League is going to happen and will try to replicate the success of The Avengers. However, how well Justice League does depends hugely on how Man of Steel performs. Superman is naturally a hard movie to make because of the nature of Superman himself. After the first reboot with Superman Returns generally being considered a failure, Zack Snyder is attempting this second reboot and with a little bit of Christopher Nolan writing magic that he has, I am optimistic that he will succeed.

7- World War Z - Last year the Mayan Calendar ended, which meant the world was supposed to end and a zombie apocalypse would ensue. Well, that obviously didn't happen, but what it did do was inspire a bunch of filmmakers to start writing zombie movies and end of the world movies and we are certain to get our fair share of them. World War Z is one of those movies that will happen because of this and while it could be a pretty ridiculous movie, it could also be rather entertaining. Getting Brad Pitt is a big plus. I don't think I've ever seen a movie where I have hated his performance.

8- Despicable Me 2 - I really have no idea as to what they are going to do with this movie. It's one of those movies that works perfectly good as a stand alone movie and a sequel doesn't really make sense at first. However, I am still super excited for this because every time I watch Despicable Me I enjoy it more and more. The best part is all the details in the background and of course the beloved minions. Their approach of using minion shorts as advertising for Despicable Me 2 is extremely productive, at least for me.

9- The Lone Ranger - It's no secret at all what the creators of Lone Ranger are trying to do here. If you don't know, let me clue you in. Can you name a movie that was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, was directed by Gore Verbinski, and was written by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio that starred Johnny Depp and had music from Hans Zimmer? If you guessed Pirates of the Carribbean you would have the correct answer. However, if you also guessed the current movie in discussion, The Lone Ranger, you would also be correct. Yup, that exact same crew is back for this movie and it is looking fantastic. It also has a pretty open July that can accommodate a Pirates-esque run. Remember, the first Pirates didn't open big ($45M in July), but held well and eventually topped $300M and is now considered a classic. So what are they trying to do with Lone Ranger? Yup, you guessed it. Repeat that success and begin a new franchise. We'll see if they pull it off.

10- The Wolverine - I am personally pretty good at annoying X-Men fans. I've never been a huge fan of the series and I didn't particularly like First Class, but I enjoyed X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When I first heard about this movie, I immediately assumed that it was a Wolverine sequel and was thus baffled by the sequel title that was almost the exact same as the first, but with an added "The" and a removed "X-Men Origins". I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that this is not a sequel to that at all, but rather takes place after the events of everything. So this isn't an X-Men prequel, but an X-Men epilogue movie? Even if they aren't connected, I enjoyed the other Wolverine movie, so I'm excited for this new Wolverine Movie.

11- Red 2 - The first Red was a movie that was quite the pleasant surprise. I went into expecting a typical Bruce Willis action movie. What I got was a great action movie that was also extremely funny. Red 2 is far enough away that we don't know much of the plot as of yet, but what I do know is that a Red 2 is scheduled for this year and that makes me happy. I also know that much of the original cast is brought back and added to that cast is Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Thewlis, and Neal McDonough. That tells me that Red 2 could be just as good if not better than Red and that also makes me really excited.

12- Ender's Game - Can you believe it? Ender's Game the movie is finally coming to theaters! That's a movie that people have wanted to make probably since it was written back in 1985. I'd heard rumors myself about a movie ever since I first read the book about ten or so years ago. Finally Orson Scott Card was presented with a script he liked and let them do this movie. And now it is coming. And it has a pretty hardcore cast to go along with it. It includes two of my favorite young actors with Asa Butterfield (Hugo) as the lead role Ender and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) as Petra. It also includes Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis in the cast. How awesome is that? Now I had two big concerns with the book. One was we had little kids ages 4 - 12 being trained as soldiers, with Ender's older siblings having a huge political influence at ages 14. Too young. I had always thought that if they adjusted the ages from 4-14 a bit to make it 12 - 18 it would be much better. Apparently someone agreed with me on that because all the main child actors, if you go look at their ages on IMDb, are all between 12 - 18. *fist pump*. Also, I didn't appreciate all the unnecessary violence and child nudity. Following the book exactly would lead to an R-rated movie. Now I can't speak for the all the violence. Maybe we'll see Ender kill a bully by stomping on his face until he dies or kill another kid by kicking him really hard in the groin while both are in the shower. Maybe we'll see blood gushing everywhere after incidents in the battle room. But I'm pretty sure this will be a PG-13 movie, so it will be mild enough for that. And I'm also positive that we won't see Asa, Hailee, and the other teenage actors/actresses walking around naked in the shower or in their dorm rooms. So I am fairly certain that I will be satisfied with this movie. Now I apologize. That was a long paragraph, but I've been holding all that information in for quite a long time and this has been my first opportunity to write it down. Let's move on.

13- Thor: The Dark World - Out of the five pre-Avenger movies, Thor was my favorite. This was a controversial choice. Most people hated the movie Thor. But then when he appeared in The Avengers, people liked him a lot more. While I am curious to see how all the post Avengers movies do, this is actually the one I am most curious about. I know I am really excited for this sequel, but I wonder how others will take it. I also wonder how well it will do in the Box Office. The first one only made $180M. Which isn't bad, but its also a lot lower than both Iron Man movies. How high will The Avengers propell Thor 2? Will it break $200M? Will it break $300M? We will see. Details were in fact leaked about the plot and while I won't dive into them, I will say if they are true, this is going to be a fantastic movie.

14- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - I am personally a fan of this movie being called just Catching Fire. I don't like "The Hunger Games:" attatched to it, but I suppose that is necessary so that those who haven't touched the books won't get confused when a movie called Catching Fire rolls around. The first Hunger Games book is generally loved all around by Hunger Games fans and while not everyone loved the second and third books as much as the first, I personally think the second one was the best of the three, so I am super stoked about this Catching Fire movie. I wonder, though, how they are going to go about this. A lot of secrets are kept from Katniss about what is going on and only revealed at the very end. Are they going to do the same in the movie or are they going to reveal them to us earlier on before Katniss knows? The first book took liberties to venture on to other perspectives and not just Katniss's, so it will be interesting to see how much the second movie does with that.

15- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - If you remember my recent review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you will know that I was somewhat disappointed in how things happened. So maybe you would think that I would leave The Hobbit Part 2 off of this list? Well, if you thought that, you are wrong. While I was disappointed in the first one, I have high hopes that the second one will be much better. While I may be more excited for the other movie adaptions with Ender's Game and Catching Fire, I'm still excited for this movie to happen. Any idea on how far into they are going to go before they stop this movie? I would be interested in your input on this.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 10 Movies of 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I did a blog post that was called Top 10 Songs of 2012. That list was put together completely by numbers and facts while not including my own opinion in the matter. This post is quite the opposite. This is purely my opinion - my top 10 favorite movies of this past year, so don't get too confused. If you want to know what the highest grossing movies are, there are about a hundred sites that will tell you. Anywho, 2012 turned out to be the highest grossing year ever for the Box Office in the United States, so there were a lot of popular and hyped up movies and a sad trend for me was that I came away from quite a few of them let down, so if you had a favorite movie of this year that is not on the list, that is probably why. Now it is possible that a movie is not included because I didn't see it, but I have seen enough movies that I feel comfortable about my top 10 that I am presenting here, so enjoy! And feel free to respond with any questions, comments, or concerns that I don't address in this post.

10- Skyfall - Being honest, I am not the biggest Bond fan out there. I have nothing against the series, I am just one that for one reason or another haven't seen too many Bond films. Many claim that this is the best Bond movie of the series and I can't comment on that, but I don't know if it would be my favorite. I wasn't completely in love with it, which is the reason it comes in at number ten, but nevertheless I did enjoy it. Every once in a while you need to see a good action movie that you can just watch and enjoy without having to think too hard about the plot, the character development, or whatver. That's what Skyfall was to me, as with most Bond films that I have seen actually. It won't go in my list of favorite movies and I don't know if I will ever own it, but when it is being shown at whatever venue, I will sit down and enjoy myself. And while I'm at it, I'll give a shout out to Adele for writing a fantastic song for the movie that will probably come to my head every time I hear the movie title.

9- John Carter - This is a movie that was one of the biggest flops of the year. Disney invested a ton of money in this film and intended on it become the next big franchise that everyone would see and enjoy. However, due to a poor marketing effort it fell right on its face and hardly anyone saw it. In fact it took a huge effort from world wide grosses to even break even, which it barely did. This made me really sad honestly because I saw the film and I loved it. Not the most epic movie of the year and it did have a few problems of its own, but overall it was a great movie and it would've made for a great franchise, but nevertheless another John Carter will probably never be made, which means I will have to motivate myself to pick up the books sometime, because it set itself up for a sequel. If you haven't seen this movie, which is probably most of you, you should find it on DVD and give it a shot.

8- The Hunger Games - I wasn't a part of the huge Hunger Games craze before this movie came out and quite honestly I didn't even hear about the books for some reason until everyone got hyped up for the movie coming out. It did catch my attention, though, and I defintely gave the movie a shot. I was immediately sucked into the series and actually ended up enjoying the whole series more than most people I have talked to so far. I saw the movie before reading the book and it turns out that after reading the book myself I found a few minor problems with the movie that caused it to not be so incredibly high on this list, but nevertheless it was still really good. It was also one of the huge surprises this year in the Box Office. Sure, it was expected to do really well, but I don't think anyone thought that this first Hunger Games movie would earn more than all eight Harry Potter movies, all four Twilight movies, and all three Lord of the Ring movies (domestically speaking).

7- Wreck-It Ralph - Out of all of the animated movies that came out this year, this one was easily the best. If it doesn't win best picture, I will think that there is something seriously wrong with the Academy. Oh wait, I already kinda do. But hey, the couple of years my favorite animated movie of the year actually did win, so hopefully this will follow suit. Wreck-It Ralph was a Disney movie that looked like a Pixar movie and was just really good all around. All of the video game nerds who loved the older 80's and 90's arcade games were greatly rewarded and even one wasn't a huge video game nerd, that person was still rewarded because it was a great story and movie for the whole family.

6- Chronicle - This is the first of four Superhero movies that graced my top 10 list and since we are at the top 6, you can probably guess what the rest of my list is going to look like. A great year for Superhero movies. Chronicle, however, is not your typical superhero movie. It's more of a psychological movie that toys with the idea of 'what if a group of teenagers randomly came upon superhero powers?' And even more specifically, 'what if one of those teenagers was an abused psychopath kid?' It's definitely a dark, somber movie, but at the same time it is quite realistic in terms of the psychological issues that it presents. No, a group of teenagers isn't going to randomly come by a crazy hole in the ground that will give them superpowers, that's not what I mean when I say its realistic. But there are a lot of people around us that need our care, our friendship, and our attention and if we don't give that to them, bad things could happen. They might not turn into a psychopathic killer, but they will definitely become lonely and afraid. This movie is of the found footage style and while I am not always a fan of that style, it worked quite perfectly for this movie. Chronicle wasn't a blockbuster movie that everyone saw, so that means there is a good chance that if you are reading this, you haven't seen it either. I'd reccomend you find it and give it a shot.

5- Life of Pi - Life of Pi is definitely the most beautiful movie I've seen this year. And when I say beautiful, in this specific context I am meaning cinematography wise. If this movie does not win the Oscar for best Cinematography, I just might throw a fit. Also if you like animals, which I do, this is definitely the movie for you. But the biggest thing that makes this movie a big hit for me is the ending. It really made me think about the whole movie and what the whole purpose was and in that I got a lot of insights. Obviously I won't go into any detail because that would ruin the experience for you, but I will just recommend you go see it if you haven't already. It should get a Oscar nomination for Best Picture, so maybe that will get you out if nothing has yet.

4- Lincoln - This is a movie about Abraham Lincoln, the real version of him that doesn't hunt vampires. Specifically this is about the last few months of his life. I don't need to go into any detail about what that is about. If you don't know then I will direct you to your history books. Given that it is a movie about Lincoln, it is a very political movie and thus is the style that everyone won't like as much of it is back and forth political banter, but what makes this movie absolutely fantastic is the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. I mean seriously, it felt like they reincarnated Abraham Lincoln himself and casted him to play himself in the movie. It is that realistic and good. His physical appearance - height, beard, form, hat - and his personality. Then you walk out of the movie and are in awe not only because of how good DDL did, but because you are reflected back on the life of Abraham Lincoln and are reminded of how great of a president he really was. Lincoln is not my personal favorite movie of the year, but of all the movies that are going to get nominated for Best Picture, this movie deserves to win it most.

3- The Amazing Spider-Man - I tried to not make my top three movies all be Superhero movies. Even though I knew I wanted all three of these movies on here, I tried to mix it up. But when push came to shove, I just couldn't do it. The three big superhero movies of this year in my opinion were the best three movies of the year. They are three movies that I will love and re-watch many times over the course of my life. Let's of course start with The Amazing Spider-Man. I know its completely cliché for me to say this, but this movie was amazing. It's really the best word for it. Yes, it re-tells the origin story and that bothered a lot of people because we have already seen the origin story for Spider-Man in a movie recently, but it needed to happen because it did a better job of it. It focused more on the character development of all the characters and was more true to the actual comic book story of Spider-Man. I liked the original Spider-Man trilogy (expcept for that awful third one), but this movie by doing such a good job of telling the Spider-Man story showed me how off the original movies really were. This wasn't a superhero movie that told a quick origin story then made sure to have a bunch of action. This was a superhero movie with emotion and depth to it and when it did get to the action it was pretty darn good, too. It also had an amazing cast of characters, especially Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in the lead roles. And I won't be ashamed to admit it, I am completely in love with Emma Stone. Not only was she a really pretty girlfriend, but she was also useful and depth behind her. She wasn't your typical shallow pretty girl who needed saving every three seconds by her superhero boyfriend. She did everything she could to help herself and help Spider-Man even when he told her to just run away from the situation and that was awesome. Kudos to the Amazing Spider-Man crew that was risky enough to remake the series this quick. I was skeptic of it for a long time, but after seeing it, I am already super stoked for the second one.

2- The Dark Knight Rises - From Spider-Man to Batman. And not just any Batman, but in my opinion the best Batman movie ever made. And yes, you can quote me on that. Most people would agree that Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy really are the best Batman movies. It's almost a no-brainer that if you argue against, you will get slammed. However, the debate is up in the air as far as which was better, The Dark Knight or the Dark Knight Rises. While I did like The Dark Knight, and actually like it more and more every time I see it, my vote in the matter is that The Dark Knight Rises is the best of the trilogy. I liked it because it tied in many aspects and themes from both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. It was a great final story that started with Bruce Wayne being a loner in his his house, then went to him realizing that he needed to be Batman again, but took a drastic turn with Bane kicked his trash, broke his back, and sent him to a prison half way across the world. He then had to learn to rise again, to get up after he had fallen, and to go back and stop Bane who was terrorizing Gotham. To me that was a beautifully written story. And speaking of Bane, he was one sick villain. Joker was epic and was probably more of a crazy psychopath, but Bane did a lot more damage to the city and for a final movie he was a perfect villain. Tom Hardy, by the way, was totally a stud in this. He did such a good job. And last but not least I have to give a lot of praise to Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. She did a stellar job and even looked hot while doing so, which if you can get me to say both of those things about Anne Hathaway, you know it's impressive.

1- The Avengers - Yup. If you know me at all or have talked to me extensively in the last 8 months or so, you knew this was coming. If you couldn't tell already, I am a sucker for Superhero movies and The Avengers is easily my favorite Superhero movie ever. What they did in this movie was quite epic. You don't need me to tell you this, but I am anyways. They built up to this movie for five years. They made five movies that I really loved just to build up to this one movie. Then they took the four main Superheroes from those movies and threw them all together with a hardcore group of agents from SHEILD and put them into one movie. It takes some serious brilliance to make that work without it being cheesy or just plain awful, but Joss Wheedon totally pulled it off and is now one of my heroes. And the thing that I liked about it is that it wasn't just all peaches and roses. If you were to grab four people that are used to being the center of attention and put them all onto one team, they would usually but heads for the beginning at least and this is exactly what happened and it was beautiful to watch it all take place. Then of course there was the action, which consisted of most of the movie in this case, specifically a final battle that was the whole second half of the movie. That doesn't always work, but in this case it completely blew me away. Avengers is a movie that I will be watching many times in my life. It already set a record for number of times I saw one movie in theaters. Five times is how many times I saw it in theaters. And I loved it to death each time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Movie Preview: January 2013

Alas we have come to the close of another great year in movies and that means looking back on the movies of 2012 and looking forward to the movies of 2013. I will be doing both of that fairly soon, but a higher priority for me is the fact that a new year coming around means there is a whole new month of movies for me to preview that begin this weekend. January is typically where the movie madness dies down quite a bit after the busy Holiday months of November and December, but there's always a few surprises in the slow months and in January's case comes Oscar nomination month which means certain movies that not everyone saw at the end of the year will get more attention after their nominations and in this case the movie that will be a huge contender and might even win Best Picture hasn't even made it to its nationwide expansion, so there is bound to be a few movies that audiences will enjoy, although Hollywood has decided that this is a month for mature audiences as out of the 11 releases, 9 of them are R, one has yet to be rated but will likely be R, and the last one is a PG-13 horror film. If that didn't just scare you away, then let's begin!

January 4th - 6th - This first weekend of January will be crowded with a bunch of holdovers from December, namely three time box office champion The Hobbit as well as Christmas Day phenoms Django Unchained and Les Mis. How well those three hold will determine what happens this week and its very possible that Django ends up at the top this weekend. However, if last years first weekend of January is a sign of what will happen this weekend, the top movie will be lone new release of the weekend in Texas Chainsaw 3D. This is the 7th movie in the popular Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise but before the question is asked, this one has nothing to do with the Michael Bay produced remake in '03 or its '06 prequel. In fact it completely ignores all the other three sequels and is instead a direct sequel to the 1974 original. These Chainsaw movies are marketed as true stories, but in case there is any question on that, they are purely fiction and are rather inspired the notorious killer Ed Gein who did not live in Texas, but rather Wisconsin. I did some research on him just out of curiosity and he was one messed up idiot. He didn't actually use a chainsaw, but what he did do was dig out freshly burried middle-aged women from cemeteries and uhhh... made outfits out of them. I'll let you either use your imagination on that or go to his Wikipedia page if you want details. Anywho, his awful deeds inspired this popular movie series and this one is looking to be the scariest since the original. It was originally scheduled for an October release, but to avoid traffic there it opted for this first weekend of January where last year's The Devil Inside racked up $33M. If it hits that mark, it will earn the honor of being the highest opening Texas Chainsaw movie ever. With inflated ticket prices and its 3D incentive, that shouldn't be that difficult. Now I said Texas Chainsaw 3D is the only new release of the weekend and that is correct, but getting a nationwide expansion will be Matt Damon's Promised Land. This is one of those Oscar movies that I mentioned in my intro. It was written by and stars Matt Damon, who was originally supposed to direct it instead of star in it, but that didn't work out. This is the third time Matt Damon has done this, write a movie and star in it, the first time being his hugely successful Good Will Hunting. Promised Land was definitely made to replicate the Oscar success of that movie, but it has been getting poor reviews from critics thus far, which doesn't bode well for its goals. It also made sure to open last week in a few theaters so it could be eligible for the Oscars, but waited on its nationwide expansion until now in order to avoid a crowded Christmas. It turns out that it might get lost this week as well in its expansion, but we will see.

January 11th - 13th -   This week includes a couple of highly anticipated movies, the highest being the nationwide expansion of the movie that I mentioned earlier that has a good shot at winning best picture and that is Zero Dark Thirty. It's expansion is set at a great time as the nominations for Academy Awards get announced the day before it's released with the Golden Globe winners getting announced on Sunday the 13th. Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal both worked on 2008's Hurt Locker which went on to win 6 Oscars including Best Picture and they look to replicate that success with Zero Dark Thirty and so far they are in a good position with the critics raving about the movie as it has been in limited release for a few weeks now. It also has an intriguing storyline to it that may get the attention of many Americans in that it is a movie about the decade long hunt for terrorist Osama Bin Laden. It was originally about the unsuccessful hunt of him, but the screenplay was rewritten when he was actually captured in 2011. Anticipated movie number two on the week comes via Gangster Squad. This is the movie that had a scene in the trailer of a movie theater being shot up. It was wisely taken down when back in the summer, a movie theater was actually shot up in Colorado. The movie was postponed several months when this happened and some wondered if it was going to come out at all, but it will come out and this weekend is the date. This is a movie about the LAPD's fight to keep the East Coast Mafia type out of Los Angeles in the 1940's and 50's. If you like movies where there is gun fights for the entire movie, this is the movie for you. Finally, our third R rated movie of this weekend is A Haunted House. Is this another January horror movie? Nope. Well, not really. This is from Marlon Wayons, the creator of the Scary Movie series. And yes, this is pretty much a Scary Movie type of movie. It is poking fun at the found footage series, or more specifically is poking fun at the Paranormal Activity series, which October of 2013 will release their fifth movie in five years. Three of the four Scary movie films opened up above 40M and if Scary Movie fans turn out for this movie, this could end up stealing the weekend and being the surprise movie of the month.

January 18th - 21st - This weekend is an extended weekend due to Martin Luther King Jr Day and with no extremely solid movies coming out, Zero Dark Thirty could be in for a MLK Jr weekend win if the Oscar hype for it is solid enough. If not, audiences have to choose from two R-rated action crime dramas and it will be a battle between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mark Wahlberg. My money will be on Schwarzenegger (which I always have the hardest time spelling...) so let's discuss his movie first, The Last Stand. Schwarzenegger took a long Hollywood break, mainly due to him being the Governator of California. Since his second term ended in 2011, he has jumped back into Hollywood with Expendables 2 this past year and The Last Stand will be his first of a couple of different planned movies this year. Historically he's always been the type to draw audiences to the theater. In this movie he plays the Sheriff of a small town on the border of Mexico that is attempting to stop a drug cartel from crossing the border. The Governator's competition this weekend is Mark Wahlberg's Broken City. In addition to starring in the hugely popular Ted movie in 2012, Wahlberg first started the year off by starring in Contraband, a movie that many have forgotten about already. However, last year at this time, Contraband earned nearly $25M in its first weekend, which was a decent opening for a January movie and if Broken City can match that mark, it will probably beat Schwarzenegger. In this Wahlberg plays an ex-cop who's on a mission for the mayor to find out who is sleeping with his wife. After taking on the responsibility, he realizes that he's gotten himself into something much deeper. Wahlberg's co-stars in this movie are Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The one PG-13 movie of the month is the horror movie Mama. Horror movies these days are a dime a dozen and are often very generic and thus slip through the cracks most of the time and I could easily see this happening to Mama. However, in advertising it is focusing on executive producer Guillermo del Toro to give it life and avoid the usual horror movie fate. It also stars Oscar nominated actress Jessica Chastain. This could also work towards in the movie's favor as Jessica was nominated for an Oscar for the Help, but more recently just got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in Zero Dark Thirty and by the time this movie gets released could have an Oscar nomination for that movie as well. The moral is this movie has potential to be a surprise, but could also be easily forgotten.

January 25th - 27th - The big movie of this weekend almost without question will be Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. The tagline of the movie is "Classic Tale. New Twist." Yup. Very new twist. It was going to be a part of the fairy tale kick of last year that was scheduled to include two Snow White movies, this Hansel and Gretel movie, and a Jack and the Beanstock movie. Well, the two Snow White movies both came out, but this one and the Jack and the Beanstock movie both postponed to 2013, breaking up the fairy tale party. The direction this movie is taking quite interesting. It is taking a classic, fun, kid's fairy tale and turning it into a hardcore, adult, action film. Hansel and Gretel have grown up and are getting revenge by hunting witches like the one witch that almost killed them when they were kids. It stars Jeremy Renner coming off his huge year last year with his roles in Mission Impossible 4 (end of 2011 / beginning of 2012), Avengers, and Bourne Legacy, so his presence in this movie is a pretty big boost. He plays the lead role of Hansel and his co-star is Gemma Arterton, known for her role in Prince of Persia, as Gretel. This movie is thought to be an R-rated action film although at the time of me writing this, it has not yet received a rating, which tells me that it is battling between an R and a PG-13. If it is PG-13, the January opening weekend record is in jeopardy, but if it lands the expected R, it will most likely be this years Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a movie that was well liked by those who saw it, but too much of a crazy idea for it to get much attention. Vampire Hunter only opened up to $16M in the middle of June, so that wouldn't be a good sign for Hansel and Gretel. Moving on, the second R-rated comedy of the month, this one looking like the less intelligent of the two, in Movie 43. I don't know if I've ever seen a movie with 12 directors, but that's what this movie is doing. Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Car, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrick Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner, and Jonathan van Tulleken all have directing credits. In addition to that it has half a billion big name actors/actresses in it. The list includes Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone, Elizabeth Banks, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Kate Winslet, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts, Anna Ferris, Halle Berry, Josh Duhamel, Uma Thurman, Kate Bosworth, and Patrick Warburton just to name a few. And they have all gotten together to make this plotless, unorganized movie that is crammed full with as many dirty jokes they can possibly fit into an hour and a half or two hour movie. If that's your cup of tea, then be my guest. The last movie of this month that I am previewing is Parker. If Schwarzenegger and Wahlberg disappointed you last week with their action crime thrillers, then Jason Statham will be here this week to try and satisfy you. And he has the ever so popular Jennifer Lopez as his sidekick. Now Statham has been in a lot of action movies, but he hasn't ever done good in the box office unless he has a few more action stars tagging along side with him. This is another one of his solo movies and chances are that it will got lost in the crowded R-rated movie fest of January. His last solo movie was last April's Safe and that barely even got off the ground as it had a grand total of $17M at the end of its run. I imagine Parker will follow suite.