Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chris's Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I’

I will admit, way back in 2012, when the first The Hunger Games came out, my interest was hovering just below minimal. Having not read the books, it went fairly unnoticed on my movie-going radar. But when I did eventually catch it one rainy Sunday afternoon on Netflix, I was instantly hooked.

When the second film, Catching Fire, came out last year, because of my newfound appreciation, I made sure to see it in theaters and was not disappointed. So, needless to say, I have been eagerly awaiting the latest entry, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I.

The Badass Ladies Lists

Tonight, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART I is in theaters everywhere.
This will be the third of four films that will bring Suzanne Collins' three novels to the screen.
There are no more Hunger Games:
The Districts have gone to war with The Capitol and Katniss Everdeen is in the middle of the battle.

Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss was great in the first two films.
"The Girl On Fire" has become one of the toughest and coolest cinematic heroines ever.
It got us thinking about the other most badass ladies in film history.
Chris and I mutually agreed on a Top 3 and then picked the rest of our favorites.

The All-Time Top 3


T2 was the first R-Rated movie I ever saw. I was seven years old and it blew my mind.
As a matter of fact, it still does. Anyway, Sarah Connor is tough as nails. Knowing the world is going to end soon, can be rough on a person, but she kept her mind and body in shape to help us avoid nuclear winter. Her escape from the mental hospital is so awesome

#2. The Bride (KILL BILL VOL. 1 and 2)

Beatrix Kiddo and her "roaring-rampage of revenge" earn her a spot among the all-time greats. They beat her, shot her in the head and buried her alive, but nothing stops her from taking her Hanzo sword and destroying everyone in her path.

#1. Ripley (The ALIEN Series )

The only survivor out of her entire crew, multiple times. She outlived Xenomorphs, space marines, crazy prisoners and poor Newt. She even killed herself for the good of the human race, only to be brought back (via cloning!) to destroy more aliens. She is one of the best heroes in the history of film, man or woman, and absolutely brings the pain in all four films.

Those Are The Best Of The Best.
Here Are The Best Of The Rest . . .


Dan's List 

#5. The Phoenix (X-Men: The Last Stand)

Jean Grey had been living with demons all her life. She may be the most powerful mutant in the X-Men and sometimes that power is too great for her to control. When she saved everyone in X2, she basically hit the reset button on her life and The Phoenix is (re)born. The Phoenix is nobody's friend and atomizes Professor X. Everybody is scared of her, and rightfully so.

#4. Billie Jean (The Legend Of Billie Jean)

The Legend Of Billie Jean has to be one of the best 1980s Cult Classics.
It's as absurd and hilarious as it is angst-ridden.
Billie Jean was only 17 when she became a fugitive, but she inspired the youth of America.
Add in Pat Benetar's awesome, "Invincible" and you've got an epic tale of justice being served.
Fair is fair!

#3. -TIE- Foxy/Jackie Brown (Foxy Brown and Jackie Brown)

You wouldn't want to tangle with either of these fierce Pam Grier characters.
Talk trash to Foxy Brown? Not unless you want a bar stool across the face.
Try to outsmart Jackie Brown? You're probably going to end up dead.
Go ahead and throw Coffy and a whole lot of others onto that list as well.
We salute you, Pam Grier, for your permanent record of badassery.

#2. Alabama (True Romance)

This call girl turned into a great wife and mother before our eyes.
She likes to play dumb, but always uses it to her advantage.
Her 12 minute battle with a mob hitman was so hardcore that it had edited down, multiple times, for it to be released in some other countries. Alabama is a survivor and is another of Quentin Tarantino's many, crazy tough, female characters.

#1. Mrs. Voorhees (Friday The 13th)

You don't mess with somebody's children.
She's a terrifying, mad woman who gets in nine kills before you know it.
Mrs. Voorhees is the scariest part the entire FRIDAY THE 13th series, by far.
"Kill her, Mommy."  is something that will give kids nightmares, forever.

Honorable Mention
Zoe, Kim and Abernathy (Death Proof)- Not even Stuntman Mike could take down this trio.
Gogo Yubari (KILL BILL VOL. 1)- Dies in the only fight we see her in, but definitely a killer.
Buffy (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER)- Head cheerleader/a quick study, who catches knives.

Chris's List

#5 - Hit-Girl (Kick Ass, Kick Ass 2)

Kick-Ass, a divisive film and series, no doubt. The first one was fun and a breath of fresh air, while the second, well, kinda sucked. One thing is for sure, Hit-Girl (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) is the best part of both films.

#4 - Black Widow/Natasha Romanov (Iron Man 2The Avengers)

Two things are all you need to know why she is on this list:
One, she is played by Scarlett Johansson, and two, this scene:

#3 - Trinity (The Matrix Trilogy)

Trinity rocks it in all three Matrix films, including the opening scene of the series and the famous freeway chase from Reloaded. Again, a video can explain her placement on the list better than I:

#2 - Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)

The proof is in the video:

#1 - Hanna (Hanna)

I love this movie. One of the most underrated of the past few years. Great film and great, awesomely badass lead performance from Saoirse Ronan, as a 16-year old deadly assassin being tracked down by a rogue CIA agent played by Cate Blanchett.

Honorable Mention

Miho (Sin City) - Two samurai swords are better than one. Quiet, but deadly.

Sydney Prescott (The SCREAM Series) - Sure, she does not have a lot of skills, weapons, or power but she has survived four films and seven killers - including a murderous boyfriend, brother, and niece - with a nary a scratch on her. Impressive to say the least.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Movie Award Season Begins... Chris's Early Thoughts on Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Birdman, Whiplash, and Dear White People

Every year, Christmas comes early for cinephiles – because with November, comes film award season. From early November (late October even), the studios roll out their big guns, the award-seeking missiles. Week after week, highly anticipated new films hit theaters week after week in hopes of riding the momentum into next year and the Oscars in February. 

12 Years a Slave director & cast at 2013 New Orleans Film Fest

With this time of year on the movie calendar also comes a myriad of film festivals. For the past several years, I have the honor and pleasure of covering the New Orleans Film Festival, a rapidly growing fest that is riding the tsunami wave of Hollywood South and the ever-growing film industry in the state of Louisiana. 

Last year, I got to cover the U.S. premiere of the eventual Best Picture Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, complete with interviews with director Steve McQueen and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and eventual Oscar-winner, Lupita Nyong’o. In addition to cool things like that, I also get to see a lot of films early, many of which are equally as highly-anticipated films.

This year, in addition to many smaller and local films, I got to see a handful of this year’s big name films and potential award contenders, including Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Whiplash, Black and White, and Dear White People.

Here are my thoughts on these films before they hit theaters later this year, in addition to my initial thoughts on Birdman, which I saw last week and is now playing. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Space Movie Lists

If you've seen the trailer or read anything about Christopher Nolan's latest film, Interstellar, then you know: we've got a new space epic on our hands. Hollywood has a glorious history of films that take place outside our atmosphere, so we picked our favorite space film from each decade. 3,2,1 blastoff, it's . . .

The Space Movie Lists


This film was meant to be seen in 3D, on a huge screen.
The only people I met who weren't blown away by it, saw it in 2D and/or on a TV.
I hope you didn't miss out on one of the most riveting cinematic experiences in years. 
Don't think Sandra Bullock earned that Oscar? 
Just check out the making of the film.


Star Trek
I freakin' loved this movie: 
The Cast, The Writing, The "Wow" Shots and of course, The Space Jump.
Sure, some die hard Trekkies were underwhelmed, but this is by far the best Trek film ever.
The greatness of Star Trek is what gives me high hopes for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars films.
Can't wait!

A largely overlooked indie film from Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) about one-man mission on the Moon starring the always delightful Sam Rockwell. A great psychological space movie with a great central performance. A beautifully shot minimalistic film that wonderfully wears its classic sci-fi influences on its sleeve (2001, Solaris, Alien, etc).

Apollo 13
Look at the lineup:
Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris.
That is a 90s All Star Team of powerhouse actors.
Throw in a quality filmmaker like Ron Howard and you've got one of the best movies of the decade.
If Apollo 13 is on TV and I catch it, I'm watching it.
Isn't that the best kind of film?


Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Can you have a list of best space movies without a Star Wars film?
Episode V is bigger, faster and of course, has one of the best reveals in film history.
I met James Earl Jones and got him to drop "I am your father" on me.
Certainly a high point in my life.

The Right Stuff
How could we talk about space movies and not mention the brave men who made it all possible?
Based on the novel by Tom Wolfe, the film follows the true story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.
Great performances from Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, and Denis Quaid.


My favorite space movie. Director Ridley Scott perfectly captures the claustrophobic nature of space, a place where, as the film's poster reminds us, no one can hear you scream. Probably the second most influential space movie in cinema history, trailing only the next film on our list...


2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick’s seminal and cerebral sci-fi film for which all space movies before and after well ever be judged against. As grandiose in its legendary visuals as it is in history spanning scope, this is the space movie.  

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Now Playing: Interstellar, Big Hero 6, Birdman

Official Synopsis: 
With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

North's Thoughts:
The plot is the definition of epic and Christopher Nolan is directing.
What more do you need to know?
This is my most anticipated film of 2014 and the trailer is flat out awesome.
Nolan is obviously one of the best directors alive and Matthew McConaughey always kills it.
Films like this are why you go to the movies, so find the biggest screen around and enjoy.

Big Hero 6
Official Synopsis:
An action comedy adventure about brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion-a robot named Baymax-Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city.

North's Thoughts:
Whenever Disney puts out a new release, you have to give it a chance.
Nobody, including Disney, knew that Frozen would be one of the highest grossing films of all-time.
Big Hero 6 looks modern, smart and is getting very positive reviews.
Chances are you will be buying your kids one of these toys in the near future.

Official Synopsis:
This film is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor - famous for portraying an iconic superhero-as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

North's Thoughts:
If that synopsis sounds familiar, it's because it's basically the biography of star, Michael Keaton.
His film career took off in 1982 and didn't slow down until 1998, when suddenly he was gone.
Keaton stated he just became picky with his roles, but most speculated there had to be more to it.
Batman can't just disappear, right?
All I know is that his personal connection to this material makes me really excited for this movie.
It's one of the best reviewed films of the year, so don't skip it.

Next Week: Foxcatcher and Dumb And Dumber To

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Now Playing: Nightcrawler, Before I Go To Sleep, Saw

Official Synopsis:
A pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling -- where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou thrives. In the breakneck, ceaseless search for footage, he becomes the star of his own story.

North's Thoughts:
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.
I have long been a Jake Gyllenhaal fan and this looks like it could be his best yet.
Last year he was transcendent in Prisoners, which was absolutely under-seen and underrated.
It made my Top 5 of the year and showed me that Gyllenhaal's talents have no ceiling.
This looks creepy, topical and dark.
Perfect for Halloween weekend.

Before I Go To Sleep
Official Synopsis:
This psychological thriller is based on the worldwide best-selling novel about a woman who wakes up every day remembering nothing - the result of a traumatic accident in her past - until one day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her...

North's Thoughts:
Usually I am big fan of films with memory-loss/altered memory plots.
Memento, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Inception (pun-intended) come to mind.
I am not counting The Butterfly Effect which is complete trash.
Like most thrillers, you don't want to know too much going in, so stay off Wikipedia and check it out.

Saw 10th Anniversary

Official Synopsis:
With a dead body lying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who's been nicknamed "Jigsaw". The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them.

North's Thoughts:
Saw is a solid film and definitely a fun one to see in the theater, on the big screen.
I saw it in New Orleans when I was in college and the audience was way into the film.
Screams, people jumping out of there seats, gasps and one person shouting at a crucial moment:
"Damn, that boy pale!"
If you've seen the film you probably know what part I'm referencing.
So forget the DVD and head to the theater quick because this is a one week only engagement.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Bill Murray Lists

Over the years he's played many roles, but one thing in Bill Murray's career never changed:
His ability to light up the screen.
No matter how big the part, drama, comedy or dramedy, he brings something special to a film.
His latest film, St. Vincent, opens today to positive reviews.
It will be placed in a diverse filmography that makes you laugh, cry and realize the definition of charisma.
So without further ado North/South presents . . .

The Bill Murray Lists

Dan's List

5. Groundhog Day / What About Bob?
The early 1990s were a beautiful time for light comedies.
They didn't have to be grossout, slapstick or R-Rated, they could just be enjoyable.
Groundhog Day and What About Bob? are both highly rewatchable Saturday TV movies.
If you come across them on cable, you are definitely going to watch most, or all of them.
I'd love to have Stripes in this spot, but it has not aged well and nostalgia factor doesn't get you on the list!

4. Where The Buffalo Roam
Murray killed it as my favorite writer, Hunter S. Thompson.
Most people associate Johnny Depp with Thompson, but that was Depp as Thompson as Raoul Duke.
Got it?
Murray's portrayal is much closer to the genuine article. 
Plus, it gave us one of the great courtroom scenes in film history.

3. Ghostbusters
Like many people, my first memories of Bill Murray come from Ghostbusters.
I can specifically point to the introduction of Peter Venkman as the point I thought, "Hey, I like this guy".
Venkman is the quintessential Murray character: Witty and charming, but with a slight edge.

2. Caddyshack
The Dalai Lama Story alone would warrant a place on the list. 
Carl Spackler is an absolute mad man and this was a huge part of Murray's boom.
Amazingly, Meatballs outgrossed Caddyshack.
A huge surprise considering Caddyshack was one of the most quotable films ever.

1. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou  
This film and character were made for the talents of Bill Murray.
There is no way I can fathom Life Aquatic with another actor in the Zissou role.
It doesn't matter how many times I watch it, the submarine scene always make me misty.
When he drops, "That was my favorite age.", cue the waterworks.

                                Belafonte Bill Murray animated GIF

Chris's List 

5 - Kingpin
"Call me Ernie, or Big Ern." One of the greatest comedy supervillains

4 - Caddyshack/Stripes
Quintessential, classic Murray. Carl Spackler is the best part of Cadyshack (Cinderella Story, Dalai Lama, etc). And even though Stripes falls apart in the second half, the first part is comedy gold from Murray/Ramis. 

3 - Lost in Translation
I unabashedly love this film, even though many have soured on it in subsequent years. Older, wiser, but still hilariously sarcastic Murray is on full display here perfectly effectively portraying a mid-life crisis. 

2 - Rushmore (Life Aquatic & other Wes Anderson films)
Wes Anderson and Bill Murray are a prefect match for one another. The director helped revive and reinvigorate Murray's career with Rushmore, his best performance in an Anderson film (followed closely by Zissou, which I knew would be Dan's #1). Bit parts in TenenbaumsMoonrise Kingdom, and Fantastic Mr. Fox are all great too.

1 - Ghostbusters
Do I really need to explain why this is at #1? I am ashamed Dan has it at #3 (are we even friends?). GhostbustersBack to the Future, and Indiana Jones are my childhood. Murray's true comedic genius film

Honorable Mention:

He's great in a bit part in Ed Wood. He's the best part of Wild Things (yes, really). He has one of the greatest cameos of all-time playing himself in Zombieland. Plus, he's also great in indie films that few people ever saw, like Get Low and Broken Flowers. 

Basically, Bill Murray is the man! 

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