New-to-me movies watched in January

1. Into the Woods (2014)
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)
3. The Barbarians (1987)
4. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
5. Selma (2014)
6. Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Total for the year: 6

Favorite Watch:
Selma had the best artistic presentation combined with a fascinating look at U.S. history. Though Mockingjay was the most fun for me.


1. Into the Woods (2014)

I used to watch the Into the Woods stage play (with Bernadette Peters as the witch) on VHS when I was a kid. I loved the music and I loved the story, how the fairy tales spun out of control after the supposed “Happily Ever After.” I think the play is what began my love affair with fairy tale retellings.

This adaptation provides the visual spectacle with effects, editing, and great costuming to the story. The length of the play was cut down some for movie goers, which definitely helped speed up the pace, especially in the beginning — the most interesting part has always been after the traditional part of the fair tales ended.

To my adult ears, some of songs are a little awkward in pacing, but there were some great musical performances. Merryl Streep is fantastic throughout, especially her rendition of “The Last Midnight”. I also thought “Agony” was great, a hilarious moment in which the princes prance over rocks trying to outdo each other with expression of their pain of unfulfilled love.

On the whole rather fun.

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)

The Hunger Games movies have, on the whole, been top notch as far as beloved YA dystopian novel adaptations go and Mockingjay Part I. The filmmakers did a great job working within the constraints of the book and managed to split the story well (even though I’m not fond of the one book in many movies trend).

Just as I was when I read the book, I was fascinated by the portrayal of a war waged in propaganda. Although Katniss is now living among allies in District Thirteen, she is still a tool, used as an icon in order to inspire the districts to rebel, while the Capital spins its own propaganda, using the Peeta.

The acting across the board continues to be great. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss’ the shifting emotional turmoil so well, moving from seeming so broken and lost to powerful with righteous rage. Julianne Moore is a great addition as President Coin, a character that is cold and even as a soldier. And, while her character is not the focus of the film, Moore subtly shows development in the character as District Thirteen gains the power to move forward with the war.

I can’t wait for the final installment in the series.

3. The Barbarians (1987)

Once upon a time, when I was a much younger self I saw a movie about twin beefcake barbarians trying to find a magical ruby and I loved it. Not so much for the muscle-bound beefcakes, but for the wise cracking outlaw chick who becomes their friend.

As the years went by, my memory of this fantasy cheesefest began to fade. The movie became lost to obscurity and I never thought I would be able to track it down again — until I stumbled upon it while looking through OnDemand. My cheesy fantasy loving heart couldn’t resist.

The movie is more or less about a band of traveling performers, who bring joy and happiness and laughter to the world through the power of a magical ruby controlled and protected by a queen named Canary. During their travels they take on a pair of orphaned twins and an orphan girl to be part of their family and all goes well until they are attacked by a band of barbarians who want the power of the ruby for themselves.

Cheesy indeed this movie is, but not as bad as I thought with a bit of creative costuming here and there and the acting not so bad really. At least, not until the twin boys grow up into men and start speaking, which kind of hurts to hear. But that’s okay, because their muscles are huge and oiled to a glossy shine, which is plenty distracting. Plus, you get to ask yourself all kinds of fun questions, like

• Why does one of the brothers bray like a donkey when he laughs or gets excited?

• If so many years have gone by that two young boys have grown into adulthood, why has nobody else appeared to have aged at all?

• Does anyone really need so many muscles that they can’t fully put their arms down? Really?

• Why does that bad guy have what looks like a unicorn horn strapped to his head?

• Does getting punched in the gut really sound like the thumping of a hollow drum?

• If you’re trying to hide a ruby in a safe place and protect it from getting into the wrong hands, why would you take it into a deep dark swamp full of baddies and an evil dragon?

• Why does the dragon look like a giant erect penis with a deranged Alf head?

I recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of Mystery Science Theater and the cheesy scifi/fantasy genre in general. Grab some booze, popcorn, and some friends and mock to your hearts content.

PS. I still really like the sassy outlaw chick (even if she doesn’t actually do much).

4. Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Jennifer’s Body had the chance to be a fun horror movie that said interesting things about teenage girls and their relationships to each other and their bodies, but it didn’t quite get there. Instead it falls back on clichés and stereotypes — the cheerleader, who is insecure, hot, and backstabbing, and the geeky, needy friend (who is actually named Needy, which annoys me to no end).

There were moments in this that were kind of cool.
• The scene when Jennifer first shows up at Needy’s house covered in blood is fairly creepy with good makeup and effects.
• The movie shows a teenage couple engaging in loving, consensual sex and using condoms, which is awesome (though slightly derailed by how the scene ends). And I also like how the movie switches back and forth between them and Jennifer hunting, contrasting the sweetness of their loving act with the violence of Jennifer’s acts.
• Some of the action sequences were kind of fun.

Unfortunately there were plenty of moments that just hit the wrong note entirely, and some of this was exacerbated in the extended edition, where stuff that should have been left out was put back in.
• At the beginning, Needy and Jennifer have escaped the bar, which is burning down behind them. There is no acknowledgement that people are dying all around them, instead the girls are swallowed up in a moment of self absorbtion, which is not helped by the evil band member that draws Jennifer away. Maybe this could be written off as shock, but I would have had much more empathy for these girls if they had spent half a second trying to help the friends and community members dying just a few feet away.
• The music choices were odd, sometimes jarring me out of the movie experience.
• In the extended edition, the goth kids at the funeral are completely absurd, which is only saved by the grieving mom calling them on their bullshit.
• Many more instances that I can’t quite remember.

In summary, I didn’t hate this movie, but it wasn’t good. Meh, at best.

5. Selma (2014)

Discussed elsewhere.

6. Bride & Prejudice (2004)

Bride & Prejudice was a lot more fun than I expect it to be. As an adaptation of one of my favorite novels, the culture clash works fairly well (though it does make Darcy seem racist at first). The colors and costumes are wonderful and the music is light-hearted. The ending felt rushed and I’m not sure I full bought into the romance between Lalita and Darcy, but that didn’t really keep me from enjoying this. Plus, I kind of have a crush on Naveen Andrews.

It’s my first introduction to Bollywood style musicals (though I’m not sure whether it’s the best representation or not), and I’d be interested in recommendations on what Bollywood movies I should watch next.