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‘Red Sparrow’ Is Yet Another Misfire For Jennifer Lawrence

Red Sparrow

It’s fair to say the target audience for Red Sparrow almost solely includes the latter half of Jennifer Lawrence fans undeterred by the grotesque odd-brain of mother!

But at least mother! wasn’t this boring.

Go on…‘Red Sparrow’ Is Yet Another Misfire For Jennifer Lawrence

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Our Most Overrated Actors – Now Conspiring

the most overrated actors

Just because they are famous, doesn’t mean they live up to the hype. This week on Now Conspiring, we talk about the actors and actresses we consider overrated but not before playing a good ol’ round of Would You Rather.

We also discuss a little bit of what we did during our Easter weekend and our family traditions like ultra-challenging egg hunts.

Later on, we reply to all of your comments which were all mostly related to 13 Reasons Why and how it could negatively affect people suffering with depression.

Question of the Week: Who is the most overrated actor?

Go on…Our Most Overrated Actors – Now Conspiring

Review: ‘The Hunger Games — Mockingjay, Part 2’

hunger games mockingjay review

Directed by Francis Lawrence, Mockingjay, Part 2 is the fourth and final installment of the The Hunger Games movie franchise, which kicked off in 2012.

I’ve read all three books by Suzanne Collins, but I happen to prefer the film adaptations made by Lionsgate. I think the books were incredibly flawed, both with tone and how certain plot lines lined up. The movies share some of the problems, but they also fix a lot of issues I had with Mockingjay, which was the third and in my opinion, weakest book.

Of course, this is the second half of a two-parter, and certainly the stronger entry compared to last year’s Mockingjay, Part 1. A lot of the complaints I had for that last movie was how painfully slow it was trying to stretch half of a short book into two hours. But if you stuck with MP1, then you’re going to feel satisfaction after MP2, which is pretty much all action and climax.

A lot of things work in MP2 that have worked throughout all of these movies. The locations are beautiful, the camerawork is nearly flawless, and there are brushes of wow-moments and creativity that set this story apart from other dystopia offerings. At this point, Panem feels like a real place with believable characters, and this movie excels with its incredible supporting cast, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

hunger games mockingjay review

But a major weakness in MP2 happens to be the under-utilization of these side characters, who are quite literally brushed to the side in favor of Katniss and her friends. And while I love what Jennifer Lawerence has done with this character overall throughout the series, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed with her character’s arc, which is really a criticism toward the books.

In MP2, the story is that Katniss is more of a mythical symbol, rather than a dynamic force who can create real change. And the entire movie is her struggle against the leaders of the rebellion that she can do more than just rally the troops with some propaganda videos. But her singular drive to assassinate Snow eventually becomes tiring, especially as her allies drop like flies, perhaps needlessly.

That’s the point, I suppose. And the highest praise I can give MP2 is how brazen it is with its themes, presenting the rebellion as evil and asking real questions about how war can undermine the good intentions behind a movement. You forget quickly that only two movies ago, the Capitol was perceived as an unstoppable force, mercilessly killing any opposition. By the end of MP2, you’ll wonder what it was all for, and that’s an achievement for a movie aimed at the young adult audience.

hunger games mockingly review

Grade: B+

Paired with Part 1, this is a satisfying conclusion in more ways than one, because it manages to elevate was a disappointing book for many fans like myself. The performances are solid, if not a little underused, and not a moment of it is boring.

For a more in-depth look at this movie, come back this Sunday for the Now Conspiring podcast, where we’ll discuss this and other new releases.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’

hunger games mockingjay

As expected, the worst book of a trilogy is, in fact, the worst movie. At least the Part 1 aspect.

Picking up right after the shattering events of Catching Fire, part 1 of the final two installments takes Katniss to her destroyed home in District 12, a not-so-subtle reminder that everything she loved has changed forever. And she’s never getting it back.

Her new set of problems are rightfully different from the ongoing threat of a battle royale with her peers. She’s now thrust into the center of a political revolution, where she’s the strategically ineffective mouthpiece for a war she doesn’t want to be a part of. While not as exciting as her previous obstacles, at least Mockingjay tries to do something new with the character. It’s just unfortunate that watching these politics play out onscreen aren’t much more scintillating than the book its based on.

The filmmakers worked hard to manufacture a climax, but it falls flat as the audience is left wondering why the film was cut in two in the first place. But in the world where sequels double profits, there was no doubt Lionsgate would capitalize. Perhaps marathons with both installments will solve this off-putting interruption.

Even without an actual Hunger Games this time around, Mockingjay: Part 1 has a fair share of action, albeit scattered in varying attempts to capture Katniss’s bravery and compassion on television for the revolutionary masses. This satire of how public relations can skew a war is brilliantly written, though forced to be a little too much of the focus of a movie that needs more going on with its characters, who stare blankly at walls with flashlights for extended scenes.

The parallels between Katniss the character and Jennifer Lawrence the movie star are obvious enough to appreciated, as several logos are shared between both properties (and a great marketing campaign utilizes their symmetry to great effect). Just as Katniss is being exploited to sell a war, Lawrence’s youth and charisma is being exploited by Hollywood to sell a franchise, and it works.

But overall, Mockingjay: Part 1 is a slow adaptation that suffers from being based on what amounts to a rough draft of a book. It still transcends its source material as these movies have consistently done, as they take us out of Katniss’s head and into the lives of other, sometimes richer, characters. Let’s just hope that the final installment is a wrap up worthy of the franchise.

Grade: C+

How Much Is Your Favorite Hollywood Actor Really Getting Paid?

hollywood salaries

Hollywood Salaries Revealed, From Movie Stars to Agents (and Even Their Assistants) | The Hollywood Reporter:

Despite the huge sums still being raked in by such superstars as Robert Downey Jr. (his $75 million comes from his 7 percent, first-dollar slice of Iron Man 3, as well as his $12 million HTC endorsement deal) and Sandra Bullock (a 15 percent, first-dollar deal on Gravity and about $10 million more for her summer hit The Heat), most actors are feeling a definite squeeze, especially those in the middle.

“If you’re [a big star], you’re getting well paid,” says one top agent, “but the middle level has been cut out.” Sometimes with a hacksaw. Leonardo DiCaprio made $25 million (including bonuses) for The Wolf of Wall Street, while co-star Jonah Hill got paid $60,000. Granted, that’s an extreme example — Hill offered to do the part for scale (and got an Oscar nomination for his trouble).

But studio cost-cutting has meant that mid-level stars are being nickel-and-dimed in ways that would have been unheard of in the gilded ’90s (i.e., Marvel Studios’ reportedly offering Mickey Rourke a mere $250,000 to star opposite Downey in Iron Man 2). Before breaking out the violins, though, remember that even mid-level stars are far better off than most other actors. According to the most recent SAG statistics, the average member earns $52,000 a year, while the vast majority take home less than $1,000 a year from acting jobs.

Your gut reaction to these findings may be, “Who cares?” It’s hard to feel sorry for actors still reaping pretty big salaries for their roles.

But the issue, in my opinion, is that this gouging of the “middle-tier” actors causes a lack of segmentation for talented actors. To save money, studios have to skim on great secondary actors in order to afford the high-priced “star” who is consuming the budget.

And without a diverse wealth of talented actors breaking into bigger and bigger roles, you’re bound to see the same actors repeatedly being called in to breathe life in the latest adaptation, sequel, remake, reboot or what have you.

Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

When Harry Potter jumped from book to major motion picture, it crossed a cultural threshold that truly shaped the new millennium of not just cinema, but books, television and even theme park rides.

We began to demand for stories rich with lovable characters, epic moments and fantastical settings on a mainstream scale, something that hadn’t really been demanded since Stars Wars.

hunger games

Recall that it was during this era that comic book movies exploded with appeal, and an “impossible” story like The Lord of the Rings captured everyone’s attention. Basically, fantasy was king over the last decade.

Of course, all good things come to an end (that is hopefully as good), and we said goodbye to Harry Potter and his friends toward the end of the 2000s. Since 2008, we’ve been bombarded with more book-movies than ever before, with studios rushing to create the next Twilight franchise of success.

Surprisingly for movie-makers (but not moviegoers), 2013 was not the year that Beautiful CreaturesThe Host or The Mortal Instruments achieved mainstream appeal (for good reason I might add). No, it was the sequel to a movie based on a book that isn’t about vampires, chosen ones, destiny or other fantastical themes. It’s about people.

Go on…Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

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