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The Voice of the College at Florham

"News is the first rough draft of history." - The Voice of the College at Florham

Review: Satisfying first part of final ‘Hunger Games’ films

Entertainment Editor

It seems that one of the newest trends circling around Hollywood is taking the final book of a wildly successful series and stretching it out to multiple films.
“Harry Potter” was the first to have done this.
Considering that that final film made at least over a billion dollars combined, many major film studios have attempted to keep their cash cow flowing for as long as possible (i.e. the “Twilight” saga and the upcoming finale to the “Divergent” series).
This brings us to today’s topic, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” Continue reading

Review: ‘Catching Fire’ lives up to expectations

Film Critic

After seeing “Thor: The Dark World” for a second time last weekend, my opinion on it had not changed, but I thought to myself, “what qualifies as a good sequel?” For me, personally, a good sequel qualifies as expanding the world that was last introduced, developing the character arcs set up last time and taking them to a different place and seeing how they have changed since the last movie, while also setting up new characters for potential future films.

While “Thor: The Dark World” did do that, I realized that there could have been better moments of character (such as with Jane Foster and Thor). However, the next sequel to come out in November was “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

The sequel to the worldwide smash- hit “The Hunger Games” picks up after the events of the first film. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have won the 74th Hunger Games, and have returned home to District 12.

But there’s a storm coming.
Continue reading

Review: ‘Thor’ sequel is solid addition to Marvel movie franchise

Film Critic

In the last few years, Marvel Studios has become a powerhouse studio, thanks to their genius strategy. In just the short span of five years, Marvel has churned out hit after hit. This past summer, they initiated Phase Two of their Cinematic Universe with “Iron Man 3,” which went on to gross over $1 billion worldwide. Now, Marvel hopes to strike lightning twice with “Thor: The Dark World,” a sequel to 2011’s “Thor.”

The film picks up right after the events of “The Avengers.” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been brought back to Asgard to stand trial for his crimes against the people of Earth. Meanwhile, our favorite God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) is traveling with his companions across the
Nine Realms trying to bring about peace. It seems that since Thor’s absence in “The Avengers,” the Nine Realms have erupted into chaos.
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Review: ‘Ender’s Game’ film adaptation stays true to book

Film Critic

Films based on book adaptations are rarely as good as the source material. They miss the point of the book and instead try to condense it into a product that contains stiff, wooden acting, poor dialogue filled with meaningless jokes, and a script that misses the point that the book makes. Now, some of these adaptations are the rare exception to good movies. The “Harry Potter” franchise, “The Hunger Games,” and “Holes” are a few of the exceptions that come into my mind.

Now we have the latest film adaptation of another acclaimed best seller, “Ender’s Game.”
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Review: Tom Hanks stars in 'intense' blockbuster based on true events

Film Critic

Films based on real life events always seem to be a big draw for Oscar picks. Moviemakers feel as if what had actually transpired in real life can be replicated on the big screen, hoping that these stories can provide inspiration and hope. The public also likes Tom Hanks. He is one of the most recognizable and likable actors working in the industry today. Put these two elements together and you get "Captain Phillips," the latest film from director Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Supremacy," "The Bourne Ultimatum," "United 93").

"Captain Phillips" focuses on the real life story about the crew of the Maersk Alabama, a freighter which was hijacked by Somali Pirates in 2009. During the hijacking, the film’s captain, Richard Phillips (played by Hanks), was taken hostage in a lifeboat by the pirates for three days. This resulted in the Navy SEALs having to step in and control the hostage situation. In Greengrass’ take on the story, we also briefly get to see the lives of both Phillips and the pirates before the hostage situation occurs.

I did not know what to expect going into this film. I had recalled seeing the hostage situation unfold on television but did not remember any of the details of what had occurred. I was more curious in seeing it because I have liked Greengrass’ other work, with "The Bourne Ultimatum" being one of my favorite action movies of all time. Also, Tom Hanks is one of my favorite actors working in Hollywood. I was interested in seeing what these two could bring to this story together. What I saw on screen was probably one of the most intense films I’ve ever seen in a theater. I walked out with my heart pounding in my chest. I could not stop thinking about it.
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Review: Formula One movie 'Rush' lands cast and crew in winner's circle

Jon Scott
Film Critic

It’s that time of the year again. The summer movie season of 2013 has officially been put to rest and now it’s time for the more serious, Oscar-potential fall films to take the spotlight. We’ve already seen some of those potentials pass by (such as the recent "Prisoners"). But now it’s Ron Howard’s turn. Howard returns to the big screen with his latest film, "Rush."

The film chronicles the intense rivalry between Formula One racing drivers James Hunt (played by the God of Thunder himself, Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) that took place in the 1976 racing season. During one of the races, Lauda gets into a horrible accident that leaving his face severely burned. However, six weeks after the accident, Lauda gets back into the driver’s seat and continues to pursue Hunt for the championship. The film shows how intense the rivalry was between the two and how each had entirely different, clashing personalities. While Hunt is a loud, obnoxious, partying driver who believes every day could be your last so you might as well live it up to its fullest, Lauda is the exact opposite. He’s cold, calculating and always strategizing how he will drive the next race. He sees everything as math which he believes makes you the better driver. The film showcases their rivalry as well as their lives off the track.
Continue reading

Review: ‘Resident Evil: Retribution,’ so bad it’s good


Everyone has their guilty pleasures when it comes to movies. Whether it is a stupid comedy or a big, dumb, loud action movie, many love a film that many others might hate.

For me, one of those guilty pleasures is the “Resident Evil” film series.

The films, loosely based off of the Capcom video games, follow Alice (Milla Jovovich), a young woman who fights against legions of the undead who caused a virus to be accidentally unleashed by the Umbrella Corporation.

In this latest installment, “Resident Evil: Retribution,” the film picks up immediately where the last one, “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” left off. Alice has been captured by the Umbrella Corporation and is trapped in the Arctic Circle base.

She soon breaks out of captivity with the help of a group of rebel freedom human fighters, led by Leon S. Kennedy, a fan favorite from the video games.

Now, Alice must fight her way out of the base all while avoiding former friend, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), her team of clone soldiers, and of course, legions of monsters and the undead.

With the “Resident Evil” films, I am usually pretty lenient and open-minded because I know what I’m getting into. When going into a “Resident Evil” movie, you have to keep a few things in mind.

One is to keep the movies and the games separate. Now, I may not play the “Resident Evil” games often, but I do know that the movies and the games are nothing alike save for a few characters (Leon S. Kennedy, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker) and a few monsters (the giant monster with the huge ax from “Resident Evil 5”).

Other than that, the stories in the movies have nothing to do with the stories in the games.

The second thing one must realize going into a “Resident Evil” film is that the movie is not going to be an Oscar-winning film.

If you go into this movie thinking that you will be seeing a film with gripping performances, beautiful scenery and camera shots and heart-stopping action….leave the theater immediately and go watch a different movie because you will not find it here.

All you will find is a film where you can turn your brain off while you watch people fight the undead.
Though the acting in this movie is pretty terrible, it is entertaining to watch.

The only one who does any actual decent acting is Jovovich, returning in her signature role as Alice. Jovovich doesn’t show any major acting chops but she does spew some funny one liners.

At one point, she has to protect this young little girl who believes Alice to be her mother. Here, Jovovich shows a softer, motherly side.

It is a nice change to see a different side of this character rather than the whole “I shoot people with a gun and do crazy martial arts” aspect of her.

Though Kevin Durand (“Lost,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Wild Hogs”), did not have a lot of screen time, it was a ton of fun to watch him as Barry Burton, another character from the games.

It was also entertaining to see Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr and Colm Meaney return in their roles as Rain Ocampo, Carlos Oliveira and James Shade, all of whom have appeared in previous films.

Also, the action in this film was well done. The director, Paul W.S. Anderson, is a visual director and generally directs action scenes well.

His trademark is his use of slow motion but surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of it in this film. Not all of the action scenes were spectacular, but kept me interested enough.

One of the film’s biggest problems is Guillory as Jill Valentine. She was absolutely horrendous in this movie. Her character is just emotionless.

The way Guillory speaks her dialogue...absolutely cringe-worthy.

She is by far the worst actress in the entire movie. The other major problem I have with this movie is the ending.

I will not spoil the ending of the film with details because I can’t – the movie just ends. The ending was sudden and felt rushed, though it did leave room for another film to be released.

Overall, is “Resident Evil: Retribution” a good movie? Absolutely not. Is it terrible? Yes, though it is one of those films that is so bad it’s good!

It is a movie where you can get together with your friends and just sit down, laugh, tear the movie apart and have a good time.

Grade: C

Review: ‘Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man’ turns the tables, twice

Staff Writer

Once upon a time, a man had to prove to his fellow villagers that he was the man of the village, the provider, the protector and so on. Once he succeeded, he chose the woman of his dreams and they lived happily ever after.

Today some men no longer feel that they have to prove themselves to women. This has left some women in a lurch; they don’t know what to do with men acting like boys.
But have no fear, Steve Harvey is here!

Harvey, the comedian, actor, radio personality and now writer, has looked down from his god-like perch and has decided that the women of earth need help. So what does he do? He writes a book.

The book, titled “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment,” is the guidebook for a modern woman to figure out the modern man. The book also gives women tips, tricks and other advice about how the male mind works. It’s like in the NBA finals, when one team gets the other team’s playbook. Now imagine if the book came to life in film and this is the result.

Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) is with Dominic (Michael Early) the dreamer, Candice (Regina Hall) is attached to Michael (Terrence J) the mama’s boy, Mya (Megan Good) keeps dating players like Zeke (Romany Malco) and Kirsten (Gabrielle Union) has been with her non-committal boyfriend Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) for nine years.

The women each get a hold of the book and begin their preemptive strike by using a specific tactic in the book that addresses each of their man’s personal flaws.

One of the most interesting tactics is when Mya withholds her “cookies” from Zeke for 90 days. She doesn’t even let him in the house until the fifth date. Now that’s commitment.

It doesn’t take long for the men to find out about the book and when they do, they turn the tables on the women by simply going along with both the book and the women themselves. In theory this would work out for all involved, but it takes less time for the women to catch up than the men.

What the men and women don’t realize is that they need each other. At the end of the day everyone needs to compromise, which is perhaps the biggest theme in the entire movie. Sometimes the woman has to take a step back and other times the man needs to step up his game.

What makes the movie enjoyable and less of a two-hour infomercial for the book is Kevin Hart, who plays Cedric, the guy getting divorced. All he has to do is say something and you are laughing so hard you have a headache. Hart makes the movie worth the price of admission.

The comedy is also not shallow and overtly crass like “Bridesmaids,” which makes it a pleasant surprise to watch with this well rounded cast.

So sit back, relax and bring on the headaches.

‘The Hunger Games’ doesn’t fail to impress audiences; Dystopian film does not come off as a melodramatic teen movie

Digital Editor 

Whenever I’m about to watch the adaptation of a book I really like, I give myself a pep-talk in the car on the way to the theater.

These pep-talks became necessary after my viewing of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

My 13-year-old self walked out of the theater feeling disappointment at even the smallest of changes, and a misplaced hatred for “the new Dumbledore.”

So for the remaining five movies, and for all other book-based films, I told myself, “They’ve changed things. You’ll like some of them, you’ll hate some of them,” which has helped keep my high expectations in check.

Except in the case of the “Twilight” films; after the first one, I already knew they’d be shitty.

So when I was heading to the theater for the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games,” the film version of the first book in the best-selling series by Suzanne Collins, I gave myself the same pep talk, preparing myself for disappointment.

Fellow fans of the series, you’ll be pleased to know that the pep-talk wasn’t necessary this time.

The book tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager living in a dystopian society called Panem, built upon the ashes of what was once North America.

In this society, there are 12 Districts, ruled by the totalitarian Capitol. Each year, the Capitol requires that one boy and girl from each district participate in The Hunger Games, a “pageant” where all 24 participants fight to the death in a public arena, until only one remains.

The Hunger Games are broadcast on live television, and the districts must watch the carnage, as a yearly reminder of what the Capitol is capable of and how powerless they are against their rule.

The 24 teenagers, called “tributes,” are chosen at random at a public “reaping,” and Katniss’s story begins when her 12-year-old sister, Primrose, is chosen as the female tribute for their district, District 12.

She volunteers as tribute in her sister’s place, becoming a contestant in The 74th Annual Hunger Games, a fight for her life that the world will be watching.
The film, directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit” and “The Tale of Despereaux”) and starring the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone” and “X-Men: First Class”) as our heroine, is effective and successful in capturing the novel’s gritty satire and historical allegories.

But putting the novel aside, Ross has produced a quality, thought-provoking film.

Lawrence delivers an above-average Katniss, perfectly capturing her at some moments, but falling just under the target at others.
Josh Hutcherson is pitch-perfect as Peeta Mellark, Katniss’s fellow District 12 tribute and potential love interest; in his breakout role, Hutcherson will impress fans and newcomers with the softness and genteel air he brings to the beloved character.

Other notable performances are Elizabeth Banks’ harshly colored and prissy Effie Trinkett, and Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman.

When I heard that a film was being made of “The Hunger Games,” I concluded that there were two ways it could be done. One way was to make it a shallow, action-packed, sensationalized interpretation of the material, with a pop soundtrack and actors that were once on “The O.C.”

Thankfully, we ended up with a version that features well-known but talented actors, and faithfulness not only to the fans, but to the heart and soul of the story, and what it has to say.

Sure, we drop our jaws at the concept of “The Hunger Games,” a battle to the death that serves as Panem’s primary form of entertainment. But ironically, the making of the film itself proves that we’re not far off.

After all, even if it’s not real, we’re still getting enjoyment out of watching 12- to 18-year-olds kill each other. Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” left readers thinking, “This is horrible” and asking, “Who would watch this?”

Gary Ross’s “The Hunger Games,” gives the answer: We would.

‘Wanderlust’ review: Apatow knocks another out of the park


I saw “Wanderlust” this weekend as sort of an afterthought. There were two movies that I wanted to see more but due to some scheduling difficulties I ended up going to “Wanderlust.” I was not disappointed in the least. If you thought “Role Models” was funny and could use a good laugh, I’d recommend you give this movie a shot.

If I had to compare the two, I’d say that “Wanderlust” succeeds where “Role Models” was lacking, as well as dominates in the area that could be considered the bread and butter of “Role Models.” I rarely ever laugh out loud during movies. “Role Models” took me to that level on certain occasions, while “Wanderlust” had me whipping the tears of laughter out of my eyes so I would be sure not to miss the next moment of hilarity.

“Role Models” failed for me in the ability to draw believable characters whose trials I could grow to care about. Frankly, while the movie was hilarious, it wasn’t funny enough to compensate for the fact that I didn’t care at all what was going to happen to Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott in the end. I didn’t care about their “personal growth” because I thought they were lame characters who had nowhere to go but up anyway.

In “Wanderlust,” George (Paul Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston) also have nowhere to go but up. They are barely treading water trying to live the prototypical “New York lifestyle,” overextending their budget for a studio apartment scarcely bigger than your average FDU dorm room, in the West Village.

George is humping a job at an unethical company and ends up getting fired by his boss as the FBI takes him away in handcuffs after raiding the office. Linda, after a myriad of other failed business endeavors, is trying her best to pitch a documentary film featuring a penguin with testicular cancer to HBO. She fails miserably and before they can even get comfortable in their new apartment they are beyond their means and forced to leave the city.

On their way down to Atlanta, where George is planning on taking a job with his d-bag brother Rick (Ken Marino), the couple decides to call it a night and shack up at a bed and breakfast, which also turns out to be some sort of a commune.

As a result of this one-night stay, George and Linda are subjected to the absurd antics of all of the members of the commune, and are enthralled and unnerved at the same time. The free living commune lifestyle presents them with a stark contrast to the life they were just coming from, and this underlying plot element drives the story forward until the very end where it is tied together smoothly.

Other actors that deserve an immense amount of credit for the movie’s sensational humor are Aniston’s new beau Justin Theroux (Seth); Kerri Kenney-Silver (Kathy), who is probably best known for portraying Officer Trudy Wiegel on Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!”; and Kathryn Hahn (Karen) who played the role of Alice, Derek’s wife, in the movie “Step Brothers.”

“Wanderlust,” a Judd Apatow production, capitalizes in the way that Apatow’s films have achieved such notoriety for. They portray believable characters with conceivable problems, and watching these types of people navigate through the ridiculousness of an Apatow movie is almost as enjoyable as the brilliant comedy you observe.

In terms of off-the-wall humor, few movies in my recent memory could hold a candle to “Wanderlust.”