Serena (2014)

A week ago, I scored some tickets to go see the advanced screening of Serena.  I really don’t know much about this one other than the fact that its based on a novel and that it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Both of them have my highest respect so although I’m not exactly a fan of drama, I was ready to give this out.  Plus, its free,right? Along with one of my girl friends, we headed over to see it.

Note: My friend is a fantastic movie companion because she helped discuss the movie with me afterwards.

serenaDirector: Susanne Bier

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, Sean Harris, Sam Reid, Blake Ritson, Ana Ularu

In North Caroline 1929, George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is trying to build his lumber empire, hoping to expand to Brazil one day.  While away taking care of business, he meets the beautiful Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) where their passion quickly leads them to a flash marriage.  Serena proves to be not only a great wife but also a convincing partner as her beauty matches to her abilities to win herself over the men working in the lumber company. However, her appearance there also has complicated a few relationships.

Oh, Serena, Serena, Serena…. you know how some movies are really bad and you can laugh at it because its so bad.  Like, Sharknado or whatever that doesn’t take themselves seriously.  This one is just really bad.  I’m pretty lenient on movies but let me say this, we had the option to comment as we exited the theatre and the guy responsible asked my friend and she used one word: Painful.  Let me break it down for you a little.

Lets start with the good stuff, ok?


– The location: Smoky mountains, North Carolina, the scenes.  They were all so beautiful.
– Jennifer Lawrence was extremely convincing as Serena.  Her intensity and how she’s equally smart and capable as the men there and her passion fuming a little crazy bitch thing going on.  She was fantastic.
-The rest of the cast: Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans etc. were also really good with each of their roles


Now, what suffered?

The script, my friends.  I was curious and went to check out some comments on the novel Serena before I wrote up this.  I got everything the book seems to want to portray: passion and revenge.  Its there. The pacing is absolutely horrible though.  I looked at my watch at about 30 minutes into the movie and thats because it felt like an hour had gone through and nothing has happened except for a lot of random extremely short sex scenes.  At one particular scene involving a bathtub (highlight if you want to see the spoiler: with Jennifer Lawrence being fingered and sex moans ), I started wondering if I was watching soft porn.  Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at passionate sex scenes (no matter how short they are). I promise you passion is the message they want here and its done too much.


So thats just 30 minutes, right? For a movie called Serena, she wasn’t really present.  She has this invisible presence, I guess. She did cause a lot of the problems because of her being there.  Another dude that gets a little weird: quiet and creepy (like Serena’s character in a way) is Galloway.  He says this really weird line before hell breaks loose and everyone laughs because it was so awkward. 

I don’t want to go all judge-y and mean.  Its not who I am but this movie really wasn’t that great. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and Rhys Ifans, they acted the hell out of this one with what they had but other than the lovely scenery and their convincing acting, the script isn’t strong at all. The message is in there but I just never was able to get into the story or connect with it and its characters.  Not one of them. It was just slow and boring and since I didn’t connect with anything, the ending just made it even worse.

I’m really chill with movies and I try to find something good about it but this one was like watching meaningless porn, then it tried to put me to sleep when that died off.  There is definitely something going on here and I think as a novel, it probably works a gazillion times better.  In fact, I’m going to pick up a copy of that novel and check it out.  I get what the story is trying to do but some things aren’t meant for the big screen and I have a feeling, this is one of those times.

Have you read the novel Serena? Shed some light on your thoughts of it.

Have you seen Serena and what did you think of it? If you didn’t, did the movie intrigue you?

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Jennifer Lawrence is red hot now.  She surprised me when she grabbed the Best Actress award, but thats because I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook yet.  I still need to get that in.  Before that, I wanted to check out her previous work and its in the form of this little film called Winter’s Bone.

winter`s bone posterDirector: Debra Granik

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Isaiah Stone, Ashlee Thompson, Garret Dillahunt, Lauren Sweetser, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Ronnie Hall

17 year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is left to take care of her sick mother and 2 younger siblings (Isaiah Stone and Ashlee Thompson) when her father is on bail.  One day, when the Sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) drops by and tell her that her father has jumped bail and has disappeared and before that, he had put his house that they were currently living in and the land as collateral, making them homeless if she can’t bring him back or prove that he’s dead.  Ree has no choice but to start asking around a dangerous group that his crystal meth making father hangs around and who would rather have everything quiet and as little trouble as possible.  She starts off by asking help from his uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) who refuses her right on the spot and tells her to leave it alone as everyone else has said but when this means that she’s the only one looking out for her family, she has no choice but to continue digging deeper even if it means going for the leaders of this scene, Thump Milton (Ronnie Hall) and his wife (Dale Dickey) to find out where her father is whether dead or alive.

winter`s bone ree and uncle

Winter’s Bone had Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.  I didn’t know going into this that it was adapted from a book but it has a really strong story and I’d definitely check out the book when I get the chance.  On that note, this drama was powerful.  Jennifer Lawrence was amazing.  To think that this was only one of her first roles in the business.  She is definitely talented and that role needed her to be tough and desperate. Plus, I didn’t know many of the supporting cast except for Dale Dickey who played Thump Milton’s wife because she is in True Blood.  She’s super awesome also.

winter`s bone

This movie approached everything with questions and more questions and the main big one that kept us guessing was really whether Ree’s father was dead or alive.  What happened to him? Where did he go? What went down? Finally, its really whether Ree will be able to take care of her family when it seemed like all paths came up with nothing especially when no one was willing to help her.  This made for some action as in roughing the weaker gender in a very patriarch society and finding the courage to do what has to be done.  It is deliberately set to be slow but in this scenario, it really works wonders as it kept me engaged and thinking.

winter`s bone survival

I sat for almost a week thinking of what to write for this one and how to review it and I found it really hard. What hinders other movies actually strengthens this one.  Its slow pace gives it more power; its cast was perfect in each role and convincing as hell as they acted so great, even the kids were awesome.  The quiet intensity that builds during the movie is totally compelling.  I’ve been watching so many surprisingly good movies these days and plus, this one is rocking a 92% on the RT meter. I’d say thats a must-see right here (even if you don’t trust what I said up there).

What do you think of Jennifer Lawrence? Are you excited for Hunger Games 2? Have you read the novel that Winter’s Bone is adapted from? What did you think of this movie?

I have too many movies reviews so stay tuned for another one later today 🙂

Oscars Night!

With my new Disney addition, Lotso from Toy Story 3 watching Oscars

With my new Disney addition, Lotso from Toy Story 3 watching Oscars

I made it home in time to watch the whole Oscars night last night.  I even had time to eat dinner and get all comfortable because I knew that it would end at midnight. Whenever I come back from Toronto, there’s always a decent amount of unpacking and I’ll definitely be having another food review and some cool finds that I have.  A little sneak peek would be here as I made some tea, sat down comfortably with one of my new additions and eventually my boyfriend did join me when the actual Oscars started!

I even got to see a bit of the preshow on the red carpet and the dresses and interviews.

I opened it midway right in time to see who was presenting and interviewing everyone.  Of course, I landed right around interviewing Sandra Bullock and she was just so elegant.  After that we have Anne Hathaway.  I don’t know about everyone else and I haven’t read any tabloids but my first impression was that it looked like a pink apron.  Definitely not a good choice in  my opinion but hey, she’s still a beautiful actress and I’m sure there are people who liked her choice.

Speaking of that, my favorite three dresses of the night has to go to these beautiful elegant women in no particular order:

sandra bullock oscars

Sandra Bullock

85th annual Academy Awards

Amy Adams

For the record, if you haven’t been following me for too too long, you’d know that I only watched a small portion of the movies that were nominated but I think I follow a whole lot of movie blogs and in turn, it made me make a lot of good guesses.  I figured that Ang Lee would win Best Director and I guessed Anne Hathaway would win Best Supporting Actress (even if I still had a moment that she wouldn’t).  I figured that Daniel Day-Lewis had a really good chance at winning Best Actor but I didn’t know that this time broke the record of the first person to win 3 times best lead actor.  Now that is a huge accomplishment.  As for Best Actress going to Jennifer Lawrence, I really didn’t think she had a shot until I saw the snippets of the movies and thats when I really thought that she did have an equal chance at it.  Of course, her dress was bulky so down she fell as she was overjoyed and attempting to walk up the stairs.  Now Jennifer Lawrence is on the grid officially and I can see her with even more movies in the near future.

The biggest fight this year was probably Best Picture.  The last Oscars I watched was probably at least 7 years ago because I used to watch movies and the Oscars in totality with my dad.  It was something we bonded with.  I always remembered it having only 5 movies in the race but apparently now we’re at 9.  Talk about tough choices, right? I was surprised that Argo won.  I really was.  Lincoln had a lot going for it from what I’ve heard.  Deep down, anyone who knows me would know that I’d want Les Miserables to win but I also knew that the possibility was quite low because its not one that EVERYONE likes, it was more towards a certain group of people who preferred this sort of musical.  Argo won and I’m seriously happy for Ben Affleck among all of them.  He’s proven himself quite worthy in his whole career and he’s grown quite a bit into the director and producer that he is now.  I really look forward to seeing what his next project will be.  Definitely seeing some great things for him if he continues the way he does.

So now that we’ve looked at those big awards, I was super happy when Disney’s Paperman won Best Animated Short.  I had shared that video a few weeks ago on Twitter and it was just such a fun and cute movie.   I put in the video below just in case you didn’t get a chance to see it 🙂 And then, for Best Animated movie was Brave and believe it or not, I saw it! I actually wasn’t sure who would win for that one but I was sure that Pirates wouldn’t win (even if I did enjoy it quite a bit, you can see my review HERE).

Now on a more personal level, sitting down to watch the Oscars means a lot to me.  It included having memories of spending time with my father.  I wrote a deep personal post about moving on in December (you can check it out HERE if you’d like) related to it.  This year, I felt like since my blog was slowly getting in more reviews, it made lots of sense to sit down and watch the Oscars again.  I miss my dad of course and I think doing it made me move on a little bit more but you know, last night would be a night he would enjoy.  We had some James Bond songs and then on top of that, in the memoriam, that part really got me when Barbara Streisand came out and sang one of my dad’s absolute favorite songs.  That was the highlight of my evening. However, I can’t seem to find a video of that so maybe in a few days, we’ll have some better quality ones appearing in Youtube if you didn’t see it.

After seeing all those snippets, I just know that I have so much catching up to do now.  I’ll be working hard on that and hopefully this year, I’ll be a bit more on track with movie viewing, at the minimum try to catch the big ones.  It was a fun night for sure, and I’m definitely going to get more prepped for next year’s awards 🙂

What was your surprise win(s)? How about your favorite outfit? I couldn’t pinpoint my favorite speech, did you have one?

The Hunger Games (2012)

Surprisingly, being the bookworm I am, I didn’t get to see The Hunger Games in theatres.  My boyfriend did however and thats why its taken us so long to actually watch it after I bought it in November, since he got addicted to the novels and wanted to finish it before we watched it.  The Hunger Games is possibly one of the most interesting reading experiences I’ve had.  It was very addictive, especially since it was in first person narration.  I’ll have to re-read those books though.   Sitting through this movie, I started getting glimpse of the novel but was missing details here and there.

hunger gamesDirector: Gary Ross

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Isabelle Fuhrman

In the now ruined North America, Panem is now what the nation is called, because of its past revolution, it is now separated into 12 Districts, each with their own specialty to contribute to the Capitol.  Every year, children are chosen randomly: a boy and a girl to join the Hunger Games from each of the districts, resulting into 24 tributes.  They are put into a designated area where they need to battle each other until there is one tribute remaining.  That tribute will win the games and be rewarded a lot of wealth and comfort for their future.  Some children will have their names in more times than others because in the poorer districts, like the one in District 12, where The Hunger Games start, children use this to trade in for more ration to help feed their families.  District 12, we see the morning of the tribute selection, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) meet to hunt outside of their boundaries (which is illegal) just before they need to prepare for the selections.

hunger games gale and katniss

This year, Katniss sister, Primrose is also in the run to be selected.  At the selection, Primrose “luckily” gets selected and to protect her sister, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place.  Going with her is another boy who had saved her before, Peeta Mellark  (Josh Hutcherson).  As they get whisked away onto the train heading to the Capitol where the games are held, they meet their mentor, previous winner of District 12 and a man who drinks away his sorrows, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and their guardian of sorts, Effie (Elizabeth Banks).  In the Capitol, they need to be prepared to show off and prepare for the games.  In the parade, they end up meeting Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who is their costume stylist and also from afar, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who starts off the games.  After a while for preparation with all the other tributes on skills and impressing their possible sponsors, we are lead to where the games begin and as they say, “may the odds be ever in your favor”.

hunger games katniss

Hunger Games is possibly one of the most gripping movies I’ve seen in a very long time.  Because the Bluray I had seemed to be so quiet and the conversations were so quiet, I ended up moving closer to the TV in order to focus into the movie and not miss out.  That usually is a sign that its something that peaked my interest.  I can’t remember the last time that I did this.  The action, the quiet, the buildup was all very similar because I already had read the novel beforehand.  The fact that it could still capture my full attention and make me feel the tension that the story is definitely a sign that it was made extremely well.  I would have to say that it is one of the better novel adaptations that I’ve watched.

hunger games katniss peeta

One of the major contributions to the success of this movie has to go to its cast.  I have never seen Jennifer Lawrence before this flick. However, her interpretation of Katniss Everdeen was as perfect as it could be.  She portrayed the emotions right on and it made it even more real.  Her chemistry with her fellow co-actors whether it be Josh Hutcherson when expressing mixed emotions towards her companion and opponent in the games or Woody Harrelson as her mentor.  Her emotions carried us through the movie perfectly.  The outstanding cast can’t be forgotten in this as well.  The rest of the cast really pushed it up to a higher level as the cast itself with Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland just to name a few, are veterans in the business.  Even the younger actors, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth (the little part he was in) did their roles very good.  Aside from that, the supporting role that impressed me the most was Lenny Kravitz who played Cinna.  He gave me the exact impression of the personality of the character that I read.

hunger games haymitch effie

The actors may be important but the director did a great job at shooting this film.  He managed to capture the environment and tension very well and matched it with the emotions that were all over the place.  The drama and the violence that came from the games itself and the whole process was shown perfectly.  What really helped was the interpretation of the Capitol itself because with the book, it was first person narration and now, they help us by seeing not only through the eyes of Katniss but elaborating what was originally in the novels.

For me to judge this movie as a standalone work is hard, I’ve already read the book and was really drawn into it.  I think this movie is a great adaptation and I look forward to the next movie, Catching Fire coming out this year.

Have you read the Hunger Games novels? Did you think it was a good adaptation or not?