The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

We did our civic duty by traipsing out to see the last Hunger Games installment. What does it mean when my primary feeling on leaving the theater was: I'm kind of glad that's over.

Or, as Mrs. Salad put it, "I liked it better when the kids were killing each other."

Recap: the rebellion against the dictatorial rule of Panem by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is in full swing. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is the rebellion's charismatic mascot, the Mockingjay. The suspicions I had from the last movie turned out to be correct: some of the "good guys" of the rebellion are as power-hungry as the thugs they want to replace. Katniss must find a way to accompish her personal goals (revenge, mostly) while avoiding getting killed or co-opted by either side. This involved two-plus hours of shooting, explosions, betrayal, running, and so on. The only one who seems to be having any fun is President Snow; everyone else is very somber.

I haven't read the books, and managed to avoid spoilers, so I was blessedly clueless about how all this would play out.

Danny Collins

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Why yes, we did watch two Jennifer Garner movies in a row. It wasn't on purpose though.

Al Pacino plays the titular Danny. He is a famous washed-up rock star, living on expensive booze and nose candy. He still sings his ancient hits for adoring crowds, though. He has a young, cheating, wife and a loyal manager (Christopher Plummer). As a birthday surprise, the latter gives him a long-lost letter from John Lennon, one that he was meant to receive decades ago.

After a bout of Lennonist introspection, Danny decides to upend his life, travelling cross-country to New Jersey, where he seeks to reunite with his long-lost bio-son (Bobby Cannavale), who has acquired a wife (yes, Jennifer Garner) and cute daughter (Giselle Eisenberg). Complication: his son despises him and has no desire for reconcilation.

Also, Danny charms the heck out of the staff of the local Hilton where he's staying, most notably the manager (Annette Bening, who I kept expecting to remove her glasses and let down her hair, but never did). In the meantime, he starts working on composing new material, as Lennon suggested long ago.

So Danny's looking (unsubtly) for redemption, both personal and professional. Will he succeed? After experiencing a devastating setback? If you have seen more than five movies of this type, you can probably guess.

This movie wouldn't work at all if not for the acting talent, especially Pacino giving Danny's character believable charisma. Still it (apparently) fizzled in its theatrical release.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

A perfectly nice kids movie. No kids were actually present when we watched it, but that's OK.

Alexander is a kid who perpetually lives in the shadow of the other members of his solidly middle-class Pasadena family. He's continually disrespected by his peers and teachers at school, too. When it all gets too much to bear, he makes a sad birthday wish: a similarly bad day for his dad, mom, sister, and brothers. And this wish comes true. With consistently funny, and occasionally hilarious results.

It's a "bad day", of course, in a PG-rated, affluent suburban sense. Nobody succumbs to homelessness, drug abuse (other than cough syrup), or is the victim of urban crime or terrorism. It's just property destruction, major embarrassments, poor fashion choices, stuff like that.

Steve Carell plays Dad, Jennifer Garner plays Mom, and a bunch of Disney youngsters play the kids. There is a very funny cameo from Dick Van Dyke.

What I learned: you can say "penis" four times in a PG Disney movie. Also "boobs" (just once). Times change.