Tess Jennings

Aspiring writer living one day at a time.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rated: PG-13
Grade: A-

starwarsThe force is strong with this one. Despite the hype and strategic marketing campaigns aimed at literally every demographic, The Force Awakens actually didn’t disappoint. J.J. Abrams successfully revived the series with witty, refreshing characters and old-time favorites…looking at you, Chewie.

The film follows the long-fought battle of the light and dark thirty-years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire. A new evil, The First Order, threatens to destroy life and the Resistance (which seems pretty easy because there are no Jedis…nor Yoda). Rey, a scavenger on the planet of Jakku discovers a droid (BB8) who secretly holds the key to finding long-lost Luke Skywalker…and a new order of Jedis. Rey runs into Finn, a First Order Storm trooper turned traitor (cue cutesy romance) and they set out to return (BB8) to the Resistance.

Long-story short, the trio finds Han Solo, Chewbacca, and “General” Leia who ban together to defeat the dark. Stellar action scenes, imaginative characters and a decent plot make this one a must-see. Having said that, the “new” Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, wasn’t as menacing as I would’ve hoped. Maybe it was because I can only imagine Adam Driver as Adam from Girls…or maybe it was because he just has SERIOUS daddy issues. What’s with Star Wars and daddy issues?

via GIPHY

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was originally published on CINEMAISTA

Merry Christmas!

elfRated: PG
Grade: A

It’s Christmas Eve! I think it’s only fitting to review one of the greatest Christmas movies to have ever graced the silver screen…Elf. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a Christmas movie: a seriously confused man-child, syrup, pre-bangs Zooey Deschanel and SANTA (screamed in a Will Ferrell-esque manner)! Elf goes together as well as spaghetti noodles and chocolate sauce.

Anyways, the film follows Buddy the Elf who’s one of Santa’s workers in the North Pole. Despite being roughly four feet taller than his brethren, he finally discovers that he’s actually a human when he turns about 40. After talking his problems out with his elf family and Santa, he travels through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then walks through the Lincoln Tunnel in to New York where he searches for his father. Hilarity ensues as poor, naïve Buddy finally finds his father, falls in love and saves Christmas.

In retrospect, Elf could’ve gone terribly, terribly wrong. Could you imagine Elf with someone other than Will Ferrell playing Buddy? Disaster! What makes this movie such a classic is Will Ferrell’s comic genius and the witty one liners. There’s a reason we’re still quoting “Son of a Nutcracker” twelve years later. If you haven’t seen Elf, (I’d be a little concerned) but I would seriously consider dropping every festive plan you have and watch it immediately.

Have a wonderful holiday and treat yo’ self to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup!

Merry Christmas! was originally published on CINEMAISTA

Ant-Man

Rated: PG-13

Grade:
B-

Marvel

Marvel

Ant-Man? More like, I Can’t, Man. Having said that, there’s no denying that Marvel is fantastic at producing visually stunning movies with spectacular special effects and humored storylines, and Ant-Man is no different. Marvel had everything they needed to make their moneymaking formula hit the jackpot again with Ant-Man. They had the amusingly relatable hero (Paul Rudd), the sidekick clown (Michael Pena), THE Michael Douglas, and a comic-book plot that pitted good against evil. Unfortunately, Marvel failed to factor in one variable, one little detail that foiled their attempts at making another blockbuster…You can’t make ants cool. You can argue with me all you want, but no matter how you try to jazz up those six-legged creatures with shiny lights and cute names (R.I.P. Ant-tony), they will never be as cool as a spider or a worm. If it had been any other insect, Ant-Man would’ve been a success. I’m thinking Silverfish-Man would’ve rivaled Thor, easily.

Looking past that minor issue, Ant-Man was entertaining. The movie follows the life of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a self-proclaimed cat burglar daddy who finds himself behind bars for the umpteenth time. Dr. Hank Pimp (Michael Douglas) recruits Lang to wear a special suit that  allows him to shrink while having the force of a 200 lbs. man…he can also talk to ants, cause you know, everyone can. Lang, Pimp and their allies ban together to defeat another super-shrinking-suit-making-scientist. Overall, Ant-Man was definitely compensating for something…but stellar fight scenes, a few laughs and an adorable Paul Rudd made Ant-Man worth watching, but not a must-see. But don’t you worry, Ant-Man 2 is totally happening. Hopefully by 2018 Marvel will finally learn how make ants cool.

Ant-Man was originally published on CINEMAISTA

Saving Mr. Banks:

You’re going to want to hug your dad after this tearjerker. Saving Mr. Banks follows Mary Poppins author, P.L. Traverse, during her long fought battle with Walt Disney over the movie rights to the children’s classic. Traverse, played by a fabulous Emma Thompson, manages to be both raving bitch and sensitive, broken-hearted woman who just needs a friend (I’ll be your friend). Walt Disney, played by a middle-aged Tom Hanks, is everything I’d imagine the magical businessman would be.

The movie is shot in flashbacks, showing Traverse as a young girl having a jolly time in Australia with her father played by Collin Farrell (who is beautiful by the way and can effortlessly jump onto a horse). Farrell eventually succumbs to alcoholism (cue tears), and we’re brought back to 1961 where Traverse desperately clings to the memory of her father through Mary Poppins. Traverse keeps threatening Disney that she will take away the movie rights because he just doesn’t get it. Mary Poppins didn’t come to save the children…she came to save…her dad (at this point I’m fairly certain the whole theater was in tears). Well, we all know what happens next. Mary Poppins hits the big screen and Julie Andrews becomes America’s sweetheart.

Saving Mr. Banks hit all the right notes and perfectly captured the essence of Mary Poppins. Although it wasn’t nominated for any awards this season, I would most definitely suggest a trip to the theater for any Mary Poppins fans. 

The Village: 

      As I was channel surfing the other day, I stumbled across M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Panic rushed through me as my ten-year-old self screamed to change the channel (when the trailer was released back in the day I was absolutely mortified), but curiosity won out in the end. I hunkered down and watched the suspense-thriller that I had originally believed would be a paralyzing horror movie that would leave me sleepless for weeks. Instead, it only left me sleepless for a few nights.

     The Village follows an Amish-like community that lives in fear of the porcupine-y monsters that reside in the ominous woods. The community and monsters have an uneasy truce that is shattered after a slow-minded boy played by Adrien Brody crosses the border into the woods. All havoc breaks loose as monsters attack at dusk and leave haunting red slashes on the doors of every building. Of course the people of the village are terrified, but that doesn’t stop a love story from forming. A blind Bryce Dallas Howard falls in love with a fairly stable Joaquin Phoenix. About halfway through the movie, fear of the monsters becomes secondary as a deadly love triangle surfaces with Brody stabbing Phoenix in the stomach because he likes Howard and she doesn’t like him back (so high school). Howard must then venture into the woods to the other towns to get medicine for her dying love. No one believes she can do it, but she can!…because of love. Anyways, long story short, the monsters turn out to be fake as does the village. The village actually resides in a modern day wildlife reserve that no one enters nor leaves. The elders of the village decided years ago that society was evil, so they decided to start over from scratch…because who wouldn’t? A bunch of other superfluous stuff happens, but that’s the gist of it. In retrospect, I have no idea why I was so terrified by The Village as a youngin’.

       This was most definitely not M. Night Shyamalan’s best work, but Bryce Dallas Howard was absolutely spectacular in her star-making role. You can watch the entire movie below in celebration of The Village’s tenth birthday!

The Village: 

      As I was channel surfing the other day, I stumbled across M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Panic rushed through me as my ten-year-old self screamed to change the channel (when the trailer was released back in the day I was absolutely mortified), but curiosity won out in the end. I hunkered down and watched the suspense-thriller that I had originally believed would be a paralyzing horror movie that would leave me sleepless for weeks. Instead, it only left me sleepless for a few nights.

     The Village follows an Amish-like community that lives in fear of the porcupine-y monsters that reside in the ominous woods. The community and monsters have an uneasy truce that is shattered after a slow-minded boy played by Adrien Brody crosses the border into the woods. All havoc breaks loose as monsters attack at dusk and leave haunting red slashes on the doors of every building. Of course the people of the village are terrified, but that doesn’t stop a love story from forming. A blind Bryce Dallas Howard falls in love with a fairly stable Joaquin Phoenix. About halfway through the movie, fear of the monsters becomes secondary as a deadly love triangle surfaces with Brody stabbing Phoenix in the stomach because he likes Howard and she doesn’t like him back (so high school). Howard must then venture into the woods to the other towns to get medicine for her dying love. No one believes she can do it, but she can!…because of love. Anyways, long story short, the monsters turn out to be fake as does the village. The village actually resides in a modern day wildlife reserve that no one enters nor leaves. The elders of the village decided years ago that society was evil, so they decided to start over from scratch…because who wouldn’t? A bunch of other superfluous stuff happens, but that’s the gist of it. In retrospect, I have no idea why I was so terrified by The Village as a youngin’.

       This was most definitely not M. Night Shyamalan’s best work, but Bryce Dallas Howard was absolutely spectacular in her star-making role. You can watch the entire movie below in celebration of The Village’s tenth birthday!

Frozen: 

     Was the theatre full of kindergartners? Yes. Did I cry? Maybe…No…Umm…Yes…Yes, I did cry. Frozen was fantastic and one of the best Disney movies I’ve seen in awhile. Of course it follows the typical princessy story with one of the main characters eventually falling in love, but Frozen has an interesting sisterly rivalry that adds some dimension to the typical Disney tale.

            Frozen follows sisters Anna and Elsa who have recently lost their parents. Elsa, the elder sister, has the ability to freeze anything (hence ‘Frozen’). Elsa pushes Anna away, becomes a ‘snow’ queen, has a minor breakdown and leaves the kingdom to create her own frozen oasis. Anna takes off after Elsa and meets a host of characters on her journey to bring her sister back. Anna’s comrades include Kristoff (hello mountain man), Sven (a reindeer) and Olaf (the sassy-talking snowman). Olaf is by far the best character and has a hilarious song-and-dance number about summertime (he doesn’t realize he’ll melt). I was a bit hesitant at first about Olaf, but how can you not like a lovable frozen friend? No offense to Olaf, but the ultimate star of Frozen was Idina Menzel who voiced Elsa. Her stellar vocals brought songs like Let it Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman to life. If you’re in the mood for some syrupy sweet Disney goodness, go see Frozen with a bunch of 7-year-olds like I did. Also check out the video below of a little girl singing her rendition of ‘Let it Dooo!’

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Happy New Year my movie lovers! Apologies for my long absence. My past semester in college was fairly hectic, but I’m back now and ready for a bloggin’ 2014.

To kick off the New Year, I thought I’d start with Peter Jackson’s second epic installment of The Hobbit, and I must say, it was highly entertaining. If you want an action-packed movie filled with tons of bearded men, I would suggest heading to theaters to see The Desolation of Smaug.

As any Lord of the Rings or J.R.R. Tolkien lover would know, The Hobbit follows the journey of a gaggle of dwarves who seek to over-throw a malevolent dragon that took over their mountain home. With the help of the almighty Gandalf and the pure-hearted hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the dwarves make their way past gobblins, orcs and a sexily voiced dragon to finally make it back to their home. Although the movie ends before the dwarves can finally defeat Smaug and take back the Lonely Mountain, there’s loads of visually engrossing action scenes that’ll keep you entertained.

Overall, Peter Jackson did another fantastic job bringing Middle Earth to life. Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, is absolutely fantastic as the hobbit burglar. By far the best scene is when Bilbo finally faces Smaug, played by his Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch (if you haven’t seen Sherlock yet, you’re seriously missin’ out). Smaug surpassed my expectations, but I felt the Bilbo/Smaug scene lasted a bit too long.

Other standouts included Legalos (not in the book) played by Orlando Bloom who was just as elftastic as he was in the Lord of the Rings. Evangeline Lily as the kick-ass-elf-in-love-with-a-dwarf was also a superb addition to the plot. But the real winner of The Hobbit was most definitely Lee Pace’s eyebrows (pictured above). Pace plays Thranduil, the cold-hearted elf king and Legalos’ father. If anything, go see The Hobbit just to see his incredible brows.

If you want to see what the actors look like without all that facial hair, checkout a few of their interviews below. 

Hello fellow Cinemaistas and Cinemaestros!

Hope you’ve all been having a fantastic start to summer time. I’ll be going on a much needed hiatus over the next couple of weeks and will not be posting, but don’t you worry! I’ll be watching movies on movies during my vacation, so be prepared for reviews ranging from the newest blockbusters to the classic oldies. I’ll be taking any suggestions on movies you would like me to review, so just leave recommendations in the comments. Until then, enjoy summer and let me know what movies you’ve watched recently!

Star Trek Into Darkness

I give Star Trek Into Darkness five stars, but that’s an understatement because stars are so stardate 2008. This movie surpassed all of my expectations and was even better than its 2009 predecessor. Each character was casted perfectly, and I absolutely loved Benedit Cumberbatch as the maliciously delicious Khan. Having never really watched Star Trek in its prime, I didn’t know whether Khan was the U.S.S. Enterprise’s foe or friend…or frenemy. His playing the double agent had me guessing constantly, but I now know that he is most definitely THE arch nemesis. As for the protagonist, Chris Pine is perfect as the young Captain Kirk and his bromance with Spock (Zachary Quinto) seriously brought tears to my eyes (who didn’t love it when Spock sought vengeance for Kirk?). Bones, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov were also fantastic and (my diehard Star Trek fanatic parents tell me that they were just like the characters in the TV series).

J.J. Abrams most definitely deserves a round of applause for expertly crafting the perfect balance of serious scenes and lighthearted humor. His special effects were enthralling and I loved every minute of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s journey through space. Plus, there were absolutely no black holes in the storyline (I loathe movies with swiss cheese plots). I would highly suggest going to see this one. Trekkie fans and moviegoers alike will love it. Oh, and don’t forgot to check out Cumberbatch’s Shower of Evil (that was unfortunately edited out of the movie) and J.J. Abrams on Conan defending a few of his directing choices: 

Mama

In honor of the horror fantasy flick, Mama, I thought I’d include a list of rules to follow in order to not be a victim of some psycho killer in dark lighting. Mama Mia!

10. Don’t relentlessly search for your missing brother who supposedly killed his wife and kidnapped his children.

9. Don’t adopt said feral children who have been living in the wild for the last five years and continuously call a shadow Mama.

8. Don’t agree to take care of your boyfriend’s feral nieces…even if he’s in a coma.

7. Speaking of a coma…stay away from stairs and cliffs.

6. If you’re the psychiatrist analyzing the neices’ mental health, don’t go into a dimly lit cabin by yourself.

5. Keep your distance from dark closets, hallways and shadowy corners.

4. Always have a spare flashlight….and use the buddy system.

3. Whatever you do, don’t look under the bed.

2. Is that mold? No it’ a portal. Leave now.  

1. The number one way to avoid being screwed is…TURN ON THE DAMN LIGHTS.

If you follow these simple ten rules, then possibly you can defeat (survive) the demonic spirit that is haunting your house. As for watching Mama, it was good but not great. Jessica Chastain as the edgy girlfriend of the uncle who adopts the missing girls, is fantastic. I would re-watch the movie solely for her performance. As for the other parts of the movie, the special effects were chilling and definitely had a Guillermo del Toro-esque edge (he produced Mama). But other than that, the story line was hard to believe and I just wasn’t scared. When I watch a horror movie, I want to be terrified, but sadly I wasn’t. Come on Guillermo, I expected to not sleep for a week, but I slept just fine. 

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