Movie Review – Chris Ranson on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Runtime: 123 minutes

I had originally planned to review the first two films in the Hunger Games series before seeing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, but time got in the way and I figured I’d rather save that for when the final film comes out next November. With that said, I did rewatch the first two films and still enjoyed them.

Let’s be clear: I’ve read the Hunger Games books long before they were films, and I hated Mockingjay at that point. Tonally, it’s a very different film. There are no Hunger Games events, and instead the entire book/film is a slow-burning, political piece, which is obviously where the series was headed, but I felt after finishing the novel that things could have been done much better. Continue reading

Cinefessions Series Review – Ashe Collins on the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Series

A Cinefessions Series Review is a periodic column that sees one more writers watching and reviewing an entire film series. Cinefessions considers any film franchise that has two or more films a series, and thus available for review in this column. This is an excellent way to get a quick look at an entire collection of films in one column. Today, Ashe visits one of the most talked-about trilogies in recent memory: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Batman hitting the scene. Since I’m a huge Batman fan, I’d be remiss not to do something for the anniversary. Rather than do a series review of the Burton/Schumacher films, along with the trilogy of animated films, and then these, we thought it better to do each series separate. I honestly don’t know if I’ll have time to finish off the Burton/Schumacher set as I don’t own the films that were cobbled together after Burton left that series, and I’m going to have to find the animated films on DVD since I used to have them on VHS only. I did have all three of the Nolan films at my house, eager to be thrown upon my big screen in honor of the man the Joker would call ‘Batsy’.  These will be a little more in depth as I’m going to throw in some Batman facts and history as well. It might get a little spoilery, so you have been warned. So here it is, my series review of the Nolan trilogy for Batman’s 75th Anniversary. Enjoy.

Batman Begins (2005, dir. Christopher Nolan)

Batman Begins


Batman Begins is almost the perfect resurrection of the Batman franchise after the spectacularly bad Batman Forever and Batman & Robin nearly buried it in the ‘90s. A far more serious take on the characters and setting than even Burton’s films, Nolan is definitely borrowing from some of the better graphic novels for this one, but at the same time he’s put a very different spin on it. Specifically here we’re going for Batman: Year One, the Frank Miller graphic novel with a twist on Bruce’s training and by tying it into the League of Shadows and Ra’s Al Ghul, a villain we’d only seen realized outside the comics at this point in the animated series. The Man Who Falls, about Bruce’s early life and training, is used quite a bit here, and there’s a little bit taken from The Long Halloween (but the sequel would borrow from The Long Halloween far more heavily). It’s not the perfect Batman film, but it’s damned close to it. As an origin film and a re-telling to set the stage for the trilogy it works on a lot of levels. Continue reading

Movie Review – Chris Ranson on Birdman (2014)

BirdmanTitle: Birdman (2014)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Runtime: 119 minutes

I knew I had to see Birdman after the first trailer. It looked like my type of movie. I showed my movie buddy the trailer, and told him I really wanted to see it for our next film. His response? “That trailer makes no sense. Why would you want to see that?” That’s the thing, though: I wanted to see this movie because the trailer didn’t make sense, and it was also rocking a few things that had me excited, and in a year filled with major letdowns, it was nice to be excited for a change.

Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) was once a great actor, filling the suit of a much beloved superhero named Birdman. It’s been a really long time since those films were popular, though, and he decides to try and resurrect his career by starring in a Broadway play. The film opens with Riggan hovering in the air in his whitey tighties. He stands up to answer a Skype call from his assistant/daughter, played by a stoner-esque Emma Stone. What we soon learn is that Riggan has a few inner demons, mainly Birdman himself, who heckles him throughout the course of the film. Not only that, but he also has an A-list celebrity, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), starring alongside him in this ego-fueled play. Shiner also happens to be shagging the one female lead, Lesley (Naomi Watts), and may or may not have the hots for Riggan’s daughter. Continue reading

Movie Review – Chris Ranson on Big Hero 6 (2014)

Big Hero 6Title: Big Hero 6 (2014)
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Runtime: 108 minutes

Welcome to San Fransokyo, an obvious homage to San Francisco and Tokyo. Seeing the hills and the Golden Gate Bridge, animated as they exist in the real world San Francisco, but with a Japanese flair. From the buildings to the neon lights, it’s a perfect meld that gets you in the mood for the mix you’re about to experience with Big Hero 6.

Hiro is a fourteen-year-old prodigy who loves to battle robots. His brother is a student at a local school and has created a big, white, medical robot, Baymax, who can scan for ailments, and whose sole purpose is to heal. Hiro meets his brother’s fellow academic counterparts; they’re all a little quirky, and remind me of the Scooby-Doo gang, which is a great thing. Eventually Baymax ends up in the care of Hiro, who finds out that someone is up to some evil deeds in the area. Continue reading

Movie Review – Chris Ranson on Zombeavers (2014)

ZombeaversTitle: Zombeavers (2014)
Director: Jordan Rubin
Runtime: 85 minutes

I had tickets for a screening of Zombeavers while it was playing at the TriBeCa Film Festival, but due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend. That was almost six months ago, and I’ve heard very little about the film since then, except for a few other festival offerings. However, the UK is lucky enough to be getting this on Blu-ray and DVD this week, well before the US release (which has yet to be announced, as far as I can tell). But the question remains: is Zombeavers worth tracking down?

A canister of something bad falls off the back of a truck after hitting a deer, and infects some beavers, turning them into savage, zombie beavers! A trio of girls are heading out to the woods for a “girls getaway”, but their boyfriends give them a surprise visit. The beavers have the same idea. Much in the vain of another horror comedy involving animals, Black Sheep, Zombeavers can never be taken seriously, and it’s virtually one long beaver joke, filled with gore, and a few other surprises. Continue reading

13 Days of Halloween: Day 13 – The Cinefessions Podcast – Episode 08 – The Top 5 Halloween Special


Welcome back to The Cinefessions Podcast! We are topping off the 13 Days of Halloween in the best way we know how: with a new podcast episode! This time, the crew goes over five Top 5 lists, all horror related.

We list our top five horror films, remakes/sequels we want to see, horror performances, sequels, and horror cinefessions (horror movies we have not yet watched). If you like lists, or the horror genre, this episode is for you! Oh, and Chris propositions Kevin Williamson on-air. Yeah, it happens.

If you haven’t already, make sure you “Like” Cinefessions on Facebook!

Remember that you can find The Cinefessions Podcast on Stitcher Radio, iTunes, and right here on the website. Be sure to send any comments, questions, or complaints our way as well, via twitter (@cinefessions or @psymin1), email, or the comments section below. Our email address is As always, thanks for listening!


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13 Days of Halloween: Day 12.75 – Ashe Collins on The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Return of the Living DeadTitle: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Director: Dan O’Bannon
Runtime: 91 minutes

I know I’ve said this on twitter, and I’ll repeat it again here: The Return of the Living Dead is one of the best horror-based comedy films out there. It’s not a film you want to take seriously at all. While they definitely take their gore seriously, and the zombie design and effects, the script is most definitely played more as a comedy, and a tie-in to the original Night of the Living Dead, and can work as a sequel provided you don’t follow Night with Dawn or Day and go to this one instead. Think of this as the start of a “What if” scenario, but with a really dark humor twist. By the way, this is, in fact, from the same guy who wrote the original script to Alien (Dan O’Bannon).  Continue reading