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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Is this movie better than the book? Very few movies are. The book really needs to be bad and the movie really needs to be good in order for this rare occasion to present itself. It’s the unfortunate mishap of film. It’s never long and full enough to capture all the scenes, nuances and character development allowed in the text of a novel. 

The Hunger Games Poster Katniss arenaDoes The Hunger Games the movie capture the several moods and moments within the book that make it what it is? Yes. It does that. And more, it adds elements lacking in the story because of the limited first-person narrative.


The acting here was solid and the casting, though contentious in some circles, was ultimately spot-on (though I will always have a different Peeta in my brain). The costuming was exquisite and some of the set pieces insanely iconic. Specifically, The Reaping scene. Each time I watched it, it inspired chills and horror. The entire mood evoked by the score, the lighting and the focus of the camera was ultimately somber. I wouldn’t say the audience leaves the theatre with a feeling of “wasn’t that so awesome?” but rather, a feeling of having witnessed something horrific and, like the main characters, survived. Like Katniss, we’d like to forget some of the more disturbing aspects of The Hunger Games.


Unless you count a few unruly audience members during the first and second viewings of the movie, there wasn’t much to complain about here. The 2.5 hour run time seems to breeze by in 45 minutes (unless you have a full bladder). The few complaints I have seem silly and could be said of many movies or many adaptations, so they’re almost not worth uttering. I would have rather eliminated a few of the “behind the game-makers scenes” and done with some more moments between Katniss and Peeta. Or with Katniss remembering Gale. Or Katniss remembering Prim. OR fully drawing out the bread scene.

Shaky cam within the first 15 minutes really distracted me. When you are trying to orient yourself in the beginning of a film, so much shakiness is almost painful to bear witness too. But, the shaky cam and quick cuts added to the heightened emotions and documentary/reality feel that made the Reaping so powerful and memorable.


Jennifer Lawrence effortlessly carries this film. I’ve been so wrapped up in The Hunger Games mania for the last few months, it didn’t even register until after the second viewing that I was sitting in a theatre full of people of all ages watching a film centered on a female protagonist who is not overly sexualized. Sure, the full figure of Lawrence is clothed in a few tight-fitting outfits during some scenes, but there are no heaving chests and thigh-high slits. Even the romantic angle was tamed and given heroic threads – her love for Peeta was wrapped up in healing and protecting him.

Audience members of all ages, genders and races are turning out to see Katniss, regardless of her gender, race and age. That’s a pretty awesome phenomena, no matter how you feel about the content. Yes, I will address you Battle Royale parallelists – the concept of people forced into death battle for entertainment existed before Battle Royale. It’s ingrained in Western culture from Greek and Roman times up through stories/films like Running Man and No Escape.


It’s easy to get lost in the hype and forget about the foundation making this story so moving and engaging. Luckily, the film doesn’t stray far from these themes and it’s seemingly impossible for the audience to ignore them either. The Hunger Games is about the tragedy of oppression, kids killing kids, and the horrors of excess when so many are feeling want. There is a conversation about the nature of humanity and what we are willing to do in order to survive.

There’s important content here, and my greatest fear is it will all be lost in the rush of a $153 million opening weekend and attractive box office stars. Indeed, I had some small hope Lionsgate would use the opportunity of the release of “The Hunger Games” to combat hunger. You know, address the themes present in the art.

Maybe that’s just my brain constantly crying out for social justice on some level, but I was disappointed there was no effort to collect extra funds for food banks or to even invite local food banks to collect donations at theatres. Is it weird my mind should go there? I don’t think so, not given the story being told. My greatest complaint is that the entertainment industry missed an opportunity to do more than just collect millions of dollars in cash. It could have connected the dots in a more profound way.

Bechdel Test“The Hunger Games” features more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names, but do not speak to one another so it DOES NOT PASS the race test. 


Racist Hunger Games Fans are Very Disappointed

What Hunger Games’ Success Means for Women in Action Films

The Gender Neutral Games

Twilight vs Hunger Games: Why Do So Many Grown-Ups Hate Bella? 


Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

This marks the first time I’ve ever watched a sequel without seeing the original first. Still have no interest in seeing the first entry. A part of me feels tricked into thinking this entry was theatre worthy either.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance posterA mad genius exists out there cutting exceptional movie trailers turning garbage films into inspirational gold. He must be stopped! Otherwise, we will continue to waste $13 a pop for 3D tickets to crap like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Wait, it wasn’t all that bad.

In fact, parts of it were downright good and even a bit unsettling. So here’s a quick, down and dirty review of the film…because how much time do we really want to waste on a Ghost Rider sequel review? Not much time.


Idris Elba. This man is a god (literally, in Thor) and he is guaranteed to save your crappy movie, or at least be the best part of it. He even steals his smallish scenes in Thor (muh favorite). Not quite sure why he was boasting colored contacts. It looked cool when he was playing Heimdahl, but went with his outfit and godly persona in that flick. Here it was obvious some studio exec was like “Idris Elba in contacts makes this movie THAT MUCH COOLER. Do it.” Elba was sporting an off-putting and unnecessary French accent, but aside from that – he was the best actor and second most fun to watch on the screen.

The special effects were the most fun thing to watch on-screen. The Ghost Rider himself is a special effect and a gorgeous one at that, with flames curling around his skull head and any vehicle he chooses to mount bursting into hellish fire. His antics are creepy, twitchy and a bit scary. The vibe for The Rider was PERFECT and clearly a lot of time and energy went into making him look cool. The action sequence were entertaining, especially the mid-point of the movie, in the rock quarry.

The audience was treated to tasty and attractive animated sequences as a narrative device. I’m always up for animated sequences in otherwise live action films. Especially comic book adaptations. Thanks production teams!


Nicholas Cage and his bizarre acting abilities. Loved him in Kick Ass and think he has a dry, oddball sense of humor but it was the wrong tone for this type of movie. What he emoted and what the director envisioned did not mesh well together on-screen and the effect was a mushy pile of loosely connected action sequence, while any attempt at plot was jarring on the audience. Not that anyone expected this to be Oscar worthy material, but it was a discordant mess not even on par with most Hollywood messes. An enjoyable mess, mind you. Entertaining.

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Movie Review: Chronicle

 Chronicle was one of those flicks you watch and imagine what it could have been if only the concept, characters and actors had been in the hands of someone else. You yearn for the potential film you almost saw. 

Chronicle Movie PosterIt’s your typical superhero origin story, except the heroes aren’t terribly heroic. They acquire super-powers in a mysterious glowing cave near a “rave” in the woods surrounding Seattle. I dug the Pacific Northwest shout-out, spotting our brand of coastal forests long before the space needle graced the screen.

Side note: Do people still go to “raves?”

Anywho – regular people get extraordinary powers and use them in the fashion you would imagine ordinary folks to do. They goof around in thrill seeking escapades, impressing classmates and using parlor tricks to hook up with ladies. Then, the bad seed goes nuts and gets in a knock down, drag out, levitated fight in the middle of downtown Seattle.

Absolute power corrupting absolutely is a classic tale, but one rarely told from a realistic perspective, from average dudes at your typical American High School. We are treated to all the joy and mystery of discovering human flight and telekinesis. And the horror of realizing these powers could harm or kill others. There were bits of moral pondering thrown in, but it was a little lost in the muddle of the story. I didn’t buy the philosophical quoting.

What didn’t jive well? The shaky hand cam style.Yes, it’s a cheaper way to film and also a commentary on how much we “chronicle” our daily lives, but this kind of device gets old after a while if the plot is having to stretch to account for why we are viewing things with different camera angles. Suddenly, there are two people running around who must film absolutely everything. Or one character who feels obligated to pick up where the other left off.

When the characters are constantly, or at least consistently, commenting on the presence of the camera, it takes the audience out of the film. In no way did I believe this film was a real chronicle of these super powers. The ship of sincerely believing this is found camera footage sailed with The Blair Witch Project. But it’s been recycled again and again in what would otherwise be higher quality flicks:

And now, Chronicle.

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Movie Review: Young Adult

Young Adult was a bit of a surprise. Expected to like it much more than I did – with all the feminist overtones and multi-dimensional, flawed female character rumors swirling about on the interwebs. This was the second pairing of screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, their previous venture being the much beloved Juno.


Young Adult posterCharlize Theron is phenomenal in this role. She swaggers across the screen in her Uggs and sweatpants, chomping up the scenery with her ice-cold glare and washing it down with giant swigs of Diet Coke. Her moments of extreme cattiness, minus the awkward attempts at seduction are gleeful rather than off-putting. I would watch an entire movie of mean Mavis and love every minute of it. I’m sure that’s wrong, but I don’t care.

Other good bits? Matt and Mavis had chemistry. Patton Oswalt is such a lovable curmudgeon. While they glowed together in their general dislike of the world, I would hate to be drunk in a bar with them. Their level of bitter and hate is best viewed from a distance.

I was also thrilled by the little scenes with Mavis planning out her outfits, packing/unpacking, getting mani/pedis, putting on her hair and makeup. Those simple daily ritualistic acts that often define the female gender but are usually never displayed in films except for comedic effect. These scenes had a completely different tone. For Mavis it was like putting on a suit of armor to head out into battle. The calculation and effort with which she went about it was strangely compelling.


Unfortunately, we are largely treated to small, shining moments of mean Mavis and then long, extended periods of uncomfortable tension. Awkward scenes of wooing a clearly disinterested and skeeved out ex-boyfriend. Another horrible scene around her parents dinner table where she waxes effusive about her high school days and then promptly announces she’s an alcoholic. Her parents react with blank stares. Oh poor BBZ. Mavis is lacking a serious amount of love in her life.

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Movie Review: Attack the Block

Attack The Block is a flick that I’ve been quietly pining away for the last 5 months. It was in American theatres around mid-July and no one had heard about it. Or wanted to see it. Then it was gone in the blink of an eye but kept popping up again on my radar, once because Edgar Wright of Scott Pilgrim fame (also the executive producer of ATB) was talking it up, and another when Racialicious wrote up a blog entry about it. Well, several to be more precise. I’ll link those at the bottom.

Attack The Block movie posterReally, I’m sure people have already covered the movie in far more eloquent terms than I could. But, for me personally, watching something like this is a minor miracle that I’d like to pass on to friends, family and some of the random strangers that stumble upon my blog.

Please – go rent Attack the Block. It’s available through Red Box (there’s one of those on every major street corner, ya know). I’m sure it’s on Netflix. It’s out there, circulating in the world and here you are, sitting in front of your computer screen reading some silly review.


What I love about alien movies lately? They let us have a dialogue about race that I just don’t see happening in a lot of other genre entertainment. Game of Thrones is rad, but race is not on the menu for that particular six course meal. LOTR is a bit more subtle than 300, but there’s still an element of dark vs light man flesh (guess who wins?).

The gothic/monster genre has done a little bit better on the race front – at least Twilight made an attempt (though arguably a poor one) to include Native Americans. Remember those people who lived here in “America” before white kids took over? Yeah, very often genre fiction doesn’t.

By far – science fiction allows us to meet on an equal playing field. I love you fantasy, but you are far to stuck in your gender/race roles. Sci Fi is usually forward looking. It has the glory of giving us alternate future worlds in which it doesn’t matter if you’re a dude a lady or black and white.


Attack The Block is like that. Except it talks about race. Gives a bit of a nod to gender. It talks about socio-economic status. It doesn’t give us a happy ending in which the heroes solve all those problems. But it does give us a realistic one. Which is exceptional for a film about a gang of tough London kids fighting off a horde of aliens in their apartment complex.

Dan, The DH, was skeptical when we first plopped the DVD in. This, from a guy who spent the weekend playing Skyrim. 😉 But by the end he was clearly won over to my side of the fence. The side where I knew this would be a good, fun and unique romp before the DVD even started spinning up.

You know there’s something wrong in the world when a 30 year old white woman gets excited about seeing a 15 year old black male protagonist in a movie about aliens. Granted, John Boyega who potrays the hero Moses DOES look a lot like a young Denzel Washington.

John Boyega and Denzel Washington comparison

It's in the eyes and the lips. Sad eyes, pouty lips. Just sayin.

Dan and I aren’t the only ones who noticed. Seriously, google “John Boyega” and “Denzel Washington” it’s in every damn article written about him. Also worth noting – he’s already signed by Spike Lee for an HBO drama “Da Brick.” Hollywood moved fast!

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Movie Review: Breaking Dawn Part 1

I’ve had very mixed feelings going into watching this movie. The book is something of a train wreck – featuring an awkward wedding, a stunted honeymoon, a creepy demon baby and the most horrific birth scene I’ve ever witnessed depicted (this is coming from a woman who has witnessed four live births, mind you). 

And that’s just in the first half.

SIDE NOTE: I love you Mom and enjoy experiencing the Twilight fandom with you. But this is gonna get brutal, so avert your eyes. 🙂


Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1 Movie PosterThe wedding scenes with Bella and her parents – especially the Charlie Swan from the movies whom I’ve come to love more than the Charlie Swan of the books (the book Charlie is a huge shipper/manipulator of the relationship between Bella and Jacob). Bella’s Mom has always been a bit of a tool, but she was motherly and weepy. Movie Charlie, for me, is really the soul of the series. He’s completely innocent of anything that’s happening and just loves the shit out of his daughter, but doesn’t continually place her in harm’s way. Me Gusta.

The emotional climax for Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner was spot-on. Really. I was impressed with how both of them dealt with their big “Bella died giving birth scene.” Pattinson especially displayed some real emotion. It’s fun to watch him progress through the series from a comically bad actor to someone who is able to provide much more range and inspire some real sympathy. Which is difficult when you’re playing sparkly abusive boyfriend/husband vamp man.

The wolf pack inter-relations were much more compelling to me than the martyr Bella dying for her demon baby plot-line. It’s so refreshing to see native people (or really, any person of color), depicted on-screen in a major big budget Hollywood flick. I’m so pleased that the Twilight franchise is making these kinds of gains. Seth Clearwater was adorbs and I just wanted to pinch his cheeks whenever he was on-screen. Leah Clearwater was another tool and it was difficult watching Jacob treat her like such an ass.


The depiction of Native peoples in general was a little wonky. I’ve felt like most of the other movies didn’t go out of their way to stereotype First Nation people, but the “sparkling firewater” comment during the wedding threw me a bit for a loop. And then I swear I heard weird Taiko drumming during all the scenes with the werewolves. I mean, really?

I will briefly comment that the wedding and honeymoon were boring. I get that they needed to stretch out the material (90 minutes would have been fine, production team) but the long, lingering shots of the dress and the ring and her hair were just…blargh. I was over it by about 30 minutes in. And the sex scenes? Too brief. Plus the post-coital bruises. What. The. Fuck. That is not sexy. Maybe one or two choice bruises. But it’s so…rapey.

The whole messy business of imprinting. Yegh. Are you serious ya’ll? Why does poor Jacob have to get stuck loving a creepy vampire baby? Why not Leah Clearwater who shares his wolf thoughts and is real flesh and blood? I can see him feeling super protective of the baby because it’s part Bella…but everything else after that. Yikes. Especially with the recent media attention on child abuse (ala Penn State). Loving babies is cool. But Luuuuving babies, is not. There’s no talking your way around that.


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Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Despite no real intentions previously to see it, I was coerced by my lovely sister to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes last weekend. I admit to uttering a loud and hearty guffaw at the first trailer…it was definitely not on my “to-watch” list.



Rise of the Planet of the ApesI mean, come on, that title alone is ludicrous. Pair that with James Franco and to me it signaled a recipe for disaster. Franco…he just creeps me out. That side smile of his. The dark circled, bug eyes. I dunno. He’s like the dude you never wanted to be alone with at the party when you were intoxicated. Or if he started circling your intoxicated friend, you kept an eye out and intervened before he had a chance to corner her. You know? I don’t trust him. Since Spiderman AND Freaks and Geeks.

So Franco’s role as a mad scientist willing to use experimental drugs on apes and humans alike didn’t seem like a real stretch. He was warm and affectionate to Caesar and his father, but overall…still creepy. Even at the Oscars. Creepy. *shudder* I don’t get the Franco love at all. But, to each their own.

There were literally ZERO expectations walking into this film, other than strong feeling towards watching hordes of monkeys enacting violence on humans. Since that whole incident where a supposedly tame monkey high on goofballs ATE SOMEONE’S FACE OFF…I’ve been a little un-nerved by apes. Especially since that situation led to me doing a lot of reading and finding out that keeping monkeys as pets is not a good practice. Once they hit monkey puberty (around three years old) their hormones make them go…ape-shit…and they usually end up having to be turned over to “rescue shelters” or zoos, similar to what happens to Caesar after his violent outburst in “Rise.”


It’s with great pleasure then, that I note Caesar was entirely CGI. No monkeys were harmed or utilized in the making of this production. And they did a damn good job crafting him as a believable flesh and blood being. At first I was like, “Oh great, 90 minutes with leering Franco and CGI monkeys…that was worth $30.” But after the first 15 minutes or so, I really didn’t notice one of the main characters was a special effect.

This was actually a fairly touching movie. There was emotional resonance between the mad scientist and his alzhemier afflicted father (played by John Lithgow). There was emotional resonance between these two and Caesar as well. Caesar’s story was really the main drive of the film, and where all the magic happened.


The odd notes this film hit were with the no-so-subtley planted side characters. Overweight comic relief guy as lab assistant? Check. British and/or foreign bad-guy? Check. Characters of color in supporting roles with minimal lines? Check. Women in supporting roles with minimal lines and zero character development? Check.

You know – all the classic Hollywood tropes trotted out. I was a little puzzled by why they chose to put a black man in the classic British Baddie role. But then I realized how perfect it was. Gotta have a black person with a speaking role in there SOMEWHERE, so why not make him the bad guy? And British? Two birds, one actor. Bam! Film problems solved.


Bah. It rankled me. And then the gorgeous but stilted Freida Pinto as the love interest. She was such a cipher…but nice to look at. I mean, she had three or four lines, right? At least they made an effort to fill what would have been a white role with a person of color. Maybe it provides some balance? Who knows. This movie wasn’t doing females any favors – failing both the race and women test miserably.

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Super 8: Americana and Meh

There are only a few films which adequately capture the vibrancy of pre-adolescent childhood. When you are old enough to embrace and understand the joys, right before puberty takes you into a whole new world of sexuality, discovery and growth. These films almost always involve a group of young boys, with a token “girl who can hang” running around in the 60s, 70s or early 80s going on wild adventures.

Super 8, at one point, had the potential to be described as one of these movies.

You know: The Sandlot, E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me, It and The Mighty Ducks. At the moment Now and Then is the only movie with more than two girls I can recollect, though it was not strictly set in time period as the really memorable films are. Most other flicks featuring ladies are either teen or adult oriented. Oh shit – totally forgot about My Girl. Wait, that was still just one girl. Damn. Loved that movie though.

Sometimes I wonder about the lack of lady representation in pre-pubescent adventure/bonding/feel-good movies and what that does to the self perception of our female pre-teens. I would just like to see an equal number of girls and boys in these kinds of films. It’s not a crazy request. Just ya know – REALISTIC.

Shit, I went to a birthday party for my niece today and just as many young girls were romping around the yard as young boys. What’s up Abrams and Spielberg? Set in a similar time period “That 70s Show” managed to blend guys and gals hanging out without imploding the sun. Soooo – figure it out!

It would be wrong to let this observation slide, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily deterred me from really enjoying the movie – it was just a bummer to note. I’m not going to be as militant about it as with X-Men: First Class, because that would imply a deeper caring about the material than I am capable of drumming up.


All of the depth came from the children – the two principle leads Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb and Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard held the emotional weight of the production. The chemistry between them – their quiet moments together processing the death of Lamb’s mother and their own attraction to one another absolutely held me captive.

Riley Griffiths as Charles Kaznyk was pitch perfect as the bossy zombie film director, but the crush he confesses during an emotional breakdown between him and Joe just didn’t carry over on-screen. There wasn’t nearly enough time devoted to the dude sidekicks for this to be a complete “kids bonding film.” It was sort of a buddy movie mixed with romance over a science fiction background. With a father-son grieving theme as well. I mean, shit – that’s A LOT of storylines packed into two hours of screen.

The gang is all here

If you are looking for the kind of bonding and strong personalities that “Stand By Me” or “The Goonies” possesses, than you will be sorely disappointed. Aside from that kid with the braces and addiction to fire, the characterizations didn’t stand out for me, and actually smacked of tokenism. The chubby/bossy kid, the waifish blonde from the wrong side of the tracks, the doe-eyed everyboy and the other kids were just comedic fodder whose names we couldn’t be bothered to remember.

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X-Men First Class: The Review

There’s some saying out there about expectations and how you shouldn’t get them “up” when you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be. It’s a saying because it’s mostly true. So there you have  it. I had ridiculous expectations for this film which didn’t translate to what we actually ended up viewing.

X-Men First Class Movie PosterBut I blame it on the pre-release fervor and those stupid Rotten Tomatoes numbers. 98%! 92%! Now it’s down to 88% – which sadly does not beat out The Dark Knight. But then again, X-Men: First Class hardly carries the same gravitas.

Not that it doesn’t make an attempt. It suffers a bit from Thor syndrome – it feels like three films in one and there’s hardly a moment to pause and breathe (except for maybe that wacky week-long montage). Really though, there’s much too much crammed into one film. It teeters perilously close to drowning in its own ambitions, but there was enough to rescue it from mediocrity (still kicking Thor’s Asgaardian ass).



Who would have thought it was possible for Ian McKellen as Magneto to be upstaged by a young, muscular James-Bondy version of himself? Certainly not this lady. I had high hopes for Michael Fassbender after realizing I’d seen him in at least two other movies where he effortlessly stole the scenes. You might have missed him in Inglourious Basterds, Centurion and 300. In case you forgot how dead sexy and mostly naked he was in that last movie, here is a refresher:

That jump scene in the man-diaper? Delicious! And such intensity.

He has seriously made me fall deeply and madly in love with Magneto, who I’ve always kinda crushed on in the comic books especially when his clone Joseph was hanging around adding some extra tension to the Rogue and Gambit relationship. Though it was really hard to like him after he ripped all of Wolverine’s adamantium out of his body. Yeah, that happened. Kinda cruel.

Deeply surprised at a lack of similar sexual attraction to James McAvoy, who has been an actor crush since Atonement. No matter how hard they push the Charles Xavier as sex-kitten vibe, he cannot surpass the years of history I have with Xavier as a bald wise-old-sage. It would be like dating Buddha or finding him appealing during his younger years. Kinda skeevy.

Magneto however, has the bad boy image thang going for him. The heart-wrenching back story. Xavier’s evil-stepfather was non-existent and instead he spent his life apparently playing patriarch to Mystique if you can buy that. Which I can’t. That was the first bitter pill to swallow in this film. But that’s for later.

BFFs for Life! Until we spend the rest of it morally at odds. Whatevs. Chess is fun!

The Xavier-Magneto man love story was the drive of this film. Everything else, including the other mutants seemed secondary, dull and wasted. When you have two solid, attractive actors of their caliber – the entire film could have been hinged on them.

I wanted more of their story. I wanted the entire movie to be theirs because we only saw them on-screen for about 10-15 minutes of bonding before…you know, all the craziness happens (not going to spoil all of that ya’ll).

These two actors were hands down the best part of this film and decidedly rescued it from itself. The same cannot be said for the rest of the flick.

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Hanna Link Love: 4/14/2011

I wanted to include this in the post yesterday, because I love having a wide variety of opinions to compare and contrast with my own chortlings. Gathered from all the bestest sources on the internets…


Comparing/Contrasting Baby Doll w/ Hanna

Lots of great comments by other ladiez on Hanna in this mini-article

Does Hanna empower women?

– Is Hanna a post-female feminist heroine?

The Village Voice doesn’t think Hanna is all that “feminist”

Rotten tomatoes mixed bag – currently roosting at 70%

If anyone else has some further Hanna link love to add to the mix, by all means – post away!