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The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching a New Director

Gary-Ross-Catching-Fire

It was almost impossible to ignore the swirl of controversy exploding on the internet a week ago when rumors leaked that Gary Ross, the wizard who magicked the film version of The Hunger Games into the world, would not be taking the helm of Catching Fire the second film in the trilogy (or four-ogy, if you count the two-parter ending). While it was tempting to become mired in the drama, I patiently set it aside, determined to have a productive and happy weekend.

Giving in to rumors has been a bad habit in the past.

Sadly, even after petitions and trending-twitter-tags and a great effort on the part of the fandom, Ross announced he really, truly is leaving the franchise on the grounds of “not enough time to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.” I mean, what a lame excuse right? J/K ya’ll. This is serious business.

Gary Ross is suffering what I like to call The Catherine Hardwicke Effect. No, I’m not suggesting her as the next director. Her campy, lulzy take on Twilight and super sexed up Red Riding Hood were a bit too strange and not emotionally charged or serious enough for the content of Catching Fire.

Not only 24 hours later and the internet is already abuzz with rumors or judgments about who should take the helm. Since absolutely no one has asked my opinion yet, I will give it to you anyway.

Here are my top 5 picks for a new HG director (in no particular order, mind you):

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Emerald City Comic Con 2012: The Costumes

My apologies for the Mindy overload here, had to jump in a few pictures with these awesome folks.

Slideshow of the great costumes at Emerald City Comic Con 2012:

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Emerald City Comic Con 2012: Top 5 Highlights

Emerald City Comic Con poster

We booked our hotel and registered our tickets for Emerald City Comic Con 2012 months ago. I was especially excited about the prospect of meeting Katee Sackhoff AND Edward James Olmos, so I didn’t spend much time prior to the convention planning or even reviewing the comic book guests. Decided to use this as my pop culture/media frenzy event for the year. A few weeks ago when Sackhoff cancelled her appearance due to acting engagements, I was more than a little bummed. Still excited to meet Edward James Olmos, but was *this* close to having both those items crossed off my nerd bucket list.

With considerably less enthusiasm, I downloaded the Guidebook App and went through their schedule of events, plotting out a handful of interesting looking panels. I think we averaged about one panel a day, but again – they were mostly for media guests so you won’t find any breaking news items here.

Top 5 Highlights from Emerald City Comic Con 2012:

5. Ready Player One Panel. For me was the most interesting panel we attended because the author of the book series, Ernest Cline, not only discussed his enduring love for Star Wars but the Hollywood process behind the making of his original screenplay Fanboys and the years long journey to publish “Ready Player One” which has now been optioned for the big screen. We didn’t stay for the Q&A session, but he delivered an inspiring few sentences on the writing process which have given me a long, hard look at my novel.

Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One

Ernest Cline, Author of Ready Player One

4. Meeting Wil Wheaton and Witnessing his Awesome Hour. In which he plugged his table-top gaming series on Felicia Day‘s recently released Geek and Sundry YouTube Channel. I’m certain Dan and I will check it out. He also wrote a book Memories From The Future, Volume 1 about his experience with the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation we will hunt down as well. He was very gracious when we snapped pictures and was super complimentary about my tattoo.

Mindy, Wil Wheaton, and Dan

Mindy, Wil Wheaton, and Dan

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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 GOOD

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.

THE BAD

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.

THE AWESOME

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.

THE CONCLUSION

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. 

LINK LOVE:

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? 

Recap: Hunger Games Seattle Mall Event

At what age is it appropriate to wake up before the sun rises and stand in the pouring rain for hours on the fleeting chance of meeting a celebrity starring in a film from your favorite franchise? 

13? 30?

Hunger Games University Village Mall Event

This would have been our view from the grassy knoll.

I can’t seem to tell anymore. It seemed like an awesome plan in theory, but then when my mother and I drug our sad carcasses out of the sweltering hot Motel 6 room and drove in slow circles to the University Village Mall in Seattle, WA…our hardcore endurance as fans of the Hunger Games was put to the test.

Turns out – we fail.

We just couldn’t hold up against the relentless tide of youthful shrieking young girls and their caffeinated but sleepy and skeptical parents. About 90 minutes after we’d staked a pretty reasonable patch of grassy knoll next to the Q&A area we came to affectionately refer to as “The Cattle Pen,” we exchanged a glance. Left our belongings on the grass with our new best friends and strolled to a nearby smoothie shop.

“Do you wanna just hit up the pier, get some fish and chips and go home?” Was the question on both our lips.

Turns out – yes.

We missed our golden opportunity to see the far-away but still bronzed flesh of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson for a drive around the University of Washington campus, a stroll through Pike’s Place Market and a casual lunch on the Puget Sound. During the car ride home my mom, in between cat naps, finished reading the current draft of the book I wrote and we chatted about the plot, characters and future edits until we pulled in the driveway.

The event itself? Was badly managed. The Father of the Year, complete with coffee in hand and an adorable nickname for his equally adorable daughter “Peanut” confirmed this several times during our two hour wait. As we tottled closer and closer to the end of the long, long line, he would dip out and chat up security officers and Microsoft staff to determine how successful our venture was, and just what the heck was happening.

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Thursdays with Mindy: Meeting Celebrities

Out of all my personal pitfalls and life embarrassments – meeting celebrities tops the charts. This happened way early in my convention days, my first convention point of fact when one of the artists of the X-Men books was signing and we were standing in line to meet him. 

Meeting Felicia Day

Notice the dazed, slightly confused but elated look on my face. I've been touched by Captain Hammer, Codex, and Helo in my lifetime. *swoon*

I was superbly horrified that I had nothing to say to him aside from the usual “I really like your art.” It didn’t help that at the time I thought his art was crap – some of my least favorite since I’d started reading the series. My brother and best friend were there to also get their books signed and were totally ecstatic and completely cool about it. I felt like I was sweating buckets and dying little small deaths as we were inching closer and closer to him.

And then – I totally bolted from the line. I refused to hand him my book. My mother, being the kind soul she was, stuck it out. I still have that book and I still wince every time I look at it. Not just cause the art is crap (it is) but also because it’s been the standard, basic formula for meeting famous people from then on out.

My mind goes blank, my hands sweat profusely, a high, giddy octave emerges from my vocal chords.

This isn’t always the case. During my brush with Bruce Campbell I was completely zoned out and he was the one to initiate conversation. He even made some comment to the point of, “you don’t even care who I am do you?” To which I quickly assured him I did – but was here to support my husband who was the bigger fan. Sorry people, I just never caught Evil Dead fever. So yes, I can be cool and casual when it comes to people I am not over-the-moon for.

But when I meet people whom I admire, especially writers and actors, my ability to communicate properly shuts down. It’s frustrating. My latest travesty was with Charlaine Harris, the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. Yeah. I vaguely remember muttering some comment which sounded in my mind like “thanks for writing a strong female character” but what I said made her give me the side eye and then I was rushed away, clutching at my hard bound book with a death grip, pulse racing.

At age 29, I should be able to not dork up my shining moments with the actor and actress who played two of my favorite characters of all time, Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Kara Starbuck Thrace (Katee Sackhoff). But I just know I will. It will be a travesty. Or will it?

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Oscars 2011: Movie Score and Soundtrack Playlist

Every year since the inception of our hosting an Oscar party, I’ve crafted a mix CD for our guests based on the films released in that year. Not all of the scores and soundtracks I poach from are on the Oscar docket. Indeed, with such paltry pickings this year, very few of the tracks align with the Academy Award nominees.

Here is the tracklist for this years winners:

  1. Earth to Asgard – Patrick Doyle (Thor)
  2. The Wolf – Fever Ray (Red Riding Hood)
  3. They’re Calling My Flight – Cliff Martinez (Contagion)
  4. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Emily Browning (Sucker Punch)
  5. container park – The Chemical Brothers (Hanna)
  6. Immigrant Song – Karen O, Trent Reznor (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
  7. How To Kill a Vampire – Ramin Djawadi (Fright Night)
  8. Nightcall – Kavinsky (Drive)
  9. Moses vs The Monsters – Steven Price, Felix Buxton, and Simon Ratcliffe (Attack The Block)
  10. Magneto – Henry Jackman (X-Men: First Class)
  11. The Circus Sets Up – James Newton Howard (Water for Elephants)
  12. The Show – Kerris Dorsey (Moneyball)
  13. Man or Muppet – Jason Segel & Walter (The Muppets)
  14. Star Spangled Man – The Star Spangled Singers (Captain America)
  15. Hold On – Wilson Phillips (Bridesmaids)
  16. Love Will Take You – Angus and Julia Stone (Breaking Dawn)
  17. Can You See Jane? – Patrick Doyle (Thor)
  18. Mah Na Mah Na – Mahna Mahna and the Two Snowths (The Muppets)

BONUS TRACKS: 

99 Problems – Hugo (Fright Night)

Iron – Woodkid (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Trailer)

YouTube Playlist HERE

Some of the tracks are disabled because YouTube and record labels are stingy, ridiculous jerks who don’t understand new media, but whatevs. You can get a sense of the entire compilation together through the playlist feature, even if you have to listen to some tracks as stand alones. Pretty good stuff. Handing this mix CD out as a party favor on Sunday!

As always, if you ask me nicely I can mail you a burned copy of the CD via the good old US postal service. Possibly with a special, nerdy treat included. Email me at Mindy@tinyheroes.net if you’re interested! 

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.

THE GOOD

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!

THE BAD

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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Review: Suzanne Collins FAME Biography

Check out my review here on The Hunger Games Fireside Chat website, and while you’re at it – browse around their page. They have awesome tidbits about the books and upcoming movie, as well as a fantastic podcast every Monday evening!

FAME Suzanne Collins Cover

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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