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.
Does 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.
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:
- Earth to Asgard – Patrick Doyle (Thor)
- The Wolf – Fever Ray (Red Riding Hood)
- They’re Calling My Flight – Cliff Martinez (Contagion)
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Emily Browning (Sucker Punch)
- container park – The Chemical Brothers (Hanna)
- Immigrant Song – Karen O, Trent Reznor (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
- How To Kill a Vampire – Ramin Djawadi (Fright Night)
- Nightcall – Kavinsky (Drive)
- Moses vs The Monsters – Steven Price, Felix Buxton, and Simon Ratcliffe (Attack The Block)
- Magneto – Henry Jackman (X-Men: First Class)
- The Circus Sets Up – James Newton Howard (Water for Elephants)
- The Show – Kerris Dorsey (Moneyball)
- Man or Muppet – Jason Segel & Walter (The Muppets)
- Star Spangled Man – The Star Spangled Singers (Captain America)
- Hold On – Wilson Phillips (Bridesmaids)
- Love Will Take You – Angus and Julia Stone (Breaking Dawn)
- Can You See Jane? – Patrick Doyle (Thor)
- Mah Na Mah Na – Mahna Mahna and the Two Snowths (The Muppets)
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!
There were too many great links this morning to pick only ONE for ye old Facebook. So here they are, collected into a nice happy digest. Enjoy!
Those links are straight from The Mary Sue, which is a great female centric nerd blog you should already be following on FB, Twitter or through some other social media venue.
The perfect spoof and mash-up of the songstress everyone loves to hate + the increasing hysteria surrounding The Hunger Games.
I predicted this! A Neko Case song kicks off every one of my Hunger Games playlists. She already has so many great songs to choose from, it seems strange that she would need to record another. Ah well, I guess that’s how these soundtrack thangs work. Along with tracks from Arcade Fire and The Secret Sisters, this is absolutely going to be a must buy. Looks like there will be two separate albums – the actual score by T-Bone and James Newton Howard. And then another full of conventional songs inspired by The Hunger Games. It’s going to be released March 20, 2012. Om nom nom.
Funny, we were just remarking about this last night after receiving the San Diego Comic Con catalog where Peter Parker and Mary Jane are posing front and center. I was in the “looks alright to me” camp, and Dan was in the “I like the web-shooters” camp. Our buddy and current house guest Troy who is easily the more Spidey-obsessed seemed a bit “meh” all around and was much more excited about the potential new Star Trek series.
A more formal review is coming, I promise! But I’m too groggy and incoherent to properly articulate the emotional, climactic ending to one of my favorite franchises. So instead I’m going to describe what’s been going on in my life surrounding this event.
Starting about 6 weeks ago, we decided to watch one Harry Potter movie every week until the Midnight release of the final film. Well, clearly our timing sucked. We got the first movie down, then our buddy Smalls took a week off for vacation. This meant we had to double book two of the flicks for the 4th of July weekend (we folded it into a BBQ) and watch Part 1 of the 7th film last night. Yikes.
There were some hitches – and we didn’t get to do a full screening of Part I, which I’d really like to do again in the near future and of course watch Part II right after. Not sure if that will happen this weekend, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that it might!
We arrived at the theatre around 8pm last night and sat in line outside for at least an hour before we entered our auditorium and took our seats. There were at least 2,000 people milling about in quite an orderly fashion. So many folks dressed up! Including my mom and oldest nephew. Tons of great Potter-related T-Shirts and loads of folks with lightning bolt scars and horn rimmed glasses.
Dan and I wore the HP scarves I’d knit last fall and Dan crawled up in the attic to fish out the light/sound wand we’d procured from Powell’s during the epic 7th book release party.
We’d purchased three boxes of Bean Boozled (Bertie Botts rip-offs) about a month ago during the height of the coupon craze (yep, I did coupon Harry Potter related items…including the tickets!). After we’d tired of daring each-other to eat booger, vomit, canned dog food and skunk spray tasting candies, we turned on the people around us. Dan and Vincent (to entertain themselves during the down time) wandered our auditorium offering people a taste. Eventually they went out into the lobby and tortured the theatre staff (many of whom we know).
Very fun – those beans. I somehow ended up munching on Moldy Cheese two times in a row. What are the odds?
To kill our wait time we also posed quite a bit in front of standees…I was eyeballing the Ron full cardboard cutout from across the theatre entrance, waiting for an opportune moment to snap a picture or see if one of my theatre buds would let me take it home. The question of the night: Where would you put it?
By my side of the bed of course. Obviously! 🙂
Turns out some other dude got it, but to make up for it…we ended up snagging the Harry Potter standee which you’ll see depicted below. Pretty bad-ass.
Both Dan and I could not believe our luck and good fortune. Perhaps it was sleep/caffeine drunken-ness, but after we wrestled the object home and set it up in the Man Cave, we both drifted into the room 2 or 3 times to stare at it before heading to bed.
Like we couldn’t believe we actually owned such an amazing piece of an era. Like we couldn’t believe it was all over and we’d come away with something so fantastic.
Pictures say it better than words.
There was such potential for The Last Airbender film, based on the beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender American anime series, to be the start of a very lucrative and popular film franchise. The cartoon series is filled with humor, rich characters, intriguing mythos, action, adventure, romance, friendship, coming-of-age, etc. All sorts of amazing things in the source material which could have life breathed into it in a real-world setting.
Yet, from it’s very conception it was fumbled so horribly.
There has been a riot of protest against the casting choices made for this film and with good reason. You wouldn’t expect a cartoon cast that is racially diverse, with a plot that is set in areas of a fantasy world devoid of white people to be represented as anything other, right? Especially when their cultural heritage is so integral to the plot and the characters themselves.
Of course Hollywood would change that. They need to appeal to white people, the main contingency of their audience. While I don’t agree that is the case, Hollywood has explained their rational on many occasions. But instead of changing just one or two characters races – they change them all. Aang is now Ong, a pouty lipped white boy. Katara, Sokka and their Grandmother are now the only white people in the entire Southern Water Tribe. All of the Northern water tribe is comprised of white people.
The Earth benders are Japanese, the Air Benders are mixed race, and the Fire Benders vary between East Indian and Middle Eastern, all featuring dark skin aside from Uncle Iro. So in this way Hollywood is allowed to perpetuate the myth that dark skin = bad and light skin = good. Again. As always. Even more shameful coming from M. Night Shyamalan, a director of color.
Gah – these turn of events are so horrible that people have been planning for years to boycott the movie. Unfortunately, I was caught up in the fervor of watching the television show with my nephews and agreeing to see the movie with them before I realized what had happened to the cast of one of my beloved shows. It’s either compromise my morals or break my nephews hearts at this point – so I sucked it up and chose to watch the movie.
At no point after reviewing the cast list did I believe it was possible for this movie not to suck. I had some hope. But a serious compromise of the core of the source material does not a good adaptation make.
THE NAME IS THE THING
And screwing up the name pronunciation of main characters is not EVER going to please a fan-base. So not only are the main characters completely the wrong races, but their names are also pronounced improperly. According to M. Night Shyamalan himself, he chose to use the root source of the words and had a linguist come in to explain all these details. OK – fine, but WHY bother doing this after you already horribly mangled the race of the characters? Why be sure to include something that will no doubt whip the fan-base into an even further frenzy?
Cause you really don’t care about the source material. You are already taking liberties and pissing on something beloved and who cares about getting it right? Grrrr. I don’t think I’ve been this insulted by an adaptation since The Last Stand or Spiderman: 3. Actually, this is probably worse. Not only did I visibly cringe and actually verbalize to the theatre every-time I heard the mis-pronunciation, but the pacing was off, the acting was subpar at best and the visual styles were all terrible as well.
THE FILM PARTS OF THE FILM
Were all awful. The really visual interesting pieces of the film (the bending) were few and far between, and for the most part the visual style was dominated by these strange really close-in and tight shots that didn’t allow you to absorb the action or the scene itself. Frowny face for that.
While midnight showings are exhilarating and inevitably filled with goobery fan moments, one of the downsides for me is not being able to remember much of the film itself due to sleep deprivation. No really, my brain pretty much shuts off after midnight. Therefore, I’m going at this review from a completely sideways angle.
Probably because I’d just read the book five days ago, I wasn’t terribly engaged with the plot. It’s also worth mentioning that the plot itself isn’t exactly engaging in the first place…cause it’s Twilight. That fact is important to remember folks. Regardless my brain was on over-analyze mode about weird minutiae (I’ll also blame copious amounts of caffeine). Instead of being able to schmooze back and enjoy glowering, six packs and heavy breathing…I was evaluating the contact lenses, the visual and musical interpretation of the first film compared to the second two, and how all the actors themselves have changed in the last two years.
Alrighty, enough rambling. Here’s a sideways review comin’ atcha.
1. Eclipse vs Everything Else (in the film franchise). On a technical level – it’s hard to compare a low budget first entry to it’s older, more mature and financially well off sister, but I’m going to. I can’t help it. Watching all three films in succession made me unable to stop comparing and contrasting. All the cultish, amusing elements of the first Twilight film which make me giggle and guffaw and generally love it’s ineptness are washed out in Eclipse. New Moon and this third film truly feel like Hollywood creations. Gone is the true depiction of the Pacific Northwest with it’s copious (real) rain and fog and grey days. I loved the bluish tint of Twilight. All this is eviscerated in New Moon and Eclipse. Boo. There were some days in this flick so bright, I was expecting our Porcelain God hero to sparkle unabashedly. The incongruity of the brightly lit films and the viewers knowledge of sun + vampire = sparkle – was distracting.
What’s been done right in the franchise? A better composer and soundtrack supervisor. Of the three soundtracks (which I own and have listened to repeatedly), Eclipse is the superior entry. Twilight was uneven, New Moon was pitch-perfect but a tad too melancholy, and Eclipse hits all the right marks. It slows and gains tempo with ease, and no track ever feels too fast to shock you out of a hazey dream-like state. It features several artists whose albums are already in my stockpile. It might just be my favorite soundtrack of all time, without really having to try. If that makes sense. It feels so neatly and effortlessly put together. Gah – I loved every second of it.
The score differs between the Twilight and New Moon/Eclipse films dramatically. Twilight features lugubrious synth guitars and heavy ominous riffs where New Moon and Eclipse aim for standard movie orchestras, so adept you hardly realize they are there until you realize what you’re missing. Part of my horror-love for the original Twilight entry is the somewhat mawk-ish score, which sounds like it was mostly put together on a Casio keyboard.
Final Thoughts on The Film Franchise Thus Far. Perhaps it’s a bit early in the game for nostalgia, but there is so much good cheese in Twilight, that New Moon and Eclipse don’t even attempt to grasp at. Twilight makes the bad look bad in a fun way. New Moon and Eclipse attempt to make the bad look good and can only achieve sub-par film-making at best. An analogy: Twilight was pretty much shit. But people went in with eyes open thinking “I’m going to see a pile of shit.” No surprises. New Moon and Eclipse are shit covered in gold. So at first all you see is gold, and then you realize upon closer inspection, it’s really just shit. Covered in gold. Right?
2. Misogyny Lite. Those in the feminist circles who love Twilight even though we know it’s bad for us will perhaps be pleased to note that the films, Eclipse in particular, have eased up on some of the nastier acts of misogyny perpetrated on the pages. Having the source material fresh in my memory, it was pleasant to avoid any on-screen images of Bella cooking for her Dad, Charlie pushing Bella towards Jacob despite her obvious disinterest, and the kidnapping of Bella by Edward and his family.
Still present was the passing her off (as Bella herself observes) like a child between two divorced parents done by Edward and Jacob to “protect her.” This kind of yack-tastical BS takes me out of any kind of romance fantasy and replaces it with cringing horror.
Gonna try to keep this brief, as I will also be doing a Free Comic Book Day wrap-up later today. The Losers (film) had to be seen in theatres, because purchasing a movie ticket is voting with my dollars for more comic book movie adaptations. And the world needs those in abundance.
Except, they should probably be GOOD comic book movie adaptations. Or good movies. One or the other. I’m not sure if The Losers was ever either of those things – a good book or a good movie. I haven’t read the source material *gasp* so there won’t be much commentary or comparison.
It was a lot like watching a 90 minute Lexus advertisement. The action scenes were choppy and frantic (well, at least in the first 15 minutes). Sure, you want to make action vibrant on the screen…but since when did that mean hitting the fast forward button and cutting to a new scene every 10 seconds? Yikes – the directing by Sylvain White leaves much to be desired. Dan kept comparing it to TV action sequences, and I’ll have to say, I’ve seen better on TV. So, that’s one element which did absolutely nothing for me.
The acting was pretty sub-par all around the board, which is disappointing and frustrating, because the screenplay itself had plenty dramatic weight and comedic inserts. I”m not sure who dropped the ball, or where they dropped it. Zoe Saldana is the new “it girl” for action films requiring the token female. It’s great that, as a woman of color, she’s getting so many roles, but it’s difficult for me to conceive of her as a believable action heroine. She is totally rocking the Angelina Jolie complex – skinny to the point where she risks looking skeletal. In what reality could someone who weighs under 125 lbs wield a rocket launcher? I don’t buy it.
Plus, she doesn’t ever achieve the hardness or grit demanding of this role. What about Rosario Dawson? Her body is muscled and curvy, coupled with the personality and grit required of such a role. She managed to hold her own quite admirably on screen with action hero Clive Owen in Sin City (a comic book movie adaptation which managed to feature ethnicity and gender well). It’s simply exhausting mentally to think that Zoe Saldana could physically rumble with any of the muscled dudes in The Losers and possibly hope to best them.
And what of the muscled dudes? Jeffrey Dean Morgan is attractive in a grizzled way, but there isn’t much emotion or soul in his character for him to latch onto. He works admirably with what is there, but never does much than fill up the screen and emit guttural statements. Idris Elba plays the typical angry black man role, with a neat looking scar running down the side of his face and a chip on his shoulder…but the grudge itself is sort of ambivalent for the audience. He’s involved in a totally unbelievable plot point at the end which I won’t disclose here. Needless to say, it was yet another thing that failed on-screen.
Yesterday I stumbled upon an article on the snarky-feminist-lite website Jezebel which reviewed and offered up some interesting questions about children, women, violence and vulgarity which the film Kick-Ass brings up for many people.
The article itself, as well as several commenters in the discussion were quoting Roger Ebert’s review of the movie. I’ll preface this by saying – I’m not an Ebert fan. It’s not that I hate the man – I just don’t have any particular fondness for his reviews. I don’t follow him on Twitter and I don’t read his shit, excuse me “body of work.” As a kid, I can remember being greatly irritated by he and Gene Siskel’s panning of what I considered to be some of the best movies (Free Willy, My Girl – hey, I was 12!) and as a teen and adult never turned to him for movie advice.
Mostly because I was writing my own film reviews for our HS Newspaper, and I trusted local sources like The Oregonian and Willamette Week to dispense engaging film advice.
My bias is not HUGE towards Ebert – but, as I mentioned before, I have never used his reviews as the basis of what movies I watched. I know that many people do, or at least people tune in to his opinion because it strikes their fancy. Great – awesome – wonderful even! Don’t think I’m dissuading you at all. But just because he has an opinion, doesn’t mean he’s immune from criticism. He’s a professional critic afterall, it comes with the territory.
His review of Kick-Ass in particular seemed inept. He states pretty early on that he has no stomach for comic book violence, and has an entirely opposite viewpoint from those who do see it as entertainment or social commentary.
His review is virtually useless for this film – because he can also not understand the context or recognize even the whimsical nods, comic book cameos or references being bandied about. He’s out of his league, and though he mentions briefly that he finds all the elements of this film distasteful – he still plunges ahead and shreds it apart with vehemence anyway.
There is little focus on the story-telling, the character development or any other aspects of the film which are worth looking at. When a film is derived so copiously from source material – isn’t it worth at the very least, skimming through? Especially since it takes 30 minutes to read from cover to cover, not exactly a herculean feat.
Comments on the Jezebel article indicated that Ebert SHOULD NOT have to read the comic book to review the film. OK – yes, a movie can stand on its own two legs, but understanding that it comes from a comic book, and that it’s made mostly for comic fangirls and boys as parody or satire of the medium, should at least shape the context and allow the film to be taken with a smirking grain of salt (as it was during the screening I watched). No one in the audience seemed to gasp or choke or cry out when the bad guys got their asses handed to them. It was a room full of adults who can distinguish between real violence and comic book/movie violence. Even Chloe Moretz knows that shit.
Unfortunately – Ebert is quite wrapped up in Hit Girl being the cause and victim of Violence (with a capital V). He bemoans the scene where she is tossed around by the villain “to within inches of her life.” My gawd man – she is a superhero! Superheroes get their asses kicked, just as much as they kick ass. She wouldn’t be awesome if she weren’t at least somewhat vulnerable to physical violence. In fact, that would make her ridiculously unreal, and therefore imminently less cool.
I admit to a small glimmer of discomfort while watching Hit Girl being beaten by the villain, but most of what I remember is feeling overwhelming appreciation that the camera was not shying away. Obscuring her beating by the villain – would be sensationalizing it. As it stands – Hit Girl was treated with the same respect offered Kick Ass earlier in the film. The camera stayed – not lingering provocatively or pulling away to some shadow effect in horror while the audience is left to imagine what kind of atrocities are being committed.
First impression is that it looks pretty good for a comic not drawn by the man himself. The Mignola feel really is something that helps the reader into his creepy world of demons and morally grey heroes. Here Jason Armstrong gives a good imitation of Mignola’s very unique style, but that’s all it is, and you can feel it.
Much like Hellboy we find our hero Lobster Johnson fighting the Nazis and in the process finding all sorts of paranormal trouble. It occurs to me that the masked vigilante in New York City has been done about a million times before but I just can’t help getting sucked into the world of Hellboy.
It’s funny, much of what makes Lobster Johnson a superhero is really just what the reader brings to him. From the second you see him you fill in the blanks of things like: how he operates, what kind of people he works with, what kind of man he is. These are all taken from other superheroes and really don’t bring much to the table here. In fact there are some really glaring things that kinda bugged me about the setup of the character.
First, with no real superpowers to speak of, the Lobster has to rely on his band of merry men. It’s hinted that his sidekicks are loyal to him due to wookie life debts, the same way the Shadow recruits (he saves your life, and Godfathers you into service *holy crap that was a lot of references!) Also he disappears when you are talking to him, which is rude. Another character even has the nerve to remark, “He does that.” Ouch. He also sports a very Ninja Turtle like hideout within the sewers of the greater NYC area. In a throw away line one character remarks on the cannibals that live in the sewers, and here I thought crooks were bad. That aside, there is some great stuff that the Lobster presents; like branding his victims (alive or dead) on the forehead with a lobster claw symbol hidden in his right glove. It ends up being used as a last-ditch weapon too!
Oh, he also has a very Tick like battle cry that I must admit is pretty cool. He turns and says, “Time to taste the Lobsters claw!” Or, if an enemy has just burst into flames he might say, “Burning justice is served.” Makes me think of how delectable lobster tastes. And isn’t the thought of delicious lobster enough to pick up this book?
Lobster Johnson turns out to be a really fun character that just keeps popping up in the Hellboy-verse too, so far he has made his way into nine publications! I am going to pick a few more up and get my Lobster Johnson fix. And maybe just a regular lobster fix too…Mmmm, burning claw of justice.
|Guest Blog By: Dan Robertson [@DanielZRob] |