Hunger Games Review

Seeing as Hunger Games came out in March, I realize I’m more than a little behind the ball on this one. But I’ve set myself the task of writing a review for each movie I put on my top 11 list, and as the first to be released, it’s high time to compose my summary of the much-anticipated Hunger Games.

I should first express my opinion on the Hunger Games series, a trilogy which sparked a craze to rival that of Twilight (although the fact that it remains rather well-liked indicates that it never got big enough to experience Twilight-proportioned backlash). It bears many of the hallmarks of a stereotypical teen novel, which keeps the pages turning, but it combines cheesy romance and over-done themes with genuine sense of tension and a serious, even brutal concept. The book straddles a line somewhere between entertaining teen adventure and 1984-style drama,making it attractive both to those seeking out a semi-intelligent read and those merely in search of a good story.

My first complaint regarding The Hunger Games is the casting. Yes, there was a lot of talk amongst the young and female demographic surrounding who should’ve been chosen to play Katniss’ love interests Peeta and Gale (although I would like to point out that there’s never really a question of who she’ll end up with, I have no idea why people treat it like some major love triangle). But I was fine with the casting of the younger Hemsworth for the generic, sullen Gale and the adorable Hutcherson as charismatic, good-hearted Peeta. My concern was with the most important casting choice; Katniss herself. Critics tend to gush about Jennifer Lawrence and her ‘vulnerability’ and ‘strength’ (which seems a somewhat silly contradiction but I digress), yet I just can’t understand where the praise comes from. I’ve become more and more convinced I must just be crazy, because whenever I see her on screen it becomes immediately and uncomfortably obvious that I’m watching an actress attempting to play a role, that none of it is real. The constant blank stares, the monotone voice, the either complete lack of or carefully calculated emotion she displays. Admittedly I haven’t seen her breakout film, Winter’s Bone, but I had the same exact impression when watching her in both X-Men: First Class and Like Crazy. Others have deemed her acting nuanced but to me, it just appears clumsy, awkward and obvious. She reminds me of a bad magician, able to perform the tricks but constantly drawing attention to the method, instead of distracting the audience so they can appreciate the result.

On the other hand, I found some of the casting to be very impressive. Of course characters other than Peeta and Katniss have precious little to do, but there were nonetheless a few impressive standouts. Elizabeth Banks is great as the outlandish and perpetually cheery Effie Trinket. There are two ways to view Effie Trinket; as either entirely clueless, inexorably wrapped in the extravagant and dehumanized world of The Capitol, or as a woman whose overtly bubbly nature is a means of deflecting her guilt and anxieties regarding her occupation. The latter makes for a much more interesting character, and Banks’ Effie displays signs of doubt and sympathy, hinting at a depth that could easily be drowned out by a lesser actress in such an already outrageous and eccentric role.

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane was another standout, although that rather distinctive beard might have been doing a lot of the work. And I was especially surprised by Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. The acting was adequate, and while he did little to evoke the Cinna presented in the book, what struck me was the clearly unintentional chemistry between him and Katniss. Watching Hutcherson and Lawrence’s anti-climactic kiss was comparable to watching tumbleweeds roll by on a dirt road, but when Cinna brushed Katniss’ cheek I swear I could see sparks. Again, maybe I’m just totally crazy, but by the end I was convinced she should ditch Gale and Peeta and run off with Lenny Kravitz.

I was also a huge fan of the addition of some ‘behind the scenes’ sequences, in which we get to see Seneca and his employees manipulating the Games from the outside, setting up the contestants like dominoes. When Katniss is caught in a manufactured forest-fire in the book, it comes off as merely another obstacle engineered by the Game Masters. But in the movie, the fire is very deliberately planned to herd the contestants back together, creating more action and thereby more entertainment.

To my more hard-core Hunger Games fan friends, there has been no end to the list of gripes regarding this movie, from the handling of Katniss and Haymitch’s relationship to certain dress and hair colors. But I tend to overlook details like that; if I wanted the book, I’d read the book again. In my personal opinion, movies are separate entities from their literary counterparts and should be judged as such. That said, I went into this movie with considerably low expectations and walked out pleasantly surprised. It might take itself a little too seriously (I’ll get major flack for saying it but Hunger Games is, at its heart, more parts fun teen-novel then political commentary) and certain climactic scenes fall flat, but as a stand-alone work I’d say Hunger Games is, while not exceptional, worth the watch.

On the Way:

Reviews for Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman! I would like to take a moment to point out that 4/5 of these movies contain a Hemsworth.

No complaints here.

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Film Saturation

So I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten anything up since, oh dear, Sunday? Anyways, I’ve got a good excuse. My laptop is totally fried; I have no idea when I’ll be getting it back, and I’ve been too busy till now crying in a corner to get to a computer lab and write something up. 

Buuuut, I happened to be almost finished with the article below at my laptop’s ETD, so hopefully this can act as a sort of apology:

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m a bit of a closet movie buff. When you hear people say something like, ‘Ah, what was that movie where the guy did this thing and who was that lady with the face?’ I’m the one who jumps in and yells, ‘United States of Leland, Jena Malone, Bam!’. Sometimes I get embarrassed and just pretend I don’t know the answer either, but it always absolutely kills me inside.

Anyways, I like movies, a lot, so I thought I’d give you my list of Movies-Most-Highly-Anticipated-By-Amy-For-2012.

11. Hunger Games

I’ve been fighting this movie with everything I have for pretty much the past  year. I mean, first Jennifer Lawrence had to step in and snag the part that   was, as we all know, rightfully mine. But then there’s the run-of-the-mill  concern that the book (just the first one; I happen to think the second was  ‘meh’ and the third was absolutely godawful, but that’s a tangent for another  time) was so original and fast-paced and just so good, how can the movie live  up to it? However, since that trailer came out last week, I think I might’ve just  been converted to the dark side. It looks like they decided to treat the material  seriously (maybe a little more seriously than a young adult best-seller like Hunger Games can really get credit for) instead of slapping it together as the next summer blockbuster, like so many other failed book-to-movie trilogies. I guess time will tell if Hunger Games can live up to its current hype.

10. The Bourne Legacy

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, I was thinking it to. Why mess up perfection? Why exactly do we need a fourth Bourne movie that doesn’t even include Jason Bourne? But just do me a favor and check out this lineup: Joan Allen returning as CIA director Pam Landy, Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker, The Town), Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Brothers Bloom), and Edward Norton (A Good Portion of the Greatest Movies Known to Man). I not entirely sold on another Bourne installment quite yet, but I trust that these greats wouldn’t be signing on unless it had something to offer.

9. Untitled Terrence Malick Project

So, there’s really next to nothing known about this movie, except that it will be a epic romance and will showcase a love set to rival that of Moulin Rouge and The Notebook. It’s got a whole lot of impressive names attached though, which is the real motivating factor behind my anticipation: the always wonderful Rachel McAdams, rapidly-ascending star Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz (again), Ben Affleck (love him or hate him, he’s still a name!), Javier Bardem, Michael Sheen, Olga Kurylenko (of Bond Girl fame), Barry Pepper (love), Amanda Peet, and of course the inexplicably incredible Terrence Malick directing. I’m excited.

8. Perks of Being a Wallflower

I haven’t actually gotten around to reading this book yet, but I’ve heard from everyone that I absolutely have to because it’s apparently amazing. I’m a huge Logan Lerman fan (yes, he’s ridiculously attractive and my age, but I also happen to think he’s a good actor too, thank you very much. 🙂 ), plus Paul Rudd and Melanie Lynskey is a huge plus! I’m still not quite sure how I feel about Emma Watson though, and as her first non-Hermione acting venture I’ll be seeing, this movie will definitely carry a lot of weight in that respect. And even though I’m out of high school, I can definitely dig the parallels  between freshmen Logan and college-freshmen me having our eyes opened to the so-called ‘real world’.

7. Brave

Check out that cloud of red hair!

Aaah, what’s not to love about another Disney Pixar movie??? Especially one that happens to be set in Scotland!!! Featuring Disney Pixar’s first female protagonist, Princess Merida, and a collection of beautiful Scottish brogues, there’s no way it won’t be good. 🙂 Actors lending their voices include Kelly McDonald as the feisty princess and Emma Thompson as the queen, as well as Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson and Robbie Coltrane.

6. Mirror, Mirror

One of the two competing Snow White films being released next year, my anticipation for ‘Mirror, Mirror’ has actually died down a little bit after watching the trailer. Tarsem Singh being one of my fave directors (I was absolutely blown away by The Fall) I was totally banking on this being the Snow White to watch, expecting breath-taking visuals, a fairy-tale elegance and a faithful yet edgy re-telling of this classic story. Instead, the trailer has it coming across as a slightly more artistic repeat of ‘Ella Enchanted’. The Evil Queen (played by Julia Roberts) is a carbon copy of the recent ‘Alice in Wonderland”s Queen of Hearts, which doesn’t seem to suit the poised, icy ruler I’ve always envisioned. They’ve also taken a cue from most fairy-tale updates and turned Snow into a warrior, which can work when executed correctly, but what was supposed to set Mirror, Mirror apart from Hunstman was a classic quality and faithfulness to the original tale. You may wonder why I still have this in my most-anticipated list after ragging on it so much, but I just can’t let go of all those high hopes I was carrying for it yet! Especially since Tarsem Singh is involved! Oh yeah, and having Nathan Lane in the cast gives it an edge too. 🙂

5. Snow White and the Hunstman

I feel like a traitor for saying it, but let’s face it, Snow White and the Hunstman looks awesome. Every second of that trailer was pretty much perfection. I mean, the reason I love Mirror, Mirror director Tarsem Singh is for his unparalleled visuals, but for some reason the images in Hunstman were able to blow his out of the water! What is happening here? And while I’m not a huge fan of Kristen Stewart (not a hater, either!), this movie is probably worth it for Charlize Theron alone. It looks like Snow White might be getting pushed to the sidelines in her own movie, but Theron absolutely kills it as The Queen. It doesn’t feel right to admit, but Snow White and the Hunstman emits darkness, presence, poetry; everything I hoped Mirror, Mirror would be; and I think it just became my bet for winner in the battle of the Snow Whites.

4. Cabin in the Woods

Fran Kranz, Amy Acker, Tom Lenk, Joss Whedon, and a slasher-movie satire? ‘Nuff said. Now if it will only ever come out….

3. The Avengers

Again, Joss Whedon. That’s all I really have to say. But I’ll also add that it combines Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans at Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (I love Ruffalo, but if only it were Edward Norton again! 😦 )  in the most extreme clash of franchises I’ve ever seen. It’s gonna be awesome. !!!

2. Ender’s Game

So this is a movie I’d been worrying about for a while. Ender’s Game is my favorite book of all time, and there was a long period where I really couldn’t picture anyone pulling it off as a film; the simulated battles, The Giant’s Drink, and especially the fights that take place in The Battle Room in zero-gravity. But we all know that Avatar coming out changed a lot of things, and I honestly think I could see this movie taking place now. Asa Butterfield has officially been cast as Ender, who absolutely blew me away in The Boy With the Striped Pajamas and, I’ve heard, is equally impressive in Hugo. This movie has some incredible potential, if they can get it right.

1. The Hobbit

I’m definitely not alone in listing The Lord of the Rings trilogy as some of my favorite films in the history of cinema. Director Peter Jackson took some of the most beloved and celebrated novels of all time and transposed them onto the screen as elegantly as could’ve been hoped for (we’ll overlook the whole Faramir debacle just this once). The films were incredibly faithful for a movie adaptation, and, for a geek like me, even at age nine, it was pretty incredible to watch the classic universe of Middle Earth come to life. So I am definitely pumped to see Peter Jackson do it again. We know that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be a faithful rendering of the original tale, while part 2, There and Back Again, will be a more original work filling in the blanks between The Hobbit and Fellowship. Anyways, I’ve got some really high hopes! I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they rise to expectations. 🙂

On the flip side, there are a few movies I am actively dreading coming out next year. Bad movies will happen, but sometimes they cross that point where they trash something previously so beautiful that it just becomes painful. There are a whole slew of unnecessary sequels on the slate for next year, including The Expendables 2 and The Wolverine (as vastly opposed to the previous X-Men Origins: Wolverine). None of them are exactly worthy of Oscar buzz, but no one’s expecting them to be. They’ll have no problem finding their audience and delivering pure entertainment, as promised. There are three movies, however, that the more I hear about the more legitimately upset I become.

The Great Gatsby

I mean, first off, check out that cast. Except for Leo as Gatsby, who I happen to see as pretty much perfect, I’m not impressed (Tobey Maguire for Nick Carraway? Really?). Plus, guys, we’ve tried this before. Twice. Neither exactly left audiences riveted. And while I’m a huge fan of director Baz Luhrmann, I really don’t think a novel like The Great Gatsby is ready for the Moulin Rouge treatment. Can’t we just agree that some classics are best left untouched?

Les Misérables

Okay, Les Misérables is my favorite musical of all time, and  you know how much I love musicals. To even think about them converting the magic of the staged Les Misérables to the big screen, without any Broadway actors in the main cast, no less, is hysteria-inducing. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean? Anne Hathaway as Fantine? What is this, Music Man? Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenadier? I love her as an actress, but did you see her butcher Mrs. Lovett? Girl can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But definitely the last straw is that Taylor Swift is apparently the front-runner for Eponine. Talk about a stab in the heart. I’m honestly too upset to even form a coherent sentence. I hope this inevitable mess lasts in theaters two days tops.

A Good Day to Die Hard

Really? That’s all I have to say about that.

Girl On Fire

Photography

I love taking pictures. And my favorite subject is my little sister, because she’s gorgeous and because I can boss her around without feeling bad. We might have gone through a phase where we were a tad obsessed with a certain book (although I don’t think you can actually tell from the photos I picked…), so the following shots are what came from that. 🙂