Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Number Rolled: N/A
Movie Name/Year: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Length: 146 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Paula Malcomson, Willow Shields, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Patrick St. Esprit, Alan Ritchson, Stephanie Leigh Schlund, Meta Golding, Bruce Bundy, Nelson Ascencio, Jack Quaid, Taylor St. Claire, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, E. Roger Mitchell, Bruno Gunn, Maria Howell

Katniss has already won the hunger games and is trying to live with the memories of the arena. Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, she distances herself from Peeta and attempts to return to life as normal in District 12. She learns quickly, with a visit from President Snow, that life can never be normal again.

After this point, there are spoilers for the books and movie ahead. Read at your own risk.

I’m a huge fan of the books, so it’s no surprise that I was in love with the first of the Hunger Games trilogy. With the knowledge that no movie could be exactly word-for-word what the book was, without running up to six hours long, I thought it was about as close to perfect as possible. It showed the hunger, the desperation, the depravity – all the things that make “The Hunger Games” what it is.

For this story to work out, people need to see and feel what the characters are feeling. Without the quiet rebellion of Katniss or the outward rebellion of Gale, we wouldn’t really see the problem with the world they live in. After all, we have classes in our world too, right?

Suzanne Collins was a master of emotion in the books. She knew how to suck readers in and make them a part of the story. That raises the bar for the movies to an extreme height.

The first film was perfect. The second was still amazing, but not quite up to my standards.

I’ll say that the director and script writers were amazing at keeping most of the big scenes in. Finnick with Mags and the sugar cubes, Johanna getting naked in the elevator, Cinna’s beating, Peeta’s near-death, the protection of Peeta and Katniss in the arena, Katniss hanging Seneca Crane; it was all there. However, there was one item missing from one scene that I believe was absolutely unforgiveable; Plutarch never showed Katniss the mockingjay pocket watch. It seems small at first. After all, it took only one sentence to describe and it would have taken about three seconds to accomplish, but that single action set the entire tone for the second book. It is at that moment that clues start to weave together about the uprising spreading outside of the districts. The movie did some other things to convey that image, but it failed to really portray it as well as it should have. That tiny pocket watch had a big place in the story. It was iconic. It should have been there.

There were other missing scenes, but they weren’t important. The problem was, without them, the story seemed a little choppy and rushed. Like there was little to nothing aiding in the transition from huge scene to huge scene. It became a little more like a vision of highlights instead of a cohesive story.

The worst problem was that they tried to stick too closely to the book. However, those big scenes were amazing and they depicted exactly what they were supposed to, so the choppy feel is almost acceptable. I would have liked to see evidence of the book that Katniss put together with Peeta or Haymitch’s withdrawal, but those are scenes I admit the story did fine without.

With only one unforgiveable error and a general tone issue (as well as a jackass sitting behind me that was on the phone the entire time), I still loved the movie. I have plans to see it in the theaters a second time.

Overall Opinion – 4/5

Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Number Rolled: 42
Movie Name/Year: The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Genre: Independent
Length: 106 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writer: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Actors: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, Yaya Alafia, Kunal Sharma, Eddie Hassell, Zosia Mamet, Joaquin Garrido, Rebecca Lawrence Levy, Lisa Eisner, Eric Eisner, James MacDonald

Laser lives with his sister and two moms. After becoming curious about his sperm-donor father, Laser convinces his sister Joni to make the call to try and find out who he is. Joni is able to get in touch with him and, as they begin to get to know Paul, their lives are disrupted by the new addition.

I hear a lot of people label this a comedy. Not only is it one of the categories noted by Netflix, but the trailer insinuates, too. I don’t get it. I didn’t see any comedy in this movie. There may have been one or two chuckles in total, but certainly nothing worth being called a comedy. The subjects I saw in the movie, as well as the way they were expressed, just didn’t seem funny to me. To each his own, I guess.

The actors were really amazing. There’s this one close up of Mia Wasikowska where she’s doing this involuntary motion with the corner of her lips that could have only been accomplished if she’d actually gotten herself to choke up. It was one of those ‘wow’ moments that keeps me looking up an actor’s other work. I’ll be adding anything else she’s in to my list.

I’ll admit “The Kids Are Alright” is a good movie, great even. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I liked it, but I certainly didn’t love it the way the critics did.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3.5/5
Overall Opinion – 3/5

Movie Trailer: 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Manic (2001)

Number Rolled: 40
Movie Name/Year: Manic (2001)
Genre: Drama
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Jordan Melamed
Writer: Michael Bacall, Blayne Weaver
Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Maggie Baird, Don Cheadle, Blayne Weaver, Lydell M. Cheshier, Roxie Fuller, Bree Nogueira, Elden Henson, Cody Lightning, Michael Bacall, Sara Rivas, Lauren Shubert, Zooey Deschanel, William Richert, Nic Henley, Michael O’Neil

Lyle Jensen is a troubled teen. At a baseball game things get out of hand and he nearly kills one of the other kids. As he’s being fixed up at the hospital, he learns that he won’t be going home. Instead, he is set to be admitted to the juvenile ward of a mental institution.

Nine out of ten times, if I know a movie is shot with shaky cam I won’t bother adding it to my list. I HATE that. Halfway through most movies trying to mimic the effect of a hand-held camera, I become nauseated and unwilling to sit through the rest. In “Manic,” however, I not only had no problem sitting through the shaky cam, but I thought it added something important to the story. It gave the movie a sense of intimacy, realism and intensity that a clear picture would not have.

I thought it was amazing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Bacall; all the actors were incredible and very believable in their parts. I felt sympathy for characters I never thought I could feel it for and it was thanks to the absolutely incredible acting of the people behind them.

“Manic” changed my outlook on a lot of things. It changed my outlook on drama’s, on shaky cam, on Zooey Deschanel (whom I originally thought had the range of safety pin) and even on the subject matter itself. It was heart-wrenching and bitter-sweet and all too familiar. It’s set to expire today. With any luck, Netflix will get it back.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 4.2/5
Overall Opinion – 5/5

Movie Trailer: