Make it A Family Night

Whether you want to take your family out or plan on staying in, there is a movie for you and your crew! Read on to find out about the best family oriented releases!

The Seamonkey Took My Money

Finding Nemo 3D

In Theaters

This classic Disney/Pixar tale gets new life with the 3D update. For those of you living in a whale, here’s the gist of Finding Nemo. After a tragedy involving a carnivore attack, Marlin is raises his only son Nemo. Nemo has a bad fin from the accident, and Marlin carries around the emotional pain of loosing his wife and children. Marlin is the most overprotective parents in the sea, and almost does not let Nemo go to school though Nemo has a desire to live his life. After being publicly humiliated by his father, Nemo acts out and is caught by a scuba diver. Marlin must travel unknown waters to rescue his son. He is helped by a fish with short term memory loss, a surfer turtle, and an Australian pelican. These adventures are unknown to poor Nemo who is captured in a fish tank. But away from his father, Nemo is able to grow and find his true strength.

I truly think every parent should watch this including those at the therapeutic horse back riding center where I work. Children need room to grow, and no one, not children, not adults, should be afraid to live life. The beautiful tale of family bonding extends past just those who we are related to. FN captures the idea of friends as family as well, brining Dory it their kelpy arms. It’s also a great statement about children with disabilities and focuses on what they can do, not what they can’t.

FN is just as beautiful as it was in 2003 ago but the 3D aspect is, like the ride in Epcot, a disappointment.  Unlike Beauty and the Beast, FN it does not translate well into 3D (with B&B being hand drawn on different planes, it makes an easy and visual conversion). Since the movie was not programmed to be in 3D, there are few fun gimmicks involved. It’s more like watching the Nightmare Before Christmas than DespicableMe. There are times where the movie gives great depth to the sea or the fish tank, but that is only about a quarter of the movie. The rest just gives you depth between Dory and Marlin.

Despite the fact that the 3D doesn’t add much, Finding Nemo is a pearl. The humor and seriousness blend together well entertaining children and adults alike.

We’re Not Really Girl Scouts…

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Available on Blu-ray & DVD

The makers of Chicken Run are at it again! Aardman Animation introduces us to vagabond claymation pirates who rule the Seven Seas and your TV screen!

The Pirates! Band of misfits is a rollicking tale of tame pirates whose favorite thing is ham night. Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain who dreams of being Pirate of the Year. But with his band of misfit pirates and lack of booty, it’s far from an easy win. When the Pirate Captain catches up with Charles Darwin, a scheme is born. They will take the ship’s “parrot” which is actually a dodo and win riches at the Scientist of the Year Awards. But things go south when Darwin stars interfering so he can get in good graces with the queen.

The Pirate Captain learns about fame and friendship in this rousing comedy. Karma is another factor in the plot showing what happens when people do not have the best intentions at heart. The moral side gives the movie teeth balancing out the hilarious antics that are the majority of the movie. Once you’re through laughing till you cry, you are touched by the Pirate Captain and his crew’s plight.

Though rated PG, the movie is more family friendly than you may think. Darwin used the word “ass” once when refereeing to why his monkey is wearing a coat, but that seems to be the only controversial thing. Based on the book The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe (who lends a writing hand on the screen play) children and adults will enjoy the monkey who speaks with note cards, the fake dodo, and the cut throat pirate competition. Martin Freeman, David Tennant and Jeremy Piven lend their voices talents brining the crew alive.

Thoroughly entertaining with moral story telling is great for a night at home with the lights out and popcorn.

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Retribution is Here

Resident Evil: Retribution

R, 3-D & 2-D

I love the Resident Evil movies. I love the pro-feminist protagonist. I love the action in the zombie fights. I love the lack of gore in the films. I am always go see them opening week. Resident Evil Retribution did not disappoint.

Alice kicks zombie ass

Retribution starts with the ill fated showdown between Alice and Jill on the Arcadia. Alice is, as usual, recaptured by the Umbrella Corporation. Alice is release by an unknown entity and finds herself in Tokyo. But the zombies force Alice back into the Umbrella facility. There she meets Ada Wong, an Umbrella double agent that is trying to break Alice free on the orders of Albert Wesker. While Alice doesn’t trust him, she sees no other way to get out of the simulation facility that she is in. At this facility, Umbrella simulated the spread of the T-Virus in mock ups of different cities around the world enabling them to market the biohazard.

Alice and Ada must fight their way through a simulated New York City to meet up with the rescue team in Suburbia. After a battle with clones of people Alice was close to (including Rain and Carlos), she meets up with the rescue team that includes game favorites Leon Kennedy and Barry Burton. Also with them is Luther West, who survived Afterlife (sorry no Kim Coates this go around). With Alice is a young girl who thinks Alice is her mother. With help from one of the nice Rain clones, the group heads for an elevator to escape the facility. They are followed by zombie creatures as well as Jill and her army of clones.

Paul W.S. Anderson is back in the director’s eat proving two things: the series does better when he is at the helm and that he is a master of live action 3-D. Anderson has directed the first, fourth, and fifth movies and these are the strongest of the series. When he passed the chair for the second and third movies (Alexander Witt and Russell Mulcahy respectively), the quality of the movies suffered. Resident Evil is its strongest when completely controls the creator. With this installment and the last, he proves that he understands how live action 3-D should work. The action is more cut throat as you see the weapons coming at you. The 3-D gives creatures extra spook as they pop out you. Anderson also uses the effect to give dimension to scenes including the fight in Moscow. The viewer is often disappointed when there is not actually snow or zombie guts in their hands.

The film does suffer from two things. The first being the casting of the video game characters. Li Bingbing’s Ada Wong is very much out of character. It seems, though, it may be more how the character is written and directed than Bingbing’s portrayal. Ada is the movie is quit voiced and stilted. Only in appearance does she resemble the sarcastic kick-butt character that was featured in the games. Speaking of game character casting, I was very disappointed in Leon. Johann Urb made Leon look more a young Woody Harrelson instead of the gorgeous character created for the game. Urb also has a gruffer voice that the smooth talking Kennedy of the game.

The second issue is that the plot starts to get a little overloaded towards the end. The action flows smoothly and you aren’t aware that you have been sitting in a theater for almost two hours. But the final battle packs a lot of punch—a little too much. I won’t spoil it for you but there are rather fancy weapons and an aspect of Resident Evil 4 that the plot, honestly, didn’t have room for.

There is a lot of good zombie slaying action. Milla Jovovich continues to kick ass as Alice even without her T-virus powers. Along with her physical humanity comes more emotional humanity. While she never wants to leave survivors behind and has hatred towards Umbrella and rages against Wesker, she rarely has much positive emotions and feelings. Viewers glimpsed it with Carlos in Extinction but it’s not until she steps up as a mother figure for a young deaf girl that we see her emotionally mature. This is a much needed dimension to the super woman that is Alice.

Fans of the movies will really enjoy watching the other films come together. That means that new fans won’t understand all the connections and implications. Viewers see character from the first three movies that new fans might not recognize and the significance of Carlos clone’s as the child’s “father” may also be lost. Loyal fans will be excited to see the opening of Afterlife played out for what it really is. Plus it’s always nice to see the video game characters come to life and that the creator understands the content. I loved how they kept referring to the “biohazard”, the original Japanese name for Resident Evil.

Overall, a great romp in zombie slaying with a kick ass protagonist. Fans will be please with the 3-D venture and be really absorbed into the action. New fans may be a little lost, but this installment is a good addition to the Resident Evil movie legacy.

Check out my video game/movie comparison gallery below.

What Now? Fall’s New Shows

Every fall networks try to peddle their news shows hoping that they find a wide audience. Often my favorite shows like Dollhouse don’t make it very far, but shows that I abandon after three episodes, like Bones, continue for years. It’s why I like to get into established shows even though each year I try out a few new ones. Here’s my take on the new Fall shows. We’ll see what lasts on what doesn’t.

Best Bets

Elementary

This is by far the show I am most excited about this Fall. This modern day tale of Sherlock Holmes transplants Holmes to New York City and played by Jonny Lee Miller. Fresh out of rehab, he and his live in sober companion become consultants for the police department. But here’s the twist: Watson is played by Lucy Liu and she has a past of her own. These two must overcome their pasts to move forward with their future.

Miller is a fantastic actor and will add so much to the role of Holmes. I really look forward to see the chemistry between him and Liu. But don’t expect to see the two romantically involved. Instead they will have romances of their own that will be complicated by their living situation. I find this a very fresh approach as women and men as co-workers.

Chicago Fire

Jesse Spencer as a fireman.

Well, really I need to say more than that. This Dick Wolf creation (Law & Order) delves into the lives of the Chicago Fire Department. Part procedural, part character oriented, this drama promises to be more than just eye candy. I am excited to see something other than a police procedural, reality TV show, or worn out sitcom this season. Chicago Fire should add flame to a boring Fall season.

WTF?

Revolution

15 years after the world looses electricity a group of survivors try to restore power to the earth. This J.J. Abrams vehicle sounds as interesting as Alcatraz and just as short lived. The show will focus on the quest to turn the power back on, but not on how or why it was turned off.

Millions of questions spring to mind. How can all the power go off? In 15 years why haven’t they used water wheels and such for rudimentary electricity? Why does the preview show someone with electricity? Where did they find all those swords?

I remember when JJ Abrams made good TV and that ended with the third season of Alias. His radical premises may have charmed some, but I have no patience for contrived plots and confusing story lines.

Animal Practice

This comedy about a veterinary practice features an ad that shows vets and techs rushing with an injured dog on a gurney being check our by a monkey. It all goes down hill from there. The show center around a man who works for his ex he now runs the veterinary hospital. On of the cast even told Entertainment Weekly that they knew the show was a long shot. If the cast feels that way, what is the point of the show’s existence?

On the Fence

The New Normal

From the mind of Ryan Murphy comes a semi-biographical tale of two gay men and a surrogate. Add to an already tense situation a racist grandmother and the show has the potential to make a statement. Even though the show presents the liberal and conservative sides of the gay parent argument, the show is already being banned by certain stations. You have two crowds for this show: those that want it gone and those that want it to succeed because of the egalitarian content. This show will succeed or fail not based on the quality of the show, but because of the hype.

Sons of Anarchy Season 5 Premier: This Means War

FX

 

When last season of Sons of Anarchy ended, Clay had been dethroned and Jax was sitting at the head of the table. The club said goodbye to Piney, Kozik and Miles leaving the club a few members short. Clay was outed for killing both Piney and John Teller leading to a brutal attack in his life by Opie. Trying to keep things a secret, Jax and Clay blamed a rival gang for the attack, and Tig promptly repays in kind. But instead of killing the leader of the group, Tig accidentally kills the man’s daughter. This leaves Jax with a very tension situation to try to diffuse.

On The Road Again

The episode opens with the crew making a run with an unexpected attack by a rival gang. This as well as a rash of home invasions is the local Niners trying to tell SOA they don’t approve of the death of the daughter of Damon Pope. Jax has more to deal with than just the Niners as the sheriff threatens the club and relations between Tara and Gemma become even more tense. Both of the ladies are on hard times imbibing in drugs, alcohol, and, for Gemma, black out sex with pimps. Opie has stepped back from the club letting the newly released Bobby to step up as VP. The majority of the first hour of the show is used to set up the season.

The King Becomes the Old Fool

Appropriately entitled “Sovereign,” the viewer sees what happens to the old king once the new one has taken his place. Even though Piney is gone, it seems there is a new fool to take his place. Fragile Clay is trying to deal with his diminished state and in a sad scene fails to hold up his bike. Clay is shrunken, slumped, and low voiced. When he comes to the table, plops his oxygen tank on the table and sits in Piney’s old seat, we’re left to wonder, is he going to loose it in alcohol?  He has lost his wife who, after a brutal beating and learning that he tried to have her daughter in law killed, can’t stand to look at him. His state proves he is only weaker without Gemma.

Clay makes the one power play he has left: confesses to Piney’s murder. When I say confessed, I mean the only truth was that he pulled the trigger. This sad tale of self defense he spun does three things: takes away any blackmail threat surrounding the murder, makes the guys feel sorry for him and therefore loyal, and screws with Jax’s head.

But Clay hasn’t just lost his position in the club and his wife; he’s also lost his best friend. When Tig finds out he killed an innocent girl, Tig starts to truly second guess his relationship with Clay. The split that has been building up from last season is c0ming to a head.

Getting Tiggy With It

It’s the last half hour when the episode that takes viewers to reaches only SOA will go as Tig struggles with the consequences of his actions. In fact, Tig is a running theme in the episode. At the beginning, he is friendly with Jax and there seems to be no animosity between him and Jax. Even the club as a whole doesn’t seem overly angry with him for killing Pope’s daughter. He goes from accepted to humiliated as Clay reveals his lie. Not only is Tig dealing with the fact he killed an innocent girl, but now he knows his best friend lied to him. He and Clay have a frank discussing that leaves the future of their friendship in peril.

Things really heat up when Tig gets a phone call from a detective saying that have his daughter Dawn in custody. Tig has to pick her up so she will not be charged. Instead of finding his daughter, he finds Pope’s men and a detective ready to escort him to jail. But when he is handcuffed, he is not taken in a squad care but chained next to a dumpster. In the dumpster is Dawn. As Pope’s men cover her with gasoline, Tig begs Pope to kill him instead. It’s heartbreaking to watch this strong man beg for his daughter’s life. And for a moment you think Pope might. But Pope’s henchman dowses her in flames, and Tig can only call to his daughter as she is burned alive. Pope then leaves him to mourn. Tig manages to get loose enough to kill the two men Pope left behind. Only once this is done does Tig let the rage dissolve into grief.

This Means War

With the death of Tig’s daughter, viewers know there can be no truce with Pope. The club will have to balance this war while three of their members are on the lamb. It seems that Jax, and Chibs have been fingered for the truck explosion, and the law is out for Tig’s involvement in the Pope murder. Jax will have to manage a club that has no idea where its loyalties lie as each member tries to understand the events that transpire. Things will become increasingly difficult as Abel’s mom returns (so looking forward to that), and Romeo puts pressure on Jax from the CIA deal.

With this as the premier, things can only get more mind blowing and violent as Kurt Sutter takes us into the farthest reaching of his mind. Who will make it out alive?

Drop Dead Diva Ends with a Bang

Lifetime

 

Drop Dead Diva instantly charmed me. This fairy tale amuses viewers with a story about a model who dies but comes back to earth in a plus-size body. The story balances humor with emotion easily drawing you into the characters’ lives. It’s a love story. It’s a tale of self discovery. But this season became a story of stereotypes.

The writers purposefully push plus-size Jane away from Grayson and towards another man. As much as this delves into the theme of moving on, the choice they made for companion blatantly enforces stereotypes. Jane is engaged to Owen who is both cute and plus-size. It seems that plus-size woman can’t be paired up with trim, gorgeous men. (It doesn’t help that I am not fond of Owen’s character.) When he disappeared I was really excited. But when he came back after hiding heart surgery and resumed their engagement I turned my TV off.

But the shock, romance, and hilarity of the season finale brought me back. The finale came back to what the series was really about: Deb and Grayson. The finale finally gives the viewers what they having been dying to see: Grayson revealing his love and the reappearance of Fred. The twist in the final moments of the show set up a delicious conflict for Deb/Jane.

As is often the case, Jane and Grayson take on a law case that reflects the underlying themes of the episode. A husband is trying to save his wife’s life by legally forcing her to have her brain tumor removed. The wife does not want this treatment because she likes the new person she has become because of the tumor. Because of the rise in her IQ, the wife has grown apart from their husband and wants to divorce him. This brings up emotional struggles within Jane. She’s over Grayson, right? She likes the new person she is, right? Grayson should move on, right?

Meanwhile, the office is shaken up when Luke tell Parker that Kim is pregnant. Kim herself is still struggling with the issues, and Luke’s action cause her to deal with it head on. Up in Heaven, the real Jane is very angry with the way Deb is using her body and her life. She seeks out Fred (yay for Fred!) to return back to earth. While Grayson is professing his love for Deb/Jane at her wedding, Real Jane tricks Fred into letting her hit the return button. She takes over the body of poor Owen who had a heart attack when he saw Deb/Jane and Grayson kissing.

The fairy tale is almost complete now that Deb/Jane and Grayson have confessed their love, and I am interested in seeing how Real Jane will affect this relationship. While these means we still have Owen to contend with, I have a feeling that his character is about to get a lot more interesting and. I still don’t like Luke and maybe that’s the point. And how I wish Mad Men would kill Ben Feldman’s character so we can have Fred back. While I still don’t like Kim and Parker being together maybe it will grow on me once they start a family.

The finale provided much needed relief for fans who thought the executives made a mistake moving away from the Grayson love story. It provided all the things we love about Diva: love, hope, hilarity, and surprise. As usual, I can’t wait to see what is in store next season.

 

 

Five Fall Favorites

Sons of Anarchy

Last Season Recap: Last season saw the MC get out of prison and back on the road. Through the course of the season, we lost Piney, Miles, and Kozik, and Clay was removed from power after Jax found out Clay killed his father. Bobby and Otto are behind bars, Opie is MIA, and the development of Charming Heights has been averted.

What to Expect This Season: Tensions are high as loyalties shift with Jax taking the presidential seat. Tara and Gemma both seek peace through mood altering sources. Paris Barclay himself said not to get attached to anyone character. Hmmm…

Season Premier Date: Sept. 11

Criminal Minds

Last Season Recap: The group was re-assembled but at the end of the season Prentiss announcing she’s leaving. JJ and Will finally tie the knot, and Hotch and Rossi have both found love.

What to Expect This Season: More couplings for the BAU team, and Jeanne Tripplehorn comes in as a linguist expert.

Season Premier Date: Sept. 26

Dexter

Last Season Recap: Dexter struggled with the idea of faith while dealing with a religious-mission-orientated serial killer. Quinn goes on bender after bender when Deb breaks up with him, Batista’s sister is dating a homicide intern, and LaGuerta is promoted. The season abruptly comes to an end when Deb caught Dexter killing the aforementioned serial killer.

What to Expect This Season: Changes in the Deb/Dexter relationship as she pieces together his hobby.  Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck, Mass Effect series) guest stars helping Miami Metro with a case.

Season Premier Date: Sept. 30

Gossip Girl

Last Season Recap: Chuck’s daddy isn’t dead! Blair married and divorces Louie! Blair and Dan crashed and burned (well duh)! Serena pulled a scam that was Blair Waldorf worthy! Jack is back and on Chuck’s side!

What to Expect This Season: In this final season, expect past faces to re-emerge including Poppy Lipton and, of course, Georgina Sparks.

Season Premier Date: Oct. 8

The Walking Dead

Last Season Recap: Sophia goes missing. Lori tries to kill her unborn baby. Sophia is a zombie. Rick shoots zombie Sophia. Lori tells Rick to kill Shane. Dale dies. Carl is the idiot that let that zombie loose. Rick kills Shane. Shane is a zombie. Carl shoots zombie Shane. The barn catches on fire. The group runs. Lori gets mad at Rick for killing Shane. The group is now under a Ricktatorship.

What to Expect This Season: More character deaths. Plus two fan favorites (Michonne and the Governor) make appearances.

Season Premier Date: Oct. 14

The Walking Dead Episode Three: Long Road Ahead

PSN, X-Box Live, PC

Rated M

The latest installment of Telltale Game’s episodic video game based on The Walking Dead comic debuted to hungry fans with more deaths and more bugs. Once again, after downloading the add on, I was prompted to download a patch to correct some issues. But unfortunately this didn’t even fix all the bugs.

This is the latest string of games to release with known issues. Silent Hill HD collection was riff was with problems that have only been corrected for the PS3 version and any gamer knows the debacle with Fallout New Vegas. This is the second time this series has had an update on the first day. Episodic games, unlike TV shows and, now, movie franchises, are not created in a lump sum. This inevitability leads to release delays and apparently bug issues. The continued lateness of these games are a perpetual downfall for this series, and I don’t think the original goal of having all five episodes out before the TV version starts October 14 will not be met.

The second episode was action packed and kept you on your toes; now this episode slows down to really focus on the characters, their conflicts, and their choices. There is a lot of satisfaction for games to finally see our choices play out. The plot unfolds differently for players and their choices than it has in recent episodes making the player feel that their choices really do matter.

Lee must investigate the disappearance of supplies that Lily is not authorizing. Finding the culprit leads to a bandit raid, the troupe leaving the motel, and, ultimately, the death of a fan favorite. The issues between Lily and Kenny FINALLY come to a head, and Lee has to deal with the problem with only input from the player. The ensuing chaos leads the gang to an abandoned train and dealing with the side effects of one of their own being bit. There is plenty of zombie action, but the key to this episode is the character drama.

This has always been the biggest draw to TWD. TWD is a character driven comic, show, and game. It is our bonding with this character and the fear of loosing them that endures us to their plight in the zombie apocalypse. In this episode, we really see growth from the youngest of the crew. Ben must face complex feelings and deal with making adult choices. Clem herself matures though she has more growth to go before she’s really ready for this zombie world

The only drawback to this episode is the bugs. Early in the episode, when I made choices it cut off character conversations and there were times when Kat was holding an invisible Duck. But these were minor issues. I am still unhappy with the game play mechanism (aiming and attacking with the same hand) but I knew that wasn’t going to change. But these do not keep you from enjoying the well scripted game.

Emotionally moving and building up towards an explosive finally Long Road Ahead overcomes its bugs to provide a solid TWD tale.

Hardy Becomes the Real Star of Lawless

Based on the book The Wettest County in the World, Lawless tells the story of a bootlegger family as they deal with the law and the mob during Prohibition. While not the best movie every made, it’s enjoyable with a predictable outcome and some might fine acting.

The movie follows the youngest Bondurant brother Jack (played by Shia LaBeouf) as he turns from coward into a prideful, arrogant man. It’s hard to like Jack. As the movie begins, his only real job in the bootlegging business is driving the car and an altercation outside a delivery shows that he hasn’t matured enough to really get into the business. But when he makes one deal that goes right and suddenly he is a big wig dating a preacher’s daughter, flaunting his wealth. This culminates when Jack learns that pride comes before the fall.

It is Forrest, the Bondurant patriarch, who captures his audience’s attention. He tries to teach Jack the ways of the world but steps back when the foolish boy won’t learn his lesson. He’s the kind of father, protector many woman want. Quiet, loyal, and stands up for his freedom. The filmmaker’s seem to sense this and spend time developing that character. Tom Hardy plays the enigmatic eldest brother wonderfully from the slumped bowlegged walk to the grunts that portray many answers. Hardy has a musical Appalachian drawl that would put a rattle snack to sleep.

Forrest displays brute strength and wisdom. When teaching Jack about standing up for himself, he says that it’s not violence that makes the man, but if he goes as far as necessary. Forrest’s biggest is concern is that the brothers don’t give in to the corrupt deputy sheriff who is charging safety fees for delivering their moonshine. He doesn’t strike the enemy but plainly states his stance on the subject and walks away. It is only after two of the villain’s men try to kill him and rape his girlfriend that he deems violent death necessary. In fact, the movie takes a scene from Sons of Anarchy episode, “FunTown.”

I was surprised to see how little Gary Oldman was in the film (the second picture this summer featuring Hardy and Oldman together). He plays a mob boss that becomes one of the best buyers to the Bourdant brothers. As always, his acting is spot on and you would never believe that was Commissioner Gordon.

NickCave penned the script and seamlessly movies from song writer to screen play author. The movie is full of pithy quotes and meaningful moments and flips the roles of stereotypes. The music fit in perfectly for the mood time and time of the film creating a concise portrayal.

Less a tale of bootlegging and more a tale of family and of coming of age, Lawless is a lovely period peace with some punch. Forget sending me away with the words of a love song, Hardy’s voice as Forrest is the last thing I want to hear.

 

By the Book: The Hunger Games

A comparison between book and film. Contains spoilers

 

Hollywood manages to finally gets a teen novel translation right. The Hunger Games film takes the essence of the books and makes a strong stand alone feature. Unlike Harry Potter, the film is self-contained and one can enjoy and understand it without having read the books. The film’s script stays faithful to the book with most of the changes minor things like the look of the Cornucopia, the dresses for the interviews, and several changes that help move the story along. There are three major differences that make an impact on the story, some in good ways, and others in bad.

The first change is one that does well for the film. The book trilogy was written entirely in first person from Katniss’ perspective. While these allow the reader to experience her thoughts and emotions, but it leaves the reader wondering about what is really going in Panem. The film breaks from this perspective giving viewers a look into other aspects of the Games. We see President Snow and his reactions to Katniss, as well as the Game making process. This allows us to really understand what is going on within this world. The biggest change this takes, though, is when they show District 11 rebel. This is a powerful scene but alters from the story where they send Katniss bread in thanks for taking care of Rue. But this scene lets viewers know that that retaliation is imminent and more is riding on the 74th games than Katniss’ life.

The second big difference takes a rather neutral affect in the film though I am sure the changes to the last day in the arena made some angry. The violence level has been minimized to earn the PG-13 rating it needed for the target audience. It is a harmless change for the majority of the movie showing no one’s actual death but Rue’s and cutting down on Haymitch’s drinking problems. But this change does culminate in one specific incident.

The muttination in the last day of the games are drastically changed in the film. The movie portrays them as some sort of pug/rottweiler mix and incredibly deadly. They are shown being made by the Gamemakers proving they are nothing but a created creature to scare them. But these creatures are nothing compared to those in the book.

“As they join together, they raise up again to stand easily on their back legs giving them a human quality. Each has a thick coat, some with fur that is straight and sleek, other curly, and the colors vary from jet black to what I can only describe as blond…The green eyes glowering at me are unlike any dog or wolf, any canine I’ve seen. They are unmistakably human. And that revelation has barely registered when I notice the collar with the number 1 inlaid with jewels and the whole horrible thing hits me. The blonde hair, the green eyes, the number…it’s Glimmer.”  (Pages 332-333)

In the book it seems that the creatures are manifestations of the dead tributes. They have been created to psych out the remaining tributes. And the plan almost works. Needless to say, the movie veers away from this and also has Katniss kill Cato fairly quickly. Though this makes the scene less psychologically creepy, the scene is still intense.

The last difference is the change that most affected the theme of the book and film. I felt betrayed by the fact that the screenplay did not mention that Panem was set in North America specifically in the United States. Katniss is from the Appalachian area with the Capital being tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.

It seems somewhere along the way, someone decided that stating this would make the film too politically controversial, and with recent events I can see that paranoia. The book is rife with political commentary and conflict. Published in 2009, Suzanne Collins was writing in a post 9/11 world with the Patriot Act in full swing. In an atmosphere of Weapons of Mass Destruction, lies in the media, and the suspension of habeas corpus, everyone in the country has been affected by the changing political/military air. While I am not saying that she is making any specific comment on a particular incident it would be hard to believe that they would not affect the books and their themes.

To remove the idea that the film is making any political statements, especially how our world is affecting our children, seems to go against everything that is put forth in the books. Can’t Americans speak out against the government? Can’t we make a stand? Or maybe, just maybe, omitting this from the film is a statement in itself about what we can and can not say as Americans. (I have recently disregarded this theory. It seems in an effort to rectify this complaint the DVD/Blu-ray description contains the words “in the ruins of what was once North America.” Even the wording of this downplays the political aspects)

The Hunger Games is a fabulous film (unlike the Twilight adaptations) having the merits to stand alone as a movie. But don’t miss the books or you’ll miss out on the depth and philosophical discussions that are the heart of the series which were glossed over in the movies.

 

 

The Hunger Games is a Technical Wonder

Blu-Ray, DVD, Wal-Mart version with mocking jay pendant, Target version with a third disk of extras

Usually, in a movie review, I break down the plot and break down the quality of the story and then talk about a few technical aspects. But everyone knows what The Hunger Games is about and about the quality of it as a film. So I want to spend some time discussing the technical aspects that really make this film stand out.

It’s hard no to discuss violence when talking about The Hunger Games. Some people boycotted the movie based on the ideas, but these people hadn’t seen the film. They are totally unaware of how the violence is downplayed in the theatrical version. In an effort to keep the film rated PG-13 and bring in its target audience, very little of the violence is shown. While you see the action of the tributes, you never see them as they make contact with their target. For example, you may see a spear in a body but you don’t see it actually impale the tribute. Deaths are shown after the fact and the only tribute you actually watch die is little Rue. And even this is not gory or showy. It keeps things simple for the emotional impact.

In the same vein, the movie even minimizes Haymitch’s drunkenness. Gone is the scene where he falls of the stage drunk and when Peeta has to clean him up. The film makers only show him drinking long enough to establish his characters background and what he has to overcome to help Katniss and Peeta.

Director Gary Ross seems to have spent a lot of time deciding how to film the movie in order to effectively portray each scene. When filming Katniss, the Districts, and the games themselves, the handicam adds a very documentary fill to the arena and the uprising. Though it makes me nauseous for the first twenty minutes, it helps portray the urgency and fear that Katniss feels. This are contrasted with the smooth shots as the tributes move through the Capital giving a sense of peace in calm in the city that has no fear of these games.

The filming technique is not the only thing that sets the Capital apart. The set designers, costumers, and make-up and hair artists worked hard to develop the distinct look of the capital. The grays, greens, and browns of the Districts and the Arena, are not seen in the capital. The jewel toned, futuristic city stands out vividly in all aspects from Effie’s voice, to the Tribute’s costumes, to the prep team’s make-up.  It truly is a whole other world.

The editing is done well combining a mix of shots that tell the whole story. Breaking from the first person view of the book, the audience is able to see the full affect of the 74th annual Hunger Games. Mixed in with action of the arena are shots of Snow and his commands concerning the games and the game makers themselves adding logs and muttinations to the grounds. Including footage from the District 11 uprising really gives a feel of what is riding on the games, so we’re not surprised when President Snow is very mad at Katniss in the end.

But the movie couldn’t survive without quality actors. It’s refreshing to see a young casted movie with quality acting. Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class) is excellent as Katniss. She manages the variety of emotion well and never seems as cynical as the book’s version of Katniss. Josh Hutcherson (The Vampire’s Assistant) is perfect as the lovable Peeta. He and Lawrence have a great chemistry that propels the star struck lover’s story line.  Liam Hemsworth (my favorite Hemsworth brother) was both lovable and stony as Gale, and I can’t wait to see what he does with his expanded role in Catching Fire. Of course, I can’t leave out the adult cast that gave life to their characters: Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci give amazing performances. Wes Bentley is fabulous as the Head Game maker, and he made you even feel sorry for him.

The Hunger Games tells a brilliant story. The quality of characters and the plot draw you in, but it’s the technical aspects of the movie that give it its flair.

Extras:

A second disc of extras gives viewers the most generic features: making of featurettes, an interview with the author and photo gallery. The best extra is the full version of the Capital propaganda give, giving viewers a look at the destroyed District 13. In fact the most fun feature is the previews on the main disc. The screen states that viewing of the previews is “mandatory” and the Capital takes “control” of the TV to make you watch them. You can fast forward through them but don’t miss the trailer for Breaking Dawn Part 2.

Honestly, the second disc of extras could have been eliminated and a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack established instead.

Bottom Line: A great story, a strong cast, and a technical beauty.

Make sure to pick this on up on Blu-ray.