Fall Movie Snapshot

Horrible Bosses 2

horrible_bosses_2Need some adult movie time? This movie is your best bet. When Nick, Kurt, and Dale (don’t say that too fast!) are cheated out of payment by an evil CEO, they kidnap his psychopathic son in order to collect the ransom for their lost money. But of course these guys aren’t smart enough to pull off a kidnapping. Hijinks ensue as the three men run into their old bosses, break into houses, and orchestrate the greatest ransom drop ever. This movie is ridiculously fun, and you’ll leave the theater feeling better about your day.

 

Mockingjay Part 1

15558194588_9309c0692a_kThe studio decided to split the final installment of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay, into two parts giving viewers more time to really see what pain is caused to the victors of the Hunger Games. Katniss must deal with becoming the Mockingjay and leading the revolution while reeling from the horrors of the games. It doesn’t help that Peeta is still in the Capital and speaking about a cease fire. This movie is emotion filled but it’s the weakest in the series. And fans will have to wait a year for the explosive conclusion.

 

Big Hero 6

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This fun, family film is a lot of laughs. Young Hiro inherits Baymax after his brother’s tragic death. The robot is made to be a nurse drone but Hiro gets him ready to do battle against the a villain who has stolen Hiro’s technology and using it for evil. The film blends action, humor, and emotion. A story about what really makes a hero; this animated film is a great solution for family movie time.

 

Gone Girl

4121433fGone Girl is hands down the most anticipated movie of the Fall. People devoured the book about a wife that goes missing and all signs point to her husband killed her. The movie stays mostly true to the book, and the twist is amazing. But the story doesn’t stop there. It continues to twist and turn into the bizarre. Instead of being a psychological look into the minds of married people, it’s weird mind bender. I can say one thing for certain, if you haven’t read the book, you won’t see what’s coming!

By The Book: Catching Fire

Catching_FireCatching Fire is the best installment in The Hunger Games series. The book is essentially two different stories. The first is rich in theme and looks at the very real consequences of the first novel. The second part takes Katniss back into the arena and this time she has to make friends.

The second film opens with Katniss hunting on the day the Victory Tour starts. But even here, Katniss does not feel safe and an intimate encounter with Gale just makes her life more difficult. She leaves for the Tour with instructions from Snow: convince me you and Peeta are in love or your loved ones will die. But Katniss cannot end a revolution that has already begun. To try and put out the fire, Snow announcing the special requirement for the Quarter Quell: only previous Hunger Game victors will compete. Katniss is going back in the arena.

The movie minimizes the events in District 12 in order to spend the most time with the arena and training. Gale has a shining moment, but the depth of his involvement in the revolution is underplayed. Any traces of “cousin” are removed. Pivotal moments, including Plutarch’s watch and Katniss meeting the escapes and escaping the electric fence are gone.  There is no flurry of wedding dresses or preparation. While Gale’s most important scene is intact and Katniss’ love for him truly shown, the whole experience seems rushed. The book takes time to deal with the themes of revolution, causality, love, and family. The movie just manages to make Katniss scared while not truly seeing the desolation the District comes under.

But the Quarter Quell is spot on. The Games is the most faithfully adapted from any of the books so far, following the catchingfirekatnissevents pretty much to the letter. This is when the movie is the best: putting the action of the arena onto the screen. Each of the traps in the arena come alive with great care and detail to attention. The obstacles are as scary to the view as the characters. The biggest change in the arena? Peeta can swim.

What really makes this adaptation shine is the casting. For once, the casting is well done and the character truly comes alive. Jena Malone as Johanna Mason is perfect. Malone gives the perfect edginess to the character. At first glance Sam Claflin doesn’t seem like Finnick but when he turns Finnick’s arrogance into charm and brings to life the struggle with emotional depth that theta the character keeps hidden behind that facade. The rest of the candidates, also, look like I had imagined them.

The producers of the movies decided to split Mockingjay as two movies. I argue that Catching Fire should have the one spilt. Not only does it contain two different stories but the themes with in these stories are very different and seem like different novella in and of them. The starting of the revolution would not have been so rushed and the emotions could truly play out. This would lend easily to two self-contained movies, ending with the announcement of the Quarter Quell.

Of course as a movie, Catching Fire is amazing and the whole production pretty well captures the books. But this one would never have been split in two: you can’t keep the audience from their violence. Like the Capital, we want The Games.

Warming up the Zombie Genre

In a world where film companies are looking for the next Twilight or harry Potter, screen writers have forged through the young adult novels to fuel film fire. We have seen the Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, and Mortal Instruments come to life and Hush Hush is coming soon. Some of the aforementioned films can stand alone, but many fail to entertain those who not have read the books. But Warm Bodies translates well as an entertaining and comprehensive film.

This love story centers on a zombie and a girl who tries to kill him. After eating her boyfriend’s brains, he falls in love with her and takes her back to his hideout in the airport to keep her safe. He finds that as his feeling evolve for her, he himself is evolving. He is becoming less zombie like. He must convenience Julie that that he can change and that her father should not kill the zombies-they can change too.

From the beginning of the movie you bond with R, the romantic anti-hero. As he walks through the zombie world, we see this post-apocalyptic world as an allegory for our own as we seclude ourselves from each other with technology. R sees himself and those around with frank, truthful humor. His realization of being a monster makes him all the more real.

warm_bodies_HeartIt is also novel in the fact that zombies can be cured. Not only is a cure found, but it is very existential cure. No tubes or medicines. Zombies can only be cured through love and emotion. Hate transforms us into monster, and loves makes us human. Who thought that material from a YA book would get this thought provoking?

The make-up for the movie is probably some of the best. Sure there is monster movie make-up, but the amount and kind changes over time. As R is “healed” his makeup changes. His face gets warmer, his lips become less blue, and his eyes become clearer. These are all subtle shifts that slowly make R more human. The technical staff handles this brilliantly.

Nicholas Holt nails the changes in his character. He expertly morphs his walk, pattern of behaviors and speech. These shifts are slow and even; you almost don’t realize they are happening. These subtle shifts allow the audience to grow with R and cheer for him on his quest. Had another actor played R, this transition may not have been so graceful.

Over all the movie is no too creepy or gory proving that zombies don’t have to be disgusting. This romanticizing of the zombies is akin to Anne Rice’s transformation of the vampire. Zombies are clearly mainstream, and Warm Bodies becomes a great date movie for men and women alike. Love story her, zombies for him.

The Jane Doe Awards~ Movie Edition

Being tired of all the awards shows and their lack of enjoying good entertainment,   I decided to create my own awards. The Jane Doe Awards are the opinion of an average Jane just like you. So here are some of my favorite movies of the year.

The Zeitgeist Awards

Magic Mike

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The movie world finally decided to cater to over half its movie going audience. Channing Tatum steps away from sappy romances to give women some hot action. He and a gorgeous band of sidekicks take off their clothes to entertain and prove that women to like sex appeal. This made way for other outlets including the extremely hot and lady friendly Chicago Fire. While the plot tried too hard, it was fun entertainment that reminded the world that women are sexual beings. Long live the women’s movement!

The Never Ending Story Award

John Carter

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John Carter suffered from horrible advertising. No one had any idea what it was about or that it was based on short stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I rented it from Netflix because I had heard good things. What no one told me was that it is The Never Ending Story of this generation. Faraway places, princesses in peril, and an unsuspecting hero. The CG is well done and the world of Mars comes to life. Taylor Kitsch is a fabulous actor and handles all aspects of Carter genuinely. Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and an appearance by James Purefoy add depth to the overall casting. The world of John Carter is magical and children will want to revisit it again and again. This adult does.

The Women’s Rights Award

Hysteria

hysteria_i01Hysteria is a well done, humorous, but not vulgar telling of how the vibrator was created. Originally made to relieve women’s illness, the vibrator has become the most popular sex toy. The movie puts the women’s rights movement front and center. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Charlotte is the ultimate feminist trying to break out of the box her father has put her in. Hugh Dancy is serious as the doctor who invents the vibrator because a debilitating injury (carpal tunnel from manual “curing” women). It also gives a frank look at a time that saw all women’s problems as being attached to their uterus. It’s enjoyable, the right amount of funny and serious at the same time. It’s worth a watch even if the content is “scandalous.”

 

Best Superhero Movie

The Dark Knight Rises

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The Avengers may have made the most money this year but it traded quality for spectacle. The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was well thought out and executed. Christopher Nolan did well, ending his trilogy. The film weaves aspects from the first two installments into the finishing story. The story was more than just imploding stadium and barbaric fights. The film touches on themes superhero stories do not touch. This movie was an allegory for your world rife with terrorism and need for heroes. Our hero is conflicted and multi-sided instead of a stereotype and viewers are invested in his ending. And we are quite pleased.

 

The Movie That Should Have Sucked But Didn’t

Promised Land

webpromised-land-movie-damonThis movie about a small town, an environmentalist, and a natural gas company should have sucked. It could have been a puff piece about being green; instead it was smart and emotional. Though viewers could see a twist coming, they would not see what it actually was. Blending humor with real world issues, Matt Damon and John Krasinski proved to be deft screen writers and actors. If anyone else had tried to do this movie, it would have become a sappy mess. Viewers will think critically about the world and their jobs. As a limited engagement, many may have missed it. Put it on the top of Redbox list!

 

The Technical Wonder

The Hunger Games

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The adaptation of the young adult novels does not join this list for the quality acting or the thought provoking screen play (both of which it has), but because the film’s creators took the time to put real thought into each aspect of the movie. For example, the filming is brilliantly plotted. Katniss is followed by handicam in District 12 and in the Hunger Games giving a very documentary feel to the games and its contestant. It’s only in the Capital that the camera is steady and perfect. For many more examples, read my review. Everything from the costumes to the sets oozes the themes and ideals of the screen play. No other movie had so much thought invested.

The Award Winner

Silver Linings Playbook

11LAWRENCE1_SPAN-articleLargeI hate award shows; they always pick movies I hate or haven’t seen. Usually, I really like one of them, and this year it is Silver Linings Playbook. This tale of two emotional damaged people is brilliantly written and gives a very realistic view of mental illness. Bradley Cooper is pitch perfect as Pat who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. It’s a shame that Jennifer Lawrence wins when Cooper doesn’t. Lawrence is fabulous in her role but Cooper is amazing and becomes the character; he deserves the accolades more. Never the less, this movie is funny, touching and very real. You should not miss this one.

 

The Kids & Adults Can Watch Award

Wreck It Ralph

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It has finally become popular to make animated or children geared movie with adults in mind. So not only will adults take their children to see these movies, some adults will go without kids. Wreck It Ralph is the best one of the year. It tackles ideas that children and adults can learn from. The film also waxes nostalgia for games past. As a gamer, I enjoyed being able to name so many of the references. The movie has witty jokes but at the same makes childish humor. “Heroes’ Doody” still makes me laugh even though I should be older than such jokes.  For every childish line from Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly lays down a witty line. But that is what is marvelous about Ralph; there’s something funny for everyone.

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.