The Hunger Games Review

The Hunger Games movie posterSynopsis
74 years after a failed rebellion, Panem’s twelve districts must send one boy and one girl to the Capitol for the annual Hunger Games. In the Hunger Games, the “tributes” must fight to the death until only one remains standing. When Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) get selected, her sister, Katniss (Jenifer Lawrence), volunteers to take her place. Along with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss travels to the Capitol to prepare to fight for her life.

Review
Apparently 2012 was the year of the archer. It produced The Avengers, Brave, and The Hunger Games. I’m not complaining, they were all really good, and two of which gave us great female characters in Katniss and Merida. But Katniss is definitely my favorite out of the two (and I would be lying if I said Jenifer Lawrence wasn’t a part of it). The Hunger Games delivers a great first entry in a franchise that could potentially be the next successful franchise in the same vein as the Harry Potter series.

The casting was spot on. Lawrence is the perfect fit for Katniss. She is able to balance being a strong woman, doing whatever it takes to survive, with a softer, more delicate and caring side. Woody Harrelson’s grizzle fits perfectly with Heymitch’s rough attitude. Despite not having much screen time, my favorite performance was Stanley Tucci as the charismatic TV personality Caeser Flickerman. It feels like it may have been overacted, but I think that is what made it so entertaining.

The Hunger Games introduces a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. It’s obvious in the beginning that Katniss and Gale were together, then Katniss and Peeta shared a few moments (and a kiss) during the games that were broadcast to the twelve districts. The fallout was not seen in this movie, but rather delegated to the sequel. I’m happy that wasn’t dealt with here because I felt the relationship between Katniss and Peeta was one of the movie’s weakest elements.

The pacing varied throughout the film and it took a while for the movie to build up. The first half was Katniss and Peeta getting ready for the games. It was focused on building the characters and explaining about the games. But for the most part, nothing interesting happened. Once the Games actually started is when it really drew me in, especially once Katniss displayed her skills as both an archer and a survivalist.

By the end of the film, I didn’t particularly care for the character of Peeta. Hutcherson did well in the role, bringing Peeta’s charisma on screen, but the character wasn’t appealing to me. He started out alright, but he turned into this love-struck teenager that made him seem weaker than I’m sure he is. I’m hoping that as the franchise grows, so will his character.

During the scenes in the forest during the Games, the camera is a shaky cam, similar to a documentary. This both helped and hurt the movie. It helped because it felt like an episode of Man vs. Wild with the cameras following the characters, like your actually watching the Games on your TV. But at the same time, it got really close, limiting the view on screen. And when the action did rev up, it was hard to focus on what was happening.

The Hunger Games aims to be the next successful book franchise to transition onto the big screen, and it’s off to a good start. Casting was perfect, and the characters, and the world in general, have the potential to become well rounded over the course of the franchise. Other than some off pacing, and an unsteady camera, The Hunger Games kick off the franchise well, but still has room to improve.

Rating
3.5/5

For the rest of The Hunger Games series, check out my review for Catching Fire.

Thor: The Dark World Review

Thor: The Dark World movie posterSynopsis
In the aftermath of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) treachery, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard after bringing peace across the Nine Realms. However, Malakith (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves return after a 5,000 year slumber. They plan to use The Aether, a force older than the Universe itself, to destroy the cosmos and return everything to darkness. Thor must face an enemy that even his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) can’t withstand, in order to save everything, and everyone, he loves.

Review

Marvel Studios told some great stories in their Phase One slate of movies, culminating in the grand and marvelous The Avengers. But they are really hitting their stride in their Phase Two movies. Thor: The Dark World took cues from The Avengers and is funny yet serious, without becoming comical (in the bad way).

Probably what I like best about Thor 2 is that it develops so many of the characters, particularly Loki. Despite finding out his true heritage as a Frost Giant in Thor, and attacking Earth in The Avengers, we learn there are still people he cares about. Loki has become one of (if not the) best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is a multifaceted character that is hard to trust but easy to love.

Anything that comes out of Kat Dennings mouth in this movie is comedy gold. I don’t think she said anything that I didn’t at least chuckle at, let alone laugh out loud. Stellan Skarsgård plays a crazy Erik Selvig perfectly. I think I missed the explanation of why he went coo-coo (It was from his manipulation at the hands of Loki in The Avengers, fyi), but it was an interesting turn for the character that Skarsgård pulled off. Easily, though, the best performance of the film belongs to Tom Hiddleston. It is hard to image anyone else in the role nowadays. Hiddleston has come to embody the character so well.

The action this time is bigger than it was in Thor. The scale of it is somewhere between Thor and The Avengers. Instead of just Asgard, now all of the Nine Realms are in trouble, culminating in a showdown between Thor and Malakith in London. The final showdown looks fantastic. The special effects are well done, especially considering the fight bounces between Earth and the different Realms.

Like all Marvel Studio movies, this film as a scene to set up a future film. So don’t forget to watch all the way to the end of the credits, because there is both a mid-credits and post-credits scene (Now Marvel is just getting obnoxious). The mid-credits scene can be compared to the post-credits scene in Iron Man. In Iron Man, it showed the course the movies would take in Phase One. Here, it shows the story arch the movies could take potentially up to Avengers 3.

Thor: The Dark World continues to build off previous Marvel films, while also standing alone. Tom Hiddleston has completely become the character of Loki, who gets some great character development. Great comedic timing by several actors and bigger action, really giving gravity to the threat, keeps Marvel’s Phase Two moving along strong.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Ant-Man.

V for Vendetta Review

V for Vendetta move posterSynopsis
In a fascist Great Britain, the freedom fighter known simply as “V” (Hugo Weaving) plans to bring down the oppressive High Chancellor (John Hurt) and return the power to the people. But when Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) unexpectedly gets involved, V must determine if she is an asset, or a liability.

Review
Several years ago, I started an annual tradition of watching V for Vendetta on November 5th. It is based off of a graphic novel of the same name, written by Alan Moore in the 1980s. The graphic novel is amazing (if you haven’t read it, check it out), but the movie updates V for Vendetta‘s themes for a more modern audience, but the central message remains the same. Very rarely do I think movie adaptations are better than their source material. But in this case, V for Vendetta delivers everything the graphic novel does and more.

Action sequences don’t happen very frequently in this movie, but when they do, they are intense. If you liked the action from The Matrix trilogy, the Wachowski brother’s project directly before working this film, then you will enjoy it here as well. The last fight between V and Creedy’s soldiers took a page out of those films. It even has got “bullet time,” this time with knives included!

Despite never seeing his face, Hugo Weaving does fantastic as V. He strongly delivers his lines, particularly on the more serious ones. And his monologue? Perfectly executed. Natalie Portman does quite well as Evey. Some of her best scenes are when she gets kidnapped and her captors interrogate her. To see her transform as her character transform is remarkable.

One of my favorite things about V for Vendetta is its pacing and how the characters are developed throughout the film, particularly V. We aren’t given all his history at once. Instead we are given bits and pieces that are finally brought together in narrated journal entries. Same goes for the rise of the of the High Chancellor. It is an excellent method to not dump all the information at once, but still keep the audience engaged.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into them, but V for Vendetta has several thought provoking ideas that are worth your attention. Some of which include what the relationship between a government and its people should be, and the power of an idea. Definitely what makes this movie one for me is its ability to present its messages in an entertaining way without becoming preachy.

The filmmakers did everything right in V for Vendetta: intense action sequences, good characterization, great story pacing, and it does an outstanding job of getting its message across. This is a very in-depth movie, but also can be viewed just for entertainment. Watching it every year is a tradition I plan on keeping for a long time.

Rating
5/5

Ender’s Game Review

Ender's Game movie posterSynopsis
In order to find the next battle commander to lead Earth’s forces against the alien Formics, the International Fleet recruits promising children into Battle School. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), their most hopeful student yet, must go through grueling challenges to prove he has what it takes to lead the fleet to victory.

Review
I only recently read Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card. Some of my friends told me it was a fun read, and with the movie coming out, I decided now was as good a time as any to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I was excited to see Ender’s world unfold on the big screen. Ender’s Game hits all the major story beats of the book, but lacks the characterization that made it so enjoyable.

Going into the differences between the book and the movie is going into spoiler territory and is a whole other article itself. But if that’s what you are interested in, here is an article from Cinema Blend explaining some of the major differences. What is good to know, though, is the movie does feature all the important scenes from the book.

One of the first things I noticed was how gorgeous the special effects looked. Visually, Ender’s Game stunning, I could actually imagine being in battle school right next to Ender, or in the cockpit with Mazer Rackham when he’s fighting the Formics. Definitely on of the best looking films this fall.

For a cast consisting of mainly inexperienced actors, the acting was pretty good. Asa Butterfield embodied the character of Ender perfectly. Moises Arias was intimidating as Bonzo and Hailee Steinfeld easily makes you feel Petra’s sympathy. The other children, such as Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Suraj Parthasarathy as Alai, and Aramis Knight as Bean, didn’t get much time on screen but they did well with what time they did have.

If the idea of children violence does not sit well with you, this may not be a movie for you. Although it is nothing compared to The Hunger Games, there are several fight scenes between Ender and some others, and characters are fairly aggressive towards him, too. Just something to keep in mind.

Throughout the entire movie, the story felt really rushed. The story quickly moves from Ender on Earth, to Battle school, then to his final training. Outside of Ender, and maybe Petra, not much time is spent focused on the characters. We don’t learn much about them. Characters such as Graff kept saying how much of a tactical genius Ender is, but it felt like we didn’t see it too much. I know I’ve complained about movies running too long, but if there is extra time spent on characterization, that time is worth it. Ender’s Game runs just under two hours. It would have benefited greatly by even having a few extra scenes to delve into Ender’s, and his friends’, state of mind.

As I said before, all the major story beats are touched, but that also means that everything else was either compressed or missing. Some of my favorite parts from the book were Ender in Battle School, learning about tactics, training his team, and forging bonds with Bean and the rest. Instead, the story was put on the back burner to give more focus on the visuals. As beautiful as the movie was, a lot was sacrificed in terms of story. It does, however, manage to keep the core of the story intact. Which I guess is a plus considering many film adaptations get a complete overhaul compared to their source material.

Ender’s Game is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book. Much of the characterization was removed to move the story along, but the core story remains intact. The children gave excellent performances and the visuals were stunning. Fans of the Card’s book should definitely watch this film, but even if you haven’t read it, Ender’s Game is still worth checking out.

Rating
3/5