Cinepub


Review – The Hunger Games (2012) by Jamie

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead.

There is a reason that I’m only now getting around to reviewing this film. I, like so many others who had no familiarity with the books, heard about this film and immediately saw it as nothing more than a terrible rip-off of our precious Battle Royale. Yes, we all felt pretty high and mighty with our ability to reference one of the most well known Japanese films that didn’t have a giant radioactive lizard in it. Weren’t we clever?

Of course, the idea of people being forced to kill each other wasn’t even really original when Battle Royale came out. Hell, the Romans were doing it even before Jesus Harold Christ was getting up to all kinds of japery in the desert. Yes, the idea of kids having to do it was a bit original but , although not forced to do so, children have been killing each other on a deserted island since at least 1954 thanks to William Golding. The point I believe that I’m belabouring here is that nothing’s original. At this point in human history, it’s all just variations on a theme.

The other reason that it took me so long to finally get around to watching this was the running time. This film is two hours and twenty-two minutes long. That’s a good chunk of time for me to dedicate to a film that I only have a passing interest in. Still I recently watched all of the Best Picture Nominees and most of them were long and I was only really interested in three of them, hence why my reviews for them kind of dried up. Honestly, I haven’t watched a film just for the sake of watching a film in a long time. It’s either been watching for the Oscars or watching terrible films for various bad film podcasts. I needed to watch a film just for the sake of watching a film. I decided to finally visit the nation of Panem.

The most basic synopsis I can give is this: In the future, America has become the dystopian nation of Panem, a nation made up of a capitol inhabited by the wealthy class which is surrounded by twelve districts, each one filled with an underclass who perform the various tasks required to keep the country going such as farming, mining, fishing etc.

A long ago rebellion of these poor folks was quashed by the Capitol and led to the formation of the eponymous Hunger Games in which each district must provide one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in a televised death match of which there can be only one survivor. The tributes, as they are called, are chosen on a day called ‘The Reaping’.

During the Reaping for the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) of District 12’s younger sister is chosen on her first time being eligible. Katniss decides that she can’t allow this and volunteers to go in her place. And so she and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are chosen to represent District 12 in a fight to the death.

There, I think that’s a fairly nice description of things. Now, I suppose the thing that surprised me most about this film is how much, for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s actually a fairly decent entry into the ‘people forced to kill other people for the entertainment of others’ genre.

What I enjoyed most about the film was the amount of world building that went into it. I love me some world building. It’s one of the reasons I love Star Wars. Lucas can’t write dialogue for shit but if there’s one thing that he can do well it’s create a universe that’s satisfyingly different from out own whilst still being familiar. That’s something that The Hunger Games does to great effect too. It’s possible to see that this world could have descended from our own and there are obvious parallels to our history. The inhabitants of the Capitol are a class of people who don’t have to work. They wear ridiculous, unpractical costumes and watch TV shows about children killing each other because, well, what else are they going to do? I got a real opulence before the fall of Rome vibe from the whole thing. Oh, and if it turns out that this film is right and the future we’re headed for is one were “Gay Parisian Disco Clown” becomes a fashionable style then I too will be volunteering to enter the Games.

Yes, the setup of the world is really, really excellent and had me hooked into the film’s premise quite early on. The two leads playing District 12’s tributes are both excellent, Jennifer Lawrence in particular has an undeniable likeability that seems to come through in everything I’ve ever seen her in. The tertiary characters in these early scenes are also great with Woody Harrelson as an alcoholic former Games winner, Elizabeth Banks as one of the aforementioned Gay Parisian Disco Clowns, Stanley Tucci perfectly portraying a schmoozy talk show host and even Lenny Kravitz surprisingly bringing a nice emotional centre to the whole affair.

Unfortunately not everything can be great and things kinda go down hill once the actual show itself starts. Everything in this section of the film seems a bit rushed and I can imagine it’s all expanded upon in a great deal more detail in the book. Katniss forms relationships in this section that, in the time frame they develop within, seem completely unrealistic. I’ll admit that I believe that one of these relationships is merely played up for the cameras as Katniss believes it will give her a better chance of survival and I hope that the sequels prove this theory to be true or I’ll be greatly disappointed.

There’s also some really dodgy shaky cam, particularly during some of the very early scenes that almost had me turning the film off before I’d even begun to watch it due to it making me feel a little queasy. Yes, I’ll accept some shaky cam during an intense action scene but when you’re literally just showing an old, bearded man eating then I don’t think it’s really required. On the subject of filming techniques, there are also several times during the film were Katniss is injured or stung by hallucinatory wasps and the filmmaker decides to warp or cut the audio completely and play about with the focus for entirely too long. Again, this is fine maybe once during a film but if you repeat this trick one too many times it starts becoming nauseating rather than disorientating.

There’s also the problem that the film is a 12A and you’d think that that’d be detrimental for a film where many of the characters are supposed to slaughter each other but honestly there was a lot more violence shown than I originally expected and though you don’t see that much, it kind of works to the films advantage as the brief flashes of a stabbing hand and a scream actually cause your mind to fill in the blanks which, as Jaws taught us, is always more terrifying.

Oh, I do have one last criticism. Ropey looking CGI dogs with man faces? Piss off. They probably have an explanation in the book but they certainly don’t in the film and so they just come off as the director realising he’s run out of time so he really needs to wrap things up quickly.Oh, and the uniform of the peacekeeprs looks very low-budget early 70s sci-fi. Not really the kind of thing you can get away with in a post Stormtroopers world.

So there you have it. It’s not a film without flaws but I was pretty entertained throughout. I feel a lot of this is down to Jennifer Lawrence and just some genuinely interesting world building. I might even give the books a read now since I’m sure they expand on that aspect to an even greater degree. So yeah, if you’ve got a free afternoon or evening you there are worst ways you could spend your time. Three and a half out of five. Laterz and may the odds be ever in your favour.

TheHungerGames

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2011 in Film: Number 4: Green Hornet by Jamie

(This is a repost of a review from 17, February, 2011)

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Green Lantern by Jamie

In the interest of keeping this thing spoiler-free, this will be a short review. However, if you‘ve seen the film or don‘t care about spoilers then I recommend this site for a pretty damn funny summary which concisely lists every criticism I have as well.

I’ve come pretty late to the whole Green Lantern thing. In general I find Marvel’s Universe far more interesting and the only DC character I’ve had a really strong interest in has been Batman because he’s fucking Batman. Green Lantern always seemed, well, kinda lame to me. Didn’t really understand a great deal about the character except that he had a magical ring and he didn’t like the colour yellow. Still I decided it was time to rectify that situation and so I read the Sinestro Corps Wars and the war between all the colours that followed as well as a little bit of Blackest Night and I was quite surprised by the whole thing. I liked the concept of the whole ‘space cops’ thing and the emotional spectrum (although willpower is absolutely in no way an emotion).

So I had a little bit of background and some understanding of the Green Lantern universe when I went in to see the film starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond and Mark Strong as Sinestro, the most subtlely named character in the history of fiction until the Decepticons came along. And let me tell you right now, I am glad I had that slight bit of background because I honestly don’t know how you’d have a fucking clue as to what’s going on in this film if you didn’t. The films opens with a short bit about how and why the Lantern Corps were formed and after that things are just pretty much shown or stated to be a certain way and you just kinda have to accept it. I’m not saying the film should stop and explain in excruciating detail why things are the way they are in the Green Lantern universe but not just being thrown into the deep end would probably be nice.

Now, when I first saw the movie, I didn’t think it was really deserved the critical nut shot it seemed to be getting. Sure, the film was flawed but not nearly as flawed as people said and I originally chalked this up to people perhaps not having the little bit of background that I had gone into the film with but since that time I’ve kind of rethought a few things and, whilst I still don’t think it’s as terrible as has been reported, I do think it’s a more flawed film than I originally did.

For one, the best part of the film was probably the stuff on Oa and I was certainly pissed off with how little of that stuff there was. Hal’s training seems to consist of three lessons which I suppose is all it takes to understand how to responsibly use a weapon with practically limitless destructive power. Compare the way that “Thor” balanced the scenes of Earth and Asgard to the way this film did things and you’ll see why Thor is a much more highly regarded film.

Also, considering this film is supposed to be about a superhero, Hal isn’t particularly heroic. There are scenes where he does nothing to help anyone until the girl he wants to fuck’s life is in danger, scenes where he’s hanging around waiting to stop the villain whilst the villain tortures and kills people and in the scene where he first discovers his power, he isn’t trying to save a baby from traffic or an elderly woman from a terrible fall, no he’s fighting outside a bar with men who he got fired earlier that day due to his own reckless actions. Sure the guys started on him and the first giant emerald fist he generated was accidental but still, to continue beating up these guys with your magical space ring considering you ruined their lives is the height of douchiness.

Ok, I can already feel myself wanting to get into spoilers. In fact, I‘ll give one here but in white text so it will be unreadable if you don‘t highlight it. Why does Sinestro take the yellow ring at the end of the film? I understand that it’s to set up the sequel but at no point during the film did he ever seem anything but an honourable, upstanding member of the Green Lantern Corps. Maybe a hint that something else was going on with Sinestro would have been good but no. Instead we just get a completely 180 degree character turn for no reason other than the need to set up a sequel. Terrible. At the end of the day, Green Lantern is an interesting concept that should have been handled far, far better than it was. I was expecting a film about a group of space cops, defending the universe with as little time spent on Earth as was necessary. Instead what I got felt a kind of crappy, bog standard superhero film. The scenes on Oa almost felt like they were an afterthought, something that the filmmakers felt they had to put in to appease fans and in order to set up their sequel. In the end, Green Lantern gets 2.5 pints out of 5

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Review: The Green Hornet by Jamie

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.




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