Saturday, March 24, 2012

Double Review: Televised Child Killings and Two Bumbling Cops

Hey guys, sorry if my reviews have been dwindling in quality lately, I've just been rushing through them to get my initial thoughts out there.  If anybody reads these, tell me if you'd rather see longer, more thought out reviews or summarized, quick reviews.  Or if they are perfect as is.  Or if you don't give a shit and want me to stop making them.  Or if you just want to sit back and not comment.  Whatever you want.  

The Hunger Games:

For those who don't know, originally The Hunger Games was the first of three books written by Suzanne Collins.  Essentially the story is a sanitized, teen-friendly version of Battle Royale, where a number of children are randomly picked out of 12 districts to fight to the death in an annual nation-wide televised event called "The Hunger Games" (duh).  I read the first two books (and gave up partway through the third) so obviously my opinions would not be the same as those going in fresh, but in terms of an adaptation I thought it was very well handled.

While certain, not ultra-significant things were changed from the book, most of the main plot has stayed intact.  I was worried going in that the proper back story would be rushed through in order to get to the actual games but the pacing was just right and had the same exact "flow" I remember from reading it.  Jennifer Lawrence, playing the bow and arrow-wielding Katniss Everdeen of District 12, was great in her role, displaying the right level of intensity and emotion that the character deserved.  I also loved the many recognizable faces of the adults "behind" the game; I was happy the role of the drunkard coach Haymitch went to Woody Harrelson, and Stanley Tucci was pretty spot on as the TV host/audience guide Caesar Flickermann.  Elizabeth Banks was inappropriately funny as Effie Trinket, Donald Sutherland and Wes Bentley (aka the American Beauty bag-in-the-wind kid) were appropriately sinister, and Lenny Kravitz was doing the same kind of supporting figure thing we saw him do in Precious.  I wasn't a huge fan of the two main male characters, Peeta and Gale, but they were still better than I expected because based on the way they looked in the stills that were released before the film, I was honestly expecting Twilight-level buffoons.

I do have to say though, this isn't even close to the same level as the other hugely popular young adult book-to-movie series, Harry Potter.  The lower budget really shows through here; whenever extensive CGI was needed it was kind of painful to watch (especially when there was fire - which is featured throughout the film).  The Capitol was also a bit underwhelming - it kind of looked to me like a scrapped idea for a planet in The Phantom Menace or something - not at all like the wondrous first look we got as we entered Hogwarts for the first time in The Sorcerer's Stone.  Also, sometimes the camera was doing the annoying nausea-inducing shaky-cam thing during the action scenes; it's hard to blame them though because for one thing you can't really show some of the stuff that's happening and get away with a PG-13.  For the age bracket I actually think this was a little bit on the edge, pushing into R territory.

The intensity of the games and the character stuff was all good (and that's ultimately more important), but in the end I think the budget might have gotten in the way of its scope.  I don't want to make the review too long and I could delve into a whole bunch of other topics, but the movie was really good; it's filled with political undertones and will appeal to a wide age group, both genders will get something out of it, there's action, romance, drama, and maybe a sprinkle or two of humor (not too much of that though).  Just see it, everyone else already has.

Rating: B+

21 Jump Street:

21 Jump Street: a property that nobody even remotely cared to see remade into a mainstream comedy, even less one starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.  The cards were stacked against this film going into it, but it actually turned out to be a great comedy.  Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the writer/directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and written by the screenwriter for Scott Pilgrim vs the World, 21 Jump Street benefits from some great talent behind the scenes. But wait - there are some great performances in front of the lens too.  I'm no Channing Tatum expert, but from what I've seen of his work he's never been better (which is not that difficult seeing as his acting prowess doesn't exceed that of a block of wood) and Jonah Hill hasn't lost his funniness along with his weight.  Plus there are guest stars and cameos galore, of which I will not spoil at all.

I don't laugh too often at comedies nowadays but this one regularly had me chuckling.  It has some great gags and surprisingly I actually cared about the characters.  The script may not be an amazing breakthrough in screenwriting, but the basic building blocks of what makes a good story were there.  With plenty of gags throughout, if you think this movie may fall under your brand of comedy (aka anyone who enjoyed The Hangover or Bridesmaids) I guarantee at least one titter out of you by the time it's over.  It satirizes both buddy cop movies and high school flicks really well (I'll go out on a limb and say nearly as well as Hot Fuzz), and if you're "with it" at all and get the in-jokes, you'll probably get your money's worth.

Rating: B+


  1. I haven't seen 21 Jump Street yet, so I didn't read that one (yet), but I do think that you hit Hunger Games pretty spot-on. I actually saw it this morning, so it's all fresh in my mind, and I think agree that it was very good. I do read your posts as often as possible, but not being a major film critic like you are, I'm more worried about your thoughts of the story and (if possible) the musical score, which I thought I was very good, but (the innocuous) "they" did not play up the minor tones and chords in the death of the characters and memories of Katniss. I suppose what I'm saying to you is that I like to read your reviews, so keep them coming!

    1. Thanks man; yeah I forgot about the score which I thought was great (by the always awesome James Newton Howard). And feel free to use "they" as much as you want, I won't judge


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