Tag: the hunger games

Best Movies of 2012: Part 1

I’ve seen 61 movies from 2012 as of this writing. That is, I believe, a record for me. And now I will inflict upon you my recounting of them. As usual, this will be from the bottom up and I’ll break it into 3 pieces for easier digestion. If the title is underlined, click it for a full review. If it has a star at the end it means I saw it in theaters.

61. Underworld: Awakening. F.

This is a new war and it’s only beginning.

I think it’s about time to stop this whole thing. We’re now jumping years ahead and making ever more ridiculous creatures. It’s a werewolf but bigger! Scary!

60. The Raid: Redemption. F.

Pulling a trigger is like ordering a takeout.

I shouldn’t fall asleep during a movie which is almost entirely action and yet I did. A complete lack of character and story make this 90 minute movie feel like a slog.

59. Resident Evil: Retribution. D.

How do you think Umbrella populates these test scenarios? Hundreds of people dead each time they run a simulation. Umbrella imprints them with basic memories, just enough to ensure a correct emotional response to the threat of the bio-hazard. In one life, she could be a suburban housewife. The next, a businesswoman in New York. The next, a soldier working for Umbrella.

Another movie with pretty much only action but at least this one has the generosity to make up crazy stuff. Zombie dragons? Sure, why not. I’ll still watch the next one.

58. The Devil Inside. D.

You’ll burn.

One of those yearly possession movies. Entirely ho hum. At least it makes you read a little.

57. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. D+.

You will tell me or I will eat your stinking soul!

Four out of my bottom five movies have a colon in the title. There must be something there. This is better than the previous movie in the series because of Idris Elba. This doesn’t mean very much.

56. The Campaign. D+. *

Remember the politician that punched a baby? Well, he’s at it again. He just punched Uggie, the dog from the Academy Award-winning film The Artist.

One fantastic scene (The Lord’s Prayer) cannot save this. Zach Galifianakis keeps on trying, for which I salute him.

55. Chernobyl Diaries. D+.

Have you heard of extreme tourism?

A scary movie devoid of scares except for one (the bear). It does have a good sense of place, though.

54. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. C-.

Pop your pecs.

The Rock is charismatic as hell. He’s always fun to watch. And there are some fun ideas here. It mostly doesn’t hold together, though.

53. Cosmopolis. C-.

Where is your office? What do you do exactly? You know things, I think this is what you do. I think you acquire information and turn it into something awful.

Besides The Raid: Redemption, this is probably going to be the biggest controversy here. I really didn’t get anything from this movie. There’s a lot of stuff going on but it means nothing to me. It’s almost a void of a movie.

52. Safe House. C.

You practice anything a long time, you get good at it. You tell a hundred lies a day, is sounds like the truth. Everyone betrays everyone.

“No one is safe, no one is house.” Doug Benson.

51. Friends with Kids. C.

I know that she is honest; she won’t even take the little shampoo bottles from the hotel room, or sneak into the movie theater for a double feature. She always buys a second ticket. Always.

It’s nice to see Adam Scott in a leading role. The movie is kinda dumb, though. It has one great scene at a dinner table that hints at what the movie could have been. It isn’t.

49. Wrath of the Titans. C+. *

You want me to say it, brother? You want me to say I’m afraid? Doesn’t that go without saying? When mortals die, their souls go somewhere – there’s no place where gods go when they die! There’s nothing, just oblivion.

This is the first movie on this list that I can say I had a good time with. Use it as a line of demarcation between good and bad. Or not bad and bad. It’s a CGI fest that works at being spectacular.

48. Lockout. C+.

That’ll freeze the nerves in this spot for 24 hours. You want some in your mouth?

SPACE JAIL! Guy Pearce does a pretty darn good Kurt Russell in this spiritual successor to Escape from New York. And that Irish guy is pretty cool.

47. Snow White and the Huntsman. B-.

I was ruined by a king like you once. I replaced his queen. An old woman. And in time I too would have been replaced. Men use women. They ruin us and when they are finished with us they toss us to the dogs like scraps.

An amalgam of fairy tale tropes and more obvious homages plus a great villainous performance from Charlize Theron and an insane one from Sam Spruell as her brother.

46. The Dark Knight Rises. B-. *

There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

at the halfway point when I did my mid-year list. How the mighty have fallen. Let’s all hope that Christopher Nolan moves on to something that actually interests him again because it felt like all of his passion left between The Dark Knight and this. He’s on a bit of a skid now and since I have one of his movies in my top 100 (The Prestige), I hope he can pull himself out of it. At least Bane and Catwoman are fun.

45. The Hunger GamesB-. *

My mother said, ‘It looks like District 12 may finally have a winner.’ But she wasn’t talking about me. She was talking about you.

A book adaptation that fails by being too faithful to the source material. It needed some actual adaptation instead of just copying all the dialogue from the book and filming it with a shaky cam. And they ruined the wolf things at the end. I have high hopes for the next film, though, because of a new director and some more room to wiggle.

44. Beasts of the Southern Wild. B-.

Everybody loses the thing that made them. It’s even how it’s supposed to be in nature. The brave men stay and watch it happen, they don’t run.

Boy, this one totally should have worked for me. I love magical realism and pseudo-fairy tale movies (see the high placement of Magnolia and Where the Wild Things Are on my top 100 for proof). It really didn’t though. Looks great and some nice performances from non-actors but they can’t pull this one together.

43. Premium Rush. B-.

I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either.

Dumb fun. Michael Shannon is pretty fun being evil. Too much non-action, though.

42. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. B-.

Men have enslaved each other since they invented gods to forgive them for doing it.

This is way better than I expected it to be. There’s a fight on top of a stampede of horses. And the slavery/vampire fodder thing is kinda clever. It does what it needs to do.

41. Killer Joe. B-.

You insult me again, and I’ll cut your face off and wear it over my own.

Bleak as hell and also kinda funny. Matthew McConaughey is fantastic. The last scene is hilarious and brutal at the same time. Weird. Watch Bug instead.

Come back tomorrow for the next 20 movies on my list. Have anything to say about these films? Leave me a comment and we’ll have a talk.

The movies of 2012 so far

Instead of presenting only a top 5 like I did with music last week, I’m going to list all the movies I’ve seen this year with a little bit of commentary for each of them. This list will start with the worst and end with the best as all lists should be.

23. The Devil Inside

One of the numerous exorcism movies of late, and the worst of them. It’s mostly boring, but when it gets interesting it also gets yell-y and annoying. D.

22. Safe House

Basically the only good thing to come out of this movie is Doug Benson’s tagline “No one is safe, no one is house.” It’s kinda dull for an action movie. And can we save Denzel Washington from being in these movies? Maybe Zemeckis and his upside-down plane movie will do it. D.

21. The Raid: Redemption

It’s all action. There are a few talking scenes that are poorly acted and uninteresting. The stunts and choreography are impressive but there’s only so much punching and kicking I can take. The new Judge Dredd movie seems to follow a similar plot, hopefully that will be better. D+.

20. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Well, it’s crazier than the first one. We finally learn what it looks like when Nic Cage pees while he’s in his demon form. There’s some fun action but the story is dumb and only Idris Elba is doing anything interesting. C+.

19. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

The first film was surprisingly competent, this one lacks the surprise element. It’s ok. Just watch the “pec pop of love” scene on youtube and move on with your life. C+.

18. Friends with Kids

Almost like a Bridesmaids reunion but with less funny. Adam Scott is good as always and Jon Hamm gets to do some good dramatic stuff. Mostly, though, it’s kinda blah. C+.

17. Lockout

Should have been called SPACE PRISON! or maybe ESCAPE FROM SPACE PRISON! because it is the same story as Escape from New York. Guy Pierce does a pretty solid Snake Plisskin, so that’s worth something. C+.

16. Wrath of the Titans

Kind of the opposite of the Journey series, this sequel was surprisingly competent. Sam Worthington is still boring as hell but you get a bit of Bill Nighy to liven up your day. The action is better this time around and the CGI is spectacular. B-.

15. The Woman in Black

The first big post-Harry Potter role for Daniel Radcliffe is this nice little horror film. I’m a pretty easy scare so horror films tend to work on me. This one gets some help from Ciarán Hinds, always a welcome sight. A nice little gothic horror film. B.

14. The Hunger Games

Read my full review here. A (too?) faithful adaptation of the bestselling book had a lot of hype and was entertaining enough to back it up. I was left hoping they’d venture beyond the book a little more than they did. The best scene (a certain death and its ramifications outside the game) is at least part invention. B.

13. Chronicle

A charming little found footage movie. We’ve started to move past using this style in only horror films with this superhero-esque story getting the treatment. They do some interesting things with it as the kids develop their telekinetic powers and start floating the cameras around. The ending was surprisingly effective as well. B+.

12. Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The super-realistic style doesn’t always match the story here, but some solid performances and writing save the day. Also, this movie is kind of obsessed with the underrated Shyamalan movie Signs, which is pretty awesome. B+.

11. John Carter

Good old-fashioned sci-fi epic. This story is the grandfather of science fiction as we know it and as such is sometimes a little familiar but the execution of those story elements are great, even if the script is a bit of a mess. I’d rather watch this than any of the Star Wars movies. B+.

10. Brave

It’s not an amazing movie like a lot of other Pixar films but it is really good. I loved the look of the film and the swooping camera really gets that fantastic feel. It feels rote and new at the same time, and I can’t really get at why that is. A-.

9. Haywire

Listen up, The Raid: Redemption, this is how you do an action movie. Gina Carano isn’t an actor by trade but her MMA background shines in the action scenes. This is a Steven Soderbergh film and as such it has style for miles. And I can’t resist a Michael Fassbender. A-.

8. 21 Jump Street

Maybe the surprise of the year. How did this movie based on a crappy tv show from the eighties turn into such a funny and subversive movie? Being from the same guys that did Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs helps, as does a surprisingly great performance from Channing Tatum. This movie is very funny. A-.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man

It’s too bad this movie came out after the (bad) Raimi versions because half of the discussion has revolved around whether or not its existence is “necessary.” Well, no movie is necessary, and this film is better than all the ones that came before it. Garfield and Stone do a great job and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb moves the story along with style and grace. A-.

6. Coriolanus

Read my full review here. Ralph Fiennes does double duty as actor and director and accomplishes both admirably. A modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, the action scenes are good enough but it really shines in the dialogue. Vanessa Redgrave is really good in a supporting role as the mother of the proud military leader. A-.

5. Prometheus

Read my full review here. This movie doesn’t get a whole lot of love on the internet and it has problems to be sure. It remains, however, a fantastic film. I’d rather a movie reached for something interesting and fail than stay comfortably within the bounds of what we’ve come to expect from films. There are plot holes and some irrational decisions, but I’d challenge you to find a sci-fi movie where a character doesn’t act irrationally at one point or another. It’s a big, smart, ambitious movie and I will applaud that any day of the week. A-.

4. The Cabin in the Woods

If only this movie was actually scary, it’d have a good shot at making my top 100 list. As is, it’s a fun, clever movie about genre conventions and the role of movie-makers and their audience. And there’s even more evidence that Chris Hemsworth can act.

3. The Avengers

Funny that this and The Cabin in the Woods would end up next to each other with the elements they share (Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth). This is the culmination of all the Marvel movies that came before it and it’s better than all of them. The chemistry between all of the characters is fantastic and it moves quite well for a 2 and a half hour film. The big setpiece at the end of the movie is spectacular carnage. A.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

A movie about a mother and her son. Is the son evil, or is the mother coloring her memories with the crayons of regret and hindsight? Tilda Swinton gives such a phenomenal performance as the film cuts back and forth between the child’s development and the repercussions of a heinous act. It’s a mood movie, skillfully directed by Lynne Ramsay. A.

1. Moonrise Kingdom

Read my review here. I just posted it yesterday, so there’s not much to say about it. I’ll take this time to point you towards a fun little video encouraging you to see the film. It stars Jason Schwartzman and gives a little more of his hilarious character from the film proper. A.

What movies have I missed? What movies am I wrong about? Let me know your favorite movies of the year in the comment section.

5 Jawesome Things for the week of March 30, 2012

The five best things I came across in the past week.

1. Port of Morrow by The Shins

I know the scuttlebutt in all the reviews is to mention how this band shouldn’t really be called The Shins anymore since only James Mercer has stuck around. The other scuttlebutt is to mention how he was always the driving force and can call it whatever the heck he wants. Both are probably right but neither matters. What matters is that the album is pretty great. Catchy, fun, sad at times. The first single, Simple Song, is a really great hook for the album. I’ll link to it below. The songs seem a lot like classic Shins stuff with a little Danger Mouse from Mercer’s other project, Broken Bells, thrown in for good measure. There are bleeps and bloops but it’s still rock and roll to me.

2. 1957

Watching old movies is fun. I’ve already watched two from this year, and Witness for the Prosecution lined up for after I write this post. It’s a really interesting idea to focus on one year but have that be your only criteria. I’ve done a war film and Japanese adaptation of Shakespeare. A Kubrick and a Kurosawa. And there are two Bergmans, a Lean, a Wilder, a Tashlin, and countless other films to watch. The next few months are going to be fun.

3. Movies in theaters

Though I didn’t love either of the two movies I saw in the theater this week (The Hunger Games and Wrath of the Titans) they both did what they did pretty well. The Hunger Games could have used some of Wrath‘s action direction and Wrath could have used some of The Hunger Games‘ thematic and emotional weight. Or not. All I know is that I could understand what was happening in most of Wrath‘s fight scenes, which is more than I can say for much of The Hunger Games. Also, Wrath has Bill Nighy doing his Pirates role to even bigger extremes, which is awesome.

4. A new look at EDAP

Every Day A Photo is my photography website where I post one picture I’ve taken every day. Simple, yes, but effective. I’ve moved back to wordpress and the duotone theme, which does a neat little trick of changing the background color to complement the picture each day. So go check it out. Looks cool.

5. Adventure Time

I’m getting all caught up with the third season of this absurd, post-apocalyptic, awesome tv show. The show is, as always, hilarious. Mathematical! And this week we also got news that the entirety of season 1 will soon be released on DVD. Hooray! finally we can die!

 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The movie is huge. When my brother and I were getting popcorn at our 1pm showing on Saturday the guy working the counter said that the night showings were already sold out. The theater was running the film on 4 different screens. That’s crazy talk. It’s a date movie, a movie for the Twilight crowd, a movie for fans of the book, a movie for people that want to see young kids kill other young kids in brutally violent ways, a movie for everyone. And it’s pretty good, too.

The story is gladiators for the reality TV crowd, with a little dystopian future vibe. The tributes from each of the 12 districts of Panem (all between the ages of 12 and 18) fight to the death in a rigged arena for the pleasure of the Capitol audience and the hope-crushing of the rest of the citizens. A double whammy! Our hero, played quite well by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers to be a tribute to save her little sister. She fights, she falls in love (?) and she comes to the inevitable conclusion. And that’s the problem with the film. For all of its pomp and circumstance (the bits at the Capitol before the Games begin are the highlights, showing just how silly and disconnected the privileged are) a lot of the film is a rote retelling of the book. The director (Gary Ross) doesn’t do anything to make the movie into a movie other than film the story as it is written in the book. The script was written in part by Suzanne Collins, the author of the book. This is why authors shouldn’t be allowed to adapt their own work for the screen. They are too hesitant to change things. There was nothing new, nothing that I didn’t already picture in my head when I read the book. Contrast this with the superb later films in the Harry Potter series which are faithful enough for the fans but maintain a cinematic quality that doesn’t exist in this version of The Hunger Games. It’s unfortunate, because the movie could have been great. Instead, it is just good. Pretty darn good, but not what it could have been. Luckily for us, however, it has made enough money to justify the two sequels, the second of which is by far the messiest book but also contains the most potential for a great film.

When I wrote my top 100 list last summer I talked a bit about messterpieces when I wrote about Thirst. What this movie could have used is some messiness. Yeah, it tries to get there with the near constant use of the shaky-cam, but even that is calculated to show just enough of the brutality to get the idea but not enough to get an R rating. The sense of urgency and dread is there, but not capitalized on. Only one scene really stood out to me once the Games got rolling. It’s a death scene and it is beautiful. The action stops, the film shows you something you didn’t see in the book (at least, not in the first book), the camera work drifts and floats around, and it all adds up to something wonderful. Why isn’t there more of this in the film? Where’s the feeling? I’m constantly being told that the stakes are high and everybody is sad, but this is the only scene where I feel it.

As I write this Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 is playing in the background. That’s an adaptation done right. That get’s the excitement of the battles, the sadness of the situation, the cinematic-ness of a movie. There are invented scenes and animation breaks. Yates goes all out to bring this world to life. What The Hunger Games could have used is a scene like the one where Harry and Hermione dance to a Nick Cave song. We need more connection to the characters, and we need to see them be people. Let The Hunger Games be a lesson on how extremely faithful adaptations will end up being only pretty good at best. The screen needs something different than the page. They are different media, allow them to be told in different ways.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Imagine a world where kids are picked at random to compete in an all out fight to the death which is engineered and broadcast by the government. Imagine an arena that is booby trapped and filled with implements of death with which the young contestants can maim and kill and monitored by hundreds of cameras. If you’re thinking of Battle Royale you aren’t wrong. However much The Hunger Games borrows from the concept of that novel/manga/movie – and it borrows a lot – it totally works on its own right. The idea isn’t original at this point but it is supremely well executed and hits all of the right emotional buttons.

Don’t think, though, that Battle Royale is the only influence here. There are heavy dystopian future elements with a government that forces its people from each of the 12 districts to play by their rules both in and out of the arena. One of the best elements of this book is the sense of hunger that Collins conjures throughout. Obviously in the beginning we see Katniss outside in her daily life where she must illegally hunt just to feed her family and the hunger is right there on the surface. As the story goes on and Katniss learns how to survive in the arena the hunger becomes something different. It’s a hunger to survive and get back to her family while trying to maintain her sense of humanity. It’s this central conflict between survival and her human nature which drives the story and kept me reading raptly as Katniss tries to win and subvert the rules at the same time.

Of course, there’s a twist. Each district sends two contestants, one male and one female. Peeta, Katniss’ counterpart, is also a really interesting character. He seems to be in love with her but it might just be a strategy to win the game. As these are two young people thrown together by circumstance and under intense pressure some kind of attraction must arise. What it means to each of them drives the second half of this book and Collins brings them through quite a few interesting circumstances. The emotions are very real and complex, an element I didn’t expect from such a book.

This book is, of course, very violent. There are all kinds of death and destruction and gore which makes the events seem very real. The deaths are emotional and thrilling at the same time. It’s being filmed soon and is aiming for a PG-13 rating. I don’t know how they’re going to do some of the more intense sequences unless they really push the ratings like the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (and probably Part 2). I hope they stay true to the intensity and if we must sacrifice some of the blood I guess that’s alright. The book is one of the most exciting books I’ve read in a while and I look forward to reading the remaining books in the trilogy.