Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 2014 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. As customary with Five for the Fifth, I’d like to highlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday today. Well, it so happens that Paddy Considine turns 41 today.

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The underrated British actor is perhaps most well-known to mainstream audiences from his brief role in Bourne Ultimatum, remember the Waterloo station scene? I actually first saw Paddy in the excellent 2002 drama In America, as well as in two of the Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy: Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. Aside from being a terrific actor, Considine is also an acclaimed filmmaker. He won a BAFTA for his directing work in Tyrannosaur starring Peter Mullan.

So what’s your favorite film from this talented English actor?
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2. I haven’t posted a trailer in a while and this one caught my attention from the past week, Escobar: Paradise Lost.

In Colombia, a young surfer meets the woman of his dreams – and then he meets her uncle, Pablo Escobar.

I thought that the casting of Josh Hutcherson as the young surfer is interesting as I’ve only seen him in The Hunger Games so far. Benicio del Toro seems suited to play the mighty powerful Colombian drug kingpin, and he looks quite menacing in the trailer.

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I’ve been meaning to check out this documentary called The Two Escobars that focuses on the lives of two unrelated men who shares the same last name but somehow their lives were inextricably – and fatally – intertwined. Now I’m not sure how historically-accurate Paradise Lost is, other than using Pablo’s character in the story.

Thoughts on this one? Does the trailer pique your interest?

3. Most of you are probably familiar with Dan Stevens from his Downton Abbey role as Matthew Crawley. Well, if you google him now, he looks quite different from his Downton days. He apparently lost a lot of weight and had been training extensively to look leaner and athletic. I wasn’t watching the show yet when he reportedly left the show to pursue a Hollywood career, and so far it seems, it’s paid off.

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Stevens in Downton Abbey

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Stevens in The Guest

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Stevens in Walk Among the Tombstones

The English actor seems adamant to shed his period drama image as his upcoming roles are pretty bad ass. He’s playing the lead in The Guest as a soldier who introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. It’s an R-rated thriller that looks quite sinister. Another film he’s starring that’s also out this month looks to be quite a violent one. This time he’s playing supporting role to Liam Neeson’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, as a Brooklyn drug trafficker  whose wife was murdered.

The actor’s uprooted his family to NYC as well, perhaps to make things easier for his career as Hollywood beckons. Quoted in Daily Mail, he admitted that it was the hardest decision he had to make leaving Downton, but he said ‘I’ve got an appetite to learn new things. It’s nothing more than that.’

So my question to you is, which actor/actress (be it TV or film) would you like to see reinvent themselves in a similar fashion?

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4. Ok, now some casting news that’s been circulating the blogosphere this past week. Well, this happens to be a remake of Escape from New York that’s been in development hell for some time, heh perhaps that’s a sign they should’ve left it well enough alone? Reportedly Charlie Hunnam has just been cast as Snake Plissken, a role that Kurt Russell was perhaps best known for.

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Apparently Dan Stevens was up for the role as well, interestingly enough. I think Hunnam is better-suited as Plissken though, he’s got more of that devil-may-care grit and bad-assery about him that comes more naturally to him than Stevens. I remember a few years back there were reports that Russell was miffed that the studio was considering Gerry Butler, a Scot, to play an iconic all-American role. Ahah well, this time they gave it to an English actor anyway. Seems that Hunnam’s one busy actor, he’s also working on yet another King Arthur adaptation (directed by Guy Ritchie) with him in the title role.

In any case, here’s the rumored plot for the Escape of New York remake per Firstshowing: Rather than just focusing on Snake Plissken venturing through the prison that is New York, this time the story sees Plissken teaming with “a rogues gallery of criminals who look to leave the island-turned-prison in exchange for the rescue of the captured U.S. President.”

What do you think of this casting news and this remake project in particular?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Tim from Tim Film Reviews Blog.

TimFilmReviewsSo here it is in his own words:

It’s a question I’ve been pondering since the recent release schedule. Most people associate comic-book movies with big budget tentpole Summer movies, but there are actually quite a few small to medium budget movies made well under $100M. Dredd, Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Blade, Hellboy, etc. just to name a few.

Well, do you think superhero/comic book films should get a big-budget treatment?


Well, that’s it for the September 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

[Arctic] Weekend Roundup & Quick Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s truly one of the c-cc-coldest weekend ever. It’s way too early to have an arctic weather conditions here and it lingers way too long!

CurrentWeatherMplsWe’re talking about several degrees below zero (Fahrenheit that is, so it’s a few dozen degrees below zero in Celcius!), with Wind Chill Advisory issued by National Weather Service when the wind chill is low enough that it poses a threat to human health and life if adequate protection is not taken against hypothermia and frostbite! Now, where I live, I don’t just look at the temp, but the ‘Feels like’ part is far more important, and so it feels like -21˚ out there right now. This is the time I ask myself time and time again, ‘Why the heck do I still live here?!’ 😉

Well, we didn’t stay cooped up inside because of the snow and frigid temp, so we did see Catching Fire on the big screen, finally!

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Now, my friend Ashley has written a full review of this last week and I agree with her praises on the movie. I enjoyed the first film but I’d actually give this one more of an edge. I had only read the first book so going into Catching Fire, I tried not to read any of the plot points so it was a pretty different experience. I must say I like being surprised, and there are some moments here that made me go WHOA!

Here are some of the things that I enjoyed from the sequel:

  • The darker themes explored more boldly that shows just what’s at stake for the characters, especially Katniss. Director Francis Lawrence was bolder in showing the brutality of the oppressive Panem regime (well as much as PG-13 would allow for it, that is), such as the whipping scene and the Hunger Games itself. I like political intrigue and the casting of Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch add so much gravitas to the story.
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  • In regards to Hoffman, I feel that he elevates the film every time he appears. I sure hope he would have more screen time in the third film given what we now know about his character.
  • Speaking of supporting actors, besides Sutherland and Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci are equally memorable. Tucci never fails to entertain no matter how over-the-top his character is, if anything he makes the games’ host Caesar Flickerman so darn amusing.
  • I’ve warmed up to Peeta in this movie, seems that his character is more fully-realized and Josh Hutcherson is given more to do in the role. I like that he’s more assertive and confident with himself, but yet he’s got this inherently likable quality about him that won me over. Hutcherson has a more effortless chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence here, and I could see how Katniss is even more torn now between him and her childhood love Gale.
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    The brief scene where Peeta comforts Katniss when she has nightmares is one of my favorites. It shows just how much the stress of these brutal games take a toll on these kids.
  • All the hoopla about Jena Malone‘s scene-stealing performance as fellow tribute Johanna Mason is justified, especially the elevator scene which is a hoot! Sam Claflin is convincingly slimy as Finnick Odair, perhaps a little too convincing, ahah. Glad to see him show his chops as he’s so bland in Snow White & The Huntsman, but then again look who he had to act against, ahah.
  • Speaking of costumes, as atrocious as some of them are, the Mockingjay dress is pretty darn cool. Ok so it seems to be inspired by Black Swan but man, when Katniss twirls and the white *wedding* dress turns to black I literally gasped [I think costume designer Trish Summerville ought to be nominated for her work] Btw, when President Snow saw that and his expression immediately soured, it was a pretty chilling moment.
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  • Interesting to see the likes of Jeffrey Wright as one of the tributes. I guess it made sense that some of the tributes are older as they’re picked from a pool of past victors.
  • The set pieces are fun to watch. The arena where the tributes are being introduced to the crowd reminds me a lot of the chariot scene in Ben-Hur.
  • I like how the ‘circus freak-y’ character Effie Trinket’s humanity is revealed more in this film. I think there’s a glimpse of it in the first film but it’s more apparent here. I think Elizabeth Banks did a fine job here, and she barely gets a mention other than for all the crazy costumes and makeup she wears.
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  • The games itself is beautifully-shot. I didn’t see it at the IMAX but my pal Ted who saw it there said it was marvelous. I was pretty caught-up in the games and it reminded me just how vicious and unpredictable it can be!
  • Last but not least, Jennifer Lawrence still owns the role as Katniss Everdeen. She is a heroine worth rooting for as she’s as vulnerable as she is bad ass. No doubt that a large part of the franchise’s success is due to her casting and it’s easy to see why.
    CatchingFire_KatnissEven in her already illustrious career long before she even hit 25, I think Katniss would be regarded as one of her best roles. It’s interesting to see her effortless acting alongside people close to her age (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth) but she looks just as comfortable in the presence of veteran actors like Sutherland and Hoffman. She has the confidence of someone well beyond her years but there’s also certain nuances that she brings to the role that I notice more now that I’ve seen more of her work.

Ok, there are lots to love here but I’m not saying the movie is perfect. I thought the pacing was off in the first hour. I actually glanced at my watch a few times as it felt rather long. I’m not fond of Willow Shields as Katniss’ sister Prim and their scenes didn’t quite resonate with me. There are also very little character developments with any of the tributes. Yes I know this story is more about Katniss and Peeta, but the tributes are almost an afterthought here that by the time the games begin, it felt like the games was actually lesser in scope than it’s supposed to be in the book. Also, am I the only one creep-ed out by Finnick and Mags at one point of the game? It’s just bizarre and not in a good way.

CatchingFire_GamesStartThe games itself isn’t as gripping as I expected, though there’s a big tense moment at the start of the game when everyone got dropped to the island. But overall it just wasn’t as riveting, and the fact that Katniss had so many allies right off the bat seems to lessen the gravity of the games, if you will.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the third film. Boy that ending made me wish Mockingjay will be released next month instead of a year from now!

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4 out of 5 reels

This weekend I also watched Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (read my review)


So that’s my weekend roundup folks! Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Or you can also share what you watched this weekend.

FlixChatter Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Hi everyone! We’ve got another review from FlixChatter’s newest contributor Ashley Steiner. Check out her bio if you haven’t already.

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To make a long story short, I loved it! Wired.com is calling The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the The Dark Knight of young adult films. Let me liken it in a different way. Catching Fire is to The Hunger Games as Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 were to the Harry Potter films. This is the point in the series were the themes, actions and motivations of the characters make the “young” in young adult, disappear. Gone are the poignant heartfelt scenes (e.g. Katniss singing Prim to sleep after a nightmare, Katniss volunteering in Prim’s stead and Katniss’ reaction to Rue’s death). This film means business. It’s darker, grittier, and meatier.

Now that Jennifer Lawrence is an Academy Award winning actress, I had my reservations about how her performance would live up to her newly acquired title. I wasn’t disappointed. She greatly improved upon her character from the first film and really dug deep to pull off the tortured, traumatized and, quite frankly, pissed off character that is Katniss Everdeen.

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The film gave a respectful nod to the world Gary Ross built in The Hunger Games; however, new director Francis Lawrence wasn’t afraid to bring his own interpretation—and it paid off. I think fans of the series will sleep better knowing Lawrence (director) will be returning to finish his work for the remaining two films. It’s truly regrettable they couldn’t secure him from the start.

 One of the biggest critiques from Ross’ direction was the lack of a love story between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Plus, let’s not forget the not-so-wise shaky camera syndrome. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ll admit; I’m Team Peeta, but watching their chemistry, or lack thereof, unfold in the first film was a joke. Ross didn’t help Lawrence and Hutchinson foster enough of a relationship for the audience to even understand there was an internal struggle for whom Katniss should love. That’s not the case in Catching Fire. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) definitely gets a run for his money! Attaboy, Peeta!

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I understand the director’s choice to be cognizant of children killing children, but the novel already laid out all of the horror this entails. Out of the dark, darker and darkest themes from the novel, it just seemed Ross was afraid to really show the inhumane corruption of the government, and, instead, chose to focus on the themes of poverty, hunger and deprivation. To be fair, his tributes were all noticeably much younger children; whereas, in Catching Fire, we are dealing with previous victors, that are mature adults (some well into their 60s), with the exception of Katniss and Peeta.

I could tell the other audience members had a great respect for Lawrence’s (director) choices as well. There were no, “That wasn’t in the book!” shrieks from 15-year-old girls, or squeals whenever Gale (Liam Hemsworth) came on screen. People were watching this movie with such anticipation and anxiety, almost as if they were watching a stand-alone non young adult film. There was drama, intrigue and perfectly timed comic relief. However, once in the arena, it was almost hard to catch your breath after repeatedly getting hit over the head with roadblocks and new psychological challenges.

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Now let’s talk about the brilliant editions to the already rock star cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), and Sam Clafin (Finnick Odair). The first film primarily cast no-name actors—and it worked. However, this film covers significantly darker subject matter, and I’m not sure that’s something inexperienced actors can pull off in a film of this magnitude. Nonetheless, this cast was amazing! A special shout-out to Jena Malone, who, if she’s anything like her character, needs some serious mental help.

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Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Donald Sutherland as President Snow & Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee

While we were introduced to the bizarre and frightening world of the Capitol in the first film (e.g. crazy neon hair, skin mutations, out-of-this-world makeup, and Oompa loompa-ish costumes) the makeup and costume designers went above and beyond. Katniss’ hair was purposely darker (almost jet black) and her makeup was more bold and daring to match the darker themes of the film. It was almost as if you were watching a fashion show of nightmares.

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Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci are back as Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman

All in all, Francis Lawrence and the cast really hit this one out of the park. I encourage you to see the film—even if you aren’t a HG fan. I’m already planning when I can see this again.

four and a half stars out of five
4.5 out of 5 reels

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So folks, did you see this movie? Would love to hear what you think!

FlixChatter Review: The Hunger Games

It’s quite rare that I watch a movie adaptation within a year of finishing the book, but that’s exactly what happened with Hunger Games. I’ve told you in this post on Friday that I found the Suzanne Collins’ book to be quite a page turner, but fortunately, this is the one occasion where the film does the book justice.

Just what is the Hunger Games? Well the prologue tells us the background of this annual event. Every year the Capitol requires each of the 12 districts of the nation of Panem to send one girl and one boy aged 12-18 to enter into a gladiatorial competition where they must fight each other to the death until only one remains standing. The purpose of this is twofold, one is as a punishment for past uprising, and the other is as a form of entertainment, much akin to the various reality TV we watch today.

The film is faithful to a fault to the book’s timeline, with the first scene showing the poverty-stricken area where our protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and sister, Prim. Her father has died years ago in a mining accident, leaving Katniss to pretty much fend for herself and her family. The film doesn’t waste much time to get to one of the most emotional parts of the story, the Reaping scene, where Prim’s name is selected to be one of the 24 participants (called Tributes) in the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss promptly volunteers herself in place of her sister, knowing that Prim would has no chance of surviving the game. That part is already featured in all the trailers but still packed an emotional punch when I saw it on the big screen, and boy was I glad I have some tissues handy. The other half of the District 12 pair is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a boy Katniss knew from school and who once helped her.

In a sort of twisted tradition, the Tributes are treated like royalty on the way to the slaughter house, so speak. Lavish food and sleeping quarters await them on the train to the Capitol and once there, they continue to live comfortably as they’re being trained and made-over by their stylists for the various televised appearances. Given that the games itself doesn’t start until halfway-through the movie, director Gary Ross is able to keep the pace moving at a swift pace and offer a lot of amusing scenes to keep us entertained. The part when Katniss and Peeta meets their mentor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a former champion who’s now in constant drunken stupor, is fun to watch. His words of wisdom to his trainees is “embrace the probability of your imminent death,” which is certainly true but not exactly helpful. The relationship between Katniss and members of her team, including her stylist Cinna, is nicely established around this time.

Despite the action-packed title, this movie is as much a drama as it is action fare, which is totally fine by me. I like that the script takes the time for us to get to know the characters before the brutal competition finally takes place. The gore and savagery of the book has been toned down significantly for the PG-13 rating, but I don’t think it hurts the film as we still get the barbaric notion of these games. It’s like Survivor but with an incredibly higher stakes that requires sharp instincts as much as fighting skills to survive. It’s apparent that Katniss’ got what it takes to be a victor, but it doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park for her. Not only does she face tough competition from other highly-trained Tributes, she also has to outsmart the Panem officials who run the game. They have the power to arbitrarily alter the rules of the game at the expense of the young participants.

As expected, the major factor why the movie works well is the casting, starting with the protagonist. 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence definitely can carry a movie. She has the emotional intelligence and screen presence which enables her to hold her own against experienced actors twice her age. She definitely makes for a capable action heroine who’s as adept in the dramatic scenes. Now, the one actor I had doubts with, Josh Hutcherson, acquits himself well as Peeta, though he doesn’t exactly wow me. He does have a nice chemistry with Lawrence, which is crucial as their ‘star-crossed romance’ is quite a game changer in the way that nobody in Panem expects. Liam Hemsworth barely has any scenes as Katniss’ BFF Gale but I’m guessing he’ll have more prominence in the later films in the trilogy.

The supporting cast deserves a mention as well, particularly Stanley Tucci as the Capitol TV host Caesar. He’s just such an amazing actor that he can believably portray just about anything. Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz all lend credibility to their roles and each have their moments to shine. Donald Sutherland in his brief scenes, adds gravitas as the formidable President Snow.

With so much going for it, this movie is so darn entertaining from start to finish, there’s barely any boring moment despite the 142-min running time. The set pieces and costumes, especially when we get to the Capitol are marvelous. The outfits are described quite vividly in the book and I must say the fiery outfits of District 12 that earn Katniss the moniker ‘the girl who was on fire’ definitely stands out even amongst the colorful, over-the-top fashion worn by the Capitol residents.

The only gripe I have, which is not exactly the fault of the filmmakers, is that the movie can’t be set in first person like the book. It helps that I have read the book as it offers more depth that a movie can’t possibly capture. I’ll surely read the rest of the Hunger Games books before the inevitable sequels come out.

Final Thoughts: This is an ambitious effort but I’m happy to report that Gary Ross somehow managed to create a thrilling and engaging feature whilst staying true to the vision of the book. Moving between action and human drama, the movie made me laugh, cry and cheer all the way through. If one of the Tributes were to ask me, ‘are you not entertained?’ My answer would be a resounding YES.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Given the $155 mil record-breaking weekend box-office, seems like a lot of you saw this movie as well. So what did you think?

Weekend Watching Plans? Odds are definitely in Hunger Games’ favor

Happy Friday all! 

After a very slow late Winter months, Spring is starting out with a bang in the movies! Hunger Games is here! This is the only major film that opens today, as the Indonesian-based action thriller The Raid (which I talked about here) only opens in limited release. So that means box office-wise, the odds are most definitely in Hunger Games‘ favor. Box Office Mojo is predicting around $200 mil worldwide, which is entirely possible as $15 mil worth of advanced ticket sales are already in the can.

Targeting the young adult crowds seems to be the midas touch for fantasy authors. Hunger Games is already poised to be amongst the three biggest franchises ever, along with Twilight and Harry Potter. Last Wednesday when I went to see Casablanca at a local cinema, there were at least 300 teens waiting in line to an early screening, and just a couple of weekends ago, thousands of them packed the Mall of America (some camped overnight!) to see some of the cast members Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. And y’know a movie’s HUGE when this morning at a client meeting, my boss actually asked me what I thought of this movie. Neither one of us are really the targeted demographic but both of us have read the first book and I told him that I’m actually quite looking forward to the movie! So clearly the bug of Suzanne Collins’ creation didn’t just bite the young adult crowd, and the positive critical reception (88% on RottenTomatoes) certainly help.

I hadn’t been as vigorously doing the countdown for this movie but just within the past 36 hours, I must say I’ve sort of caught the fever, ahah. My pal Pete from I LOVE THAT FILM has pretty much summed up how I feel about this franchise in this list, but I’ll elaborate a bit on the two main reasons I’m seeing this on opening weekend:

The story

I have a thing for movies set in a dystopian society. Once again Pete made up an awesome list of movies set in this type of setting, most of which are my favorite films like Wall*E, Children of Men, District 9, etc. In Hunger Games, 24 kids between 12 and 18 fight to the death in a televised event as part entertainment and part government intimidation tactics. It doesn’t get more brutal than that folks, the stakes are high and the odds of survival is nil to miraculous.

Oh and of course the fact that instead of the usual male protagonist, we’ve got a kick-ass heroine with a cool name, Katniss Everdeen, who doesn’t need a man to save her or make her complete. Now of course there’s some romance involved, but unlike a certain vampire saga I just reviewed recently, the love story isn’t what drive the whole plot and she isn’t defined by the two guys pining for her. In fact the story is more about survival and Katniss’ devotion to her family, which ultimately is a far more inspirational than a girl who wants to give up her entire existence simply out of her irrational obsession for a boy.

The casting

Firstly, I LOVE Jennifer Lawrence‘s casting as Katniss. Despite being 6 years older than her character (Katniss is 16 in the books), she has the youthful radiance and energy to believably play the role. I think it’s bollocks that some reviewers think she should be skin-and-bones to play a poor, starving citizen in a post-apocalyptic society. She obviously went through a rigorous diet to look the part for this movie but what’s more important is that she captures the essence of what I imagine Katniss to be and I think Jennifer’s got it. I like that she’s got spunk, pretty but with substance and I know with her strong screen presence and acting skills, this young actress can carry this movie with aplomb.

Lawrence with Liam Hemsworth

Liam Hemsworth has that earthly hunky-ness as Katniss’ BFF Gale, though I still have doubts about Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, but I hope he’ll prove me wrong. What I do like is the supporting cast: Donald Shuterland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Wes Bentley. Even Lenny Kravitz as the sympathetic stylist seems like inspired choice. Director Gary Ross doesn’t have a long resume, this is only his third feature film since Seabiscuit back in 2003, but sounds like he did a great job here, and perhaps he’ll be back to helm the rest of the trilogy.

Kravitz, Harrelson and Hutcherson

The film is set at 142 minutes, which is quite long but I think it’s necessary as there are quite a lot of things going on in the first book. I have the attention span as long as the film is gripping enough, and based on the two reviews I’ve read so far on Cinematic Paradox and Front Room Cinema, this one looks to be worth the hype!


So what will you be watching this weekend, all? Or are you camping in front of your cinema already for Hunger Games‘ midnight showing? 🙂