FlixChatter Review – ARKANSAS (2020)

Directed by: Clark Duke
Written by:
Clark Duke and Andrew Boonkrong 
Cast:
Liam Hemsworth, Clark Duke, Michael Kenneth Williams,
Vivica A. Fox, John Malkovich, Vince Vaughn

Crime thriller is one of my favorite genres and I’ve seen countless films and TV shows based on the Italian mobs and drug cartels in South America. But there aren’t many films about the crime lords in the Southern States of America. Arkansas is a new film that tells the story of low-level crime syndicate in the deep south. It has the same spirit as some of Quentin Tarantino’s and The Coen Brothers’ crime films.

Just like Tarantino’s films, Arkansas breaks its story into chapters. In chapter 1, we meet two low level drug dealers named Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Clark Duke). They’ve been assigned by their boss named Frog (Vince Vaughn) to move drugs into a new location. On their way to their destination, they ran into a park ranger named Bright (John Malkovich) who ordered them to follow him to his home. Bright tells them that he’s actually their new boss, this is the order from their big boss Frog. Under Bright’s orders, the Kyle and Swin must do the drug dealings in the southern state areas such as Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia. While out to do their business one day, Swin met a pretty young nurse named Johanna (Eden Brolin). Kyle warns Swin to not get involved with anyone who might disrupt their rise to power in the syndicate but Swin fell for Johanna and the two became an item. After a drug deal with one of their contacts went wrong, Kyle and Swin must figure out ways to stay alive and keep Frog happy. In the next chapter, we get to see how Frog rose to become one of the biggest crime lords in the south. As anyone who’ve seen Tarantino’s films, you’ll eventually see how things will tie together and culminate in a violent ending.

Based on John Brandon‘s best-selling book of the same name, the screenplay was written by Andrew Boonkrong and Clark Duke, the latter also directed the picture. I’ve never read the novel but this is a well written screenplay and I really enjoyed the dialog from each of the characters, but I wish they didn’t try to copy too much from Tarantino’s films. There’s so much good material to be told in a new way but Boonkrong and Duke decided to structure the story that’s been done too many times before. Maybe another round of rewrite by an experienced writer could’ve made the script even better. Some of the characters needs to flesh out a bit more.

This is Duke’s debut film and I was surprised that the producers actually let him direct it. He didn’t do a bad job of directing this film, he just copied style from other more experienced and talented directors. Maybe Duke’s skills will grow as a director with more experience, but I think this one should’ve been directed by someone else. I believe that with a script this good, a more polished and experienced director could’ve elevated it to an excellent picture. This is a material meant for talented directors like David Fincher, Chan-wook Park or Bong Joon Ho.

Clark Duke with Liam Hemsworth

Performances by the actors were pretty good, I’m still not sold on Liam Hemsworth as a leading man material and unfortunately, he didn’t convince me in this film. It’s probably not fault since his character needs to be flesh out a bit more. For a lead character, we don’t really know much about him. Also, his southern accent wasn’t convincing at all. Duke wrote himself a better role and he’s more of the comic relief character and kind of sympathetic one too. Even though he has smaller screen time, Malkovich was a hoot as the small time crime boss. The most well thought out character in the film is Vaughn’s Frog, heck he’s actually the main character of the story. Vaughn gave one of his best performances here, but his southern accent needed a little work. Unfortunately, the two female characters in the film didn’t really have much to do. Johanna is an interesting character and I wanted to know more about her, but she ended up just being the love interest. Same with Vivica A. Fox’s Her, she has history with Frog and the script should’ve expanded on their relationship.

Despite by quibbles, I still think it’s a good crime thriller. If you’re a fan of QT’s or The Coen Brothers’ thrillers, then you’ll enjoy this one. I just think it could’ve been an excellent film with a more polished script and talented director behind the cameras.

3/5 stars

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So have you seen ARKANSAS? Well, what did you think?

Guest Review: Isn’t It Romantic (2019)

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Directed By: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written By: Dana Fox, Erin Cardillo, Katie Silberman
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes

Isn’t It Romantic is a masterpiece. Not in the sense that it’s ideologically revolutionary or that it’s even necessarily going to stand the test of time, but it is skillfully conceived, written, acted, shot, and edited in a way that can only be described as masterful. I’ve seen it twice and, while that has scratched the itch for now, I have no doubt that I will watch it again. And again. And again.

The movie opens on Natalie (Rebel Wilson) living an average life in a dingy, stinky version of New York. She has a tiny apartment, a disobedient dog, and a job as an undervalued architect at a small office where she works alongside two friends (Adam Devine and Betty Gilpin). One thing leads to another and, after spending several hours complaining about the unrealistic, flawed nature of romantic comedies, Wilson wakes up in one herself.

From the moment that Natalie wakes up, we are in a different universe. Everyone is beautiful, coupled off, and dressed in eye-popping color. The streets are brightly colored, the air apparently smells like lavender – even the parking signs have engagement rings on them instead of, y’know, parking instructions. Not only that, but Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles suddenly becomes the soundtrack to Natalie’s new life and she finds herself on the receiving end of some unwelcome (but wholesome!) romantic attention. This romantic attention is almost without fail the romantic comedy staple of Natalie tripping, being caught by a handsome stranger, and dramatically locking eyes.

But she hates it:  partially because that doesn’t happen in real life and partially because she “knows” that she isn’t special, so she doesn’t trust them “being so nice” to her. Isn’t it Romantic is a good parody (birds fly in heart formations in rom-com land! someone screams “thank you!” every single time an item gets thrown from a window!), but it’s more than that. The audience gets to see Natalie grow her confidence and self-love and becoming more comfortable as the star of the ridiculous romantic comedy she woke up in – even if that means running in slow motion at the appropriate moment.

Rebel Wilson puts on an exuberant, nuanced performance. She is the one straight character in a story full of over-exaggerated tropes (speaking of which, big ups to Priyanka Chopra for possibly the best hair flip of the decade and Betty Gilpin for going from awkward girl next door to cultivated she-demon in the space of one movie), but Wilson does so with verve, making the audience laugh, cringe, and get a little emotional right along with her.

Of course, there are flaws in masterpieces. There were a few parts of the movie that could have used tightening (although that is probably more of an editing issue than a writing one – the snappy dialogue and funny tone were impeccably done by the writing team) and Liam Hemsworth’s performance didn’t work quite as well for me on a second viewing, but any issues are nominal. 

There are plenty of things that are wrong with romantic comedies as a genre–and most of those are laid out very effectively by Natalie towards the beginning of the movie–but there is a lot of good in them, too. Isn’t it Romantic makes fun of the bad parts, elevates the good parts, and constantly references classic romantic comedies. (My personal favorite was “you had me at hello-copter.” I’ll leave it up to you to find the rest.)

See Isn’t It Romantic. If you like parodies. If you like rom-coms. If you like Rebel Wilson. Shoot, if you like playing I Spy, you should watch it and see how many of the references you catch. From a cast that easily hits key touchstones, incredible visuals, and a fun (ultimately feel good) storyline, Isn’t It Romantic is one of the good ones.


Have you seen ‘Isn’t It Romantic’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: The Dressmaker (2016)

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The Dressmaker tells the story of an outwardly successful middle-aged woman named Tilly (Kate Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia, after having been ostracized from the town as a young girl. Most of the small town, including her own mother (Judy Davis), is not pleased to see her back. Regardless, she makes her entrance as colorful and fiery as possible and forges a place for herself despite the whispers and hostility of the townfolk.

The cinematography is completely gorgeous. The story is set in Dungatar, a part of Australia that evokes a sense of Oklahoma circa the dust bowl or the kind of Kansas that only exists in the Wizard of Oz. The barren dirtiness of the landscape is showcased in stark shots of decrepit buildings, dirty streets, and naked trees against empty skylines. This very deliberate setting eventually becomes the backdrop to characters wearing bold, colorful dresses in a way that seems to visually applaud fashion for being powerful and interesting while also admitting that high fashion might just be completely ridiculous.

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I hate to be cliché about it, but The Dressmaker is an emotional rollercoaster. The fulcrum of the story is the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there are competing sub-plots of a murder mystery and a romance which occasionally usurp the story of mother/daughter storyline entirely. The overall tone of a black comedy allows the film to push boundaries and upset audience expectations regularly. Moments that the audience expects to end happily wind up being the introduction to the next tragic theme and the darkest of moments are interrupted by well-placed moments of comedy.

The talent in this film is extraordinary. Every character is a little bit larger than life, caricatures that are just reasonable enough to make an audience feel in on the jokes without ever suspending their disbelief. The script lends itself to stand out performances by all, but especially by Winslet, Davis, and Hugo Weaving.


One of my favorite casting choices was Liam Hemsworth as Winslet’s love interest. Hemsworth is a solid fifteen years younger than Winslet, so the casting is an obvious response to Hollywood’s habit of usually casting love stories with large age differences in reverse. Much of this movie’s strength lies in similar subtle feminist moments: the film reverses the genders in many of Hollywood’s storytelling habits. For instance, it is a widely criticized reality that women exist almost exclusively as love interests or mothers in Hollywood. In The Dressmaker, the opposite is true. The primary characters of the story are women and most of the men exist only in relation to their partners. Despite this, The Dressmaker does not exist in a parallel universe where gender roles are reversed: women are still primarily homemakers and men have careers. It is merely the shifting of perspective that gives us a world made up of women with deep personal lives.

The Dressmaker also excels in its acknowledgement of women who suffer at the hands of men, often their own partners. One woman’s husband is a notorious cheater who drugs and rapes her regularly. Another woman’s husband is a wife-beater and refers to most of the women in the town in a derogatory way, which the script suggests is probably because of his own perversions. The lovely thing about all the dark stories about abuse is that even though they are gross, they are understated in a way that is very true to life.

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There is a love story in the middle of the movie, which briefly disrupts the other narratives and might be the best tongue-in-cheek criticism of Hollywood romance that I have ever seen. Winslet’s character avoids her romance with Teddy (Hemsworth) for as long as possible, invoking every manifestation of the hard to get narrative that we have been fed for the last fifty years. Tilly runs barefoot down a dirt road, only to be swept of her feet by Teddy when he chases her down in his car. Tilly measures a half-naked Teddy for a suit, getting tantalizingly close while he explains that the woman he loves (her) does not want him. Teddy wakes up one night with Tilly standing at his bedside with a lantern. The couple sits atop a silo with a picnic dinner and they stare at the stars together. Every last overdone and gooey detail is there. Every romantic moment is just overplayed enough that the audience understands that everyone involved in the creation of this story understands exactly how syrupy it is. It’s still cute. We’re just finally getting the story from a group of writers who know that it’s a little too cute and have fun with that.

The value of a female-led narrative film like this one cannot be understated. Directed by Australian filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse, this is a film to see in theaters and in groups. The gasps and groans and laughter of the people in the theater with me were literally of a different tenor than usual, which was a wonderful, surreal experience. If you want to see a film that completely understands (and really probably loves) Hollywood, but wants to approach it with a sense of humor and an inkling for progress, this film will not disappoint. The acting is superb, the story is full of surprises, and the jokes are both subtle and in your face. This is not a film to miss.

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hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Dressmaker’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (2014)

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I saw Mockingjay: Part 1 on opening night and I hate to admit it, but I was a bit disappointed. Granted, in my opinion, the source material wasn’t as engrossing as the first two books, but, still, I had such high hopes going into the film. Director Francis Lawrence came into THG series with such gusto, partly because he had something to prove, given the criticism of the first film. In Catching Fire, the storytelling was tight and engaging – almost leaving no room to catch your breath and leaving you on the edge of your seat. However, with the return of his sophomore film in the series, it fell short and felt flat. Here are my gripes…

SCS Pandemic
SCS or Shaky Camera Syndrome has got to stop. When done well and/or in moderation, it’s slightly annoying. But, when the majority of the film makes you feel like you’re on a Tilt-A-Whirl, it’s A) very distracting from what’s actually happening on screen B) makes me want to vomit and C) very annoying. I get some DPs want to make you feel like you’re in the action, but this is an adaptation to a YA novel – not Saving Private Ryan. The only reasons I’d actually want to feel like I’m in the film is if Daniel Craig is starring opposite me in the next Bond film, or it has anything to do with Jamie Fraser. Then, yes, throw me all the way into the film.

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Pacing
In my opinion, splitting the last novel in to two films was a mistake. It could have been easily attainable as one solid film. The first 45 minutes of the film is almost a complete snooze-fest. I was growing restless and I could hear my fellow audience members constantly shifting in their seats as well. Create some drama! You’re in a technically advanced district who’ve survived underground in a bomb shelter. That’s some pretty good material. Nope. Everything is bland, lackluster and efficient. Even Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) looked bored. Which leads me to my next point…

Lighting
I understand Katniss and gang spend a majority of their time underground, but the lighting was atrocious. In some cases, you could barely see the actors and their expressions because of 1) SCS and 2) poor lighting. Again, this district has created a self-sufficient system, throw some pizzazz into the environment!

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Miscellaneous gripes
I had some major eye roll moments and one was the unveiling of Katniss’ Mockingjay suit. By right, she is a strong heroine, who thinks for herself, is handy with a weapon and actually cares about casualties of war. HOWEVER, “they” still felt the need to sexualize her by creating a molded breast plate. Seriously? It completely defeats the purpose of who Katniss is and what she stands for. Although, the rest of the suit is pretty sick. 

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Mockingjay, both the film and novel, brings a bit more insight to Gale and Katniss’ convoluted relationship. Gale is finally a contributor in the story, rather than a spectator. Regrettably, there’s something different about how Gale appears on paper versus film. I never realized this before, but Gale, or Liam Hemsworth, is a rather pathetic character. I had an epiphany last night and likened him to Chewy from Star Wars. He’s a big lug who isn’t very useful, causes problems and awkwardly hovers over Katniss. What’s more is, Gale makes Katniss feel bad about how she deals with her PTSD. Wow, Gale, you’re a regular stand up guy.

Alright. I’m done moaning and groaning. Now, on to what I did like.

Julianne Moore
When it was announced that Julianne Moore would be playing President Coin, I was skeptical. However, I thought her performance of the cool, collected and secretive leader was spot on. At first she appeared to be sympathetic to the horrors Katniss faced, but as the film went on, she slowly started to reveal her true colors. Everything about her portrayal completely reflected the collective attitude of the ominous District 13. Coin makes tough decisions and doesn’t apologize if a few people get hurt along the way. She’s a dictator, through and through, and will do anything to see the perseverance of her people.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman with Julianne Moore

Comic relief
As heavy as THG films are, I’m always pleasantly surprised by the snippets of comic relief thrown in. Effie, who doesn’t actually appear in District 13 in the novel, is essentially a POW in the film. So, it was a fantastic move to involve her in the story. Effie (Elizabeth Banks) somehow manages to downplay the atrocities and hardships surrounding her, and make minor issues, like clothing, hairstyle and makeup seem like the biggest problems in the world.

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Plus, you get to see her wearing a jumpsuit. It’s worth it. I just LOVE her! Another happy surprise is the inclusion of Buttercup the Cat (the right one). On cue, she hisses at Katniss during the perfect moments, and provides comedy only a cat can bring: trying to catch light from a flashlight. And, obviously, it wouldn’t be a true HG film without the witty, playful banter between Katniss and Haymitch.

Okay, so obviously the movie wasn’t all bad. I’m just calling it like I see ‘em. I remember when I left the cinema last year there was an unmistakable buzz and energy from the crowd. Not so much this time around.

This film was a means to an end to prepare the audience for the epic conclusion…next year. My favorite film is still Catching Fire but we’ll see how everything comes together for Part 2!

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PostByAshley


Have you seen Mockingjay Part I? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

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
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PostByAshley


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.

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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? 🙂