The Hunger Games (2012)


The Hunger Games Can Eat Me

No one person requested today’s movie.  It was overly talked about on Facebook until I finally felt like I was definitely going to have to see it.  When my days off gave me the opportunity to catch the movie for cheap, I finally decided that it was necessary.  The movie is based on a novel by Suzanne Collins that I have not/will never read, but it’s really popular.  The movie was so popular that I walked past the second longest line for a movie’s opening night on my way to my last theatrical disappointment, John Carter.  Since it came out, I’ve heard way too much about it, so it’s now time for you to hear a little more about it in my review of The Hunger Games, based on a novel by Suzanne Collins, written by Gary Ross and Billy Ray, directed by Gary Ross, and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Amandla Stenberg, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Willow Shields.

In post-apocalyptic North America, the government has decided that it’s a super good idea to collect one boy and one girl from 11 districts to fight to the death in a battle called the Hunger Games.  For the 74th Hunger Games, 12-year-old Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are chosen from District 12, but Primrose’s sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) – herein referred to as Catness – steps in and volunteers to take part in the games instead of her sister.  They’re taken by Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) to meet their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) – herein referred to as Sammitch – who helps them learn how to play the game.  After some training and other nonsense, they get started into the Hunger Games.  Whoever shall survive and be the star of the next two books?  No one will ever know.

I do not understand you women-folk.  I really feel like I should try to figure out why you like the things you like, but I’ll probably just try to either ignore them or just mock them in review form.  I’ve heard this movie compared to Twilight because it’s based on a series of novels and is enjoyed almost exclusively by women, and I can say that this is a better movie than Twilight.  Of course, almost every movie is better than Twilight.  This movie is an interesting enough concept that is ruined by almost everything else.  Sure, it’s an interesting idea to have a bunch of kids try to kill each other, but it’s not when you make us follow a kid that won’t really kill anyone.  The same problems that came up in my review of Japanese Hunger Games (aka Battle Royale) came up in this movie: why is anyone unwilling to kill in this setting, and why would anyone make alliances?  You’ve been told as you enter this game that only one person is going to leave, so fucking kill yourself or throw down.  And why bother making alliances?  You’ll only have to kill them eventually anyways.  Why grow attached to someone you will have to kill eventually?  Knowing how they want us to feel about Catness, you can easily figure out how each character is going to die.  She’s meant to be our hero, so she will not be killing any friendly opponents and will probably only kill the assholes.  Catness takes it one step further by not really killing anyone.  She kills one person on accident, one person out of a reflexive action, and the last person out of mercy.  There were more than a few times in the movie where I had no fucking idea what was going on.  These things caused me to have to turn to my friend and ask him what was happening.  It seemed like there were a lot of things that would’ve been pretty obvious had I read the books, so I say fuck you to this movie for that shit.  You can’t assume that I’ve done my homework before watching your movie!  For a movie that I went into thinking it would be pretty action-heavy, I actually had walked into a movie about a girl sleeping in a tree.  All Catness really does effectively in this movie is sleep in trees, and she does it a lot and the film does not want us to miss one minute of it.  Catness is an exceptional archer, but for strategic purposes she does not pick up a bow and arrow at first.  Instead, she runs into the wilderness and sleeps in a tree.  Then she encounters enemies, so she climbs up into a tree.  Then she drops wasps on them, takes a bow from one, and climbs into a different tree.

The way they told their exceptionally boring story was also very tedious.  The director chose to film the entire thing with shaky cam, making watching the movie nearly impossible but entirely nauseating.  The final fight, for example, was shot so close and so jerky that I could barely see what was happening.  I got excited as the camera stepped back for a second that I might actually be able to see what was happening, but nope.  Right back in.  They also did a weird thing throughout the entire movie where they forgot to put sound in.  You could still figure out what was happening, but I still found it really annoying.  The settings were mostly drab and, when they weren’t, they were mostly just a bunch of trees.  The time in the Capitol had interesting settings, but they weren’t there long.  The futuristic technology that they had was pretty cool.

Okay, here’s some more things I hated that had to be prefaced with ::SPOILER ALERT::  There was a point in the movie where Catness finds out that the bad opponents are guarding a stockpile of supplies, hoping that others will come after it and get blown up by the mines they lined it with.  Catness decides to destroy this stockpile, but for some reason has someone else draw them away from it so she can shoot it with arrows and blow it up.  Guess what, Catness, you could’ve blown the thing up with them surrounding it and killed 4 of the assholes at the same time.  At one point (while Catness is sleeping in a tree … go figure), she finds Peeta has been helping the assholes to find her.  One can assume that he was trying to lead them away from her, but they never really deal with this in the movie at all.  At one point, he yells for her to run.  When they reunite later, they never have Catness say, “What the fuck were you doing, dick?”  Near the end, Catness is holding an arrow at the main bad guy, who is holding Peeta in front of him to block her shot.  She shoots him in the hand so that Peeta can push him over.  What bothers me was that Peeta had early helped establish Catness’ archery prowess by remarking on how she could shoot squirrels through the eye every single time.  But apparently she can’t hit a much larger eye under much more important circumstances.  The biggest annoyance I had in the movie (besides the shaky cam) was the resolution.  They had been told that two people from the same district could escape and Catness and Peeta survived.  They then said, “PSYCH!” and said they had to kill each other.  They decide to eat poison berries together and they give in and tell them they can both go home.  The problem with this is that they gave no weight to this dilemma and resolution, both of which were introduced and dissipated within the span of a minute.  ::END SPOILER::

Pretty much all of the performances in the movie were good, and also roughly what I’d expect from the bulk of the cast.  Jennifer Lawrence didn’t get an Oscar nomination for being hot (although that’s why I’d give her one).  She’s a good actress.  But I was curious what genetic experiment is going to come up in later books that caused her to be the only attractive person in her entire district.  She had a good bit of attitude to her.  The fact that she was never able to fully achieve badassdom was the fault of the writing, not the actress.  Neither of the love interests (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth) did anything spectacular for me to pay them any attention, even though one of them is the brother of Thor.  Hutcherson was a little annoying to me, and usually seemed pretty dumb.  I love Elizabeth Banks, and she was good in the movie, but they made her look so weird that I only recognized her because I had seen it before watching the movie.  I also had no idea Lenny Kravitz was in the movie, but that’s all I have to say about his character.  Woody Harrelson got off to a rough start for me as Sammitch, acting the part of the clichéd guy who’s seen too much, always drunk and rude.  But you warm up to him as the movie goes along.  The only thing I have to say about Wes Bentley is that his facial hair in the movie annoyed the piss out of me.  I don’t even know how his performance was because I kept staring at it.  Also, Donald Sutherland looked like Santa Claus.

I still think you women need to raise your standards.  You’ve stepped up a pretty solid amount from Twilight, but you could still do much better.  The story was predictable, slow, and mostly Catness sleeping up a tree.  The shaky cam was annoying, but their random omission of sound was worse.  The performances were good, though.  There are worse ways to spend two and a half hours than this movie, but you might find it more entertaining to sleep in a tree for yourself.  I don’t really recommend this movie.  I promise not to hate people for liking it as I did with Twilight, but I cannot throw my vote behind others seeing it.  The Hunger Games gets “I guess we try to forget” out of “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)


I Punched Out Adolf Hitler 200 Times.

I just watched a trailer that made me really excited for May of next year. So excited that I decided I should try to do one movie a month that will set us up for that movie. The movie I’m excited about is the Avengers, and today’s movie is the most recent Avenger movie about the oldest Avenger, Captain America. I’ve already knocked out Thor, so I have two Iron Man movies and two Hulk movies left. So, again, the one I’m knocking out for this month is Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi, J.J. Feild, Bruno Ricci, and a brief appearance – as in most Avenger movies – Samuel L. Jackson.

A bunch of scientists are messing around in the Arctic when they find something in the snow. It’s a giant spacecraft looking thing. Inside, they find a circular object with red, white, and blue on it. We then dive into the backstory of that circular object. Back in 1942, a Nazi scientist named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) busts into a church looking for a shiny, blue cube with untold powers. In the US, a scrawny kid by the name of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) keeps getting rejected from the army because of his health and wussiness. But the kid’s got moxie! A scientist named Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recognizes Steve’s moxie and allows him to join the army to see if he’s got what it takes to be the guinea pig of Erskine’s super-soldier program. At first, his commanding officers, Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), don’t have a lot of confidence in him. But, after being the only soldier to jump on top of a dummy grenade that was thrown as a test, they agree to allow him into the program. Moxie! A couple injections and some vita-rays later, Steve Rogers turns from a scrawny fuck into a big hunk of man meat. At first, Steve is made to go around on propaganda tours to raise money for the war, but when he tries that mess for the troops, they mock him for being lame. He finds out that his old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and a number of other troops were taken prisoner so Steve Rogers resolves to rescue them. He successfully rescues them and meets Schmidt, who then takes off his Agent Smith mask and reveals that he’s the Red Skull – failed first experiment of the super-soldier program – and that he’s got a plan to basically destroy the world. Steve Rogers, with the help of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), gets a snazzy new outfit, a sweet, very familar, Vibranium shield, and starts ass whooping some Nazi’s under the name Captain America, even though he’s only First Sergeant America.

It always warms my heart when Marvel makes a good movie out of one of their franchises. As with most comic book companies that have taken their characters to the big screen, Marvel has had a spotty history, but they were able to pull off Captain America very well. And thank Odin for that too, because Captain America is not only one of the biggest names in comic books, but he’s also kind of an American icon. The story of this movie could probably not help but be good. Just put the Captain America origin story up on the big screen. That can’t be that hard. That origin story was good when it started, and it has been refined over the years in different incarnations of the Captain that I can’t imagine much difficulty for the writers here. At first, I was thinking that the message of the movie about a scrawny kid becoming a hero was a good message, then I got to thinking that this message is lost because of the fact that he was only able to become a hero by getting changed completely by a serum that real scrawny people won’t have access to. But who cares, the movie is good times. I also like the whole part about Captain America disappearing in martyrdom, then being found in present day and recruited for the Avengers, but that was a fairly small part in the movie that just bookended the rest of the movie. It was also pretty cool that Cap starts off using a gun but quickly learns that he can whoop ass with just his shield and stopped using guns. A couple of story things that caught me was that, at one point, a spy from Hydra tries to sabotage and steal the super-soldier program and he sets off a cigarette case explosion with a button in a lighter. The thing I thought was weird was that this same lighter made a car explode and made his submarine come up. That is a versatile lighter button! Also, Captain America gets onto Red Skull’s big ass plane by the landing gear which made me think: shouldn’t someone do something about landing gear? How many times have you seen someone sneak their way onto a plane through the landing gear, either in movies or video games? Heck, I just did it in Uncharted 3 a couple days ago. Someone should figure that out.

I really like the visual style of the movie too. It’s definitely a period piece, taking place in the 1940’s and all, but it’s also got a little futuristic part to it because of all the cool technology that Stark and Schmidt had invented. The contrast really worked for the movie. The effect of shrinking down beefcake Chris Evans into a scrawny kid actually worked better than I expected. I half expected it to be an awful, young Jeff Bridges from Tron thing, but they did it much better. There were times when the face didn’t fit that well, but for the most part it looked good. I also watched the special features and found out that sometimes it was just Chris Evans in the scene and they shrunk him digitally and sometimes they plastered his face onto a scrawny dude’s body. They also changed Cap’s outfit a bit, as they tend to do in movies, but it still had the classic look to it. It wasn’t nearly as drastic as the changes in the X-Men movies, where each of their distinctive outfits became black leather gear. In this movie, Cap’s normally weird outfit of a blue scaly top, red pirate boots, and wings on his helmet became something more practical with the same color schemes. And they threw in the old outfit as his propaganda costume just to show people how gay it would look.

I came to a realization in watching this movie. I really want to hate Chris Evans because he’s all in shape and handsome and whatnot, but I can’t. He’s an entertaining guy to watch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do an emotionally charged performance before, but I thought he was cool in Fantastic Four, Captain America, and Scott Pilgrim. He’s like Brad Pitt, but not as great an actor. I really want to hate them both, but I like their movies so I can’t. Hugo Weaving is also a badass. I had just been thinking the other day about people that have played so many awesome characters in movies and my best example was Hugo Weaving. He has Red Skull, Elrond in Lord of the Rings, V from V for Vendetta, Agent Smith in the Matrix, and he’s the voice of Megatron in Transformers. Tommy Lee Jones is also awesome in this movie. He doesn’t play it like the classic army guy that R. Lee Ermey made a staple. What he does do is play a pretty serious role that is always making snarky comments. My favorite was when Hayley Atwell kissed Chris Evans goodbye before he got on Red Skull’s plane and then he looked at Tommy Lee Jones and TLJ said “I’m not kissin’ you”. Good times. Hayley Atwell herself did a fine job but she was mainly there to have a love interest for Cap. I liked Sebastian Stan as Bucky, Stanley Tucci as the doctor, and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, but I don’t really have anything much to say about them.

Captain America is not a movie that will bring out tons of emotions in it’s audience, and I’m not sure they’re really going for that. What they seemed to want to make is a good times movie, and they did. The look was fantastic, the story was from the comics and was always great, but translated well, and the performances were all great too. I bought this movie on BluRay the day it was released and I believe this is a good enough movie to join any respectable movie collection, but in the very least, you should rent it. I’ll give this movie “I think it works” out of “I’m a captain!”

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