Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Hunger Games (3-Disc Deluxe Edition + Digital Copy) (2012)

The Hunger Games"Hunger Games" is certainly the best film I have seen since many many months, and it is a very successful adaptation of an excellent book.

In my personal opinion, both the book and the film are much deeper and much more ambitious, than what most critics and reviewers would make us believe. After reading the reviews in "New York Times", "Le Monde" and on "" (to cite only few) I was surprised that they mostly missed everything that is important in this film. With a kind of amused superiority, which people from Capitol in this movie would immediately recognize, the "professional" reviewers pointed at the obvious allusions to gladiator fights, the reality shows, the importance of trashy entertainment in today's TV, the search for a new franchise able to replace "Twilight", etc., etc.

But they almost entirely failed to see, that this film is first and above all about much more important things: how to keep hope, not lose the courage and preserve humanity and dignity under a totalitarian oppressive regime.

I believe that almost everybody now knows that when writing "Hunger Games" Susan Collins attempted basically a modern (even futurist) retelling of the old Greek myth of Theseus and Minotaur. According to this ancient tale, after losing a war, every year the city of Athens had to send a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens to the king of Crete. Once there the young people were locked in the Labyrinth, to be devoured by the monster Minotaur. This yearly punishment and humiliation lasted until Theseus, crown prince of Athens, volunteered to be one of the tributes and once locked in the Labyrinth he defeated and killed the Minotaur.

In "Hunger Games" what was once United States (and I think also Canada) is now called the Panem. It is a country divided in twelve Districts remaining under the control of the Capitol central metropolis. There was once thirteen Districts, but when they rebelled against the central power, the Capitol destroyed completely the District 13 with all its population and then defeated and submitted again the twelve others. In order to remind to its subjects how absolute is its power, the Capitol claims a yearly tribute one girl and one boy of ages from 12 to 18 from every District. The tributes are then send to an arena and forced to fight, until only one remain alive. This yearly event is called the Hunger Games and it is shown live on TV to all the population of Panem. This film tells the story of what happened at the 74th edition of Hunger Games...

For Capitol the purpose of Hunger Games is to remind yearly how powerful is the central metropolis and how dire can be the consequences of its wrath, but also and even more importantly in my opinion to humiliate and degrade the people of the Districts by forcing them to become accomplices (even if under duress) of a barbarian custom in which some of their own children are send to the slaughterhouse. And as all bullies and abusers know, it is much easier to oppress, abuse and brutalize victims who lack self-esteem...

Well, in this film we can see how one of the tributes from District 12, an exceptionnal young girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), manages to turn the tables on the Capitol and by allowing people of Panem to regain some of their dignity she will be the pebble which starts the avalanche. The exact way in which she does that will not be revealed here, but both in the book as in the film it is described in a very intelligent and very moving way...

This may seem a rather improbable thing that a 16 years old child can do something that will ultimately bring down a seemingly invincible and all-powerful tyranny, but let's not forget that in the real world, the great wave of revolutions of Arab Spring began on 18 December 2010 with a desperate gesture of a dirt-poor 27-years old Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire after having been robbed and beaten by the corrupt local police one time too much... Less than two years after, the opressive regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya already collapsed, the seemingly invulnerable dictator of Yemen had to resign and the Syrian brutal regime is facing a massive armed rebellion..

Bottom line, this film is first and before all a story about how even a seemingly powerless person can horribly hurt a tyrannic regime with a magic potion made of lots of courage, an ice-cold determination, a great personal dignity, a little compassion, a handful of flowers, a couple of tears and one defiant and powerful gesture...

The powerful message and excellent scenario are not the only reasons why I consider "Hunger Games" as a masterpiece. Actors were selected very carefully and they perform well. Jennifer Lawrence is simply perfect there is no other word to describe her performance! However, after seeing her in "Winter's Bone" and "X-Men: First class" I didn't expect anything less.

But the real surprise in this film comes from Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta Mellark, the boy tribute from District 12. His character is more difficult to play, because Peeta is in the same time more limited but also more complicated than Katniss. Josh Hutcherson could have very easily fall in one of the many traps which are build in Peeta's character. By overacting or underacting he could have make him a wimp or a passive follower or an immature kid, but he avoided those snares with grace and his Peeta comes out of this film as a surprisingly complexe and also a very likeable character. He is certainly not a hero and a fighter like Katniss but until the very end he preserves his honor, in a deadly place where he shouldn't ever be send...

A special mention goes to little Amandla Stenberg, who plays 12-years old Rue, the youngest of all the tributes. Her character is both secondary and in the same time incredibly important and this little cute pixie played it perfectly!

Other, more known actors contribute to the success of this film. Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, the only person from District 12 who ever won in the Hunger Games and is now an advisor to Katniss and Peeta. Lenny Kravitz portrayed a perfect Cinna, the man in charge of image of tributes from District 12 in public appearances before the games begin. And finally there is the giant figure of Donald Sutherland, who plays the supreme ruler of Panem, President Coriolanus Snow. He is purely incredible. There is a moment in this film when he says to somebody "I like you" and I believe that I have never heard such a terrible and deadly threat in one short sentence since the archifamous Schwarzenegger's "I will be back"...

I also absolutely adored the using of the cameras. In some moments of this film we have the impression of going after the characters with a camera, like a war correspondent following the fighters (this style was also very skillfully used in "The Shield" series). Of course not all the film is turned in this way, but mixing this kind of scenes with more conventional ones gives here an excellent effect.

The games themselves are very skillfully described and are a very dramatic tale, full of surprises and twists. I found them much much better than "Battle Royale", to which this book and film are often compared. The games are deadly and brutal, but there is only limited gore I think this film is suitable for young teenagers, although not for children younger than 12. There is also absolutely no nudity, sex or strong language and I for one found it a most excellent thing.

There are still many more good things to say about this film, but I believe you should discover them by yourself. One more thing however about the book it is of course possible to see and greatly enjoy this film without reading the book, but I believe that reading the novel first is a good idea. If reading the whole book is out of question, I would advise to read at least the first hundred pages. It will not reveal much about the games themselves, but it will allow for a better understanding of some of the key elements: the strength of the bond between Katniss and her younger sister, the history that Katniss shares with her hunting partner Gale, the complicated relation between Katniss and her mother and last but not least, the mysterious bond existing between Katniss and Peeta Mellark.

About this last point: if you did not yet read the book I do not want to spoil the pleasure of discovery so I will say just this Katniss and Peeta lived for 16 years in the same village, but they never spoke one to another (except for an occasional "Hello") and they never touched one another in any way. And still, they share a secret as big as life and death, a secret which both bonded them together and in the same time separated them deeply... If you want to know the solution of this riddle you have either to watch very very carefully every scene of the film or simply read the book...

Conclusion: this film is a masterpiece! I loved it and I am going to buy the DVD as soon as it is available. And I am SOOO going to see the the second part, as soon as it opens!

I enjoyed this movie. Yes, I've read the books. People will always be upset because things are always missing from the story when you take a book and transfer it to film. I thought it was done well. Other people didn't understand the concept. This is a trilogy, you're not supposed to learn everything in the first book. Everything will come together, and there will be more understanding. Overall, it was a great representation of the book, in my opinion.

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For the record I am a HUGE Hunger Games fan and have been of the books for over 2 years. Please do not read this as a rant, but rather a fans opinion.

This movie is garbage in the representation of the books. It was created specifically with Twilight fan-girls in mind. The first chunk of the movie is very, very slow and does not explain anything well. If you did not read the book (or books, actually, as the movie jumps a bit ahead on features), I cannot see something really understanding what is going on. At the very least, the true meaning from the book is lost.

"HEY! Movies can't be exactly like the books!" you may say. Yes, I agree with this but to a point. The books revolve around the main fact: the Capital forces two children from each district to brutally murder each other to survive. The film makers took this and decided for the young children audience that the kids would fluff each other to death. Deaths magically become fuzzy or shaky, with music or odd sound overlayed to the scene.

I went to see this movie opening night at a nice theater it cost me about $20 a reserved seat which I purchased first available day. It was packed 90% with teenage girls who screamed over the barely-there deaths and gasped out loud over the kiss which, if you read the book, is not a "real" kiss. Before the movie 12 year old girls were running around yelling "TEAM PEETA!".

Greed took advantage of what had amazing potential. Money was the key factor young girls will be running out to buy the "team" shirts and action figure toys. A rated R movie would have been true to the story, but would generate a mere fraction in sales.

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Director Gary Ross's version of Suzanne Collins's HUNGER GAMES manages to sanitize the entire concept of kids-killing-kids in order to produce a PG-13 blockbuster that's sure to rake in the big bucks. But what was devastating and heart-wrenching in the novel is glossed over and prettified here, leaving me feeling none of the emotional impact I experienced in reading the book.

[**SPOILER WARNING** I'm assuming readers are familiar with the novel, so some plot elements will be discussed in this review.]

Don't get me wrong, this is a slick and well-made film, with plenty of action and a sensational performance from Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen. The settings are well done, especially the Capitol in all its crazy-colored chic-ness and over-the-top luxury. District 12, the poorest district in Panem, is believably presented as well, complete with starving people dressed in rags and walking like zombies to their depressing jobs. The scene of the "Reaping" is chillingly done, and the scenes of Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) getting primped and trained in the Capitol hit perfect satiric notes (it's all so "reality TV," which is what makes it all so believable).

What doesn't work are the scenes of the Games themselves. From the start, Ross misses the mark. When the Games are seconds from beginning, the 24 teens are standing in a semi-circle, staring down at weapons and backpacks strewn about around the Cornucopia as they wait for the countdown to hit zero. We need to feel what they're feeling. We need to feel their terror, their horror, and yes, even their excitement. But Ross doesn't let us feel any of that. Instead, he keeps the focus almost solely on Katniss, and once everyone starts rushing forward, he cuts so quickly between scenes that it's almost impossible to see what's going on. We are aware that people are being killed, but it happens so fast and with so little reaction from the characters themselves, that it has little impact.

The same holds true for the rest of the games. Horrible things happen, but I never felt that they had much affect on Katniss or Peeta. Most of the killing in the film happens off screen, or the camera cuts away before anything brutal is revealed. That wouldn't be a bad thing if we could at least see some believable reaction shots. But we don't. On top of that, none of these characters look like they've been out in the woods for days, trying to kill each other. Close-ups of hands show clean, manicured fingernails, and everyone looks amazingly dirt-free (aside from Peeta, who camouflages himself with mud at one point but even then, he's clean and chipper-looking a few scenes later).

Rue's climactic death scene is equally ridiculous. Rue (Amandla Stenberg) looks downright gorgeous, like she's on her way to a photo shoot instead of swinging in trees to avoid getting knifed (in fact, we don't get to see her swinging in trees at all, just peeking out from between branches). Her hair is perfect, there's not a scratch or bit of dirt on her, and when Katniss is holding her as she dies, it's impossible to imagine that they've been out in the woods for days without soap and water, fighting for their lives. It's just all too pretty, all too nice.

I walked out of the theater feeling oddly detached from what I'd just seen. That's not at all the way I felt in reading the book. The novel was gripping and gut-wrenching, and although it was certainly not graphically violent or bloody, the situation Katniss found herself in was chilling and horrifying and impossible to forget. At the end of the film, however, Katness seems almost unscathed by what she has just experienced. I didn't see any indication that she is the wounded, devastated young woman she is in the novel. In the final scene, she's more bothered by seeing Gale (Liam Hemsworth) in the crowd at the train station while she's holding Peeta's hand. Yikes, girl, you've just KILLED people and seen children covered in blood . . . surely you'd be thinking of something more than which guy you like better.

There are changes in the film that might bother the die-hard fans. The "Mutts" that attack during the final act are just generic beasts in the film (they don't have the faces of the fallen tributes), which minimizes their impact. The symbolic Mockingjay pin just shows up near the start of the film without explanation. But these are minor changes. Stanley Tucci is great as Flickerman, Woody Harrelson is terrific as Haymitch, and I enjoyed seeing Donald Southerland as President Snow (although his performance was so low-key I had trouble imagining him as a ruthless dictator).

This is a big movie, and it's going to be a huge success. I have no doubt a huge percentage of HUNGER GAMES fans will be thrilled with what they see on the screen. I just wanted to feel more. The whole idea of being forced to kill people for a TV viewing audience is absolutely horrifying I wanted to see that and feel that in this movie, the way I did in the novel. You can't win a "game" like this. Haymitch is proof that you can't win (what happens to his life after winning the Games is evidence of what such brutality will do to you). In the novel, Katniss herself is torn apart by what happens. In the film, not so much.

HUNGER GAMES is not a terrible film. I'm glad I saw it. But it in no way does justice to the novel, and that's too bad.

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I bought the DVD of "The Hunger Games" yesterday and watched it for the first time since seeing it in the theater. Looking back on my previous review, I realized I was a little too harsh on the movie. Watching it the second time around, I liked it a lot more than I originally did. However, it's still not without it's flaws. My overall rating for the film is now teetering at about 3.5. Not quite a perfect 4, but not a 3.



*The acting. This was one of the things I was able to appreciate more watching the movie the second time around. Jennifer Lawrence appears to have been born to play this role. She embodied the role of Katniss perfectly. Josh Hutcherson played a pretty good Peeta. He certainly looks the part, with a round, sweet face. I especially liked him at the beginning, the way he followed Haymitch around like a dog, trying to get tips. I have a few quibbles with him, but overall, really enjoyed his performance. Liam Hemsworth was okay, I guess. It's sort of hard to judge his acting, with what little we were given of Gale (I mean, he wasn't in the book much more, but still.) Most of his scenes were just making angsty faces when Katniss and Peeta kissed.

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) was also perfect. He was exactly how I envisioned Haymitch. I also loved Effie (Elizabeth Banks.) Banks played the airheaded Capitol native well. She had excellent comedic timing with her lines and had a bubbly, vacant personality that was perfect for Effie.

(I realize I'm using the word "perfect" a lot.)

All of the tributes were also well-cast. Rue (Amandla Stenberg) was absolutely adorable. Cato was scary. His movement throughout the film just seemed to say, "Don't mess with this guy." I liked his monologue at the end, which showed that he wasn't all bad and, like the other tributes, was scared and wanted to go home. Clove was terrifying. The actress who played her was younger than what I imagined Clove in the book to be, but her younger age made her more frightening, with how vicious she was with a knife.

Donald Sutherland was different than the Snow I imagined, but that's not a bad thing. I liked that he looked a little more friendly. He looked more like Santa or someone's grandpa. The way he delivered his lines and his voice, though, said otherwise. He was wonderfully creepy.

Moving on...

*Costumes and makeup. The Capitol's costumes and makeup were insane and I loved it. It was wonderful. It really reflected how silly and airy the Capitol people are. Oh, and some of the hairstyles in this movie. I loved Katniss's hair during the "girl-on-fire" scene was beautiful. Also, Seneca Crane's beard? It made me sad that he died, knowing that I would never see that beautiful beard again. RIP, Seneca.

*Glimpses outside the arena. I thought that was a nice touch, since in the book, we're limited to Katniss's perspective. It was interesting to see the Gamemakers add things to the Games. That scene from District 11 was also a nice addition to the movie. In the books, we only hear about a revolution starting via Haymitch telling Katniss and it seems sort of distant. In this, we got to see that the revolution was happening NOW.

*Followed the book pretty well. The movie followed the book very well. Of course, not everything was perfect, but what book-to-movie adaptation is? Overall, I was impressed with how the book transferred to the screen.


*Cinna. Now, he wasn't exactly terrible. My expectations for Lenny Kravitz were kind of low. He surprised me and I'll admit, he didn't seem completely miscast. But something about him still felt kind I personally feel that Cinna could have been cast better, but like I said, Kravitz wasn't terrible.

*The score. It didn't have that broad, epic sound I thought maybe it would have. When a movie is this big, you expect it to have a theme song that will be memorable (think "Harry Potter" or "Lord of the Rings.) I feel that we didn't really get to hear enough of the score, since there were so many silent moments in the movie. What we did hear was, in my personal opinion, just seemed sort of generic, like music you hear in other action/adventure movies. It just didn't really strike me as anything special.


*Long awkward silences. At certain points during the Games, the movie goes practically silent or the sound is muffled. Occasionally, it works, but overall, it's just very awkward.

*Cinematography. As many other reviewers have mentioned, the cinematography is incredibly shaky. I will praise it for this: It helped with the gore. I think the shaky cinematography eliminated some of the violence. You could tell what was going on, but it didn't get as graphic as it could have. However, it became kind of annoying after a while. I understand what the filmmakers were going for, but I don't think it had the effect that they wanted. It just made some parts difficult to watch. I also wasn't a huge fan of the zoom-ins they did (like when they zoom in on Katniss's lips before she blows up the supplies.) While the cinematography helped tone down the violence, it ended up looking more like a little kid had taped it with a camera.

*Games felt rushed. Not horribly so, but I think the movie could have had a little extra time. I think the fandom would have sat through twenty-thirty extra minutes. One part that really suffers, in my opinion, were Rue's scenes. Katniss wakes up, finds Rue, there's a short (and I mean, SHORT) bit showing them eating, then it launches into the blow-up-the-supplies scene where Rue is ultimately killed.

*Cave scene. This kind of goes along with the "games felt rushed" problem. I feel like this scene needed a little extra time. It ends up being one of the bigger scenes in the book, with Katniss pretending she loves Peeta, Peeta thinking it's real, and Katniss realizing it might not all be an act. In the end, this scene was mainly just Peeta telling Katniss about his near-lifelong crush on her, along with some rather creepy dialogue. "I watched you walk home from school every day. Every day." Well, hello, Edward Cullen! It also made it seem like Katniss was really, truly in love with Peeta, as opposed to faking it, although I will say that towards the end, when they come home to District 12, she seems a little awkward with Peeta.

Overall, this certainly wasn't a bad movie. It was a good adaptation of the book with some amazing acting. But it did have its flaws and it wasn't perfect. However, I think fans will enjoy the movie.

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