24 March 2012

The Hunger Games: On the big screen!

22 bookstore employees and assorted friends and family members.  2 rows of a movie theatre booked.  Midnight premiere.  Hmm, must be The Hunger Games.

This had to be one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I've seen in quite a long time.  Being a first-person narrative, it probably wasn't easy.  There wasn't too much exposition so the story didn't feel bogged down in trying to explain how Panem came into being or why Katniss and Gale are out hunting beyond a dead electric fence or why the citizens of the Capitol treat the Hunger Games like the World Cup soccer tournament.  The two small added scenes were quite clever and created the layer of manipulative government Katniss suspects in the book.  It was a good two hours of entertainment.

The casting for this movie is spot on.  Jennifer Lawrence owns Katniss inside and out.  Josh Hutcherson as Peeta is effortlessly charming.  President Snow (Donald Sutherland) looks sweetly paternal.  Stanley Tucci as Cesar-the-TV-personality is almost exactly like I imagined him in the book - charming, smarmy, false, and an outrageous blue bouffant.  Liam Hemsworth looks good as Gale (capable, big, strong, quiet) but doesn't have much to do so the adaptations for Catching Fire and Mockingjay (why these three movies weren't shot back-to-back since it was practically a given that The Hunger Games would make bank for Lionsgate...it out-pre-sold the last Harry Potter and Twilight movies) are more important for him.

Now, there are two drawbacks.  One (minor spoiler if you haven't read the books - and if you haven't read the books then you really ought to), I never felt Katniss and Peeta were in mortal danger at the end of the Games.  There are serious concerns about their injuries in the book but neither of them have more than a few scratches in the fight with Cato.  This doesn't provide enough of a contrast with the love angle Kaniss has to play with Peeta.  I fault the directing on that one.

As to the second drawback, this is a major fault of both the cinematographer and director.  Nearly every part of this movie was shot using shaky-cam/handheld work (exceptions are Cesar's segments which were obviously steadycam/crane/dolly shots).  The shaky camera combined with quick cuts running segments through woods with light filtering through leaves and foliage flashing past the camera added all up to one thing: motion sickness.  I don't get motion sickness - you can put me on the craziest roller coaster and I am good to go - but this really got to me (a quick poll of the group members revealed that most of us started feeling queasy during the movie).  We were sitting near the front and that probably made it worse so I would recommend sitting in the back to you have other places to look during the movie if you need the room to stop spinning.  There wasn't any need to have the shaky camera work throughout the movie.  The fast cuts were enough.

1) Movie the Movie: ??? was this for real?  or is it a spoof of a trailer??  I dunno.
2) ParaNorman - looks like Coraline, possibly might be cute
3) The Amazing Spiderman - not sure what to think; since I'm not a Spiderman afficionado I'll defer to my friends who are and they say this looks good
4) Titanic 3D - Yarf; money-making grab by Cameron and I don't get WHY they had to post convert it to 3D because it's going to look icky and dark (although, confession, even though I ding this movie for the story it has great effects and I get all choked up every time the theme music comes up)
5) The Host - the most low-rent teaser trailer ever; it's currently filming so they just put pictures representing all genders and cultural types with the "alien" ring around their pupils culminating with Saoirse Ronan...boooooorrrrrrinnnnnggggg (and the book is just Twilight with Aliens instead of Vampires, trust me I know; I read it)
6) What to Expect When You're Expecting - this does look very funny ("my kid ate a cigarette" "no judging") so I might break my rule about seeing comedies/rom-coms infested with celebrities
7) Breaking Dawn Part 2 - also a low-rent teaser; seriously, all they had ready was a shot of Bella stalking a deer?  That movie is already in the can.  Boring.

(I was disappointed in the trailers this go round - with all the super-awesome movie due out this summer this wasn't a great selection; I get that this is a "teen" movie but there are more things to pick that are shot/have better trailers)

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