AEOS Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014)

What’s interesting about Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014) is the criticism its received for being a movie adaptation of half a book more than being critiqued for the movie it is. That’s not to say I’m hating on my fellow critics and movie fans as much as I’m saying that the film got a bad rap before it even screened.

Of course, there’s nothing the movie could do to repair itself from its already negative standing among critics. To offer up only a first half of a story and leave the audience hanging for a year is a cruel move. But I think punishing the film for this is like pointing the finger at the victim rather than the wrong-doer. Historically speaking, Twilight and Harry Potter started the trend of YA book series being adapted into films, and then slicing the epic finale into two films. The short version we understand this as? A cash grab.

The cash grab has become the center of discussion revolving around Mockingjay Pt 1, thus painting it black and predicting its future location on FYE clearance shelves next to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (2011) for years to come.

David Yates let me read only the first half of the Deathly Hallows before shooting this pointless film . . .

Personally, I walked into the theater expecting what everyone predicted: a cash grab that left me bored, disappointed, and unimpressed. But I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now bunkered in District 13, where she’s demanding for the rescue of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), walking around angry and confused, and desperately hoping she can finally be left alone after suffering and surviving two Hunger Games.

As fellow readers and fans of the book series, we all know that Katniss will still be put on display in the third book. But instead of fighting to the death for public entertainment, instead she’ll become the official symbol of hope, representing the good in this battle against the evil Capitol, run by dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

And it’s “moves and countermoves,” as Mr. Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reminds viewers. It’s all about how Katniss is perceived. She’s to be an ally for District 13, a glimmer of hope for fighting districts, a threat to the Capitol, a demand to come home for Peeta, and perhaps a pillar of strength both for herself and Finnick (Sam Claflin), as they seek strength in knowing they’re loved ones are suffering at the hands of Snow.

RIP, Mr. Hoffman.

Seeing Mockingjay Pt 1 has really made me want to reread the book upon which its based. I wasn’t expecting the action, the blanks to be filled in, and the perspectives outside of Katniss’s to entertain me the way writers Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and book author Suzanne Collins presented them in this third film installment.

This new dark chunk in the dystopian cake seemed to present a new layer of young adult film adaptations to movie viewers. For me, the message was sent that for being a film based off a popular young adult series, that Mockingjay Pt 1 wasn’t required to sit in a box labeled “YA adaptations.” Mockingjay Pt 1 played to its strengths and took risks, not just because studios required the book to be split into two films, but because both the writers and director Francis Lawrence actually seemed to want to make a good movie.

While the previous movies showed Katniss’s struggle to deal with the hypocrisy of the Capitol and ultimately survive in the hunger games, Mockingjay focused its time on how Heavensbee, President Coin (Julianne Moore), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) along with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and an entire camera team presenting Katniss to the public, which proved to be a greater struggle than fighting in the games for Katniss. In the games, Katniss could be her true self among strangers, because she understood she needed to survive, and she felt comfortable with a bow and arrow. But force her in front of a camera and ask her to rally the districts while she was still suffering PTSD and desiring to recover Peeta wasn’t working. So they took her to the ruins of District 12 and a makeshift hospital of other districts’s survivors.

It seems like more and more seasoned actors and actresses join The Hunger Games (2012) universe with each movie, and they support the foundation of an already solid script and coherent direction. While Jennifer Lawrence plays the star, it is the supporting cast that ultimately sells the film, from Woody Harrelson to Stanley Tucci, to newcomer Julianne Moore.

I actually pull off the gray hair rather well, yes?

James Newton Howard scores this third film, playing off the original themes he created in the first Hunger Games film. The special effects are even amped up, including explosions and some exciting action scenes. One particular scene had me especially fascinated and on edge, as we got to see some District 13 soldiers go on a rescue mission inside the Capitol while Katniss kept Snow on the line to “distract” him. The additions the movie offers that readers missed out on seem to work well for movie audiences, filling in the holes instead of confusing viewers who haven’t read the books.

Mockingjay Pt 1 did include a few things that bothered me, such as the wigs Jennifer Lawrence donned. It was obvious it wasn’t her real hair, and I found it distracting throughout the film. I also felt like Gale (Liam Hemsworth) wasn’t given enough to do, so he seemed to just be walking around, hoping to add to the film with his good Aussie looks since he rarely got any lines.

Despite those issues, I left the theater much more impressed than I expected to be when I walked in. I think if viewers and critics alike can overlook the obvious cash grab ordeal that has hovered over the film, I think many people can agree that Mockingjay Pt 1 is a solid installment in Collins’s epic book-to-screen adaptations. While the odds were certainly not in the film’s favor to succeed with critics, I give Mockingjay Pt 1

Eye Art1Eye Art1Eye Art1
1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Mockingjay Part 1? Do you think it deserves a place beside the first two films? Sound off in the comments below.

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Recast-athon: Up in the Air, Black Swan, and Silver Linings Playbook

While I enjoy the occasional Recast Edition post here at AEOS, I was super excited when I noticed that Ruth over at Flixchatter took part in this new blogathon that she found from Andrew, who started/is hosting it over at his blog, A Fistful of Films.

Picture Film StripHere are the rules:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn’t require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don’t need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person). This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time. So, in other words, don’t select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968’s Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn’t born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit. Plead her case. Let’s tell those Hollywood casting directors what they’re missing.

Here are my picks:

Tao Okamoto or Jamie Chung as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air (2009)

I’m unknown, but I look important here.

I know most people would probably find Tao Okamoto to be an odd choice, considering how unknown she is. The only major acting credit she has was as Mariko, Wolverine’s love interest in last year’s The Wolverine. Okamoto is slender, and she seems like she could pull off an awkward and shy role such as Natalie Keener in Up in the Air. She’s also the same age as Anna Kendrick, and she shares similar physical features. Kendrick was relatively unknown until she portrayed Keener in the Oscar-nominated film, so I imagined the role would be one to jumpstart an unknown actress’s film career.

I can play tough AND vulnerable.

Jamie Chung has yet to reach a higher level of fame in Hollywood as well since most of her acting credits include guest and background roles, lower budget films, TV movies, and video game voicework. Her recurring role as Mulan on the show Once Upon a Time (2011-) proves that she can hold her own, putting her dramatic and action chops on display. Only two years older than Kendrick, she’s right around the same age, and she has a likable quality and youthful appearance that makes her seem approachable, a characteristic she’d need to pull off the role.

Saldana participated in a photoshoot inspired by the styles of Black Swan in InStyle.

Zoe Saldana as Nina Sayers in Black Swan (2010)

While Natalie Portman is very beautiful, and certainly convincing enough as Nina Sayers in Black Swan, I never thought the role needed to be filled by a white actress. The first actress who came to my mind was Zoe Saldana. She’s certainly more established than the other actresses I’ve listed, appearing in a variety of films that include physical action, dramatic acting, and suspenseful situations, all qualities needed to play the role of Sayers. Not only does Saldana has a svelte figure that would help her portray a ballerina, but she also is an accomplished dancer who cites ballet as one of her first passions. While she’s three years older than Portman, she’s still right within that age bracket that would work for the role.

Zoe Kravitz as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

“Don’t make me throw this knife at you!”

I imagine this recast could be considered a stretch when you compare Jennifer Lawrence’s filmography and experience to Zoe Kravitz’s. When one hears the name “Kravitz,” they think of Lenny, not Zoe. But from the few films the younger Kravitz has taken part in, I think she’s been waiting for her big break. Silver Linings Playbook is a character-driven film, and I could easily see Zoe Kravitz filling the role of Tiffany Maxwell. She’s able to say a lot with just her facial expressions, and no doubt she could use that skill to play Tiffany. Since she’s a couple years older than Lawrence, in some ways, I think her age would make her more appropriate for the role than Lawrence was, despite how much I loved her in it.

It’s your turn now. What do you think of my choices? Who would you recast in this roles? Head over to Andrew’s page, Fistful of Films, to read about why he chose to start this recast-athon, and feel free to join in and write your own post if you’d like!

Trailer Break: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Happy Thursday, all! The latest trailer to make a splash on the Internet is for the next Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), its U.S. premiere only two months away! We’ve seen multiple teasers, but we’re finally getting a a little more footage in this latest trailer.

While I’m excited for this next HG movie, I can’t help but be a bit skeptical about this film just because it’s dividing one book into two movies. As we’ve all seen before, usually the Part 1 movie is dull because it’s lacks the excitement, action, and climax of the story. Part 1 films exist as the “calm before the storm,” so to say. Regardless of what may be the stereotype, the latest trailer boasts an action-packed movie filled with excitement.

Check it out and decide for yourself:

 

“Miss Everdeen, it’s the things we love most that destroy us.”

Definitely get chills when I hear that line! I’m glad to see they’re adding some action to this movie. I’m expecting more drama from this film, because the major action scenes come primarily in the second half of the book.

In addition to a new trailer, there are some great official posters floating around recently. You can find the rest of them at Rotten Tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images found via Google Images.

It’s your turn. What do you think of the latest trailer of Mockingjay Part 1? Are you planning to see it in theaters come November? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

While the past decade has boasted higher ticket prices at the theaters, the art of film, or plainly stated, the box office records, have show some major trends in movies over the past five years. While this list can easily exceed five trends, these are ones I have noticed and researched.

5) Dystopian book-to-film adaptations on the rise

Recently, I published a post on a comparison of The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014) films. Those two movies are part of only two of the major book-turned-film franchises to hit the box office over the past five years. Most film fans are no stranger to the dystopian film genre. The Matrix (1999) series started in the late ’90s. Tom Cruise’s film The Minority Report (2002) was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) are only three offerings of the genre we were offered in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the past five years (2010-2014), I have noticed many dystopian books get a movie deal.

Never-Let-Me-Go-30929_5

The first one in the past five years I thought of was Never Let Me Go (2010), a British sci-fi drama that focused on the lives of three clones who exist for the purpose of donating their organs to others. Another popular, although unsuccessful film, is Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2010), a dystopian film based on the controversial novel by Ayn Rand. One book that, while may not be considered dystopian in nature, nevertheless has its film adaptation fit well enough into the dystopian genre is World War Z (2013), starring Brad Pitt. Two other noteworthy films to include in this category are Dredd (2012) and Oblivion (2013), each based off graphic novels, the latter inspired by Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished manuscript of the same name.

Of course, the most well-known dystopian book-to-film adaptations include the box-smashing The Hunger Games series, with the final two movies getting released this year and 2015; Divergent, the movie based on the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth; The Giver, an unsuccessful film adaptation that didn’t sit well with critics, yet was inspired by a prominent book written in the early ’90s (you can see my review of the movie here); and The Maze Runner, the the first of three popular James Dashner novels that will be released next month in theaters.

4) Female protagonist films lead the box office

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were women-centered films and female protagonists. They were marketed in a much more sexist way then, but the times have changed, and more films have starred women. But in the last five years, films with female-protagonists have led the box office. According to Time‘s article “5 Things We’ve Learned in 5 Years of Box Office Reports,” published just this past April, the year 2012 included three movies in the top eight that starred women: The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence; Breaking Dawn Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart; and Brave, starring the talented voice work of Kelly Macdonald. The same article notes that last year, three of the top six films had female protagonists (Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Indina Menzel in Frozen).

Perhaps the most notable fact that supports the idea that female protagonist films are leading the box office is that 2013’s highest-grossing film was the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the first movie since 1965’s The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) to fill that top spot.

Of course, The Hunger Games franchise are not the only female-starring movies to make a splash at the box office over the past five years. Salt (2010), Hanna (2011), and Haywire (2012) were all female-led movies that obtained positive scores with both critics and viewers alike, with Angelina Jolie’s action film leading the box office with over $100 million.

3) Comic book movies no longer niche genre

When Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman (2002), I thought it was a special case. Personally, I loved that movie. My family regularly rented it from Blockbuster. It was the first superhero movie I had seen that wasn’t about Batman or Superman. The first Batman movie was released in theaters in 1966. I was amazed how odd it was that in 2002, it wasn’t considered a usual thing for a movie to be based on a comic book character, unless it was Superman or Batman. Blade 2 (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003),  Hellboy (2004), and Catwoman (2004) were all released in the next three years following Raimi’s first Spiderman, just a few of the comic-based movies to get released in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in theaters in 2000.

In the early 2000s, there’s a sense that many film critics didn’t take the comic book based film as seriously as other film genres, such as dramas, biopics, and comedies. But times have changed, and there has been a new acceptance of comic-based films as Marvel has mapped out its future in movies for at least the next six years. (This is a fun article worth checking out, Marvel fans.) DC seems to take note of Marvel, now working on its own agenda for a Batman vs. Superman movie along with a Justice League film franchise in the works.

While it isn’t perfect, I found a list that compiles every superhero movie released, both on TV and in theaters, including both animated and live-action films. A quick view of the list would prove that comic book movies are no longer niche, but far more commonplace as they have found a place at the movies, considerably expanding its audience. I would personally credit Christopher Nolans’s The Dark Knight trilogy for giving audiences and critics a darker, more serious adaptation of comic based films, proving that just because the movie is based off a comic book character, doesn’t mean it can’t be a stylistic, entertaining, and bold film worthy of praise.

2) Sequels and remakes lead the way

Perhaps this trend has existed more than just in the past five years, but I imagine most anyone can agree that few original screenplays make it to the big screen today, and if they do, they usually do not sell the most tickets or perform as successfully. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, such as 2010’s Inception, the original screenplay penned by Christopher Nolan, but let’s get back to the point.

Fan art that just makes you laugh 🙂

Here is a non-exclusive, incomplete list over the past five years of major sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots that premiered each year:

2010: Clash of the Titans (sequel), Why Did I Get Married Too? (sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake), Iron Man 2 (sequel), Shrek Forever After (sequel), Sex and the City 2 (sequel), The A-Team (remake), The Karate Kid (remake), Toy Story 3 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (sequel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (sequel), True Grit (remake)

2011: Scream 4 (sequel), Paranormal Activity 3 (sequel), Fright Night (remake), The Hangover Part 2 (sequel), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (reboot), Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (sequel), Fast Five (sequel), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel), Cars 2 (sequel), Happy Feet 2 (sequel), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (sequel)

2012: The Dark Knight Rises (reboot, sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot), The Expendables 2 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (sequel), Men in Black 3 (sequel), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (sequel), Prometheus (prequel), Wrath of the Titans (sequel), Total Recall (remake), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel), The Bourne Legacy (sequel)

2013: Iron Man 3 (sequel), Carrie (remake), Despicable Me 2 (sequel), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (sequel), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel), Kick-Ass 2 (sequel), Man of Steel (reboot), Monsters University (sequel), Red 2 (sequel), Evil Dead (remake), Scary Movie 5 (sequel), The Great Gatsby (remake), Star Trek Into Darkness (reboot, sequel), The Hangover 3 (sequel)

2014: Annie (remake), 300: Rise of an Empire (sequel), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (reboot, sequel), Godzilla (remake), X-Men: Days of Future Past (prequel, sequel), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (sequel), Transformers: Age of Extinction (sequel), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (reboot, sequel), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (sequel)

What’s even funnier about it is that if you google “remakes and sequels for the year [fill in year],” every year for the past five years contains articles similarly titled to “[insert year]” is the year of remakes and sequels!

1) A billion dollars isn’t a billion dollars anymore

A quick check at recent box office records, or the same Time‘s article I’ve been citing throughout this post shows that the billion dollar list, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) becoming its first entry, has now grown to a whopping 19 movies, including both last year’s Iron Man 3 and Frozen.

List of Highest Grossing Films

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.” Green indicates the film is still playing in theaters around the world.

Looking at that list, you’ll notice that only three of those movies were released in the 1990s. Twelve of those films entered the list during the 2010s. But what’s most interesting about the list is that it isn’t adjusted for inflation, which changes everything, especially the list of highest-grossing films:

Highest Grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.”

Now it’s your turn, folks. What trends have you noticed in film in the past five years? Which trends do you find to be most dominant? Have some trends lasted longer than others? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts! 

A Dystopian Film Comparison: The Hunger Games (2012) vs. Divergent (2014)

Last week was a full week for TV/movies . . . I got to watch three different movies, while having just finished the book Gone Girl over the weekend before, and watching season 1 of The Killing (2011), one of AMC’s shows that has me currently obsessing over it. Originally I was going to post a review for all three films, but I got caught up in my review of Divergent (2014), so I decided it deserved its own post. As I was writing the post, I discovered it was becoming more and more of a comparison/contrast with The Hunger Games (2012) than an actual review of Divergent. So here are my thoughts and theories on the two films. (Keep in mind I’m comparing only the first Hunger Games film, not the entire franchise.)

Fans and adoring critics (adjective addition purposeful) have dubbed this past March’s dystopian offering, Divergent: a less popular version of The Hunger Games.

Here is a little chart I made up to compare the two films:

HG vs. Divergent

Now I realize this isn’t a perfect list. But comparing the two, there’s obviously a lot of similarities in the basis of how the movies’ origins came to be and the universes in which they take place. There are some distinct differences, however, that I think have been overlooked. According to the list, I noted four primary differences: setting, options for the characters’ choices, inclusion/exclusion of a love triangle, and the differences in gender roles for each movie’s primary set of characters.

Divergent takes places in a run-down Chicago, highlighting a lot of its famous architecture and sites, including the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. The setting of The Hunger Games includes futuristic locations created by the author, Suzanne Collins. There are twelve districts in which the world is divided, and there is arena where the games take place. This difference alone gives each movie a different feel. You’re taken with the world created for The Hunger Games, but for those who know Chicago or are from the area, might really appreciate moments, such as when Tris (Shailene Woodley) and the rest of the Dauntless recruits climb one of the major bridges downtown Chicago to run onto the moving L-train.

One other major difference is crucial, because it affects how the protagonist deals with issues. In The Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who is under the age of 18, is forced to participate in the annual Reaping, where two unlucky souls are forced to fight to the death in the hunger games, which the book and film franchise is so aptly named from. Katniss’s sister’s name is drawn, forcing Katniss into the position of either watching her sister die, or take her place. Tris, on the other hand, is given a choice to select exactly which group she wants to become a part of. It’s almost like joining a college society . . . you get a choice, but once you choose, you’re in for life (or for the rest of your college experience, in that case).

My favorite difference between the two franchises, and one thing I enjoyed in Divergent more than The Hunger Games is that the former opted not to have the ever annoying cliche love triangle. It’s a personal preference on my end, but I think it places more of the viewers’ focus on the protagonist and his/her mission versus taking the attention away from the A-plot to focus on another character’s feelings. I’m not saying I don’t like love triangles, but for me, I felt like Divergent‘s storyline worked well without one.

Perhaps one of the most obvious and interesting differences between the two films is the way gender roles were handled among the main cast. Let’s start with the game changer: THG‘s Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) do not fulfill the typical male/female hero and damsel roles.Katniss is ultimately the hero, but not just because she’s the protagonist of the story. She’s the leading lady, yes, but she’s also the epitome of the physical strength in the film. She’s brash and unlikeable at times, but she’s smart, physically fit, and she knows how to fight. She could win in The Hunger Games, because after all, it is survival of the fittest. Peeta, on the other hand, isn’t the strongest guy. Sure, he can throw a rock, but his background as a baker’s son has made him the coolest icing artist in District 12. But that doesn’t exactly scream for allies in the games or send the message that he’s intimidating and tough to mess with. Instead, he shows emotional strength that Katniss lacks, the character trait one would usually associate with a female. Peeta makes poor decisions when it comes to hunting and fighting, but he’s in touch with his feelings and he cares. Divergent‘s characters do, however, take more of the straight and narrow route. Tris isn’t physically strong, but with the help of Four (Theo James), she’s able to improve her fighting skills. Four rescues Tris from others trying to kill her. Yet Tris remains the star of Divergent, even if at times, she leans on Four for help, who gladly aids her in the end. I like how each franchise handles these roles, but I appreciate the differences as well. Personally, I feel like Tris and Four’s relationship is handled with less force than Katniss and Peeta’s, thus making it come across more natural on screen.

In summary, I think The Hunger Games‘s plot proved more intense to watch for me, which kept me on the edge of my seat, whereas I feel like Divergent may have had an even better idea, but it didn’t have the money, charisma, or right timing to win over critics.  It’s really the fans of the book that most likely led the way into the premiere (I didn’t read the book yet), and I think the franchise definitely has a place in Hollywood, even though it will probably never attract the kind of attention and adoration The Hunger Games has already acclaimed. That said, I think Shailene Woodley has proven herself a worthy leading lady, and no doubt she will be a huge plug for the sequels after her success with The Fault in Our Stars (2014).

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Divergent? How do you think the movie lines up next to The Hunger Games? Which one did you enjoy more? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Top 10 Actors/Actresses I’d See in Just about Anything

When I saw Fernando’s posts on his top actors and actresses he’d see in just about anything over at his site Committed to Celluloid, I decided I would write a post of my own, paying homage to my favorite actors/actresses that I’d be willing to view almost anything they’re in. *Side note: Later, I learned that Fernando stole the idea from Abbi over at Where the Wild Things Are. So please check her post on her top actresses as well.

Unlike Fernando, I didn’t think I could find ten actors and ten actresses. So I narrowed my list down to five actors and five actresses. And then I realized I had more actors than actresses on this list. So technically with the extra, there are eleven (and probably more, if I thought long enough about it).

*Updated note – I talked with Fernando, and we decided to change this topic idea into a little blogathon to be passed around. So to show the string, first, we started with . . .

Abbi choosing her favorites over at Where the Wild Things Are

Fernando was inspired by Abbi, writing his posts over at Committed to Celluloid

I was inspired by Fernando to write this post

And now I’m going to pass the baton over to Jaina at Time Well Spent.

The Extra: Chris Evans

Why does he almost make the list? In a word, Cellular (2004). The concept would be considered odd today, considering the ease we have with the inception of smart phones in our culture. But only ten years ago, we lacked the technological advances and had to live with just cell phones that lacked a certain smartness. Evans sells the role, plays the hero, and gives what I would consider a remarkable performance. The behind-the-scenes features for the DVD inform viewers that no one else even tried to be as convincing as Evans was for his role in Cellular. Of course, an easy role to thank Evans for playing is Captain America (2011) too. But I (along with my hubby) think Evans was the only good part of the short-lived Fantastic Four (2007) franchise.

Favorite role: Ryan in Cellular

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw The Losers (2010), but I didn’t enjoy it . . . at all.

Favorite movie quote of his: “Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much . . . so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America . . . ” (As Loki in Thor 2 [2013]).

10) Emily Blunt

Why does she make the list? Until Blunt showed up in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), she was still relatively unknown. But I remember her character in that movie vividly, yet I still didn’t imagine she’d be making the splash she is today. From her little role in Dan in Real Life (2007) to her voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) to her newfound inner action star in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), I think that Blunt has a huge career ahead of her for the taking. Even though Blunt hasn’t necessarily been a part of major Academy-award winning films yet, I think she’s an actress to key an eye on. I’ve enjoyed watching her versatility getting noticed and tapped into for multiple roles, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Favorite role: Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, and by extension, her small role in 2011’s The Muppets

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: Gulliver’s Travels (2010), because I can’t think of any other movie she’s in that I would have no interest in.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” (Emily in The Devil Wears Prada).

9) Stanley Tucci

Why does he make the list? Oddly enough, one of the roles I think introduced me to the accomplished actor was his role as a fashion editor who worked with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Soon after I saw that movie, I noticed that Tucci appeared in a number of films. While I’ve made only a dent in viewing his massive filmography, I wasn’t able to think of a single performance of his that I haven’t enjoyed, even if I didn’t necessarily care for the movie.

Favorite role: Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games (2012), Dill in Easy A (2010), Paul Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Muppets Most Wanted (2014), because it appeared to be a lame attempt at a sequel for the awesome Jason Segel-starring The Muppets in 2011.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I’m bald and no one in particular” (Jerry Siegel in Maid in Manhattan [2002]).

8) Shailene Woodley

Why does she make the list? Plain and simple, Woodley made this list because I loved her in The Descendants (2011). In addition, she has only added to her film credit with roles in The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) that have convinced viewers and critics that she’s not the idiot teenager from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (TV role, 2008) anymore.

Favorite role: Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I have liked all her movies, so the only true title I could add is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, even though it’s a TV show.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful” (Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars)

7) Tom Hanks

Why does he make the list? Where to start with a classy guy like Tom Hanks? I know many millennials who don’t care for the guy, but I have to credit Hanks for last year’s impressive performance in Captain Phillips (2013). He’s still got it. It being that chill-down-your-spine, award-winning smile, likable, every-day-kinda-guy personality who still has that rare ability to win you over even after a string of unimportant roles, reminding you he’s the one and only actor who won two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.

Favorite role: Josh in Big (1988) and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), for the petty reason of hating the title. Truly, I’d actually view it if I had to, and I might even enjoy it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass . . . and I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (Chuck Noland in Cast Away [2000]).

6) Jennifer Lawrence

Why does she make the list? If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want Lawrence on this list. She’s big right now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding her as she’s starring in two major franchises. However, I couldn’t not add her to this list, because out of all the actresses that are “big” right now, Lawrence is one of those whom I do look out for. She has the occasional role that I have no interest in seeing, but often, she seems to really stand out, even in just a small role, in whatever movie she finds herself in.

Favorite role: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I thought House at the End of the Street (2012) looked positively awful.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” (Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook).

5) Mark Ruffalo

Why does he make the list? The year 2004 was when I discovered Mark Ruffalo in both 13 Going on 30 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a little hard to believe that was ten years ago, but it was. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Mark Ruffalo that I love, but perhaps it’s that he established himself as a nice, everyday kind of guy in my mind early on. Since his first recognizable movies, he’s gone on to play multiple other roles. But I’ve always thought Ruffalo was highly underrated.

Favorite role: David Toschi in Zodiac (2008) and Chuck Aule in Shutter Island (2010)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008), but I couldn’t get behind the movie. I would never re-watch it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I was having a nervous breakdown and then I heard your song. I want to make records with you. Come on. Let’s get out of here . . . ” (Dan Mulligan in Begin Again [2014]).

4) Emma Stone

Why does she make the list? Maybe it’s because Emma Stone is so likable in real life. Or maybe it’s because she appears to make only intelligent choices when it comes to the films she’s a part of. Or, maybe she’s one of the best actresses on the rise. Stone has finally found herself in that enviable position to choose which roles she wants, and which movies to lend her skills to.

Favorite role: Natalie in The House Bunny (2008) and Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

The one she couldn’t convince me to see: I would agree to see only the scene in which Stone appears in Movie 43 (2013), and then be done with it. Gangster Squad (2013) didn’t appeal to me.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life” (Olive Penderghast in Easy A).

3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Why does he make the list? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one-of-a-kind. He’s difficult to dislike. He’s funny, and he has played so many different type of characters. He’s shown up in thrillers, romantic comedies, big-budget action movies, indie projects, and even starred in his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt prides himself on his company Hit Record, and he values his contacts both inside and outside of Hollywood, noting that he desires to work with name and no-name professionals. He’s cool, he’s geeky, he’s talented. He’s one of my favorites, and he happens to star in my favorite movie.

Favorite role: Tom in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Don Jon (2013), because I have no interest in seeing a movie about a guy struggling with a porn addiction.

Favorite movie quote of his: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything” (Tom in (500) Days of Summer).

2) Meryl Streep

Why does she make the list? I think the better question is, How could Meryl not make the list? She’s famous for the most Academy Award nominations in history. Even Saturday Night Live did a hilarious segment on how Meryl Streep could do literally anything well. Streep’s reputation precedes her, and her humility in accepting both rewards praise seems to match the insanely talented actress.

Favorite role: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I think she might play her character a little too well in August: Osage County (2013), and I don’t have the heart to see it.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us” (Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada).

1) Benedict Cumberbatch

Why does he make the list? I had never heard of the name “Benedict Cumberbatch” until I got swept away with the brilliant BBC show Sherlock (2010), and ever since then, I’ve tried to watch anything and everything that has his name attached to it.

Favorite role: Sherlock Holmes in SherlockFord in 12 Years a Slave (2013), and likely to soon be added, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: As of now, I would see just about anything Benedict Cumberbatch is a part of. But I wouldn’t re-watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) just because of how much that movie destroyed the character Smaug.

Favorite movie quote of his: “You can’t go far in this world by relying on people. People are loyal until it seems opportune not to be” (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate [2013]).

OK, it’s your turn. If you had a top (or ten) actor or actress that you’d see in just about anything, who would it be? What is your favorite role of theirs? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts.

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012

Categorizing my favorite moves in 2012 was so much more difficult for me than it was in 2011. I had obvious, definite picks to close out 2011, and I have found myself nitpicking over which movies ought to make my top 1o favorites list this year. If you remember from last year, I picked up a movie for the tenth spot that performed horribly for critics and audiences alike, but I stuck to it, just as easily as it was for me to say that The Artist and 50/50 were the obvious stand-out movies of 2011 for me.

I haven’t finished seeing all the movies I want to see yet, including Flight and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I can imagine will most likely alter this list. My assurance comes from being a big fan of Robert Zemeckis films, and I keep hearing great things for Beasts. So there’s a good chance a couple of these movies may be bumped off to make room! Other movies I think could possibly make it onto this list are Amour and Life of Pi, but my hopes aren’t as high for these as they are for the former two films I mentioned.

And a disclaimer before the list: I really enjoyed both The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty, but they’re both the kind of movie that won’t get repeated viewings from me because of the subject matter. While both feats of their own, I really don’t care to watch either again with how rough and gritty it was. Another honorable mention that didn’t make my list was Lincoln. I enjoyed it immensely, but it’s running time had me looking at my watch a few times. The performances were incredible under Steven Spielberg’s direction, and I’m rooting for John Williams’s score to win the Oscar.

As of now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2012!

10) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As of June last year, Seeking a Friend was my favorite film I had seen so far. It was a very different film and it struck a chord with me that no other end-of-the-world flick ever had. Steve Carell shined in his performance, and Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut was promising. More than anything, I appreciated the music and tone of this film. Scafaria stuck to her ending and I’m happy to add this movie to my top ten list of 2012.

9) Celeste and Jesse Forever

Another film I haven’t seen on anyone else’s favorites or top lists is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which made its first appearance at Sundance. Rashinda Jones both writes and stars in this film that offers an entirely different take on relationships. It’s complicated, but it’s a well-written, thoughtful screenplay that poses questions that are difficult to answer. Any Samberg shows more range than one would expect. I really enjoyed this movie and hope that it gets more exposed!

8) The Hobbit

After reading The Hobbit in January of last year, I grew more excited for the first film of three to be released in December. While there were disappointments, such as extended scenes and added parts that I believe took away from the film, I still really enjoyed it. Where The Hobbit didn’t lack was in the acting. It was great getting to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman star as Bilbo, and one of the strongest and best scenes of the film was the riddle scene with Bilbo and Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

7) Skyfall

For not being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall. I was hoping for something great after enjoying Casino Royale, and Skyfall does not disappoint at all. Daniel Craig does some of his best work here, and Javier Bardem makes for a great villain. The pacing and script are great and it gives a very satisfying end to the film.

6) Django Unchained

I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate Django going in, but it ended up being the former. For clocking in close to three hours, Django didn’t feel nearly as long as films like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty, for me. It’s chocked full of Quentin Tarantino humor, and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio offer great supporting performances.

5) The Avengers

Earlier in 2012, I had seen The Avengers four times in theaters. If you had asked me in 2011 what movie I was planning to see the most in 2012, my answer would certainly not be The Avengers. But I’m completely won over, having seen Captain AmericaThor, and both Iron Man films multiple times before seeing The Avengers. It’s a solid film that delivers on multiple fronts, not only entertaining, but also works as an excellent inclusion of multiple characters to make one grand superhero film fit together.

4) Argo

Early in 2012 I had caught wind of a little movie called Argo to be directed by Ben Affleck. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I consider it one of the best films to come out in 2012. It’s unfortunate that the Academy did not nomimate Affleck for Best Director as he brought to film one of the most interesting and thrilling political stories. I’m rooting for Argo to perform well at the awards!

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I wasn’t expecting to place DKR so high on my list, but in conjuction with everything I’ve seen in 2012, I can’t not put it so high. Even with its many critiques by fanboys and critics alike, Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batman trilogy is so good that people really have to fight a bit to be critical about it. While Batman Begins is still probably my favorite of the trilogy, it’s a great problem to have to be able to pick the “worst” of the three when all were solid films. Nolan set a foundation for character films to follow by placing the bar high enough for critics to like and modest enough for audiences to really enjoy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I first saw the trailer for Perks, I was convinced that it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. And while I’m usually wrong and set my expectations too high going in, Stephen Chbosky’s book and now film (which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for) won me over. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s written and acted out so beautifully, that I had a difficult time pinpointing what exactly it was about Perks that made it so likeable for me. The actors actually looked more of the ages they were playing rather than mid- to late-twenties adults playing high schoolers, as they do in most teen-based movies.

1) Silver Linings Playbook

And my top favorite film of the year is Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my favorite film of 2012 because it has the two qualities that attract me most to any film: strong writing and interesting characters. Based off the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells the story of a man who is blissfully unaware he has issues. Bradley Cooper gives a stunning and turning performance which will hopefully afford him better roles in the future. Again, Jennifer Lawrence gets nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting and different film, directed by David O. Russell, who’s known to like telling stories of dysfunctional families, his latest film being The Fighter. Even De Niro gives an unforgettable and entertaining performance in this movie. Moving, endearing, and performance strong, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite movie of the year.

Favorite Five Films of 2012 (January–June)

I’ve been seeing some of these posts pop up on friends’ sites, so I decided to add my own. I actually have found the first half of 2012 to be relatively uneventful and dull at the movies. There have been just a few hits that I’ve seen, and even fewer films that have resonated with me. I really see the 2012 movie year starting in July as not only big films like The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises arrive on the scene, but also films like the next slice of the Bourne series hits theaters; the Total Recall reboot; the end of the Twilight mess series; the next movie featuring Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down); Tom Hooper’s sophomore Oscar attempt/highly anticipated musical, Les Miserables; Quentin Taratino’s next big looks-to-be-a-hit Django Unchained; Leo DiCaprio’s latest attempt at getting recognized by the Academy/major book-to-film adaptation (The Great Gatsby), and many, many more films I have left out.

Unfortunately, I have missed out on a few films that I think could have made this list, namely The GreySalmon Fishing in the YemenMy Sister’s Sister (geez, big year for Emily Blunt, eh?), Being Flynn, and Moonrise Kingdom (this is killing me as I’m typing this–wish I would have seen this while it was in theaters).

Honorable Mentions

The Woman in Black — You can see my post on play and film comparisons/contrasts.

This Means War — While the film was silly and thoughtless in parts, it was entertaining to watch throughout.

Five Year Engagement — The Sesame Street impersonations were worth the admission price.

5) The Hunger Games

This movie makes it on the list for a lack of better options. From a film perspective, it had its issues, but was very moving and done well in enough parts that I was able to get sucked into the story. The supporting cast performances really held the film together, and Jennifer Lawrence owned the lead role.

4) 21 Jump Street

Some of the best movies tend to be unexpected, and with leading dudes Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, expectations were flying especially low in my mind. However, the film exceeded many film critics’ opinions as well, landing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was hilarious, it was well-acted, it was entertaining, and it had one great cameo in it. I look forward to watching this again.

3) The Avengers

I won’t admit to the number of times I saw The Avengers in theaters, but it’s safe to say that I loved the film. Great direction and writing from Joss Whedon lended itself nicely to the collaboration of multiple superheros sharing the screen in a project that clearly took years to fully develop. Hilarious and action-packed, The Avengers fed comic book and movie geeks alike the pure geekdom on screen that we crave.

2) Friends with Kids

loved this movie. It was so unexpected and underrated for how hilarious and touching it was. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and starred in this film, and she deserves some serious recognition for accomplishing those feats. Westfeldt and Adam Scott shared a natural chemistry on screen, and the duo provided a fresh perspective to an idea that, while appearing impulsive and clumsy on the surface, really works well for a film.

1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Perhaps I’m still on a high from seeing this film a little over a week ago, but I have yet to get the film out of my head. I’m already wanting to see it again. I’ve already downloaded half the songs from the soundtrack. This movie is a fun, thought-provoking treat from the hands of rookie director Lorene Scafaria. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s entirely worth watching in my humble opinion.

OK, what has been your favorite film of the year so far? What do you think of my favorites? Any hidden gems from the first half of the year that you’d recommend I see?

AEOS Review: The Hunger Games

The phrase, “The Truman Show Meets Gladiator,” was dubbed by Chicago film critic, Richard Roeper, in his review of the vastly marketed picture The Hunger Games, which opened this past weekend.

I make a regular habit of reading/watching film reviews by my two favorite Chicago film critics, the internationally acclaimed critic, Roger Ebert, and one of the guys Ebert used to rate films with–the above mentioned Richard Roeper. Although I have to hand it to Ebert for staying on top of more film and pop culture than any other critic I’m aware of, I’ve got to hand the torch for The Hunger Games to Roeper in this case, because unlike Ebert, Roeper read The Hunger Games series and was able to better review the film as a viewer, critic, and fan of the books. Do check out Roeper’s review below.

There’s a lot I can say about the film, so let me break it up into parts. Keep in mind that there will be SPOILERS. First, let’s get out of the way what I didn’t like.

What Didn’t Work

  • Poor Visual Quality for The Capitol – Unfortunately, the special effects did nothing for me in the middle section of the film. Gary Ross’s vision of The Capitol hardly lived up to Collins’s description. From the fake screens passing through the windows of the train, to the far-off screen shot of the tributes riding in on chariots to the ceremony, to Katniss’s Capitol quarters, the film lacked visual prowess, color, and quality overall. I was hoping Ross would have pulled out all the stops for the film, but the setting of The Capitol fell short.
  • Madge and Plutarch MIA – Madge– This complaint comes from someone who read the book. The introduction of the Mockingjay pin is given by District 12’s mayor’s daughter, Madge, who befriends Katniss in the series. In the first book, she gives this to Katniss. Instead the film attempts to make up for this poor revision by having Greasy Sae hand Katniss the pin in the Hob. Plutarch– My sister brought up this point to me. Although I wouldn’t regard this as a dealbreaker or major fault on Ross’s end, I have to wonder why Mr. Plutarch wasn’t present within the film given that his role becomes more pertinent to the plot in the following sequels. My conclusion is that they’ll bring him along in the later films, and they didn’t regard him as necessary in the first.
  • Low Katniss/Peeta Screen Time – While many fans are overjoyed to not have another one of their beloved series taken over by a tween love triangle, the two leads of The Hunger Games shared fewer scenes together than what I had hoped for. Although film is a rather limited channel for time in telling a story (well, Peter Jackson defied that problem with LOTR. I digress.), Katniss and Peeta’s relationship–or should I say the relationship put on for show–wasn’t built well enough to convince us that the love displayed between Katniss and Peeta wasn’t entirely false. Katniss is confused, and we grasp that a little at the end; but watching the film, we don’t see enough of a relationship or friendship built between Katniss and Peeta to know that Katniss isn’t entirely genuine. Her actions are questionable, and rightfully so, but they’re questionable for the wrong reason. Instead of wondering whether she really has genuine feelings for Peeta or not, we’re questioning how she could be having feelings for him having not shared many scenes with him on screen.
  • 50% Finale – Did anyone else take notice that the third part of Suzanne Collins’s novel ate up over half of the film’s running time? Put in perspective – Each of The Hunger Games novels are built like a play, each having three acts. “The Games” acts as the third and final act of the first book. The games took up half the film. Many little moments were lost within the first half of the film, most likely the plan being – let’s really make the “the games” the movie. I hope they don’t botch up the second film like this.

What Did Work

I was more than content with everything else in the film. Clocking in at a little over 140 minutes, The Hunger Games still felt short to me in comparison to reading the book. The adaptation of the story from book to film, however, along with its flaws, was still crafted with sharp attention to detail and articulated in a way not to bring justice to the book, but more so to the story and its characters. Going into The Hunger Games, I expected to experience more low points than high. Happily proven wrong, here are the points I consider high in the film.

  • The Entire Supporting Cast – Perhaps one of the strongest supporting casts to graze the screen of a teen series turned major film–Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland–these were the people who really made The Hunger Games a hit aside from the incredible Jennifer Lawrence heading them.
  • Every Scene with Caesar Flickerman – Every scene with the blue-haired Stanley Tucci on screen was met with laughter. Since The Hunger Games is told entirely from Katniss’s perspective, we miss out on everyone else’s personal thoughts. Not so in the film. Flickerman serves not only as host and questioner of the tributes, but also as something of a news anchor who worked as narrator, offering updates every now and then. This was well-placed in the script, aiding to the pacing of the film and answering questions of those who haven’t read the book.

  • Casting – I’ll say it once, I’ll say it a million times. The casting worked really well in The Hunger Games, despite the highly questioned Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Winter’s Bone is enough to support the widely-ranged actress, and her performance in The Hunger Games speaks only more of her talent to capture the necessary emotions as well as play out the action scenes. Josh Hutcherson has an innocent presence on screen. Perhaps because he’s a little shorter and has the cutest face ever, but he looks the part of Peeta enough. His acting backed the casting choice.
  • The Games – The Games section of the film was the focus of the film, and easily the best part. Full of intensity and grit, viewers sense the dire situation Katniss and Peeta are in. It’s life and death, and it’s kids we’re dealing with here. Ross really placed the heart of the film into this section, unmasking the rage of the characters, dotting the film with more attention and detail here than anywhere else.
  • Movie Additions – Watching Seneca Crane administrate actions behind the scenes or seeing Haymitch snatch a deal from sponsors on behalf of Katniss and Peeta were treats for those who read the books. We were able to appreciate the element of surprise, too, in the crafty, creative way President Snow killed off Seneca Crane in the end. It’s rare to admit that a movie scene added to the story rather than take away from it.
  • Rue’s Death Scene – Perhaps the most heart-wrenching scene in the film, the raw emotion Katniss emitted, the flowers decorating Rue’s body, the signal Katniss gave toward the camera, the uproar in District 11 following the death–a powerful scene in a seemingly depressing story–followed the book pat, refusing to give a PG version of what happened.
  • Attention to Detail  While some parts could have been stronger, I must admit there were little details only readers would especially appreciate. Notice how Katniss always tied herself in a tree to sleep so she wouldn’t fall out? Appreciate that Katniss decorated Rue’s body with flowers? See that white rose on President Snow? Katniss’s orange backpack? Cinna’s gold eyelids?

Favorite Moments

  • The powerful scene featuring the uproar in District 11
  • A rock that turned out to be . . . Peeta?!?! (The name Peter is translated in the Greek, meaning “rock.” Ironic much?)
  • The theater erupting in laughter when the camera panned on Gale watching Katniss kiss Peeta.
  • Rue in the tree signaling the trackerjacker hive to Katniss.
  • “I’m not allowed to bet, but if I could, I’d bet on you.” –Cinna
  • “That is mahogany!” –Effie
  • Peeta: “You’re our mentor. Don’t you have any advice?” Haymitch: “Yes. Embrace the probability of your imminent death.”

Final Thoughts/Queries

  • MPAA Rating – My biggest question and thought following my first viewing of The Hunger Games regards its MPAA rating. Yes, it was rated PG-13, so some parts had to be cut back to take away from the grisly violence of kids ultimately killing each other. I have to wonder what the film would have been like had it been rated R in terms of violence. Roger Ebert mentions in his review how it’s actually silent in the opening part of the games, with kids dropping like flies. While the scene is powerful, I tend to wonder if the sound was taken out in order to keep the PG-13 rating. It only makes sense to keep the rating no higher than PG-13 in order to not cut out the target audience of the film. But if there were an extended or R-rated version of the film, I wonder which scenes would be different. Would Clove actually cut Katniss’s lip when she has her pinned down? Would Peeta actually have a far more severe leg injury? Would we hear the effects of an arrow piercing a child, or a knife cutting flesh?
  • The Bar Is Set for Sequels – With the growing success of the film, how will the sequels play out? Will they pale in comparison, or will they rise above? Compared with other series such as Harry Potter, whose finale rated high, will The Hunger Games be able to top itself in its sequels, or go down in popularity?
  • Will Gary Ross Continue? – Unless I have misheard (a high possibility in itself), no director is set for Catching Fire, although a release date of November 22, 2013 has already been announced! Should Ross direct the sequels? I certainly think so. Other series have proven that a consistent continuity strengthens–not diminishes–from film series.

OK, folks. Lots of questions for you now. First, what did you think of the film? Second, what did you like, and what disappointed you? Have any favorite moments? Consider the final thoughts and add your opinion.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best in the Acting Categories

Kristin: I’ve seen all the nominees except for Demian Bichir in A Better Life. I was surprised Michael Fassbender from Shame didn’t get nominated, and I was disappointed to see JGL miss a nod for his great work in 50/50. I’m rooting for Jean Dujardin from The Artist to pick up this award, especially since he’s already picked up the Golden Globe and the SAG among others. I prefer Dujardin to Clooney, who may be his only serious competition, although I still see Dujardin winning. I’m also happy for Gary Oldman to get a nomination, even though I think he has better work that was previously ignored.

Matt: In the first twenty minutes of The Artist, Jean Dujardin painted a grin on my face that would last nearly the rest of the film–he was charming in every way. It is a unique performance, if not just because Dujardin must convey his character’s thoughts and emotions without the luxury of ever speaking. In short, I would be very surprised if the Academy does not pick Dujardin. Unfortunately, I have yet to see The Descendants, but as Kristin has said, it seems that Clooney would be the only other close competitor to Dujardin. That being said, I found Brad Pitt completely deserving of his nomination for Moneyball. Of the nominations I’ve seen, Pitt was the only one whose role truly carried the entire movie. In my opinion, without Pitt playing Billy Beane, Moneyball simply doesn’t work. I actually forgot I was watching a Brad Pitt movie.

Kristin: I completely agree that Dujardin was utterly charming in The Artist, and you couldn’t help but smile throughout that film. The thing with Clooney is that he’s an Academy darling, even more so than Pitt. I know Clooney didn’t win much of anything for Up in the Air a couple years back (which I actually enjoyed more than The Descendants), but sometimes I think he’s receiving nominations just because he’s Clooney. He was good in The Descendants, but maybe I missed the “greatness” aspect. Glad you enjoyed Moneyball so much. I appreciated the film because I read most of the book it was based off, and I would agree Pitt embodied the Billy Beane. I’ve heard some complaints that Pitt should have been nominated for Tree of Life instead of Moneyball, but I agree with the nomination.

Matt: For me, what made Pitt’s performance golden were subtle things; for example, him constantly grabbing candy from the candy dish in the scene where he first notices Peter Brand. I think Pitt could have been nominated for either role, though a nomination for The Tree of Life would have had to be for Best Supporting Actor. Has an actor ever been nominated for Best Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress? A quick Wikipedia search yielded this answer: “Thanks to a voting quirk, in 1944 Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way became the only actor nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same performance, winning the latter.” Today’s Academy bylaws disallow this, of course. I was unable to find an actor or actress that has been nominated twice the same year for two different roles. That probably won’t ever happen either.

To sum up, while I enjoyed Pitt and Dujardin’s roles immensely, I think it has been a rather weak year for Best Actor. None of the roles nominated hold a candle to other recent years, say Colin Firth’s role in The King’s Speech or Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Such performances are ones that I will remember for quite a long time.

Kristin: I saw Glenn Close only in an extended preview for Albert Nobbs, and it certainly looks interesting enough, despite many believing that last spot belongs to Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin or Elizabeth Olson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (or others I’m sure!). Previously, I had complaints over Emma Stone’s performance in The Help being completely overlooked, despite my loyalty to Viola Davis. This category is said to be the only real competition this year–between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I saw both films and much preferred The Help over TIL, but I think both performances are on equal ground. Honestly, it’s been YEARS since Streep actually won an Oscar, and she keeps getting told “you’ll get one next year.” So I’m rooting for Streep, although I’d be happy if Davis walked away with it too.

Matt: While I did think Emma Stone’s performance in The Help was good, I felt it was one of the easier roles in the film, and hardly on par with Viola Davis’ role. Her performance in the final scene of the film is one of the best (and most heartrending) I have seen this year. As for Streep, while I look forward to seeing her performance on DVD, poor reviews for The Iron Lady stopped me from dropping $8.25 to see the film in theaters. But what are the Oscars without a Streep nomination? After all, with The Iron Lady, Streep receives her 17th Oscar nomination. It would be interesting to see Glenn Close win the award; however, I would be surprised if it is given to anyone other than Davis.

Kristin: I have to agree that Davis had the most moving performance in that film. The Help really had a fantastic ensemble to carry it. I still would have liked to see Stone get some love for her work, even at just the Golden Globes, but I know her role wasn’t quite as dramatic or polarizing as the others. I wouldn’t even recommend seeing The Iron Lady with the exception of Meryl Streep. She gave an excellent performance. The direction of the film was off– it lacked an opinion, had too much focus on Thatcher’s dementia, and just felt too disjointed. That said, Streep’s performance somehow proved that you can have a crappy film and an incredible performance come out of it. I would love either Streep or Davis win, and I’m sure one will. Close and Mara definitely won’t win, and Williams’s nomination reminds me a little of Jennifer Lawrence’s last year, in that the real honor is the nomination.

Matt: I love Streep, but I really hope Davis gets the win. She would be only the second African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. I can’t think of a more appropriate role by which to win it.

Kristin: Nick Nolte in Warrior was the surprise addition to this category, and I was very glad to see it. I’m assuming Plummer will walk away with the trophy for his work in Beginners. He gave an exceptional performance, so that would make me happy. I thought Ewan McGregor was brilliant in Beginners and forgotten for his great work. It’s also cool to see a name like “Jonah Hill” join the ranks among the Oscar nominated, although it’s a sure thing that he won’t be winning. I’ve heard great things about Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn, but I have yet to see that film. I did finally see Drive and think Albert Brooks should have received some kind of credit, although I don’t know if I would have put him in place of Plummer, Hill, or Nolte. The interesting turn in this category is seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Max von Sydow pick up a nom. I’m curious to see him in that film now.

Matt: I quite liked Jonah Hill’s work in Moneyball. It was nice to see him actually play a role other than the funny, fat kid. While I hadn’t given him much thought before Moneyball, he now is someone I will watch. I enjoyed seeing Nolte in Warrior; in fact, his role may have been the only thing about that movie I truly did enjoy. However, I didn’t think his performance was anything out of the ordinary; it was enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. I will readily admit my lack of knowledge for the other noms in this category, as sadly, I have not yet had the opportunity to view them. It is nice to see von Sydow get some recognition, albeit only his second nomination. Seems rather sad in such a great career that has spanned over six decades, but many great performances are not realized until decades after their release. So, yes, he should have been nominated Best Actor for his role in The Seventh Seal, not that anyone outside of Sweden would have even recognized his name at that time.

Missing from this section is Brad Pitt for his outstanding role as Mr. O’Brien in The Tree of Life. And the little Jack Russel Terrier from The Artist. 🙂

Kristin: I hope Jonah Hill gets offered some better roles in the future with his success from Moneyball. I know he’s in some upcoming silly movie with Channing Tatum, which probably won’t do him much good, but perhaps he’ll make it a point to be in the occasional drama. I’m happy to agree to disagree with you on Nolte. He probably had the best performance in the film, but I would consider his performance groundbreaking in Warrior.

I think it’s interesting that like many years, a lot of the actors nominated in the supporting category tend to be in films that are not widely released until later, or they never get a wide release altogether with the exception of a few big cities. I really enjoyed Beginners, and it doesn’t surprise me that its only nomination is for Christopher Plummer, given who he is and the role he played. My Week with Marilyn, Drive, Beginners–none of these movies scream Oscars at all, despite earning one or two nominations each. It’s movies like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that work to be an Oscar film, and turn out successful enough (nomination for Best Picture/Best Supporting Actor), and go along a point of view that you hold, Matt–actors like von Sydow missing out in the past for great work and getting nominated currently for more mediocre or just good work. I finally saw The Tree of Life and wasn’t blown away by it in any sense other than cinematography, although I would agree Pitt was the obvious stand-out performance in the film. And I would be perfectly fine with the JR terrier from The Artist making an appearance 🙂

Matt: In regards to Nolte, he’s pretty much always great; I just thought his role fairly insignificant in comparison to his previous performances, in particular Colonel Gordon Tall in The Thin Red Line. In that film Nolte plays, with conviction, a selfish, power-hungry commander willing to sacrifice whatever number of human lives necessary to move his career forward. In regards to “make-up Oscars,” it’s annoying when the Academy chooses to acknowledge an actor they missed out on the first time (or first ten times, as it may be) around. No number of “make-ups” changes that they failed to realize talent in the first place. In reality, a “make-up” nomination is nothing less than degrading.

Kristin: I think the obvious choice is The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, since she’s graciously won the award at about every award ceremony so far. I thought she was brilliant in the film and is well-deserving. Although I wouldn’t mind Berenice Bejo receiving some credit. But I think we all know that Spencer has it in the bag. Oh, and I think it’s kind of ridiculous that Melissa McCarthy got a nomination for Bridesmaids. She’s a hilarious actress, and I’m all for comedy making its mark at the Oscars, but how on earth was that role Oscar-worthy?

Matt: Spencer’s performance in The Help was thouroughly entertaining. I doubt I will ever think about chocolate pie the same ever again, nor will I think of it without seeing Spencer’s face. It is interesting that both Spencer and Chastain were chosen for their roles, as much of their time on screen is spent together. Their chemistry was great, and I loved Chastain’s performance, but I couldn’t help but think two things: 1) As long as we’re doling out nominations for The Help, what about Bryce Howard’s role as Hilly? She embodied pure evil pretty convincingly for me. 2) Hasn’t Chastain been nominated for the wrong role? What about her embodiment of grace and motherhood in The Tree of Life?

Snubbed? Marion Cotillard for her role in Midnight in Paris. Can you think of a sweeter or more charming performance that you’ve seen in recent years? I can’t.

Kristin: I really enjoyed this category because there were so many great performances nominated. Spencer and Chastain both played character roles in The Help, so it doesn’t surprise me that both were nominated. It was nice to see Chastain show yet another side of her acting ability. Bryce Dallas Howard actually received a lot of slack for her role. I’m not entirely sure why, but the common consensus is that she keeps playing the villain (both The Help and 50/50). She completely embodied the evilness needed for the role.

I’m glad that Chastain got nominated for The Help and not The Tree of Life, primarily because I enjoyed her role more in the former. I’m just not Terrance Malick’s biggest supporter in his heavy amount of editing in his films. Perhaps performances could have been stronger if he would have dropped the scissors and let actors just breathe. But that’s a whole other story. As for your snub mention–I never even considered Cotillard as an option, but I think you bring up a great point–she was graceful and lighthearted in Midnight in Paris, and it almost is surprising to see her not nominated.

Matt: Chastain’s roles in The Help and The Tree of Life show just how dynamic of an actress she is. She has had quite a year, and I look forward to catching up on some of her films that I missed. As far as Howard is concerned, I’m not sure how much the Academy likes to nominate villains. Nominations tend to fall on “hero” roles only. Even three dimensional villains rarely get a Oscar nod. I suppose everybody wants the “good guys” to win, even at the Oscars.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.