Category Archives: On The Silver Screen

‘See It’ and ‘Skip It’: Film Reviews from the Holiday Season

Movie Image collage

Well, dear readers, it has been a long time since I last posted on the ever-so popular Sorkin Notes. Due to my work schedule, homework, final exams, and the overall business of the Holidays, I haven’t had the opportunity to write about movies in my free time. This is disappointing for two reasons: The first being that the end of the year is nearly upon us and I’ve barely reviewed any of this year’s Oscar contenders (probably the only films reviewed that I would consider to be “contenders” are ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, ‘The Master’, and ‘Argo’), and the second being that since our last post, I’ve seen some really fantastic movies. So, instead of racking my brain, trying to write almost 10 in-depth of reviews of different movies in the next week. I’ve decided to knock it all out at once and give you a slew of reviews.

Each movie discussed has been given the decree of “See It’ or ‘Skip It’, so you can go to the cinema the next few weeks knowing which movies you need to catch and which ones are better left alone. Again, some of these movies might be long gone from your theaters, but even so, hold our suggestions in your heart until they come out on DVD.

Daniel Day Lincoln

See It: ‘Lincoln’

Steven Spielberg’s American epic ‘Lincoln’ is not only a must-see for the holiday season, but it is also one of the best, if not the best, of the entire year. Set in the closing months of the Civil War, the film centers around the sixteenth president and the passing of the 13th Amendment, forever abolishing slavery in the United States. Dealing with themes of unity and human dignity, this drama packs a punch and reminds us of a time when our nation, in the face of great division, accomplished something honorable.I have a great deal of confidence in saying that this is the best acted movie of 2012, with Lincoln being portrayed by Daniel-Day Lewis, who lights up every scene with hunched shoulders and a searing glare, and the always amazing Sally Field as the paranoid Mary Todd. However, the show is stolen by Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, who plays his part with an intense passion and gives the best performance of his career.

Although the performances are all near-perfect, Spielberg’s expert direction and Tony Kushner’s intelligent dialogue are what makes this film truly spectacular. Not since ‘Schindler’s List’ has Spielberg made a movie like this; a true character piece that captures the audience, not with onscreen wizardry, but with truly human interactions between characters. Also, something must be said about the director’s ability to create the world that the audience inhabits, and in the scenes within the Congressional Chambers, Mr. Spielberg seamlessly transports us into the heated deliberations.

I could not give this movie a higher recommendation. For everyone that loves film, you should feel compelled to buy a ticket. The Oscar nominations that you should expect Lincoln to receive: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Costume Design.

My Grade: A+

Wreck-It Ralph

See It: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

There is nothing more endearing than a lovable bad-guy that wants to change. Ralph (John C. Reilly)  is a warm-hearted, video game villain, who has a ‘Donkey-Kong-esque’ lot in life. Every day, Ralph gets up and destroys the 8-bit building that the tiny avatars live in, until the hero, Fix-It Felix, shows up and puts it back together again. Sleeping in a garbage dump every night, Ralph feels under-appreciated, and  looks for a change of scenery where, for once, he could be a hero.

When I saw the trailer for ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, I was immediately excited. It looked to have fun-loving excitement and a witty sense of humor. Being able to poke fun at the classic games of old is nostalgia at its finest, and the characters are so likable that you can’t help but root for them.  The movie did not disappoint in these categories, but where it also hit on a place that I did not expect; the heartstrings. Yes, not only is ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ the most original kid-friendly film of 2012, it is also the most heart-warming as well.

In my mind, this is far and away the Best Animated Film of 2012, and is 5 times the movie that ‘Brave’ was. Granted, it has ‘Paranorman’, ‘Rise of the Guardians’, and ‘Frankenweenie’ to compete with, so Oscar gold is far from a certainty. But, one thing is for certain; ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is a fun-sized movie with a big heart that children and adults alike can enjoy.

My Grade: B+

Daniel Craig

See It: ‘Skyfall’ 

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back in a big way in his latest adventure, ‘Skyfall’, where 007 must go toe-to-toe with the baddest baddie in the history of Bond baddies, played wonderfully by Javier Bardem. Like James Bond films of the past, this film takes you all over the world, but in a refreshing turn-of-events, spends most of its time in the United Kingdom. This gives the film a more close-to-home feel, even though it is an ocean away from where I viewed it. In ‘Skyfall’, Bond seemingly comes ‘back from the dead’ to defend MI6 Chief ‘M’, played by Dame Judi Dench, who is being targeted by cyber terrorist Silva (Bardem.) With action and excitement that has no equal, ‘Skyfall’ has so much going for it, and it really is a great movie, but I have two major qualms with it. Warning: There are spoilers in the rest of this segment. 

The first issue that I have with ‘Skyfall’ is not so much an issue as it is a personal preference. I am really growing tired of the generic plot twist where the bad-guy gets caught in the middle of the movie, followed by a dramatic scene of dialogue while he is in custody, only to find out that *SURPRISE* he wanted to get caught all along, and then escapes as his master plan begins to unfold. ‘The Dark Knight’ did it first, and best, then ‘The Avengers’ ripped it off, and finally ‘Skyfall’. So unoriginal. We need to get more creative with our blockbusters.

Stop reading if you do not want to know the end of the movie!

My second problem is this, and I think it is a pretty glaring flaw; the whole movie, Silva wants to kill ‘M’, and at the end tries to force ‘M’ to shoot herself while Silva’s head is right next to hers, which would have killed both of them. Bond comes in, obviously, and kills Silva before he gets the chance to do this. Then, ‘M’ dies from wounds that she suffered from the final conflict. So, in the end, our villain wins, getting what he wanted all along. So all of this conflict, everything the audience just endured, ends up being pretty unfulfilling.

Regardless, ‘Skyfall’ is a well-made and splendidly performed action flick, and one of the best Bond’s ever, but it is far from perfect.

My Grade: B+

Cloud-Atlas-Movie

Skip It: ‘Cloud Atlas’

This review is not going to make me very popular with some people, because many people loved this movie. It would have been very easy for me to walk out of that theater, pretending that I loved ‘Cloud Atlas’, spending time unraveling all the complexities and calling it a work of genius. But, alas, I could not lie to myself. I did not like this movie. But, I don’t want anyone to think that I disliked this movie because I was unwilling or unable to understand it. ‘He didn’t get it, so he didn’t like it.’ No, I get it, condescending reader. It was not a lack of understanding that turned me off, but it was because of what I had to go through to see this movie that left me going “What the heck did I just watch?”

Taking place in six different periods of time, where six separate but intersecting lines of story are taking place, ‘Cloud Atlas’ follows the adventures, trials, victories, and defeats of many different characters. Although we are seeing half-a-dozen different character arcs (who are all being played by a small cast of actors, all of whom have multiple roles), there is a common theme in all the stories; there is the dreamer, one who aspires to accomplish great things, the oppressor, who wants to stop the dreamer from reaching their aspirations, and a savior, who saves the dreamer from the oppressor. Good concept, very ambitious, but in ‘Cloud Atlas’, the idea is stretched way too thin.

This movie really does buckle under the weight of its own ambition. The audience does not feel lost as much as they feel overwhelmed, wondering why all of these stories are necessary. Because of the great number of protagonists, we really don’t care very much for any of them and are altogether detached. In reality, this is just 3 pretty good films and 3 not very good films, all blended together into one very ‘meh’ experience.

Out of all of this though, the thing that bothers me the most about this film is its piety, its attitude that it is the source of understanding for all of man’s struggles. It tries to dupe the audience into buying into this premise that it hasn’t even proven to us, while also trying to sell every line like it is soon to be a “quote for the ages”. It ends up being preachy, and in the process of trying to be a movie about everything, it ends up being a movie about absolutely nothing.

So, if you see an advertisement claiming that ‘Cloud Atlas’ is one of the great films of our time, I have two words for you: False advertising.

My Grade: D+

perks

See It: ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’

I’ve really grown weary of the  heart-felt teen drama over the years, because lately there have been very few good ones. Not since ‘Juno’ (which was actually much more comedy than drama) has a really well-made high school movie been put out there, and after ‘Juno’ came a bunch of ‘Juno’ posers (did anyone see ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’? What a tragedy…) So, going to ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’, I really felt like it was a coin-flip’s chance that it was going to be an above average movie. I was more than pleasantly surprised, and although ‘Perks’ has a few moments that might be difficult to swallow, it is an emotional journey that discusses so many themes and subjects that the teen drama would usually sweep under the rug.

Written and Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote novel of the same title, ‘Perks’ centers around Charlie (Logan Lerman), a young high schooler who starts the year feeling alone and estranged. Dealing with past trauma and the loss of a friend, Charlie has all but given up on trying to belong. That is until he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who soon connect him to a group of friends that becomes a second family to Charlie.

I would rather not reveal too much about all the directions that this movie goes, as to not repel anyone from giving it a chance, but I will say that this movie is not for the faint of heart, and it is often painful to see what these young people have to go through in order to feel accepted. But, the payoff is worth it. We can all relate to what it was like to be a teenager, hence the pull towards the teen movie, but the nostalgia becomes vivid , and it is clear that ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is much more about the reality than the fantasy.

My Grade: B

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

See It: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

I posted this thought on my Facebook earlier this week (I know, probably a mistake), but the critical backlash for ‘The Hobbit’ has been more than outrageous. The same people who were calling Peter Jackson a filmmaking genius during the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy are now calling for the New Zealand director’s head. And why? ‘It’s too long.’ ‘It’s seems like it’s for kids.’ ‘Some scenes are just unnecessary.’ People, welcome to the world of Middle Earth, where everything is very long, detailed, and where silly dwarves do silly things. Why are you acting so surprised? Are you trying to tell me that ‘Return of the King’ wasn’t too long? It had 15 endings, for goodness sake. Just sit down, and enjoy the movie, because ‘The Hobbit’ is an amazing cinematic experience.

One thing that I loved about Jackson’s newest adaptation of the classic Tolkien novels is that it has a very different style and feel to it than the past trilogy. This was very intentional; in the same way that Tolkien’s LOTR series is more about the battle of good and evil, aimed more towards adults, ‘The Hobbit’ is more about the odyssey, the magical journey, and was written more to be read to children. As a prequel, ‘The Hobbit’ was meant to further color-in the world that Tolkien had already set in motion. I really believe that ‘An Unexpected Journey’ accomplishes that very thing. Jackson, however, does something really special with the material and pulls out subtle themes that might otherwise be overlooked.

This movie is about the concept of home, and how if you want a place to belong in this world, you must be willing to fight for it. The story opens with Bilbo Baggins, snug in his cozy hole at Bag End, until Gandalf comes to town and turns the hobbit’s world upside-down. Gandalf brings a company of dwarves to Bilbo’s door, and the merry bunch looks to set out on a quest to reclaim Erebor, the lost Dwarven kingdom, from the dragon Smaug. Although reluctant at first, Bilbo takes the courage to step out of the door, and thus begins a journey that will change his life forever.

Starring Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellan, this film isn’t exactly what you would expect, but ends up being more than you bargained for. Although it is long, I loved every one of its 175 minutes. Full of action and wonder, I highly recommend that you take the time to see ‘the master’ Peter Jackson at work yet again.

My Grade: A

paranormal-activity-4-Katie-Featherston-paramount

Skip It: ‘Paranormal Activity 4’

This is a message to all movie makers around the world: I am sick of your ‘found footage’, shaky hand-cam, home video style movies. Enough is enough. It is lacking in creativity and makes the story of your film totally irrelevant. To say ‘Skip It’ to ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ is really not enough; I should say that there is no reason that this movie should have been made, period. Aren’t you sick of Katie’s dysfunctional demon family? Pretty soon its going to be like a reality show (probably titled ‘Here Comes Scary Boo-Boo’), and America will probably still go and watch it.

In this installment of the ‘Paranormal’ drama, Katie and Damian from ‘The Omen’ move in across the street from a seemingly normal family, and through the technological magic of Skype, we are able to watch all of the creepy, crawly, spooky, scary things that ensue when Katie’s ‘son’ comes to over to stay. Spoiler Alert: A bunch of stuff moves unexpectedly.

The first one was good. The second one was bad. The third one was totally irrelevant. Now it’s getting pathetic. But, if you stay after the credits, you’ll clearly see that they are definitely going to make another one of these things, probably in Mexico, and probably titled ‘Paranormal Activity: Cancun Vacation!’ I know this review is late, but if it keeps at least one person from renting this movie, then I’ve done my job.

My Grade: F

beasts-southern-wild-2

See It on DVD: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

In ve’Beasts of the Southern Wild’, we are able to view disaster and poverty  through the eyes of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), a fierce young girl who lives in a flooded community called the Bathtub with her daddy, Wink (Dwight Henry). When her home is flooded and her father falls ill, Hushpuppy must do what she can to save her father and her home. Floating in and out of fantasy and reality, this is a tale of family, community, and finding the beast within your own soul. I would try to explain the plot more, but I believe that this story is told best through the sights and sounds that it provides it’s viewer. It is better for you to discover it for yourself then have me try and explain it until it makes sense.

Beautiful and poetic, this is a movie that is real artistry, and one thing that I love about it is that the director Benh Zeitlin really leaves the purpose open for interpretation, and creates a fantasy that isn’t set worlds away, but seems like it is in our own back yard. Many might say that this movie is really about Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of that tragedy, but the way that I viewed it led me to believe that ‘Beasts’ is about the trials of all homeless people around the world, and how through the eyes of a child, not having a home can seem like a magical adventure.

This is one of those that demands a second viewing, and I suggest going to your local RedBox and picking up a copy of  ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ I promise you that it will be 100% different from anything else that you’ve watched this year. It really is true inspiration. Okay, enough of the love fest; let’s wrap this thing up.

My Grade: A

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‘Lawless’: Bloodiest County on Earth, and it’s a Bore

It is always interesting to find an independent film that has a knockout cast.

Actors and actresses are usually prima-donnas when it comes to their paycheck, and when they’re not, then their agents will try to find as many high-paying, studio projects as they can. It’s the reason that Chris Hemsworth is able to pay his rent; he looks great on a lunch box. Studio movies want good faces, well known rising stars  to front their future franchises.

So when you get Shia LeBeouf, everyone’s favorite “Bane” Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain (perhaps the most successful actress of 2011), and seasoned veterans such as Gary Oldman and Guy Pearce, everyone is ready to buckle down and start watching for Oscar potential. A cast like that in an indie this usually means one of two things: 1) There is a great, young director that everyone is wanting to work with, or 2) The story and script are dynamite.

After watching the film, I realize that it was neither of these things that got this super-troop together. There is nothing special about how this movie was made, nor was the script anything brilliant or groundbreaking. It was the gritty nature of the violence, combined with the subject matter of a Southern bootleggers’ paradise that really gets one drawn into the story, but as a viewer, once you move passed the venir of these two elements, ‘Lawless’ is fairly empty, and honestly, a bit boring.

Like the non-fiction novel ‘The Wettest County in the World’, this film centers around the Bondurant family, a rag tag group of brothers who ran moonshine during Prohibition in Virginia. The film takes the audience to a world of organized crime that exists outside of the city, but in the backwoods country of the United States. Jack Bondurant (LeBeouf), is the narrator and central character to the film, but let me tell you right now, he is not the hero of this deep-South mythology. No, Jack is only the catalyst for conflict, the ingredient that causes everything to go awry. Even when Jack tries to help, he makes things worse, and even when he makes things better, it is eventually him that takes the family down an even worse road. Jack plays the damsel in distress, the younger brother that is constantly being bailed out. He is our protagonist, but he is not our hero.

The real Achilles of this Illiad is Forrest Bondurant (played wonderfully by Tom Hardy), who is simultaneously the the matriarch and patriarch of this little domestic disaster. He is the problem solver, the provider, the house keeper, as well as the seemingly invincible older brother. Big and brass-knuckled, the only thing more intimidating about Forrest’s stature is his stubborn demeanor. Although Jack is the man that we follow through this story, most of the conflict must be endured and resolved by the older Forrest. It is the relationship of these two brothers that makes our story tick.

Oh, and then there’s Howard Bondurant, but like Jack, he is either not where he needs to be, which once almost costs Forrest his neck (literally), or he is where he shouldn’t be. I almost forgot about Howard; this is most likely due to the fact that he is totally irrelevant, but we’ll get to that later.

The moonshine business is treating the Bondurants well, until we meet our obvious villain. Just taking one look at Guy Pearce’s haircut in this film, we realize that he is going to be trouble. Deputy Charlie Rakes (Pearce) rolls into town, and tells everyone who is running liquor that they need to pay up, or Rakes will shut them down one by one. Driven by pride, big, muscular, macho pride, Forrest refuses, saying that no one will push the Bondurants around.

After this decision is made, what ensues are dozens of instances of violent torture and acts of intimidation on both sides.

I have to level with you, the movie critic in me can’t let this slip by. What I think is incredibly interesting about the characters in this film is the writer and director are trying to convince us that Pearce is a bad man, and the Bondurants are good men. But this is the reality; Rakes is corrupt, but the Bondurants are criminals, and they have their own fair share of moral lapses as well. I just don’t feel that even as much as director John Hillcoat is trying to convince me of it, I don’t see some of the Bondurants’ acts of malicious violence as justifiable.

Also, if you are going to skew it to convince me that these men are good in nature, then you must show me real acts of humanity where I can decide whether or not I want to stick it out with these guys.The truth is that Forrest never really shows that he loves his family, and neither does Jack or Howard. Everyone is really out for themselves, and it leads the viewer to not have much stake in any of them at all. Even when Chastain’s character becomes vulnerable and loving in gratitude for Forrest, Forrest doesn’t know how to respond. He is seemingly heartless as a character, and only his actions of vengeance and anger are supposed to prove otherwise? I’m not buying it.

Like most of my reviews, I don’t want to give anything that will stop you from seeing the movie, but I do want to give you a clear picture of why I feel the way I do about this movie. I was really trying to stick with this one, very willing to grind it out until the very end, but I must tell you, the final climax of ‘Lawless’ is just dreadful. A shootout scene that is two parts frustrating and one part unbelievable. All I’m going to say is this; if you are going to bring out every character in the film for one final showdown, you need to make it worth, and you need to make these characters active participants in the conflict, not simply observers who are there to provide setting and symbolically historical context. Also, if you’re going to prove to me that this group of brothers is really in this together, then show me that they will at least defend each other, rather than just watch as their world falls apart.

I must say, though, that the performances are very good, and there are many things about ‘Lawless’ that are done well. There are great moments of dialogue and also very intimiate moments of honesty within certain characters. But as a director, Hillcoat chooses to ignore the best performances of the film and the most complex characters, and instead decides to focus on throat slitting, strangulation, and the dismemberment of humanity, and this is the fatal flaw of ‘Lawless.’

Also… Give me more Gary Oldman! His character was by far the most interesting in the entire movie, and we barely see him. I want a sequel to be titled ‘Lawless 2: The Story of Floyd Banner’ just so I can get more of his sinister gangster smirk.

My Note: ‘Lawless’ is all about the violence and not about much else.

My Grade: C

The Avengers: Stop Thinking. Enjoy the Ride.

It is finally here. It was only took us four years to get here, four long years of hearing many a fan-boy’s giddy expectations for this movie. After four years of waiting and the five full length movies we had to get through to get to this point, ‘The Avengers’ has now been seen by the world, and like most movies that were hyped to the extreme, everyone seems to have an opinion. You want to hear mine? I’m not sure if you’ll like it, it’s a tad against the grain from how I usually view film, but I hope you can appreciate the change of pace.

Those of you who know me know that I love lists; reading them, making them, crossing things off of them. There is something about rankings and having an order of operations that brings sense to my thoughts. Here is a list I created in review of ‘The Avengers.’

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5 Ways to Enjoy ‘The Avengers’ 

1. Stop thinking. Talk about going a completely different direction. This is totally different from the way I usually think about film. To me, story is everything. I went into this movie like I do most movies, looking for a distinct drive and purpose to the story telling, and at first it caused me frustration. There was something about a Tesseract, limitless energy, opening a portal to hell, Thor’s totally worthless brother, SHIELD’s poor relationship with the government, a nuclear strike, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, when I think retrospectively on the specific plot points of ‘The Avengers’ it’s just a mess. But before you write it off, I challenge you with this. This movie is not about the story. The story behind these characters is found in their individual films that came before. ‘The Avengers’ is about watching superheroes teaming up and taking on the super villains along the way. It’s about making the odds balanced in the favor of evil as much as possible, then watching the good guys triumph anyway. The story is merely set up to the final fire fight, a path to the eventual climax. So do yourself a favor; shut off your brain and just enjoy the ride.

2. It’s okay to laugh. The thing that really made this movie enjoyable was the special effects, star-studded cast, and incredible action, but it was also the movie’s ability to make the audience laugh. It was actually a really funny movie, of course an action movie first, but a comedy in the close second. The dialogue is dripping with sarcasm and irony, allowing the audience to truly enjoy their experience. There used to be a time in filmmaking where action movies were like this. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it was just pure entertainment. Spielberg was great at this, being able to balance the whimsy with wonder (You know that moment where the bandit swings the sword in the face of Indiana Jones and he just shoots him with the pistol?) By the end of ‘Avengers,’ the audience is not only enthralled by the spectacle of chaotic destruction, but they are giggling along with the characters, as if the whole thing is a carnival game. Also, if you want a really good laugh, just stick around after the full credits. Funniest fifteen seconds of the year.

3. Strap in for the final hour.  As previously stated, the entire movie is building up to this one huge climax, a finale that can challenge all finales. When our totally worthless villain finally takes control of the city with his other-worldly army, it is up to the Avengers to stop him. What ensues is nearly a full hour of super heroes breaking the skulls of alien soliders. Iron Man is flying around like a fighter jet, Captain America is saving innocent civilians while directing traffic, Thor is laying the smack down with that hammer, and the Hulk smashes, and when the Hulk smashes, he smashes good. Everyone eventually gets a shot at our bad guy, and this guy goes 0 for 4 against the vigilante hit squad. Again, Loki is completely worthless.

4. Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. I imagine there were moments while writing this movie that Joss Whedon and his buddies were thinking “We want to make the single most exciting movie ever made. How can we make this thing even more out of this world?” The answer? Add the beautiful and incredibly talented duo of Scarlett and Jeremy to the mix to play deadly black-ops agents with a chip on their shoulder. In all seriousness though, the two characters of Hawkeye and Black Widow were the x-factor in this movie. They gave the audience some characters they could relate to while continuing to entertain at the highest level. Plus, they would make beautiful children together. Now that I’ve revealed my man-crush, we’ll move on.

5. Pretend that Nick Fury in ‘The Avengers’ is the exact same character as Jules Winnfield in ‘Pulp Fiction’. This is coming from a guy that truly loves Samuel L. Jackson, but I am also well aware of his limitations, so I have to include this. “Say ‘Tesseract’ again! Say ‘Tesseract’ again! I dare you, I double dare you!”

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In closing, I want to put to rest a few things that were brought up when this movie came out. The first is that ‘The Avengers’ made more money in its opening weekend (over $200 million) than any other movie in history, crushing even the final Harry Potter film that was released only last summer. That is HUGE. By the end of it all, this movie will probably make more than $1 billion and be one of the highest grossing movies of all time. It is difficult to ignore a response like that, even though it is a completely imperfect movie. But I predict that both ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ will both break this record within the year.

The other topic being brought up is this: ‘The Avengers’: Best Super-Hero Movie of All Time.

Can I have a ‘geek out’ moment? As fun as ‘The Avengers’ is, and as much as I enjoyed it, it is NOT the Best Super-Hero Movie of All Time. Not even close. To try to compare this movie to ‘The Dark Knight’ (and believe me, many people are) is just simply ridiculous. ‘The Dark Knight’ is one of the best movies of our generation, filled with complexity and truly challenging characters and ideas, that touches both entertainment and filmmaking genius. ‘The Avengers’ is completely void of depth, made to simply give the audience a thrill, and it does it perfectly. Even without ‘The Dark Knight’ there are still half a dozen better movies out there about caped crusaders. So, fan-boys, stop the hype and think with your brains, not your adrenaline-filled hearts.

My Note: This was such a fun movie to watch; Stop thinking and just enjoy the ride.

My Grade: B

List of Super-Hero Movies that are Better Than ‘The Avengers’

Batman Begins

The Dark Knight

Hellboy

Iron Man

Kick-Ass

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 2

V for Vendetta

X-Men

(If you have any additions to this list, let me know!)

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The Hunger Games: Why I Love the Girl on Fire.

Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence

Well, Welcome to the Obligatory Movie Blog about the movie that everyone has already seen. Although it seems redundant, I couldn’t let this one slip by because I feel like ‘The Hunger Games’ has accomplished something that few movies have been able to do. So, for the baker’s dozen of you readers that haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope this can push you out the door, because  it really is worth the price of the ticket.

Not since the first of the Harry Potter films were first released, what seems like a billion years ago, has a popular young-adult series been able to gather public appeal, critical acclaim, and be a legitimately good movie. Us young readers who dived into ‘Eragon’ and ‘Percy Jackson’ were forced to watch in horror as the literature was massacred before our very eyes. And then there was ‘Twilight.’ The vampire inspired series of romance novels that none of us read but we all were forced to hear about. As I type this I can hear the moans of thousands of men around the country that were dragged into one of these movies. The movies ended up being awful, but made billions in the process (High-school Girls: Please refrain from throwing your nail polish and ‘My Chemical Romance’ CDs at your laptop screen in anger. I assure you, this is all in good fun.)

Yes, it was painful. But we endured, hoping that someday a movie would come along that would outlast the hype. We dreamed of a movie that would not only meet, but exceed our expectations.

People: the wait is over. ‘The Hunger Games’ is that movie.

Former champion Haymitch (played by Woody Harrelson) consoles Katniss before the games.

The story centers around Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence). An odd name, I know, but get used to it because it will be the name on everyone’s lips for the next 3-5 years. Katniss lives in Disctrict 12 with her mother and younger sister, Primrose. She often hunts with her hunky- totally platonic- companion Gale, who will later in this blog become the subject of great division and controversy. However, there is something wrong with Katniss’ world, beccause there is an annual event that happens in District 12 that will change her entire life.

Every year representatives from the central powers of Panem  (the nation made up of 12 separate city-states known as The Districts), travel to each district to select one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to participate in a national event known as the Hunger Games. During this particular selection, the powers-that-be select young Primrose Everdeen. Out of fear and love for her sister, Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take her place. Katniss, along with a awkward looking teenage boy named Peeta, are then taken to the Capital to prepare for the Hunger Games.

Now, what are the Hunger Games?

‘The Hunger Games’ is a nationally televised event in which 24 teenagers, known as the Tributes, are placed in a large arena and are then forced to fight to the death for their eager audience. The more brutal the better, each kill being broadcasted throughout the Capital as well as all 12 Districts.

So imagine the Super Bowl, but instead of touchdowns and interceptions, we get bombs and axe murderers. The purpose of the event is to remind the once rebellious districts that the Capital is still the supreme power of Panem; a power so great that they take the children of the Districts to be slaughtered.

I would prefer to not reveal any more of the plot than that, again not wanting to ruin the ride for the seven of you that haven’t seen it yet, except to bring up a few key scenes that allow ‘The Hunger Games’ to transcend from popular blockbuster to authentic quality filmmaking.

You see what this movie has that the ‘Twilights’ and other young-adult literature movies do not is a deeper meaning behind the story. Something more than just the characters in the arena. It is a movie that is trying to say something about protest, civil disobedience, and also a yearning within ourselves to be free.

Here are two examples of what I’m talking about…

1. The night before the games begin, Katniss and Peeta are speaking to one another about what to expect the next day. This is a segment of dialogue in the book that I am SO thankful that they left in the script (there is something to be said for a solid adaptation, but I digress.) Peeta tells Katniss that the one thing that he hopes is that these games don’t change him; that he can show everyone watching that the Capital doesn’t own him. He doesn’t care so much about whether he lives or dies, death is almost assured, but he is more concerned about staying true to himself. How powerful is that, in a world today where most movies are telling teenagers that they must compromise their identity to be accepted? You won’t find that in ‘Percy Jackson’.

2. Another breakout scene: Katniss, while in the arena, shows respect to a fallen tribute in the games by decorating the place where the competitor was killed. She honors their district by doing what Peeta was describing the night before the games; she is telling all of the Panem districts that Capital cannot take away their hope. The film then shows one of the outlying districts watching the games, and out of inspiration from Katniss and hatred for the Capital, they begin to revolt. They rise in rebellion against their tyrannical government. It is so powerful and holds so much truth about the nature of hope and the human spirit.

This has to be said as well: ‘The Hunger Games’ is a very tight, well-made film. The movie is directed by the Oscar-nominated Gary Ross, a seasoned Hollywood veteran. Many know Ross for his work in ambitious and creatively written films such as ‘Seabiscuit’, ‘Pleasantville’, and ‘Big’ (one of my personal favorites). Ross, who also co-wrote the script, is able to bring new life to the story that so many have already read. He shows the world of Panem from many different perspectives, not just from the eyes of the tributes in the arena, but also through the Game-Maker Seneca Crane and the drunken mentor of District 12, Haymitch Abernathy. Ross has directed a very compelling, exciting, and beautifully filmed movie, and trust me, fans everywhere appreciate this.

‘The Hunger Games’ is also driven by an exceptional cast. Jennifer Lawrence is just so stinking talented for her age, earning her first Oscar nomination at age 20 for ‘Winter’s Bone’, and she has found a way to make Katniss come to life. Major props to the producers of this film for making an extremely gifted actress the face of the franchise. (There were early rumors that Megan Fox was being pursued for the role. Can you imagine?) Lawrence is also joined by Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, and Elizabeth Banks, all of whom give fine supporting performances. I am always especially impressed by Kravitz, who showed me in ‘Precious’ as well as ‘The Hunger Games’ that the former rock star may have a bright career in acting ahead of him. And of course I wouldn’t forget about future pre-teen poster models Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as Miss Everdeen’s love interests.

That moment in 'The Cave'

My thoughts on the Peeta and Gale argument: there really is no argument. Gale is her good looking hunting-buddy, Peeta was willing to sacrifice everything for her. Gale taught her how to snare rabbits, Peeta saved her life half-a-dozen times. When Peeta was selected for the games, Gale just stood there with everyone else. If he really loved Katniss, wouldn’t he have volunteered to protect her? In the end, I think Gale hates the Capital more than he loves Katniss, whereas Peeta would rather die than see anything happen to her. That’s that.

My Note: Don’t write off this movie because it is a blockbuster based on a young-adult novel, because it is truly worthwhile in so many ways. (Also, a big round of applause for the writer of this article that did not include any spoilers.)

My Grade: B+

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