The three films – Mad Max (1979), Mad Max Road Warrior (1982) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – are all set in the near-future in Australia. From the very first film, Oscar® winner George Miller (Happy Feet, 2006) proved a master at creating the gritty, bleak dystopian world and staging the incredible car stunts and crashes in the era when stuntmen, not computers, achieved the effects. All three movies starred Mel Gibson, virtually unknown until after the second film, as Max Rockatansky, a highway cop traveling through the Outback in a society descending into chaos. The films started Gibson on his road to international superstardom, led to his signature Lethal Weapon series, and later two Academy Awards® for his roles as producer and director of Braveheart (1995).
The Mad Max Trilogy is well known for its incredible action sequences, despite the obviously low budgets. The plot line of the series is very reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns, but spawned the iconic idea of the Thunderdome. I think we all have to hand it to stunt director, Grant Page (who performed stunts, himself, in both the first and third installments). After all, the “Saw” scene from the first movie was widely considered one of the more nail-bitingly tense scenes of decade when it was released. Check out the scene leading up to the gore (no gore directly included here, I promise):
If you’ve never seen the trilogy, and enjoy action, you’re severely missing out. If you have seen it, and want to again, now’s your chance. You can now own it on Blu-Ray (and it happens to be on sale at this very moment – just sayin’). It even comes in a really nifty metal case. Definitely a great item for a collector.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls… Dyin’ time’s here.
Everything is connected.
Or so they would have you believe. Cloud Atlas is the newest installation brought to us by the Wachowski siblings. Now, we all know the Wachowskis from the Matrix series, and chances are most of us loved at least, or only, the first one. Here in the comic fan world, we also know them from producing the V for Vendetta movie which, to most lovers of the brilliant Alan Moore comic, left much to be desired. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this movie. I had asked a few friends what they thought of it, without revealing any details, and got very mixed reviews from them. However, it seemed to have a great cast behind it, and has had many compliments on the graphics and stylistic choices, so I tried to keep an open mind. If you haven’t seen this film yet, don’t worry, I won’t give anything away for you. We’ll try to keep this as spoiler-friendly as possible.
I’d like to tell you this movie is phenomenal. That it’s mind-blowing, life-changing.. all that gooey stuff. It’s simply not. It’s true that the cast was fantastic – well, most of them. To be honest, the two main leads – Tom Hanks and Halle Berry – really weren’t anything to write home about. A lot of their characters’ personalities seemed a bit forced and unimagined. To be fair, though, they each played several characters throughout the movie (six, to be precise). Mostly main characters, at that, which can’t be easy to do. However, the supporting cast was quite wonderful. By the ending credits, I was astonished to find that there were a few characters portrayed by Hugh Grant that I truly would not have guessed to be him. Another notable appearance was made by Hugo Weaving. Of course, I’m pretty sure we all have just come to expect wonderful things from Weaving, his portrayal of Old Georgie in this was disturbing in all the right ways. Not only that, he also shows up as a comically rough-handed female nurse in a mental institution. All things considered, the casting for Cloud Atlas did lend a lot to the movie as a whole, that would have been greatly soured by a lesser cast.
What I had previously heard about the aesthetics of the film did not seem to be exaggerated either. Taking place in six different time lines, Cloud Atlas had to adapt to very different settings very quickly. The futuristic, dystopian feel of Neo Seoul was particularly interesting. In fact, let’s take a look at a scene from that time line:
However, casting and looks can only take you so far. There needs to be a great story line behind a movie like this, and that’s where it really fell short. The tagline of Everything is Connected is pushed very hard from the second you even look at a movie poster for Cloud Atlas. In fact, it’s pushed so hard that it’s quite a let down when you come to see that things.. really aren’t that connected. You’d expect the six stories to be very intertwined; you’d expect the core characters in each respective timeline to suffer the same general pitfalls, and learn the same overall lessons as they may relate to them, personally. I’m just going to rip that band-aid off right now – they don’t. There are certain aspects that are passed down through timelines, but they just aren’t enough to connect the characters together as much as you want them to. If you take a look at the infographic here (click to enlarge), it explains individual items that are passed between characters, but these items, with the notable exception of Sonmi-451 and 2346 Hawaii, really don’t mean very much in the grand scheme of the story. The way you’re built up to believe that everything will connect on a profound level ends up being a huge let down. This entire story seemed like it spent two and a half hours driving and driving to a point, and it just never got there. Frankly, it was disappointing.
Cloud Atlas has a fair amount of well-delivered humor, and a good portion of fun action sequences. The cast obviously had a lot of fun with this one, and their efforts definitely show. Six different timelines are very beautifully portrayed, often with unique and interesting styles. However, the soundtrack was unremarkable, and the story was infuriating. This is the kind of movie that would be fun to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon when you have nothing better to do, but it’s absolutely not something I’ll be revisiting anytime soon.
I would, however, like to mention something I found particularly wonderful. This isn’t even about the movie, though, it’s about the packaging. One of the ways you can get this DVD is in a combo-pack. This comes with a DVD, Blu-Ray Disc, and an optional digital download. I really have to hand it to WB and the movie industry on this one. Giving consumers options for how they want to view a product they own is a long-awaited idea that we’ve all been hoping for.
That said, Cloud Atlas available NOW on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital Download. I’d love to hear what you guys thought of it.
This book is a comprehensive, giant, super-glossy coffee table book all about Tim Burton’s film adaptation of old cult TV series Dark Shadows. It’s got thorough character sketches, a behind the scenes story as to how and why the movie got made, and numerous concept sketches, all interspersed with testimonials from the actors and others attesting to how cool it was to be a part of this Burton project.
Pluses: This book is gorgeous. If you are a Burton fan or a Depp fan or even a fan of anyone else in this movie, you’ll love to have this in your nerd-collection. If you like to see behind the scenes and look at all the art, stunt work, makeup and hair, and conceptual design of an auteur director who is intensely visual, you’ll want this book out on your coffee table, at least during the Halloween season.
Minuses: Sorry to say this, but I don’t think anyone but a very die hard fan of Burton, Depp or Bonham-Carter knows this movie even exists. It seems to me a giant effort and no doubt huge expense for quite an obscure movie, that no doubt DVD extras could provide just as well. Having said that, I know very well the following that Burton has and we nerds’ love of collectibles, so I have no doubt that this book will find many happy homes.
Bottom line: It’s a gorgeous book, but it’s not really for anyone but hardcore fans and collectors.
The Great Showdowns is a lovely little art book that is at once a fun geeky guessing game and high quality pop art watercolors.
When I received my review copy, I promptly brought it to rehearsal so I could peruse it while I was backstage, not in a scene. It proceeded to enchant the entire cast, who would, on tenterhooks, look over my shoulder as I flipped the pages, exclaiming the depiction as soon as they could decipher it. They didn’t stay as quiet as actors need to backstage, and I am not sure that a late entrance or two may not have been because of this book.
Scott C. does these showdowns a lot– his work is not just relegated to little comic-y art books, but his work appears in galleries and collections regularly. It shows. The Showdowns are simple in the most complex way–sometimes the showdown will be obvious (Han Solo and Greedo), other times you have to look at it for a bit before you “get it” (the one about Trainspotting made us all laugh way too loud). And there’s an introduction by Neil Patrick Harris, so there’s the awesomeness factor ramped up right there.
Bottom line: The Great Showdowns is a wonderful little magical tome to include in your art library, pop culture collection, or keep out on your coffee table.
It’s pretty safe to say that the release of The Dark Knight Rises was one of, if not the most, anticipated film this summer. Since 2005, Christopher Nolan has kept us on the edge of our seats with his wonderfully macabre telling of the Batman tale. On a personal level, I have always had a very strong fondness for the entire Batman world. The dark knight has always ranked at the very top of my list of superheroes, particularly because he’s the antihero. When you think about recent films, shows, and projects, antiheroes have really stepped into the spotlight lately (consider works such as Dr. Horrible or Breaking Bad). I’m sure we could spend all day considering the psychology of this, but today we’re more focused on Batman, and suffice it to say, the recent Nolan Batman films fit right into this antihero craze. Add the long-standing fandom of the Batman world to the antihero love, and cap it off with the brilliant success of the highly acclaimed last installment, The Dark Knight, and you have a recipe for some high levels of excitement. I do believe, in a lot of ways, the ending to this trilogy lived up to the hype. However, some aspects left me looking for more. Let’s get to that now.
From here on out, all you’ll see is SPOILERS. If you have not seen the movie, and don’t want it SPOILED, skip to the next article instead.
One thing I greatly admire about Nolan’s take on the Batman story is his ability to reinvent characters. Nolan faced the challenge of demystifying the characters in the Batman realm, bringing them more to life by making them more human, while still remaining true to the comics. In some ways, this leaves us with a lot of questions about specific characters and their origins, while lending a new sense of intrigue to them. Take, for instance, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight: we never got a solid origin story out of that, but the way he spoke about his potential origins, he gave us a deep look into the psychosis of this character. This relates to the newly introduced characters, too. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, put simply, was brilliant. Throughout the film, Selina Kyle hints several times at a past filled with bad mistakes and regrets. We never get the details on what happened with her past, but we’re told why she wants it erased to badly, and certainly feel her sense of urgency to the point that we can feel her justification for all of her devious plots. Meanwhile, we get a glimpse at the remnants of Bruce Wayne’s internal torment. We see old, exalted photos of a half-forgotten life hindering his ability or desire to move on. We also get to watch him come back to life and force himself to be the hero he is, not because he wants to, but because he has to. This need to return to Batman is also hastened by Gotham City PD’s Officer Blake, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Blake was an orphan, himself, who depended on Wayne’s contributions to local charities growing up, and who was inspired by Batman’s moral influence and strong will to help the people of Gotham. So with that in mind, we enter into this film being immediately greeted by three strong characters in desperate situations.
Next, we have Bane. In many stories, Bane has pretty much been the equivalent of a pumped up hired gun. However, the original Dixon story that influenced Bane’s presence in The Dark Knight Rises, “Knightfall,” gives him a much stronger presence. Because of that story arc in the comics, Bane became known as “The Man Who Broke the Bat,” for having broken Batman’s back during a fight. This is also true of TDKR. The very first fight between Bane, played by Tom Hardy, and Batman is an extremely powerful scene. After teaming up with Catwoman, Batman is brought down to the sewers to find Bane and confront him head-on. Before they get all the way there, Batman is pulled away from Catwoman, and thrown onto a metal walkway, going across the sewers below, with Bane, and locked there. Instantly, the music drops, so all you hear are select sounds from the confrontation and fight. The entire time, we see Catwoman clinging on to the bars of the walkway, obviously distraught about double-crossing the dark knight, and very concerned for his life. The blows go back and forth rather evenly for a while before Bane takes a very commanding lead, tossing Batman around like a rag doll. Eventually, true to the story it was adapted from, the scene turns more serious when Bane lifts Batman over his head, then drops the Bat onto his knee, breaking his back. To add insult to injury, Bane peels half of the broken mask from the fallen hero’s face while he’s writhing in pain on the ground, and tosses it aside. Leaving the scene with the symbolic gesture of discarding something that was meant as a beacon of hope for the people of Gotham.
Above all, though, I’d have to say my own personal favorite character here was Miranda, played by a fantastic actress, Marion Cotillard. Miranda is Bruce’s business-associate-turned-love interest throughout the story, growing more and more prominent in his life. While Batman is recovering, Bane is taking over Gotham, with the promise of destroying it with a nuclear bomb, and the entire city is left to fight and scavenge. During this time, Miranda appears to be working with Bruce’s business associates, but of course we come to find out this is a ruse. After Batman seemingly defeats Bane, we get Miranda’s reveal. Throughout the entire film, we’ve been teased with what is presented to be Bane’s backstory. A small child in a prison made out of a giant hole in the ground, nicknamed “Hell.” The child is the only person to ever escape this prison by climbing the walls. This is the same prison Batman is exiled to while recovering from his broken spine. To get out of the prison, he has to climb the same wall the small child did. After several tries, he manages this feat while the rest of the prisoners are shouting “Rise! Rise!” in their own language. We hear the story of the child – the spawn of a mercenary and a noblewoman – in pieces, but we hear the ending from Miranda. This child turns out to be Miranda, who reveals that she is actually Talia al Ghul, there to fulfill the legacy of her father, Ra’s al Ghul. In the Batman universe, Talia is a character with a long history of being Batman’s love interest, Catwoman’s rival, and Bane’s accomplice. However, showing Talia as the little girl escaping “Hell,” supported by her childhood friend and protector, Bane, gives a whole new level of emotional depth to both of these characters. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Marion Cotillard presents this reveal scene with a certain stoicism that makes the entire twist seem that much more significant.
Most of us grew up with these movies, and I’ll bet you probably feel like you have a good idea of what happened in these movies, and that you’re an expert on Gremlins. I can promise you.. you’re not. Unless these are your traditional Christmas movies (aside from Die Hard), I can pretty much guarantee that you should double, if not triple the level of entertainment you remembered getting from these films. Don’t worry, if you haven’t seen them in a while, we’re going to give you the chance to win them on Blu-Ray.
While the original Gremlins starts out as a cute story about an evil real estate lady talking smack about some kid’s dog, it evolves into so much more. Sure, you remember how adorable Gizmo was, and how cute it was to see him whistle along with a keyboard. Let me remind you what goes on in this film. A self-proclaimed inventor goes to Chinatown in NYC to sell some of his home-made wares, and comes across a cheeky little kid inviting him to his grandfather’s shop. The man goes to the shop to try to sell something to the old Chinese fellow, and ends up trying to bribe the old Chinese fellow into giving him a small creature from his store. Of course, the Chinese fellow refuses, and asks the man to leave. A couple minutes later, the cheeky little kid comes running out with a box, explaining the creature is a Mogwai, and asking the stranger to abide by three simple rules: 1 – Keep him away from bright lights. Sunlight could kill him, 2 – Don’t get him wet, and 3 – Don’t feed him after midnight. The stranger thanks the kid, and brings the creature home to his son, Billy, as a Christmas present. Billy adores the cute little creature, nicknamed Gizmo, and introduces him to a neighborhood kid. As is the case with most 80s films, this neighborhood kid is played by Cory Feldman, and does exactly the wrong thing which gets the story in motion: he spills a big cup of water on Gizmo. The water causes him to multiply, and several other little Mogwai spawn from him. Gizmo doesn’t seem to like this. In fact, he seems very worried about all his new little friends. Probably because they’re jerks. They make a mess, they’re loud, they’re obnoxious, and they trick their master into feeding them after midnight. This changes the cute, furry, playful beings into big, creepy, green, reptilian imps that just love going around causing mischief. This is what everyone remembers from this 1984 classic: a fun, slightly scary time with incredibly imaginative creatures.
Now let’s talk about what I recently had the pleasure of rediscovering while watching these gems. First of all, this is a horror movie. Sure, it has cute little creatures, a campy tone, and some morality in there, but for all intents and purposes, this is absolutely a horror story. When the obnoxious Mogwais hatch into Gremlins, they instantly start terrorizing a town. They start by killing a high school Science teacher, while another batch goes to mess with Billy’s mother. I should mention she just made some fabulous-looking gingerbread men. The mother goes to investigate a noise caused by the Gremlins upstairs, and comes back to her kitchen to see these little jerks just causing all kinds of problems with her cooking utensils and – this takes the cake – eating her fresh cookies. I’d be all in a huff over this too, but this woman goes for the biggest kitchen knife she can find. She then proceeds to fling one Gremlin into a microwave, making it explode, shove another in a blender, and then plunges that big ol’ knife right into a third. She meant business. Beyond the antics of a mother defending her fresh-baked cookies, we also get to see these little green imps crowd into a bar (where the main character’s love interest is hard at work), and start drinking, smoking, fighting, and pulling guns on one another. This was after the last lone Gremlin decided he wanted more company, and jumped in a pool of water to reproduce and take over the town. So now this sleepy little town has to fight off all these little monsters. They do, in case you were wondering, and live to make a sequel.
The second one is even better. The best way to describe Gremlins 2 is pretty much to say it’s the Airplane of horror movies. This sequel takes place in New York City where Billy, our protagonist from the first movie, has moved with his girlfriend, Kate. Billy and Kate both work for an eccentric developer whose entire empire circles around being technologically advanced. To the point that tours are given for the building this company is based in, the Clamp Building, so that people can see such novelties as the voice-activated elevator. The Clamp Corporation, has many ambitious projects going, such as destroying a few buildings in Chinatown to make way for a revolutionary new structure, filming several television shows within the building, and even a genetic research lab. Going into this sequel, the campy humor just oozes from every single possible angle. After an introduction into Billy’s new job, we meet a workplace friend of his named Fred, a man dressed as a vampire that hosts a daytime horror review show. Fred alerts his buddy to the new genetics research lab in the building, and one thing leads to another until Billy goes snooping. There he finds Gizmo, who he previously had to give back to the creature’s elderly Chinese owner. Gizmo had barely escaped building demolition after his master dies, and the Clamp Corporation destroys his old shop building. Some of the boys from the lab find Gizmo on the street, and bring him back to get a closer look at him. Billy makes his way into the lab, cleverly named A Splice of Life, and rescues Gizmo, hiding him in his desk at work. After being called to an immediate dinner meeting with his boss, Billy asks his girlfriend and coworker, Kate, to bring Gizmo home. Kate is less than enthusiastic about this request, being that her only previous experience with the Mogwai was the hellish adventure of ridding her home town of Gremlins. While she procrastinates getting up to Billy’s desk to retrieve Gizmo, a clumsy janitor inadvertently manages to squirt water on Gizmo forcing him to reproduce. Antics ensue, and instead of taking home Gizmo, Kate takes home a very dim-witted, hyper Mogwai by accident.
At this point, there are various Mogwais running about the building, eating things, getting near water, and just generally making a mess. Once Billy comes home to see the wrong Mogwai, he quickly puts together the pieces, and goes down to the Clamp building. From here, things get ridiculous. We quickly get Gremlins running all over the place, affording many opportunities for added hilarity. In one of the taping rooms, we see a fellow reviewing the original Gremlins movie, mentioning how horrible he thinks it is, and how he can’t believe we’re now being subjected to a second one. He’s interrupted by two Gremlins popping up behind him, strangling him with a film strip. We also see another stab at the series when the movie seems to stop, and we’re cut to a theater full of people complaining that “they won’t let us watch the movie.” One lady states “the first one was bad enough!” to a theater manager who goes in to find none other than Hulk Hogan. The theater managers asks the Hulk to please get the Gremlins to let them resume the movie, mentioning that all they want to do is watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (a reference to their behavior in the first movie). Hulk Hogan verbally intimidates the Gremlins, and the movie magically keeps going. This kind of absolutely random, and wonderful humor is prevalent throughout the entire film.
One of the more fun parts of this follow-up is when the Gremlins get into the genetic research lab, and start drinking random formulas. One Gremlin gets his hands on a flask that just has a bat silhouette, and drinks the whole thing, turning himself into a Bat-Gremlin. This sets him up for several Batman jokes while the Bat-Gremlin bursts through a wall and into the skies of New York City. He manages to attack a man in the street who drags him down into a pit of wet concrete. The Bat-Gremlin is just barely able to fly away, covered in wet cement, and lands on an iconic church in downtown New York, hardening into a gargoyle. Another Gremlin drinks from a flask with a brain on it, becoming the only intelligent Gremlin, able to speak articulately. Yet another Gremlin grabs a flask with male and female signs on it, becoming the only female Gremlin. During all of this, an entire army of Gremlins has descended on the Clamp building taking down various areas of the structure. Each little antic of theirs helps Billy convince the security crew in the building that there is, in fact, a very big problem, and they need to evacuate the area. Eventually the only people we assume are left in the building are Billy, Kate, an old man from their hometown, the eccentric developer, Mr. Clamp, and Billy’s immediate boss. We soon come to find that there are two more people there: Vampire Fred and an Asian tourist with a video camera, who are broadcasting the madness to the outside world the entire time. Through a few tricks, the crew gets the entire Gremlin population in the lobby of the building which can only end one way. A musical number. Here we get to see thousands of Gremlins break into “New York, New York” with the only articulate Gremlin singing like Frank Sinatra.
All in all, Gremlins 2 absolutely personifies the level of quality we’ve come to miss from movies of its time. The writing is hilarious and unexpected. The cast is wonderful, and the effects were top-notch for their day. And as of May 8th, you can even own both movies on Blu-Ray. Gotta love the future.
In fact.. let’s get back to that chance to win a Blu-Ray copy of these movies. We’ll be giving away one of each movies, Gremlins and Gremlins 2. So you have a chance to win one or the other here. All you have to do is tell me who your favorite Gremlin is. I’ll get you started – mine was the one playing with the hand puppets in the first movie.
Leave a comment with your pick, and we will randomly draw two winners on Monday, May 21st!
**This is a spoiler-free review since I wouldn’t want to spoil one moment of enjoyment of this utterly unique cinematic experience.**
I’ll admit it, I was a bit wary coming into The Avengers screening last night. I have been following this one-of-a-kind cinematic collaboration by Marvel since Iron Man and have been breathlessly waiting to see if they managed to pull it off. The previews looked good, but there were a few shots that left me with some doubt that it would be an okay movie, rather than a cinematic marvel (pun intended). I am so pleased to announce that it is the latter. All of my doubts vanished as the movie quickly unfolded. I really shouldn’t have ever doubted Director (and creative genius) Joss Whedon. He has never disappointed me and he rose above even his own exquisite previous work. Have written the screenplay himself, Joss has created both a singularly unique vision, but also managed to deftly integrate four franchises and set up each hero’s individual journey into their future sequels.
I have to give kudos to not only Joss and his team, but to the creative minds at Marvel that hired him, despite his lack of commercial success. While the geek community may have cheered when he was hired, it wasn’t necessarily the obvious or safe choice, so bravo Marvel for taking that chance. I have no doubts that this will be Joss’ most financially successful film and I sincerely hope that it brings him the far-reaching respect and success outside of the geek community that he so richly deserves. I also have to give a hand to each of the creators of the individual franchises who had to integrate the larger Avengers plot lines into their own films while maintaining their own creative freedom and integrity.
So, is The Avengers the best superhero film ever? While some may argue YES, I think this movie goes beyond that. Never before has such a large-scale integration of films and characters been attempted and I think it would be unfair to compare The Avengers to a movie centered around a single hero. The end result of years of planning, integrating the plots of five films, the bringing together of such talented actors and spinning off of as many as five future franchises deserves a round of applause. The fact that it got made is impressive enough, but the end result is more than I could have dreamed of. But seriously now, I will stop gushing. Can you tell I’m excited?
I kept having flashes during The Avengers about how the same movie, helmed by a different Director, would have looked. There were moments that came so close to veering into cheese territory, but Whedon’s ever-earnest style of filmmaking never allowed it to go there. There was maybe one frame of the whole movie where I rolled my eyes ever so slightly, and it was something really minor. In true Whedon style, there are moments of both extreme darkness and of side-splitting hilarity. This is the largest action-movie that he has directed and I was a little nervous about his handling of huge action set-pieces, but they did not disappoint. I found myself gripping the arm-rests several times and the audience burst into applause multiple times during the film. There is a real intelligence behind the film (another Whedon trademark) and I will admit, I didn’t entirely understand every little thing that was happening. I can’t wait to watch the film again this weekend for an even deeper appreciation of the script. There were no cheesy recruitment montages, no overly complicated explanations for things that weren’t really needed and plenty of surprises.
You may have heard that Bruce Banner/The Hulk steals the show and you’ve heard right. Not in a bad way though. His character is much more fleshed out and confident than what you saw in both The Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, and the addition of Mark Ruffalo turns out to be a stroke of genius. I will be very surprised if Hulk doesn’t get his own franchise after this film. Each of The Avengers gets their own moments of focus and your enjoyment of the film will be further deepened if you’re caught up on each of their individual films. That having been said, I brought a friend who hadn’t seen anything but the Iron Man films and she loved it too. Scarlet Johannson’s Black Widow also surprised me and I found myself enjoying her far more than I thought I would. There wasn’t a ton of character development for each hero, but that’s not what this film was about and it made me long to see them each in their own films in the future. By not dwelling too much on any one person, the star of this film was truly the ensemble cast as a whole. There are no weak links here in my opinion.
I hope you all enjoy The Avengers as much as I did and I can’t wait for the movie to be released this weekend so that I can start discussing details with all of you. Until then, Avengers Assemble!
*Just two quick notes here: 1) As for which format to see it in, I saw it in IMAX 3D and while the 3D was well done and resulted in no headaches, it was really subtle and didn’t add to my enjoyment at all, so I say skip the upgrade charge and see it in 2D. 2) Apparently there are two tags over the credits (I missed the latter!), so make sure you stay until the bitter end!
I have read The Hunger Games a few times now (4 times before seeing the movie and then once so far since I saw it on Saturday). That’s just how I do it when I enjoy a story. And this is one story that I truly enjoy for a lot of reasons. The main one being that we could easily end up in the world depicted. We really aren’t that far from it.
I am also a person who doesn’t get all freaked out when a book I love is adapted into a movie. Not since Interview with a Vampire when I was in middle school. So I am completely capable of going into a movie adaptation and accepting it for the separate, but related medium that it is. This doesn’t change the fact that I will compare it to the source material.
Thar be Spoilers Ahead
With that said here are my thoughts on what they did right and what I would like to have seen done differently.
Jennifer Lawrence was perfection as Katniss Everdeen. The interactions with her mother were so well done you could feel the tension in the theater. The shots of the coal miners were beautiful, but I wish they would have done more to really show how desperate life in District 12 is. I would have liked to have the division between classes within the district shown better. We don’t know from the movie that Peeta is “Merchant Class” while Katniss is from the Seam, and that there is a difference.
While I truly did enjoy the Gamemaker shots and Seneca Crane, I would have liked maybe one or two less of those shots in favor of the bread from District 11 and the conversation between Rue and Katniss showing the difference between the districts and highlighting the fact that they are so cut off from one another. I love love loved the scene with Seneca and the bowl of Nightlock! One thing I did like quite a lot was the addition of the President Snow scenes. I always tend to see Donald Southerland as a kindly, jolly figure in films and was worried that he would not be able to bring across the terrifyingly menacing quality inherent in President Snow. He does it so well and I cannot wait for a few scenes in Catching Fire between him and Katniss.
I have to say my absolute favorite addition to the movie was utilizing Caesar Flickerman in the place of Katniss’ internal dialog in some places, like the description of the Tracker Jackers. It was perfect and meant more Stanley Tucci on the screen! He was exactly as I pictured Caesar while reading the books and I could not be happier. At first I was a little iffy when I heard that Woody Harrelson was playing Haymitch, but I was WRONG WRONG WRONG. He was so stinking good! I didn’t even care that he wasn’t as fat as I had pictured. And Elizabeth Banks was per-fec-tion as Effie. I loved her nails, her wig, her SHOES, all of it. Her comment about “That is MAHOGANY” had me rolling in the aisles.
One thing that I couldn’t stomach and I have heard a lot of people complain about it is the shaky cameras and the super-fast blurry panning in some scenes. I have a hard time seeing movies in the theaters because of my vision. I have to take my glasses off to be able to clearly see the screen because of its size and distance – yes, I am VERY much a Sheldon in a movie theater I have MY spot – so it takes my eyes a few minutes to adjust and the shaking cameras made that so much more difficult.
All-in-all I am very happy with the movie, will buy it on BluRay and will be in line on opening day for the other 2 movies. They stayed true to the story, made some excellent changes and kept in (for the most part) the bits I felt were the most important. I cried when Katniss volunteered, was a blubbering mess when Rue died. I was able to hold it in until Katniss put the flowers in her hand but then I lost it. Just like when I read the book. No amount of knowing what is coming changes that. You care about these characters and the actors they have playing them made it even more so.
The Lorax (released March 2nd) is a delightful expanded version of Dr. Seuss`s 1971 environmental fable. It`s directed by Chris Renaud, who also helmed 2010`s Despicable Me, and this film shares some of DM`s off-beat humor and kid-friendly supporting characters. The story takes place in the Jetsons-esque town of Thneedville, a bright, colorful burg which boasts futuristic cars and happy inhabitants, but nothing natural. No trees, grass, or organic material exist there. The city is surrounded by a huge metal wall which protects citizens from the polluted outside world.
Young Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) decides that he must find a genuine Truffula tree in order to impress budding artist Audrey (Taylor Swift), the girl of his dreams. At first, it seems hopeless, as the Truffulas have been extinct for ages. But then his feisty grandmother (Betty White) clues him in about the Onceler (Ed Helms), who lives outside the wall and may hold the key to his dream.
The Onceler`s backstory is the heart of the film, as it is tied to the tale of Thneedville. In the Seuss book, he`s shadowy and mysterious, a pair of long arms attached to a face that one never sees. In this movie, he`s still tall and long-armed, but we learn a lot more about him. The Onceler starts out as a likeable neo-hippy who is idealistic about life and just wants to be good at something.
He travels to the idyllically beautiful valley of the Lorax and sets to work on his dream product, the “Thneed”, which is made from the soft leaves of the Truffula trees. But his plans are temporarily halted by the appearance of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), a bold walrus-like creature who “speaks for the trees.” The rest of the Onceler`s tale hinges on the conflict between his friendship with the Lorax (and the valley animals) and his desire to make money quickly.
As you can easily guess, he goes with the second option, and the industrial wasteland that this choice produces leads to the creatures leaving and the evantual creation of the Thneedville wall. It`s up to Ted and his fellow citizens to try to restore the area to its former natural beauty.
The movie handles the Onceler`s hard-earned lessons about the environment in a creative way, showing the effects of his actions rather than becoming preachy. Strangely, the film often feels like a much older one in terms of ideology. Despite its lavish use of CGI and bright color palette, it reminded me of thoughtful 70`s animation like The Point (1971) and various after-school specials.
The animation is gorgeous: especially well-done is the lush green land of the Lorax with its Truffula trees and bright orange Humming Fish. Although the movie is being shown in 3-D. you don`t really have to pay the extra cash: it`s a lovely sight in 2-D. The script is witty and fresh, though it only quotes from the source material a few times.
Danny DeVito does very well as the voice of the Lorax. He plays him as somewhat lighter in tone than he is in the book, but it works out: the comic aspects of the character balance the serious plot points. Helms seems perfect for the Onceler. He captures both his younger self`s enthusiasm and the regret-laden sighs of the adult. Also of note are Swift`s cute yet sweet Audrey and the great Betty White as Ted`s active grandma.
To sum it up. this is a Seuss adaptation that both entertains and educates. It`s always a joy to find an animated film which has a solid story behind the visuals, and The Lorax is such a film.
Review by Guest Blogger, T. Johnson
T. Johnson is a blogger, au pair, and part-time tutor who has been obsessed with science fiction and comics since roughly first grade. One of her life`s big revelations was discovering Wonder Woman comics-another milestone was starting to read the works of Heinlein and Aldous Huxley. She has always been convinced that girls can be as truly nerdy as any fanboy.
Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Well, since you’re here, I guess it’s that time of year again, when we go through last year’s best films, and then nominate two or three of them for Best Picture Oscars and six other acceptable movies for the rest.
In 2010 the possible number of nominees for the Best Picture category was raised to 10, which made seeing all the nominees twice as difficult and usually included at least one or two really mediocre movies where you were like, “Really? You think this is one of the ten best movies of last year?” This year, because they no longer HAD to nominate 10, and because they were having a really classy year in which they hired a homophobe to direct the Oscars who later quit after he made himself the asshole of Hollywood if he wasn’t already, the Academy decided to only nominate nine movies, because of course, there were only nine movies last year. (As far as I’m concerned, this is the only excuse.)
I’d just like to take a moment out to point out what bullshit it is that Bridesmaids didn’t get the 10th nomination, as I’m pretty sure the category’s expansion to 10 was just so movies like Bridesmaids COULD be nominated. Would I have expected it to win? No. Would it have been great to see a movie that clearly featured, at least according to the Academy, Oscar-caliber writing and acting score a Best Picture nom as well, since it was obviously operating within that sphere? Yes. Do I think it would have really helped the state of women in movies? Yes, actually I do. But the Academy, because it wants you to know that it doesn’t have to nominate 10 movies, only nominated nine.
Anyway, let’s sit and talk about those nine movies, several of which are good, some of which are okay, and one of which made me want to claw my own brain out and then eat it. Annoyingly for my post-writing purposes, a lot of the acting nominees aren’t from these movies, making it harder to discuss that, but don’t worry about it. At the end I’m gonna briefly summarize who is likely to win (not necessarily whom I, personally, wish would win), whether or not they’re from these nine movies. But in case you didn’t see them, and want to sound knowledgeable and like you did so you can argue with your friends using subjective analyses, please feel free. Also please feel free to argue with me, unless you want to argue about Tree of Life, in which case there’s no point.
For your convenience, here’s an easy way to jump from movie to movie, if you don’t want to read them all (since, even with only nine movies, this post is monstrous), and also for the most part they are free of spoilers that you wouldn’t find on the back of a DVD cover or something unless otherwise indicated.