Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Okay, so I loved the book, and was eager to see the movie.  My teenaged son and I counted the days until the movie’s release and rounded up some friends to go with us to see it, and last night was our big night.  So what’s the verdict?

I thought they did a pretty decent job with the story, at least at first glance.  On further analysis when we got home, however, Kevin and I went back over it and realized that we were both disappointed in certain things that were changed or ever left out of the movie – for instance, in the book, Buttercup, the cat Katniss hates, is described as an ugly yellow cat.  In the movie, the cat is black and white.  Kevin thought this was laziness on the movie-makers’ part.  “Would it have been so hard for them to find a yellow cat?” he asked.  Katniss’s acquisition of the Mockingjay pin is different in the movie version than the book version.  Her whole ordeal of nearly dying of thirst in the beginning of the Games is completely left out.

On the other hand, at close to two and a half hours long already, it’s hard to imagine how every detail could have been fit into the movie.  So that’s understandable, I suppose.

I loved the actors chosen to play the various characters; all of them seemed to fit, so it made it believable in that sense.  The musical score is great.

There was some discussion between me and some friends on Facebook the fight scenes, and the general consensus (and Kevin agrees) is that the fight scenes are largely glossed over and not graphic enough.  It’s not that everyone is a fan of blood and gore, but most of the fight scenes consisted of a brief flash of a knife, a quick glimpse of a dead tribute, a fast fading in and out of a mortal wound, that type of thing.  However, it makes sense that the graphic nature of the violence had to be minimized in order to keep the movie’s rating at PG-13, and therefore accessible to the very audience the books are aimed at.

All in all, I thought they did a pretty good job of adapting the book to a movie version.

My biggest issue is the cinematography, and it was a HUGE issue for me.  Lots of quick zooming in and out and shaky, jerky movement.  I believe the intent is to make the viewer feel like they’re right there, a part of the action, running right alongside Katniss in the woods, staring at close range right into the face of Effie Trinket, and then suddenly jerking your gaze away and onto something else.  All the constant motion and shaking made me very motion sick, however, and I spent the majority of the movie trying very hard not to vomit.  I actually had to get up at one point and go sit in the lobby for a few minutes, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to go back into the theater.  I did go back, but it wasn’t easy to sit through the rest of the movie feeling extremely nauseous.  Now, this could very well be chalked up to my currently being in a delicate condition, but several other people I know who have seen the movie also said that the cinematography was difficult for them, so I would caution anyone who is sensitive to motion sickness about seeing this movie.

If I had to rate it, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars (Kevin gives it 4 out of 5, for the record).

Movie Review: Hugo

Based on Brian Selznick’s children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo the movie doesn’t disappoint.  The story of an orphaned boy living in secret in a Paris train station in the 1930s, Hugo’s life intersects with a grumpy, formerly celebrated filmmaker thought to be long dead.  The film is also very much an homage to very early cinema, and as in the book, this added a unique dimension to the story.  Very pleasing to the eye (and in fact nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Cinematography among them), the sets, costumes and special effects really bring Selznick’s unique book to life.

I thought this was an interesting choice for Martin Scorsese to direct (add Best Director and Best Film to the movie’s Oscar nominations); it’s a far cry from his usual controversial and often violent adult movies like Raging Bull, Cape Fear, and Goodfellas.  Ben Kingsley plays the part of George Melies to perfection, and Sasha Baron Cohen adds comic relief as the overly stern and socially awkward Station Inspector – and for once doesn’t play a bizarre character that makes one cringe.  The real stars are the kids – Asa Butterfield as Hugo, and Chloe Grace Moretz as Isabelle.

My two older boys and I really enjoyed this movie.  I think it can definitely stand on its own, but is even better if you’ve first read the book.

Movie Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Although not an avid movie-goer, I love to go see a movie based on a book I loved, and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – in fact the whole Millenium trilogy – is high on my list of favorites.  Intrigue, action, suspense, mystery, murder, sex, revenge, and a kick-ass heroine, all set in Sweden . . . what more could a reader want?

But how would the movie live up to the book’s reputation?  A Swedish version came out a couple years ago, which I’ve never seen but have heard lots of good things about.  I did go see the recently released American version last night and it did not disappoint.  I thought it was an excellent adaptation of the book, and Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara were perfect as Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  In fact, I fell in love with Lisbeth Salander all over again.  Brilliant, weird, brutal social misfit with strong principles, and who doesn’t let anyone fuck with her – what a woman!

I’m not sure about the movie as it stands on its own; having read the book, I understood the complexity of the story that I think might be somewhat difficult for someone to follow had they not first read the book.

But seriously, if you read the book, go see this movie!