Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

There was no doubt in my mind from day one that I would totally like this movie. It had the dream cast, the dream director, and furthermore Suzanne Collins wrote the first draft of the screenplay and added extra scenes. I mean seriously, I've been Hunger-Games-spazzing all week. So now without further delay, my review.

So for all you that don't know, The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic America called Panem, where annually The Capitol hosts The Hunger Games, where 2 tributes from each of the 12 districts fights to the death in a televised arena, gladiator style. We follow Katniss, a girl from district 12, the coal district, who is used as a machine for rebellion starting with her sacrifice to go to the games instead of her sister. To keep it spoiler free in the description, that's the furthest I will go, but keep in mind there will be spoilers throughout this review. I will label them as needed.

One thing that worked really well in this movie was the actors. Jennifer Lawrence played a different Katniss from the books, but not a polar opposite. There is still the feeling that she is clueless to her being used by the rebellion, and her confusion is shown really well. Book Katniss on the other hand, never showed her confusion to the cameras, and always kept it in her inner thoughts. I think I liked this Katniss more, it made her seem more human and less of a pawn. Josh Hutcherson was not what I expected, but given some of his screen time I really liked him. I think he was truly Peeta, I could feel it in his eyes. He cared for Katniss, and you could see that. Liam Hemsworth was alright from what I saw, he certainly feels like Gale. Unfortunately, we do not see a lot of him in this movie unless he is scowling at the screen when Peeta and Katniss kiss (twice). I felt directional-wise this could have been done a lot better. I wish they had given him some dialogue rather than just a scowl, because by the second time they showed him, you really got the point. Furthermore, he also ruined the scene drastically with his jealousy.

Elizabeth Banks was a perfect Effie, she looked and acted as her to a point where I couldn't imagine anyone else as her. Haymitch was grand too, and I particularly loved his reactions to Katniss' pain throughout the games. My favorite scene depicting this was [SPOILER] when he approaches Seneca Crane and asks him to change up the rules for young love [/SPOILER]. Seneca Crane was also fantastic, and I loved every scene when he and President Snow were in the garden. I also adored the behind the scenes of the Gamekeepers' control room. It was amazing. However, my favorite casting job surprisingly had to be Cato. I recently reread the book just days before I saw it at midnight last night, and one specific line about Cato stood out to me -- at the end when Katniss and Peeta are fighting him, she thinks to herself that there "is something not right" about him. I feel like the actor really took that line and went with it. During the warm up sessions, Cato freaks out about someone taking his knife. His reaction is perfect, and right when I saw it, I thought directly to that line. To me, Cato could have not been more perfect, and it's sad that he will not return.

There were two huge miscasts, however. During the pregames, Foxface and Thresh both seemed fine, but once the games started it felt all wrong. To me, Foxface should have looked like a young Bryce Dallas Howard with all the agility of a fox. The movie Foxface just didn't seem to have the fox-like charm, and seemed clunky rather than swift, so her nickname didn't make much sense to me. I also did not like Thresh's big scene at the Feast. It was too quick, and it was evident he was not tall enough. Because this scene was not done right, when Thresh is killed, it does not hold the same power and it's curious as to why Katniss seems bothered by it. I felt like the film gave me no reason to be upset over Thresh's death.

Aside from acting, I loved the way this movie looked. The Capitol was just how I imagined it -- grand, almost Roman-like, and everyone looks like Lady Gaga. The film technique was also a great choice, and I thought it was an interesting idea to use Caesar Flickerman as segue between what we see, and what Katniss is thinking. The best scene by far though was [SPOILER] district 11's rebellion after Rue's death. I have to admit, I cry during just about everything, but Rue's death both in the book and the movie just don't make me cry. I feel sad, but I also feel like we just never get the time to get to know her past "she looks like Prim," and "look how tiny she is." However, when they showed district 11's reaction that brought tears to my eyes. For what Thresh did in the books for me, the rebellion sparked by the love this district felt for this little girl was remarkable. If anything, Rue's death was the last straw in the film [/SPOILER].

As a movie, this is something completely new. It's a fantastic sci-fi film that I feel even non-fans of the books can relate to and follow. No, some of my favorite parts did not make the cut (the hybrid-tribute-wolves were just disjointed looking dogs, and Katniss and Peeta sharing their big meal, among others), but I feel like as a film this totally worked for me. As an adaptation, I feel like it did almost as well as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I also really liked the fact that I had no idea what the games had to offer, thanks to Lionsgate's advertising scheme. I cannot wait until Catching Fire comes out, because it's my favorite book in the series, and also my favorite character finally shows up -- Finnick!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

La Casa Muda

La Casa Muda is a really interesting horror film. Similar to the idea behind Hitchcock’s Rope, La Casa Muda(aka Silent House) is supposedly done in one whole take. Many skeptics believe that this is in fact a fudged claim, but there is no getting around that this film (if it is true that the film is actually done in two shots) had some seriously fancy camera work going for it. There had to have been a lot of practices to get this movie right, and it shows that the camera man is really competent when it comes to framing the shot. I could only imagine how hard it must have been to make this movie happen, and there is a definite need for applause for this one. (WARNING: spoilers below)

Though the movie wasn’t all too creative in plot, and moreover the plot is sometimes actually confusing, I really enjoyed watching this movie. At times, I didn’t even remember it was done in one take. I really enjoyed the real time aspect to it, but I fear that it could have possibly hindered on the film’s plot. The film is shot mainly from the perspective of the daughter, Laura, who [SPOILER ALERT] we discover is the psychotic killer. This is discovered when the POV of the story is cleverly switched over to Nestor (which btw I LOVE his name). This clears up what’s going on a little bit more, like why Laura doesn’t want to leave to house and also why she also doesn’t seem to be injured, but for some reason has a good amount of blood on her face.

The film’s story definitely needed some improvements. It is not particularly satisfying to be in the dark when it comes to the story. The climax needed to be drawn out longer. I also feel like [SPOILER] the audience needed to know what happened to the daughter and why Nestor and Laura’s father were having sex and documenting it upstairs in the old house. It would have been nice to know these plot holes, if you can even call them that.

La Casa Muda was an interesting trial. The single shot horror film placed the audience directly with the protagonist, and increased tension well. It was very creative, but I am not so sure that other horror films should follow suit. The first person perspective muddles the story, and while the film is aesthetically pleasing for the most part, there were still some old horror tricks throughout the film (ex. camera flashes for light =REC).

But do not think this means you shouldn’t watch this movie. If you are a lover of film, and especially the horror genre, this one is a definite must-see. The story need not be the reason to rent this film, but the mirror shots, lighting, and staging in a single 80minute shot is worth a watch. It’s an incredible feat.

La Casa Muda: 3.5/5