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Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Banks’

Around five years ago a book that I love was made into a $200million movie that I hate. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say I love Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Books but I do like them and hope they don’t go the way of The Golden Compass the mess that was made of Northern Lights, the first part of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

In a dystopian future version of the United States, the country of Panem is split into twelve districts whose only purpose is to serve the people of the decadent capitol. In response to an uprising many years before, each year, two young people from every district are chosen to for the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. When her sister is chosen, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place, and is sent to the capital along with her and fellow District 12 “tribute” Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). The skills Katnis has learnt as a hunter and poacher may be the thing that keeps her alive in the games.

A faithful and loving adaptation that successfully traverses the tightrope of what to cut and what to include. But it takes more than being faithful, it needs to be good, and The Hunger Games is very good. It is most likely helped by the fact that original author Suzanne Collins is amongst the script writers. The greatest challenge is how to adapt the first person narration of the novel to something more cinematic. This is achieved effortlessly with the addition of a pair of commentators (Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones) who provide exposition and explanation for those who haven’t read the books.

The casting is perfect; it is possibly because of the parallels with Ree Dolly, her character from Winter’s Bone but I can’t think of anyone other than Jennifer Lawrence who could have played Katniss. But it goes beyond that, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Paula Malcomson (who was great in Deadwood) are all perfect. I struggled to imagine Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but as always with Harrelson he pulls it off. But as with the book it is all about Katniss, Lawrence’s performance is note perfect showing fear and emotion as a reluctant hero. The filmmakers aren’t afraid to make our heroine socially awkward and sometimes cold and distant. It is this that humanises the character making her more likeable.

A film about kids killing each other in was never going without violence and it is very much in evidence but a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate is needed for the target audience. This is achieved by not showing the audience quite as much as we think we are seeing, it is a tried and trusted and surprisingly effective trick. Coupled with a minimum use of blood it works and the movie gets a teenage friendly rating without feeling watered down. There are couple of pacing issues, there is a lot to fit in and it does rush through parts of the story then sags a little in the middle, but this is quickly forgotten when the games begin. When it comes, the action is well constructed and paced but not as plentiful as the trailer would have you believe. It is a surprisingly thoughtful movie spending little time talking about the immorality and unfairness of the class structure leaving the audience to draw its own conclusions.

A resounding success that is better than the first two Harry Potter movies and all the Twilight adaptations to date. A film that should satisfy fans of the books and newcomers alike.

With a budget of around $100million the movie needs to be a financial success for parts two and three to be made. With an opening weekend that could exceed £200million (worldwide) it’s a safe bet that we will be seing Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the next few years. My only fear, the first was by far the strongest of the books with the last been the weakest. To create a successful and memorable trilogy they are going to have to get creative with the script and possible invest a bit more money on the effects for parts two and three.

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New movies seen at the cinema this month:

Chronicle – Three highs school students develop telekinetic abilities, but what will they do with them? A surprisingly good low budget movie, the found footage element is unnecessary and holds the narrative back especially in the finale.

Carnage – Two New York couple meet in one of their apartments to discuss a fight between their eleven year old sons. The amicable facade soon fades and is replaced by outright hostility. There is some great acting particularly from Christoph Waltz but the movie fails to rise above its theatrical origins.

Young Adult – Following her divorce, a “young adult” fiction writer returns to her Minnesota hometown aiming to hook up with her high school boyfriend who is now happily married and has a newborn daughter. A fantastic script from Diablo Cody gives Charlize Theron a platform resulting in an outstanding performance.

Man on a Ledge – A police psychologist is sent to talk an escaped convict (who claims to be innocent of the crime he was convicted for) off the ledge of a Manhattan hotel. If you have seen the trailer you probably know the rest of the story. Unoriginal and predictable but generally good fun. The only real problem Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez in supporting roles are far more interesting than Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks.

The Woman in Black – Daniel Radcliffe breaks from Harry Potter with an old fashioned haunted house movie that is notable for been the best movie from the resurrected Hammer. Atmospheric and haunting movie with a well balanced threat of melancholy running through it.

A Dangerous Method – The origins of psychoanalysis told through the relationship of pioneers in the field Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Intriguing and interesting with fantastic performances but lacking purpose, direction and depth.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – The sequel to 2007’s Ghost Rider is a slight improvement on the terrible original but is still an incoherent mess. Nicolas Cage’s over the top performance is fun but the film falls flat as does the poor and pointless 3D.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – A socially awkward nine-year-old searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Centre. Not as bad as some reviews you would have you believe but certainly not deserving its pest picture Oscar nomination.

Rampart – Set against the Rampart scandal in late 90’s LA and telling the story of an old school cop who doesn’t let the law get in the way of his way of doing things. A week narrative, a sloppy structure and lack of focus hinder what could have been a compelling watch. As it is, the main reason to see the movie is a fantastic performance from Woody Harrelson.

I am honestly torn this month as there are three movies I loved. Chronicle, I had no expectations for but really enjoyed. The Woman in Black, a supremely well made chiller that dispels the myth that they don’t make them like the used to. But just edging it to be the movie of the month: Young Adult, largely for the Oscar worthy performance from Charlize Theron.

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