Saturday, March 31, 2012

review: The Hunger Games (movie)

The Hunger Game
I was so excited to see this movie. I was a moderate fan of the books by Suzanne Collins; I enjoyed the first the most out of the three so if I was going to like any of these potential movies then this would be the one. And although I thought there were a few rough spots where I thought things could have been done better/differently, overall I felt like they did the movie very well.

Things I Liked
- Casting: Using a lot of unknowns or at least lesser known actors was smart. Really popular movie series often define a lot of actor's careers but also give a distinct, cohesiveness to the movie series. Anyways, I thought Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) looked so much better as a brunette and made Katniss into a scared, stubborn, girl but NOT petulant like I felt the book portrayed her as. Then again what one says in one's mind is different from what one does and it's hard to show what goes on in one's head on the silver screen. Peeta and Gael were exactly like I thought they'd be. Stanley Tucci (as Caesar) and Lenny Kravitz (as Cinna) were excellent additions to round out the cast.

- Plot: It's hard to include everything in a movie from a book with the scope of Hunger Games so I was impressed with how much they were actually able to fit in. I thought they did a really good job cherry-picking the important things and leaving out some of the unnecessary things. Although most of the problems I have are with the plot, I think it'd be hard to improve on what the movie offered without making the movie at least an hour longer.

- Costumes were a big part of the movie because they helped distinguish the Districts and the Capital. The best example is Effie Trinket played by Elizabeth Banks who goes to the Districts every year to choose the tributes to be forced into the annual Hunger Games. She is colorful, outspoken, and flamboyant - the exact opposite of the Districts. The style of the Capital is bizarre - too colorful with odd silhouettes and pattern mixtures.

Things I Didn't Like
- I felt like there wasn't enough time spent on developing Prim and Katniss' relationship. It's possibly the most pivotal relationship in the entire movie as it sets the stage for the entire series. I understand that it's a movie and that time has to be taken into account but this glosses over so much. All you can tell is that they're close and that Katniss mothers Prim.

- The mothering of Prim is due to the fact that their father died in the mine accident which isn't reveal until almost 3/4 of the way through the movie. This is important because the mother gets depressed and checks out for months after his death leading for the tension and estrangement between Katniss and her mother. This is important because it helps define Katniss' relationship with Prim.

Although these are minor issues the may be detrimental to later movies. Overall I thought The Hunger Games was an excellent movie. I worry a little about how the second and third movies will be shot but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I give The Hunger Games 5 our of 5 stars for excellent acting, fantastical costumes, good plot and heart-wrenching moments.

Check out the trailer here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

review: Mother Mother (music)

Mother Mother's latest album (2011)
Mother Mother is an awesome Indie-Rock band based in Vancouver, B.C. I stumbled upon them last April when they opened for Young the Giants (click to read their review) and they totally upstaged them despite being the opening act! HA! 

The band is composed of five members: lead singer and guitarist (Ryan), bassist (Jeremy), drummer (Ali) and keyboards and vocals (Molly and Jasmin). Together these five create an awesome sound. They bounce from really high energy, rock n' roll sound like in Hayloft to more calm but still really fun, mellow one like Miles. The one thing all their songs have in common are funny lyrics about ridiculous situations. Hayloft is about a daughter's father who hears creaking in the hayloft. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to what's happening up there. Anyway it turns out her father has a gun. Oh the shenanigans!

They've got three albums out: Touch Up, O My Heart, and Eureka and are said to be working on their forth album due out in late 2012. Mother Mother is consistently awesome and are one of the only bands who I can actually listen through all of their songs.  Unfortunately they're only touring in B.C. so finding them is hard but if you ever get the chance make sure to see them live. They're electric! I give Mother Mother 5 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

review: TRON: Legacy

Right off the bat - I've never seen the original TRON movie that debut in 1982. But the concept of going into the internet and living "on the grid" has always been really interesting to me. That and the awesome neon and techno which seem to symbolize the future real attract me (maybe that's just cuz I love me some techno).

The plot revolves around Sam Flynn, the son the inventor Kevin Flynn who created the virtual world "The Grid", the setting for both the first and second movies. It's been years since his father disappeared but when the power suddenly comes back on in his downtown business (an arcade), Sam goes to investigate.

Sam arrives at the arcade seeing nothing amiss decides to play a game. However, the coin doesn't start the game. Intrigued, Sam pushes the game to the side finding his father's secret lab. There he accidentally sends himself in "The Grid". Here he must find out what happened to his father while staying ahead of his father's clone named Clu who seems to want him dead.

Now, while the acting in this movie was not the greatest I actually really enjoyed it since I had such low expectations. The graphics and CG are amazing - especially the high-speed cycle chase/game. The music is phenomenal (thank you Daft Punk). And I actually think the casting was well done - even if their actual acting was lack luster. As for the plot, I liked the idea of it. It's a little cliche but what's original anymore. I give TRON: Legacy 3 out of 5 stars. Welcome to the future!

Check out the trailer here!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [American Version] (movie)

I was really not excited for this movie. I was a big fan of the original Swiss movie which was released in 2009. Hollywood has been in the recent trend of acquiring phenomenally huge best sellers (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc) and turning them into huge monetary successes - which is the movie industry's job and sparks the controversy of whether movies are art or commercial. Whichever side of the debate you come down on - most movies are a mix of the two and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no exception. My personal opinion is that this movie was made just so Americans don't have to read subtitles (Americans are notoriously lazy). Subtitles don't bother me, probably because I read over 100 WPM.

Things I liked about the remake:
- Awesome casting: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are an odd but excellent pairing for Mikael and Lisbeth. Mara makes a particularly excellent Lisbeth. She's more aggressive, reserved, and punk than Noomi Rapaace's goth interpretation. Craig is playing a role meant for him. Still cool but not so much Bond but not yet Robert Langdon.
- Pacing: This remake ran much faster than the original. Although this made it "faster", the movies where actually of comparable length. Although I think speed is overrated, I agreed that the original didn't need all those long pans or pauses.
- Great score composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross. Their magnum opus can be seen through the amazing opening titles. Their remix of Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song is amazing and the visuals are spectacular. But the main reason I like the opening titles is because the set a completely different theme than the 2009 movie. It's a great way to differentiate itself from the original.
- The movie was set in Sweden which was a relief. I can't imagine this being set in the US. Along with the Swiss setting - it was decided that the characters should keep they're given names rather than Americanizing it.
- Scenes with Lisbeth's original legal guardian which weren't in the original. I hope they continue this plot line in the next two movies. The Swiss movies didn't include his story at all which was a shame because it showed a more emotionally involved Lisbeth.

Things I hated about the remake:
- Nils Bujrman. Yes, you're supposed to hate him. He's an authority figure who abuses his position and those under his care. What I didn't like was that they made him into a fat, unattractive man rather than the suave, savvy man that he is in the original. Although you might say his outside matches his inside in this interpretation, I just found this portrayal too cliche.
- The ending was by far the biggest let down for three reasons. Lisbeth seeking Mikael's approval, the motorcycle chase, and Harriet Vagner's explanation.
Right before the big chase scene Lisbeth asks "Can I kill him now?" which I found to be stupid. Lisbeth is a strong woman - she wouldn't seek approval, not even from Mikael. Also, Mikael would never condone the killing of anyone. Worst of all is that when she finals goes to kill him, the car blows up! In the original, Lisbeth allows her prey to die purposely deciding not to save him - a much more satisfactory revenge.
Next item, the chase scene is poorly executed and anti-climatic, also Lisbeth's diving is ridiculous if you know anything about motorcycles and she doesn't wear her helmet.
Finally, Harriet's location and explanation of how she got there is BULLSHIT!!!! so far from the book plot - way over-reaching. Ug, totally pissed me off.

Regardless of its remake status - the American "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" rate 4 out of 5 stars compared to the 2009 Swiss movie which rated 4.5 out of 5 stars (you can read that review here) . However both are good movies worth watching.