Science Fiction

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Published November 30, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Malcomson, Willow Sheilds, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Adventure/Science Fiction.  Running Time: 2 hours 26 minutes.

My girl crush stars in this second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Katniss Everdeen is unbelievably radical.  And the actress they cast to play her, Jennifer Lawrence, literally IS a girl on fire.  She’s been having a moment since early last year when the first ‘Games’ was released.  Then we saw her in Silver Linings Playbook delivering Robert DeNiro a tongue lashing – and my crush grew deeper.  Now she’s overexposed, plastered on every magazine with that pixie cut and somehow I still love her.  Obviously, she steals the show here as bow wielding and reluctant poster girl Katniss, “the Mockingjay”.  But as with most trilogies, this is just a means to an end.  I pose this question: Why can’t we just produce all three movies and release them all at once with a combined lower ticket price?  Oh, that’s right, because the film industry is full of money grubbing whores who enjoy playing with our emotions and sucking us dry at every opportunity.  I’ll step off my soap box for exactly 1 minute to get back to the movie.  I loved it.  But why wouldn’t I?  I read all the books.  I know what’s in store.  And it’s a tale about a girl who kicks major ass and ignites a revolution.  BOOM.  My one regret about this latest viewing: we didn’t rent and watch the first one.  It must be amateur hour!

Even though we’ve seen the first movie several times, it’s been so long we absolutely should’ve watched it again before we went to Catching Fire, a refreshed memory would’ve helped immensely.  Everything eventually came back to me of course, Maria and I are both huge fans of Suzanne Collins wildly successful books.  I read all three in three days and I remember thinking they could make wonderful movies if done right.  They did a great job with the first movie.  So much of the book was inside Katniss’ head, how she figured things out as she struggled to survive during The Hunger Games.  They utilized Stanley Tucci’s character Caesar Flickerman perfectly in his role as MC of the insane games with a manic enjoyment that seemed somehow natural.  Using Caeser to explain what she was thinking was genius.  Catching Fire was not as good, but it really is the nature of the second movie of a trilogy.  They are generally weigh stations to the climax of the story, and almost always the worst of the three.  Think, Back to the Future 2, Matrix Reloaded, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, to name a few.  All decent but definitely inferior to their celluloid siblings.  Regardless, I have high hopes for the third installment, Mockingjay, which should be out in a couple of years or so.  Hopefully we’ll remember to rent Catching Fire before we go see that one. 

I am extremely interested to see how they plan to pull off this final movie.  And I’m sure, if you’ve read the books, you’re probably wondering the same.  My best friend Gina initially turned me onto the book series, during a stint where each of us was addicted to a YA (young adult) novel.  Read the books!!  Even if you’ve seen these movies, this series reads well and quick.  Collins hooks the reader immediately and never lets go.  Plus, it vastly improves your viewing experience.  Catching Fire focuses on Peeta’s realization that Katniss was just playing up their romance to survive.  She finds herself in a predicament as she tries to accept her role as a defiant revolutionary and still serve to protect those she loves.  The film explores how drastically her life has changed since winning the games.  Including, but not limited to the constant nightmares and terrifying flashbacks that plague her everyday thoughts.  The title speaks for itself.  Unrest is spreading and Katniss is left with no choice, but to accept her destiny as ‘the Mockingjay.’

You can certainly enjoy these movies without reading the books, but I found my self wondering how confused I might be if I hadn’t.  It really is a great story of courage and perseverance against staggering odds.  Donald Sutherland is unapologetically evil as the main antagonist “President” Snow.  The leader of the controlling government centered in The Capital, where the privileged have everything they need to excess, he leads The Districts with a dictatorial hand.  The common people who populate these areas are starving and ensconced in slave-like servitude.  The Hunger Games bring together each year two young people from each District to participate in a winner take all fight to the death, to remind them that “resistance is futile”, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s penultimate villains,  The Borg.  Katniss unlikely journey from just trying to stay alive to eventual reluctant leader of the uprising is the heart of the story, and I can’t imagine another actress today pulling it off with such perfect aplomb.  Who does she really love?  Who can she trust?  How can she hope to succeed?  An underdog story with some familiar themes that are part of our heritage as Americans.  Read the books, they’re target audience are YA, but they’re a great read for all ages.  And go see the movies, Catching Fire missed a bit for me, but ultimately worth it, I hope, when the finished body of work has been viewed.  Jennifer Lawrence has “It”, and The Hunger Games is just the beginning for her.  She also seems to be a real person who says pretty much anything she wants without worrying about being PC.  Hollywood could use a dozen more just like her. 

Maria’s Rating:  4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Ross’ Rating:  3 Gummies.

  

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Recent DVD Release: Star Trek Into Darkness

Published September 16, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Rated: PG-13.  Science Fiction/Action/Adventure.  Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes.

 

While I’m not a Trekkie in the strictest sense, (i.e. I’ve never been to Comic-Con or a Trek convention), I am most definitely the next closest thing.  I’ve seen all the movies, every episode of the original and all of its spin-offs.  I saw 2009’s Star Trek and enjoyed it, but for some reason it didn’t stick so well in my brain pan.  The only explanation I can come up with is I must’ve been hammered when I watched.  So the other night Maria and I cued it up from the on demand list in anticipation of the DVD release of Into Darkness.  I thought it was awesome!  And subsequently thoroughly enjoyed STID.  I know some purists out there have had problems with J.J. Abrams vision, but don’t count me as one of them.  Yes, the original Kahn (Ricardo Montelban) was one of the most memorable and best Trek villains ever, but Cumberbatch’s version is his own and fit the movie to a tee.  What I really love about these new versions are the character portrayals of all our favorites.  Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are perfect as the reluctant, opposites attract, lifelong friends Kirk and Spock.  While both resemble, and to some extent, mimic the originals Shatner and Nimoy, they also bring their own slight variations with them, making the characters fresh and vibrant.  Karl Urban spews a few too many “Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a ……” euphemisms, but he too has captured the essence of Bones’ old country doctor stuck on a starship.  Scotty (Pegg), Sulu (Cho), Chekov (Yelchin) and Uhura (Saldana) round out the crew of the Enterprise and the chemistry is easily as good as the original, maybe better.  Seeing Spock and Uhura as a couple, not just oozing a bit of sexual tension, is also a hoot.  I honestly think this series can appeal to Trek diehards as well as bring a whole new generation on board.

I had seen the 2009 Trek and miraculously had also forgotten it entirely, just as Ross had.  I think I watched it on a date and probably wasn’t really invested.  This time around I had Ross filling me in on the inside jokes, the correlating plotlines and character attributes.  This made both movies a Hell of a lot more enjoyable for a trek-tard like myself.  And I realized that I am marrying a nerd.  A closet nerd, but a nerd nonetheless.  And a giant sweetheart.  He was excessively patient with all my questions and extremely helpful.  Even pausing several times to explain how the plot of Into Darkness mimicked an old favorite episode of his.  I really liked both of these movies, which was a pleasant surprise.  And I believe I know what I find so charming about each of these films.  The characters are fantastic.  Spock’s emotionless and precisely analytical assessments are a welcome contrast to the rest of the crew.  He is, by far, my favorite.  It is a pleasure to watch his and Uhura’s relationship unfold on screen.  One of my favorite scenes from STID is when Uhura is alone with Captain Kirk on the ship’s elevator.  Kirk asks, “Are you guys fighting?”  Uhura’s silence is enough of an answer for him and the next thing he says is, “What’s that like!?”  These types of moments make both movies.  The only problem is that I don’t want any of the crew to perish and they always seem to find themselves in the worst life and death situations.

Fret not honey, that’s what the red shirt crew members are for, they do all the dying.  Star Trek Into Darkness is a roller coaster ride from start to finish.  This crew of NCC-1701 (“No bloody A, B or C” as the late James Doohan once uttered as the old Scotty) is progressing just fine, thank you.  Spock maybe a little more in touch with his human side.  Chekov is a bit smarter this time around and more versatile.  Uhura brings an attitude that Nichelle Nichols version didn’t possess.  The Enterprise herself is sleeker, and with the progress of technology, even the beaming process is tighter.  All improvements if you ask me.  One thing for sure though, Kirk still gets a lot of pussy, and he has no problem if the women are green or have tails.  Prefers it actually.  That dude would screw a wood pile on the chance there was a snake in it!  You gotta love him.  I just couldn’t be happier with these movies, and I hope it’s not another four years before they make another one.  For fans of the entire series, keep an eye out for a complete role reversal during a crucial point, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”  Make no mistake, STID is not a remake of Wrath of Khan.  If you keep that in mind you’ll enjoy it so much more.  One final note to the creators, please keep those Leonard Nimoy cameos coming.  I adore that ancient “pointy eared, green blooded hobgoblin”!  Thanks Bones, you quote machine.

It’s easy to become desensitized to our ever changing technology, but this is one time where I truly appreciated the quality of special effects and improvements.  The beaming was better, while keeping the integrity of the original vision.  It seemed as though the creators were conscientious about paying homage to the old series, while giving the film an original spin.  There is a trick to this delicate balance when you revisit something like Star Trek.  Impressively, J.J. Abrams and the Bad Robot crew have done this successfully…twice.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was actually moved to tears during one scene.  But then again, I am a sucker for a hardcore ‘bromance’.  Perhaps I have become emotionally invested in Kirk and Spock’s friendship because I, myself, am in the female equivalent; a ‘homance’.  Please reference link for verification: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=homance.  Both of these Star Trek films have entertained me, hooked me and transformed me into a bona fide fan.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Ross’ Rating:  4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  4 Gummies.