The Hunger Games

March 29, 2012

The difficulty in approaching any film, especially one based on a popular book, is that of knowing and understanding history and where it might fit in.  It’s almost impossible to watch John Carter and not think of all the similar elements it shares with a host of popular movies from the 20th century, and yet it was published far before those works and is clearly an influence on a number of them.  It is probably best to disregard the notion of ‘authenticity’ as being crucial to enjoyment when possible – though that gets tricky when you think of the number of films and TV shows that function almost entirely on the audience’s preconceived notions of a particular genre (think of everything Joss Whedon has done).  In a perfect world, pure originality shouldn’t matter.  After all, it’s the specific approach to an idea that pays dividends, or else you’re left with nothing but an idea.  In that spirit of generous critiquing, I can’t blame Suzanne Collins for writing a hugely popular book and then having it adapted into a successful film even though Battle Royale has existed for over a decade now.  That’s not to say it doesn’t matter, though. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the End of Luck

March 15, 2012

The shocking news that, ordinarily, would not be so shocking, is that HBO along with producers David Milch and Michael Mann, have decided to pull the plug on Luck following the third horse death in two years of production.  I understand and appreciate their decision, especially as Milch and Mann are such obvious lovers of the animals that it must be personally very painful for them to feel responsible for the deaths.  PETA, one the most tone-deaf and annoying organizations in the land, are probably rejoicing, which irks me quite a bit, but so be it.  If they had watched the show and understood what Milch and Mann were doing, they would have seen that the running theme of the show was the way in which the horses, with all of their majesty and beauty, tapped into even the most wayward person’s soul.  Read the rest of this entry »

Young Adult

March 8, 2012

The first thing to get out of the way when dealing with Young Adult is that Jason Reitman is not a good director.  His previous films have been, at best, blandly functional enough for the characters to carry it along without interruption, but at worst he displays little-to-no understanding of how to film two people talking as well as a penchant for jarring stylistic leaps that detract from the story.  There are some of those stylistic leaps that just don’t work in Young Adult, including some awkward handheld shots that don’t fit anywhere into the his already boring visual schema.  Needless to say, he is not up to the task of making Young Adult work the way it should.  As a dark character comedy, there’s a way to handle this kind of awkward humour that he clearly doesn’t understand, and on the other side of the card, there might have been subtle ways to tease out the depth of a number of characters, but we’ll never know because he doesn’t seem to understand that either.  Read the rest of this entry »

It begins with a serene, but ominous, shot of the Alaskan mountains at dawn before harshly cutting to the hazy orange light of an oil refinery facility at night.  The man (technology) versus nature duality is established immediately, and knowing roughly what the film was about, I had a pretty good idea of where this was headed.  Ottway (Liam Neeson) begins reading what we soon find out to be a letter explaining the hellish circumstances of his job and the place he finds himself.  He marches about the facility with a gun, shooting infringing animals and protecting the workers, whom he describes as “ex-cons, fugitives, drifters…assholes”.  This view is confirmed as soon as he enters the facility’s bar, where we hear loud music and watch as a ludicrously cliché bar fight escalates into smashing tables.  Very quickly, the music fades and we see the soft-lit vision of a woman in bed with Ottway, and though well-shot, it feels even a little more cliché than the bar fight – to the cynical mind, at least.  We get an idea of just how much despair Ottway is in when he leaves the bar and puts a gun in his mouth, the would-be final act interrupted by the howling of wolves.  He eventually boards a plane bound for Anchorage with an assortment of ne’er-do-wells and roughnecks, and a fantastically tense plane crash scene later, he and the few survivors are stuck in the cold, snowy wilderness. Read the rest of this entry »