Thursday, April 5, 2012

Those "GAMES"? From hunger: second-hand, second -rate, and like taking Seconal

Or, as my companion (who walked out around halfway-through) observed: "This makes the Twilight series look like a classic." Second-hand? Yes: Because the Japanese beat Suzanne Collins (the author of the book series and co-adapter of the screenplay) to the punch over a decade ago with Battle Royale. And even if Ms Collins did not read that original novel or see the film made from it, their central idea was bandied about internationally and would have been difficult to miss by any semi-literate person. Second-rate? Yes: Because the execution of the film, no doubt to obtain the PG-13 rating, is efficient but nothing more. Often it is much less, falling into the most cliched effects and featuring those held-for-nearly-ever "sad" moments (the segment with the little black-girl warrior is the most telling example). The overall effect is generally dismal; it brings the book, not to life, but merely to the screen.

Further, nothing really grabs us. Not the characters, not -- of all things -- the situation, and certainly not the would-be society that's shown us with absolutely no zing, panache or enjoyable satire. Even usually ulta-reliable actors such as Stanley Tucci (above) and Elizabeth Banks (below, left) seem barely serviceable here. And the less said about the pointless, tiresome "costuming," the better.

Woody Harrelson (below, left) chews the scenery impressively, but since he has barely a character to speak of, this amounts to little.

Only Lenny Kravitz, shown at right, imparts some actual feeling to the proceedings. His connection with our heroine, Katniss, registers as strongly as anything in the movie. But as his character is relatively minor (I am told he was much more important in the book version), this seems odd, particularly when stacked against the supposedly intense but, as played out here, rather paltry friendship/love interest the movie provides.

As for those would-be killers/lovers, neither Jennifer Lawrence (above left and elsewhere above) nor Josh Hutcherson (above, right), packs much punch. In Winter's Bone Ms Lawrence got away with minimal acting (she actually registers a bit more strongly via her smaller role in Like Crazy), but she seemed stilted and ill-at-ease in X-Men: First Class. In Hunger Games that uncomfortable quality takes over and it prevents the kind of large-scale performance that might bring the movie home.

Mr. Hutcherson is perfectly OK -- when called upon, he can be sweet or angry or action-ful, but there is nothing special to him or his character -- just as there is not to the entire enterprise. While I admired the work of the director Gary Ross (shown below) on Pleasantville, and somewhat less on Seabiscuit, I suspect he was simply used as a conduit via which the "brand" of The Hunger Games might be allowed to surface in the most prosaic, one-size-fits-all manner. Well, they got it.

Yes, the movie -- a marvel of modern-day marketing -- will rake in a billion dollars or more. Should we be glad for that? It'll help keep theaters afloat awhile longer, so maybe. But what are we to think of our nation's critics -- who supposedly gave the film a whopping 84% positive rating on Well, that's not true, either. The RT site refuses to count any review as mixed -- even though a large percent of those for The Hunger Games definitely are. So, being a shill for the movie industry, as the site most definitely is, it counts many mixed reviews as positive. Read these reviews in their entirety and you come away thinking -- Boy that was mixed. But not on good old RT. Those ripe, juicy red tomatoes just keep on comin'! Just as Netflix used to serve its clients and public much better by allowing a rating of "just so-so," the company now makes us either like a film or dislike it. No middle ground. This is good marketing, of course. But otherwise, it's plain bullshit.

The Hunger Games, from Lionsgate Films, an unconscionable 142 minutes long -- and, according to those that loved the book, they still left out most of the good parts -- is playing just about everywhere. And next door to there, too. To find a theater near you, go to the film's web site, click on GET SHOWTIMES - BUY TICKETS in the upper right hand corner of the screen, and enter your zip code. Watching this film, however, will soon convince you that, to paraphrase the line heard ad infinitum during this silly, puddle-shallow movie, the odds will be never in your favor.

No comments: