REVIEW: Catching Fire is nothing short of phenomenal

Catching FireCatching Fire accomplished something that is so rarely done by films: honour the book it was based on.

Katniss and her family are now living in Victor’s Village with Peeta and Haymitch. Early on we see her issues in dealing with the events from the previous year’s battle and her relationship with Peeta has become non-existent, but with their Victory Tour coming, they must put on the act of the happy couple. This task is made even more difficult as President Snow threatened the lives of her family if he didn’t find that act convincing enough.

Snow is threatened by Katniss, who has caused a tear in his fragile system with her perceived act of defiance. He looks to control her so he can quell any sense of uprising from the districts. As they embark on their tour, the signs of that uprising start to become clear to Katniss, and the more she sees the terrible acts that Snow inflicts, the more she wants to do something about it.

Given her defiance, Snow has announced a Quarter Quell, which is an all star Hunger Games match of sorts, seeing previous winners go up against one-another for the 75th anniversary of the tournament. This means Katniss must go back and fight. I won’t go into the rest, but trust me it’s amazing.

Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Constantine) took the reins as director of the second film of The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. I’m not sure if it was the added budget afforded to the team, but his vision of the book is how I imagined it would be, and like the first movie, was much more emotional to watch than to read. This likely had something to do with the strong acting from Jennifer Lawrence and the cast, which was phenomenal once again, including the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, who I can’t wait to see more of in the next two instalments.

Unlike the first film, Catching Fire opens up the political discussion much more. One of the reasons I enjoyed the books so much was the commentary made about the role that media and politicians have in shaping how we think and what we say.

If you haven’t read the books and are hesitating to watch these, I’d strongly advise against that. Watch the first one, and see this one immediately as it’s well worth the watch. I give Catching Fire 5/5.

I leave you with a gif of the funniest part of the movie:

CatchingFire

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‘This is 40’ offers a glimpse into middle class middle age

This is 40Take a middle-aged couple, throw in two combative daughters, a troubled business, a mooch father and you’ve got Judd Apatow’s This is 40, which is relatable and funny.

Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debby (Leslie Mann) who we met in  Knocked Up are turning 40, and just like they were the first time around, their relationship isn’t the smoothest. The movie sees them go through a tumultuous time (see above) and unlike most movies, it’s more of a window into the life.

While not my favourite Apatow movie, it has its bright spots like painting a realistic image of what people go through while trying to manage a family, careers and life in general. I have a few more years before I fully understand what they’re going through, but certain aspects, like the back-and-forth between Pete and Debby, or their relationships with their parents are stuff people of any age deal with.

There’s a solid supporting cast featuring Albert Brooks, Jason Segel, Chris O’Dowd and even Megan Fox. The most memorable for me, however, was by Melissa McCarthy as a parent of one of the students at Pete and Debby’s daughter Sadie’s (Maude Apatow) school. Her fiery arguments with Pete, then later with both parents in the Principal’s office were hi-larious. They even made it to the credits, which were made funnier when they showed Mann and Rudd trying to hold in their laughter as she goes on her rant.

I like Leslie Mann, even though she’s in everything Judd Apatow does. She’s funny, but one thing I found this time around is her whining schtick was a bit much, and I don’t see how she’s nominated for a Golden Globe. Her whining was was only outshone by her daughter Maude – I guess it runs in the family?

Overall I found the movie enjoyable and funny, but as mentioned, the constant complaining and whining gets a bit overdone at times. While I knew it wouldn’t be a straight up comedy, I’ll admit it made me stressed out toward the end which I appreciate because it’s always a bonus when a movie, let alone a Judd Apatow movie, hits you like that, but after a while it felt like force fed anxiety from the family’s issues. I give This is 40 a 3/5.

2012 Entertainment Year in Review

I haven’t blogged much this year, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to share my Top picks for 2012. Instead of sharing a few posts, I’ve combined all into one action-packed review post <images coming>. Share your thoughts!

Top Movie: The Hunger Games

hungergames-1I’ll probably receive some criticism for this one, but I’d read the trilogy in anticipation of the movie,  at the

beginning of the year, and since the story was so fresh in my mind, I was excited for this one to come out. Thankfully, compared to the book, this one did not disappoint. Of course there were some parts that were taken out that I believe should have been left in, but overall it was exciting, well acted/written and visually appealing. A must see if you haven’t already (but read the books first).

Runners up: Comedies come close to taking the top title this year with 21 Jump Street and Ted. If you haven’t seen these, prepare to be in pain from laughing as they are ridiculously hilarious.

Top Book: The Glass Castle

The Glass CastleLike I note every year, my top books aren’t necessarily books that came out this year. As I wrote in my review, I didn’t have any expectations when I started reading this one, but it eventually pulled me in and became a book I didn’t want to put down. Jeannette Walls has a great writing style and I’m excited to read more from her in the future.

Runners up: This hasn’t been a great year for picking good books, and the bulk of my favourites happened at the start of the year. My #2 book was The Hunger Games Trilogy and ROOM.

Top Album: The Killers – Battleborn

Killers- BattlebornThis album felt like it was a long-time coming – four years in fact, since Day & Age was released. From the moment I started listening to it, I couldn’t stop. As a group, these guys are consistent and put out music they know their fans will love. It’s a solid album that I’ll probably be listening to years down the road.

Runners up: This was a tough year as the two runners up – Metric – Synthetica and Dragonette – Bodyparts – could have easily taken the #1 spot.

21 Jump Street: The comedy to beat in 2012

21 Jump StreetFrom the opening scene of 21 Jump Street when Schmidt (Jonah Hill) comes off the school bus dressed like Eminem with “The Real Slim Shady” playing in the background, I started laughing and couldn’t stop.

I never watched the original 21 Jump Street starring Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise, so I wasn’t that interested in seeing the movie, but this adaptation only takes the basic idea of the show so you don’t need to know anything about it.

Schmidt and Jenko (Channing Tatum) went to high school together – one was a nerd, the other a popular jock (you guess which was which). Years later the two found themselves in police academy and the same stereotypes were playing themselves out. Schmidt aced the theory and Jenko the physical. On their own, they were terrible cops, and together they complement each other, but still weren’t that special. After a failed bust, they were sent to an undercover operation on 21 Jump Street and sent to a high school to pose as seniors and investigate a new drug that was making the rounds.

The movie had everything you see in a comedy nowadays, but mixed with a good amount of action and a somewhat interesting storyline. Jonah Hill, much skinner this time around was his regular hilarious self, and Channing Tatum surprisingly did a good job – it was the first movie I’ve seen of his, and given his regular movie choices, it’s probably the only one. I was also happy to see Brie Larson, who played Kate Gregson in the awesome show United States of Tara. She played Hill’s love interest and just as she did with Kate, I genuinely saw her as an 18 year old senior.

If you’re looking for a laugh, I definitely recommend seeing this one. I’d say it’s kind of like Pineapple Express but without as much pot – it even featured a Franco, by the name of Dave Franco, aka James’ younger brother. I give 21 Jump Street a 4/5.

Reviewed: The Hunger Games movie [SPOILERS]

Katniss Everdeen The Hunger Games

It took less than three days to read The Hunger Games trilogy, but I’ll have to wait about three years to enjoy the trilogy in movie form. After watching part one this weekend, I hate having to wait that long.

Whenever they make a movie based on books people love, it’s inevitable that something will be off, like the casting, or they’ll just miss the mark completely. With this one, author and co-writer Suzanne Collins kept it relatively in-line with the book, the casting and sets were phenomenal, and some added adaptations fit well. All that being said, I do have a few criticisms.

The books were largely about the politics of this society, and to me the movie seemed to hint at it instead of going into a bit more detail. Katniss’ many inadvertent thumbs in the face of The Capitol were hardly touched on until the ride back to District 12 when Haymitch says she upset them by forcing two winners. With how the story progresses, the sparks she creates here play a huge part in future events, but for whatever reason they decide to not delve into it more.

Another key point missed was the importance of Katniss playing up her feelings for Peeta. They make it clear that Peeta has feelings for her, but it’s not so obvious that she’s putting on a show to keep them alive. The fake relationship also plays a key part in her relationship with her best friend Gale, but we’re barely given a sample of the struggle she goes through doing what she did.

I know some adaptations have to be made for any film, even if the book isn’t that big, so I’m crossing my fingers for them to touch on some things that were glanced at, a bit more in the next two movies.

As I mentioned before, the casting and sets were phenomenal. While the characters didn’t all necessarily look the same as I had pictured, they certainly acted the same. When it came to the two main ones, Katniss and Peeta, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson made them come to life much better than I could have imagined.

Sets are just as important as the actors in many cases. For this one, it was as if my imagination was on the big screen in many cases, but especially in the Games. Whether it was in the forest trees, the cave or in the open cornucopia space there were times when I couldn’t believe how perfect they’d actually stuck with the book. So often I picture one thing, then when it’s in a movie I think I read it all wrong – not this time.

Forgetting it’s an adaption of a book for a second, I can say this was the best most entertaining movie I’ve seen in a long time. If I hadn’t read the books I would have given it a higher score, but I did, so I can’t forgive the fact that key plot points weren’t touched on enough. I give The Hunger Games a 4.5/5. After some reflection, I edited the score to accurately reflect my review a bit more. Like I mentioned in a sentence above, if key plot points were focused in on a bit more, it would have deserved the 4.5-5 rating.

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