Blogs by Bill Johnson
Notes on The Hunger Games Movie & Other Recent Movies
6/25/2012 11:48:02 PM
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Capsule reviews of recent movies, including The Hunger Games, Hysteria, and Prometheus.
These capsule reviews of current movies offer a basic overview of what these stories did (or didn't do) to engage an audience. They are not meant to convey a full review of the movie, or a scene by scene breakdown. All reviews by Bill Johnson, copyright 1999-2012.
The Hunger Games
This well-made film offers a great example of how to turn a popular novel into a movie. The film eliminates several minor characters and shortens something that pre-occupies Katniss in the novel, whether she'll go along with playing someone's girlfriend for an audience. The absolute poverty in District 12 is conveyed in some quick shots in the movie, while conveying that poverty occupies a number of pages in the novel.
Katniss' relationships with her mother, younger sister, and her younger sister's cat are also conveyed quickly.
The movie deftly conveys the central question of the novel, whether Katniss will be able to keep her humanity when she enters the games.
The movie of The Lovely Bones offers an example of how turning a novel into a movie can go off the rails. That movie starts with an image that muffles what the story is about; and a central feature of Suzie's after life -- that it's a kind of drab way-station for people who haven't let go of earthly life -- is turned into a kind of super-sized, colorful, amazing theme park that everyone should desire.
People who loved the novel The Hunger Games will enjoy the movie very much.
This movie demonstrates the problems of trying to cover a lot of terrain with a shifting mix of tones. The first set up is a young doctor in 19th century London who discovers his promotion of the new ideas of germs and washing hands between patients keeps getting him fired by older doctors. He then gets a job with a doctor who uses orgasms to treat the the common malady of upper-middle class women, hysteria (which was considered to be a condition aflicting women until 1950).
His employer has a chaste young daughter he's opening shopping to the young doctor, and a fire-brand, force of nature oldest daughter who torments her father with her ideas of poor people being human beings deserving of compassion, education, and medical care.
The film covers the slow, sedate courtship of the young doctor and the young woman, interrupted by occasional outbursts when the older daughter passed through pleading for money or support.
The question, who will he end up with?
But his immediate problem is he's wearing out his hand servicing women in the clinic, some of whom take hours of stimulation to climax and get relief from their symptoms (which mostly seem to be passing the time in the long wait for treatment).
Meanwhile, the young doctor's wealthy benefactor invents what becomes the first electric vibrator, creating a huge demand for the young doctor's services. At this point, the film shifts to being a droll British sex comedy.
The film shifts back to a realistic tone to deal with the young doctor realizing he's in love with young fury, not young chaste.
The problem is, he's barely spent any time with young fury, so the relationship feels abrupt, and has a different tone from the realism about medical proceedures, then the comedic tone, then the serious tone about women's rights and the treatment of the poor.
The film has a good heart. It allows the young daughter to have the realization that a better life for her won't involve being the wife of the young doctor.
Shifts in tone can be one of the most common and vexing problem in some scripts. The shift in tone helps create the effect of a climax at the same time it undercuts the impact.
I don't always expect characters in a film to behave like rocket scientists, except when some of them ARE scientists. The characters here act more like ten year olds on their first backyard overnight camp out.
Some impressive CGI, and the action picks up in the 2nd hour.
The movie raises some big questions (who created us) but it doesn't do much to explore them.
The Cabin in the Woods
This is clever and well made, with the Josh Whedon touches of strong character development and sly humor. Some college students go off to the cabin in the woods and find themselves part of an elaborately-staged, deadly ritual overseen by some jaded bureaucrats.
In the end, a pair of unlikely characters remain loyal to each other.
I saw this on a smaller, 2nd run screen, and I felt that scale added to my enjoyment of the film.
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Review of Maleficent - Thursday, June 12, 2014
Focus is on New Media at the Willamette Writers Conference - Sunday, April 13, 2014
Notes on The Hunger Games Movie & Other Recent Movies - Monday, June 25, 2012
Quick Cuts - Capsule Reviews of Current Movies - Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Quick Cuts - Capsule Movie Reviews - Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Capsule Movie Reviews of The Skin I Live In, Submarine, Finding Joe - Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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When Minor Characters Take Over a Story - Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Notes on Knowing, Star Trek, and Sunshine Cleaning - Monday, May 18, 2009
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Notes on Cthulhu, Righteous Kill, Burn After Reading - Monday, October 06, 2008
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Notes on Flags of Our Fathers, The Departed, Stranger Than Fiction - Sunday, December 24, 2006
Notes on The Black Dahlia, The Illusionist, Pulse, The Descent - Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Lady in the Water - Sunday, July 30, 2006
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Notes on Willy Wonka, Dark Water, The Snow Walker - Tuesday, August 09, 2005
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Notes on Hitchhikers, Sin City - Saturday, April 30, 2005
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