Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Hunger Games – A review by someone who hasn’t read the book

As the title of this review states, I have not read The Hunger Games. I have no idea if the filmmakers have added things, missed things out or stuck totally faithfully to the text – for all I know, in the book Katniss Everdeen could be bloke, or an animal, or a pirate. Basically, what i’m trying to say is, i’m just going to write a film review, with no comparison to the book whatsoever. So, without further ado, let’s get on with it.

The Hunger Games is further proof that young adult fiction is a licence to print money. Twilight and, to an extent, Harry Potter (although Potter does appeal to younger readers as well) have gone on to become nothing short of box office sensations, and it looks as if The Hunger Games and its sequels are well on their way to doing the same.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

For those unfamiliar, plot thus: Following a civil uprising, America (known as Panem here) has been split into twelve districts. To remind them all not to mess with The Man, and for the amusment of the upper classes watching on TV, every year one boy and one girl from each district are forced to fight to the death in The Hunger Games with only one person being victorious. When Primrose Everdeen from District 12 gets chosen for the games, her elder sister Katniss offers to take her place and, along with Peeta, the male chosen from her district, they must do their best to survive.

It’s a very interesting concept, even though not a totally original one as the Japanese Battle Royale has already covered similar territory. However, despite the similarity between the two films (that’s another blog for another time), The Hunger Games stands on its own two feet superbly, and there’s a good chance anyway that many won’t even be aware of the Japanese film. No harm, no foul there.

The characters were well realised for the most part and Jennifer Lawrence played the role of the strong yet vulnerable Katniss admirably. However, we don’t get to see much of what drives Katniss and, aside from a couple of particular touching moments, she seems to take everything in her stride, which seems odd for a girl thrown into an insane kill or be killed tournament to do. Perhaps it would have been nice to see a little more anger or conflict in Katniss, particularly when she makes her first kill; she doesn’t seem to show much emotion and just acts as if it’s totally natural. Peeta is probably the weakest character in the film, seemingly being there for necessities’ sake rather than anything else, and his ‘super strength’ seems an odd skill for someone who is smaller and skinnier than most of the other male contestants.

Woody Harrelson shines

Probably the best piece of casting in the film is that of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss and Peeta’s mentor and a former winner of The Hunger Games. Now a drunk, Haymitch really can’t be bothered with the fuss of training the pair, although takes Katniss under his wing as he admires her fiery nature – the typical ‘you remind me of me when I was younger’ type of thing. Harrelson steals every scene he’s in, although this does take away some of the focus from the two about to enter the games and what they are going through. Still, i’d have happily seen more of Haymitch and his drunken, laissez faire attitude.

As for the film itself, it plods along at a decent speed, although it did perhaps take a little too long to get into The Games themselves. Many people will go and see the film wondering how Katniss is going to survive and avoid being worm food, but they might be a little disappointed having to wait half the film to find out. It’s easy to see why everything pre-games is included, I would just have liked more time in the arena. Once you’re there though, the action rarely lets up and it’s suitably violent for the older audiences but not so much that it’ll make the young’uns have nightmares. There are bludgeonings, snapped necks, impalings, but most of it is cleverly hidden through editing and camera work, and arguably the most eye-wincing death comes at the hands (or equivalent) of something entirely not human.

Effie and Katniss

As is often the case, the huge amount of hype surrounding a film can ulitmately be its downfall, but The Hunger Games has more than enough substance to carry it through. It straddles the line of teen and adult excellently, and the characters are infinitely more likeable and believeable than those in its peer, Twilight. Lionsgate have said that whether the sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, get made is purely on whether The Hunger Games makes enough money. With box office takings in the hundreds of millions of dollars and still rising, it seems Lionsgate may just green light the sequels, and i’m already looking forward to seeing where the story goes. Although I may well have read the books by then.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Movies in reverse

I’m sure this has been done a million times before, but I thought i’d come up with some plot lines if films had been done in reverse. Ya know, just for laughs and that. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. Enjoy.

Jaws

The Shining – Jack Nicholson thaws out from a block of ice, tries to kill his family with an axe, then becomes a caretaker.

Titanic – An ocean liner rises out of the ocean, hits an iceberg and safely docks in Southampton.

Jaws – A huge shark regurgitates swimmers whilst improving the tourist industry of a seaside town.

The Shawshank Redemption – A man breaks into a prison.

While You Were Sleeping – A man gets dumped at the alter, falls asleep for a while, then gets hit by a train.

Pretty Woman – Julia Roberts’ successful businessman boyfriend, Richard Gere, makes her become a prostitute.127 Hours

The Sixth Sense – A ghost befriends a young boy before becoming a child psychologist.

Taken – Kidnappers reunite Liam Neeson with his missing daughter.

127 Hours – A man surgically reattaches his severed arm and then climbs up a ravine.

We Bought a Zoo – They sell a zoo.

Elf – A family man has a breakdown and leaves for the North Pole to become one of Santa’s elves.

Cloverfield – A giant monster rebuilds New York, then leaves.
The Exorcist
Saving Private Ryan – A group of soldiers abandon a fellow solider in France and fight their way out of the country.

Ghostbusters – a group of middle-aged men release ghosts all over New York.

Runaway Bride – A woman keeps turning up late to weddings.

The Exorcist – A priest puts a curse on a young girl, making her possessed by the devil.

Into The Wild – A young man, sleeping on a bus in Alaska, finds his way back home just in time to graduate at university.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Contagion – A load of sick people get better.

Castaway – Tom Hanks leaves his life behind to live on a desert island with a football.

The Notebook – A man tells his Alzheimer’s-suffering wife how he fell out of love with her.

Gone in 60 Seconds – Nicolas Cage returns expensive cars to their owners.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – A man is born, gets older, then dies.

Harry Potter – A bespectacled boy kills an evil wizard then goes to live in a cupboard under the stairs.

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Board game to box office – What if more board games were made into movies?

With the recent release of Battleship, I got to thinking if there were any other board games that could be turned into films. I figured it wouldn’t really matter if the concept was completely and utterly absurd because, well, just look at Battleship. Here’s just a few that could make the jump from board game to box office…

Monopoly

Board game:Monopoly Man

Players move around the board buying up and developing property in an attempt to make their opponents bankrupt.

Box office:

A world government, run by bankers headed by an old fellow with a top hat and moustache, decides the world’s major cities are to be privatised. Various high profile people, each with an obsession for random objects, eg. dogs, cars, boats, hats, must race to be the first to deposit a briefcase of cash at a destination within each city to claim control of it. Meanwhile, the evil Mr Moustache Man dispatches his jailer henchman to make life even more complicated. Basically Wacky Races meets The Hunger Games. With free parking everywhere.

Cast:

Mr Car – Vin Diesel

Mr Dog – Owen Wilson

Madame Boot – Helen Mirren

Sir Hat – Stephen Fry

Miss Iron – Angelina Jolie

Mr Boat – Willem Dafoe

Mr Moustache Man – Anthony Hopkins

Jailer – Vinnie Jones

Community Chest – Megan Fox

Tagline:

“Can they beat the bankers and pass Go?”

 

Operation

Board game:Operation

Players must try to remove various items from a patient who is disturbingly awake throughout the whole process. But be aware, those who aren’t careful enough will cause the patient to buzz and his nose light up. Just like real life.

Box office:

A surgeon develops a pioneering new transplant procedure where he can completely alter someone’s image to become an entirely different person with a new personality. However, the procedure is still in its infancy and the only person he can accurately create is the dad from classic cartoon The Jetsons. A mild mannered and otherwise introvert test patient, desperate to escape his current life as a recluse, decides to undergo the procedure, but when something goes wrong and he’s turned into a psychotic, murderous version of the intergalactic family man, the surgeon must track him down and reverse the operation.

Cast:

Surgeon – John Cusack

Test patient who gets turned into a murderous version of the dad from The Jetsons – Rupert Grint

Kidnapped victim of the test patient who gets turned into a murderous version of the dad from The Jetsons – Miley Cyrus

Tagline:

“He’ll really get under your skin”

 

Hungry Hippos

Board game:Hungry Hippos

Players compete to capture as many balls as possible by eating them with hippos with weirdly extendable necks. Usually results in repetitive strain injury and severe tinitus.

Box office:

A pharmaceutical company has been dumping toxic waste in an African river for years. Townsfolk living near the river begin to disappear mysteriously and a SWAT team from America (fuck yeah!) are brought in to investigate. They arrive to find the whole town completely deserted. Upon inspection over the nearby river banks, they find masses of skeletons and mangled corpses. ‘WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON??!!!!’ they all think. As they explore the area, members of the crew are attacked and disappear. It turns out that the toxic waste dumped into the river has caused a genetic mutation of all the hippos and turned them into savage killers. They’re super fast, super strong, super intelligent and above all super hungry. Can the team defeat the hippos before they become lunch? Think Alien – with hippos.

Cast

Squad leader – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Trigger happy squadie – Bradley Cooper

Sensitive squadie – James McAvoy

Idiot squadie – Jonah Hill

Token female squadie – Rosamund Pike

Mutated killer hippos – hippos

Tagline:

“They’re hippos, and they’re hungry”

 

The possibilities are practically endless for games that could be turned into films. Although, yes I know that Battleship, Operation and Hungry Hippos aren’t technically board games, but i like the whole board game to box office thing. Sue me. If you’ve got any other ideas for games that would make good (or preferably awful) films then drop us a comment below.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Film Review:The Cabin in the Woods

When I originally sat down to write this review, I thought it would be a straightforward ‘I liked/didn’t like this because x,y and z’. However, when it came to actually putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard), I was a little stumped. After constructing a motivational montage in my head to ease the writer’s block, I realised this was because The Cabin in the Woods is best seen with little to no knowledge or preconceptions about what you’re going to watch. So, if you don’t want any of it spoiled whatsoever, then I suggest you stop reading here. However, if you want to know a little more about the film, then read on – i’ll try and keep any spoilers to an absolute minimum.

The Cabin in the Woods

Chances are, you already know The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film, but don’t let the generic title fool you, because that’s what it wants you to do. The film is just as much satirical homage as it is horror, perhaps even more so, and it’s not afriad to shove a bodybag full of horror film references (Evil Dead probably being the most obvious) down your throat at every possible opportunity. Upon viewing, some may think it’s little more than a rip-off, but there’s much more going on than that, and it takes the references and moulds them into something that feels fresh and new.

The story, or what i’m prepared to give away of the story, is fairly simple, although it’s clear early on that not all is as it seems. A group of five friends take a trip to a creepy cabin in the woods, but even before they set out, they are being monitored by a mysterious organisation who are keeping a very close eye on what they get up to, and it’s not long before things take a deadly turn for the worse. The friends fall neatly into horror movie conventions – the jock, the slut, the fool, the intellectual and the virgin – but as the film progresses, you’ll see that these archetypes aren’t as straightforward as they initially appear.

Kristen Connolly as 'The Virgin'

Although giving the initial impression of horror by numbers, in reality (an interesting concept in itself) it’s anything but; conventions are subverted when you least expect it, and when the film does stick to the formula, there’s always a reason behind it. This is scriptwriter Joss Whedon’s Ode to a Horror Film, and it’s clear that he had a hell of a lot of fun coming up with the idea. The name Joss Whedon might well be familiar to fans of the supernatural as the writer behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and if you’ve spent any time with said show, you’ll know he has a knack for writing scripts that straddle the line of horror and humour.

To echo the start of this review, it’s best to have no preconceptions about The Cabin in the Woods – you really don’t need any. And the reason you don’t need any is because it’ll hand them to you on a plate. It’ll take what you thought you knew about horror films, blatantly show it to you, and then turn it on its head. Like Scream before it, The Cabin in the Woods just might make you rethink every horror film you’ve ever seen.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Titanic 3D – Setting sail (and sinking) all over again

So I went to see Titanic 3D. I thought I’d avoid it like a third class steerage passenger, but I thought I’d give it another try and see how it held up. I saw the original twice at the cinema; I was only 11 years old and it was one of the first films I remember seeing without my parents, although that accolade may well go to Free Willy 2. Either way I remember it vividly.

I remember thinking that there’s no way I could sit still for nearly three and a half hours – as it turns out I didn’t have to, as my local cinema actually had a five minute interval midway through to let people stretch their legs. I’d also heard that the woman who plays the main role, Kate Somethingorother gets her kit off. As an 11 year old boy, you can imagine this was one of the main draws.

Going down

I was also apparently definitely going to cry. It’s such a beautiful love story they said (‘they’ being school friends and the like); it’s so tragic; Leonardo DiCaprio is so hot. These were female reactions. The male reactions centred firmly on the boob issue. I didn’t cry in the end, although it was quite sad, and I remember thinking that it was one of the most technically impressive films I’d seen in my 11 short years.

So, it’s 15 years later and I headed back to the cinema to see whether time had been kind to Jack, Rose et al. Here’s what I thought…

It looks great

When it first came out, audiences were blown away with the CGI and special effects used in the film and, somewhat surprisingly, it still holds up incredibly well. It’s been given a lick of paint and looked crystal clear on the digital screen, making it look just as good as anything else i’ve seen recently.

The scale of the thing is still pretty impressive, too. The film famously ran hugely over budget thanks to James Cameron grandiose imagination, but none of that really matters when you see his baby come to life. Everything is huge and the attention to detail is admirable; not at any point do you feel like you’re watching anything other than a scale replica of the Titanic or even the thing itself. Granted, the CGI is iffy in a few places, but that’s to be expected, and, for the most part, it blends in well with the rest of the milieu.

The 3D, which will be the attraction for a lot of people, will likely leave those same people a little underwhelmed. It’s functional if not spectacular, but it does give added depth that further enhances the grand sense of scale. James Cameron hasSunset already come out and said that the 3D isn’t as good as it would have been were it originally filmed for the medium, but it still does a job – just don’t go expecting icebergs to come crashing out of the screen at you.

The script is awful

This may be stating the bleeding obvious, but the script for Titanic is pretty atrocious. Sure, go ahead and tell me I’m an idiot for thinking it may be anything aside from bad, but as an 11 year old, I really didn’t give a crap about the script. As far as I was concerned, that’s how they spoke and acted back in 1912.  But now, with a slightly more educated head on, I can see that the film’s strength was most definitely not its script.

Dialogue is forced and unrealistic, and it just seems as if the ship careering into an iceberg and the drowning of hundreds of passengers is but an inconvenience and a sideshow to Jack and Rose’s love story. Don’t get me started on Billy Zane.

Many may say that it doesn’t attempt to be anything other than primarily a love story, and a pretty cheesy one at that, but I just wanted to see a little more about all the other people who were fighting for their lives, rather than them be overshadowed by the two leads.

Still, I think everyone goes to watch Titanic knowing exactly what it is (the overall story is hardly a surprise anyway), and if you can stomach the extreme fromage factor, and even laugh at it a little, then you’ll enjoy the film a lot more.

Titanic is still Winslet’s defining role

Kate Winslet Whilst DiCaprio has gone on to do umpteen big films, including Inception, The Departed and Shutter Island, Kate Winslet has never really found the same stardom. Sure, she won an Oscar for The Reader, but it’s still Titanic that springs immediately to mind when someone mentions her name. Ask me to think what else she’s been in and I actually struggle, and I know I’m not alone in that. There’s been bits and pieces but nothing really standout.

This is even more evident when it’s only really her doing the promo work for this rerelease. Cameron has done some, but it’s Winslet who’s primarily been doing the rounds. Leo’s nowhere to be seen – probably because he’s got a host of other films to make and promote.

The sketching scene is one of the best in the film

Before you start going on about how predictable that sounds, the reason I think that scene is one of the best isn’t because Winslet gets her boobs out. To me, this scene is the best example of acting and chemistry between Jack and Rose, and it seems evident from their actions and reactions that there isn’t much acting going on (although some would say there’s not much acting going on throughout the film anyway).

From Jack’s intensity when he’s sketching to the smirk on Rose’s face, everything just seems so much more natural than elsewhere in the film. The ‘over there on the bed…couch’ line was a genuine mistake by Leo, who was clearly a little nervous about Kate derobing, but James Cameron liked the line so much he kept it in.

It’s still clearly just as popular

Despite the film having a bit of a bad rep, it seems there are still plenty of people who want to see it. When I turned up, a good 15 minutes before the start of the film, the cinema was already packed and it took a good while to find somewhere Jack and Roseto sit that wasn’t about four inches from the screen.

The cinema had even drafted in a member of staff to help seat people because we were apparently incapable of doing it ourselves. This ‘zany’ (read knobhead) member of staff then did a quick poll to see who was seeing Titanic for the first time, and only about half a dozen people put their hand up. Granted, some may have just been a little shy, but it seemed the overwhelming majority had seen Titanic previously, showing that a 15 year old film can still draw people to the cinema better than some new release films.

 

There are a few other little bits and pieces that I noticed when watching, such as that there was definitely enough room on that door for Jack as well as Rose, and that Bill Paxton’s character has a ridiculous earring. However, what stayed with me the most is that this film is going to be considered a classic. Like it or not, it’s going to stay around for a long, long time and evidently still has the power to get people back to cinemas. In a time when remakes and reboots are rife, I can’t see anyone making another film version of Titanic any time soon, which can only be testament to the scale and quality of Cameron’s epic.

Words: Chris Thomson

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In Cinemas this week – 6th April

Titanic 3D

This needs no introduction. For a long time the highest grossing film of all time, James Cameron’s epic tale of love across the class divide as the unsinkable ship twats a massive iceberg is finally released in 3D. Definitely not a cash in, Titanic 3D is out to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the tragic event and will let kids go giggly over seeing Kate Winslet’s boobs all over again. And now it’s in 3D, maybe they’ll actually see the sodding iceberg coming (fnar).

Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White

With the darker and more action-orientated Snow White and the Huntsman coming out in the coming months, Mirror Mirror has its work cut out to grab people’s attention. However, it does have the advantage of beating its rival (and it is a rival despite both camps apparently being blissfully unaware of the other film) onto cinema screens and could do well over the Easter period. It’s not a totally accurate retelling of the fairy tale, instead seeing Snow (Lily Collins) and her merry band of halflings attempt to retake the kingdom captured by The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts).

Headhunters

Following in the footsteps of Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy and police drama The Killing, Headhunters is the latest Scandinavian thriller to hit screens. Adapted from Jo Nesbo’s text, the film sees Roger (Aksel Hennie), one of Norway’s biggest headhunters, try and inject some excitement into his seemingly perfect life by stealing a renowned and expensive painting. But, guess what? That’s right, it all goes a bit tits up and Roger gets into a spot of bother.

Also out this week

There’s a couple of other big-ish films out this week should the lure of Snow White or Leo and Kate floating in the drink not excite you. The Cold Light of Day, starring Bruce Willis, tells of a Wall Street trader (Henry Cavill) who must delve into his father’s mysterious past to rescue his missing family. In This Must Be the Place, Sean Penn stars as Cheyenne, a former rock star who, after learning of his late father’s humiliation at the ends of the German SS, travels across America in search of the ex-Nazi responsible. Expect plenty of soul searching.

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Top 5 movie rabbits

With Easter approaching, it’s only right to remember the true meaning of the holiday – the time Jesus lived in a cave and turned a rabbit into wine. Naturally, that then got me thinking about film’s most iconic rabbits. Here’s my top 5…

5. White Rabbit – Alice in Wonderland

White RabbitThis is the little bastard who is basically responsible for Alice’s entire head trip. It’s his useless timekeeping that piques Alice’s interest and leads her to following him down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. A servant to the King and Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit pops up at various intervals throughout the film, perhaps most notably when Alice gets trapped in his house when she grows too big. In Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation, he is known as Nivens McTwisp and is a member of the Underland Underground Resistance, sent by the Mad Hatter to find Alice – seriously, could Burton have got it more wrong?

Despite that, the White Rabbit (original 1951 version) is still one of the most enduring and intriguing characters ever to fret about not being on time.

 

4. Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The Killer Rabbit of CaerbannogOne of the most ferocious beasts to ever walk the Earth. Guarding the Cave of Caerbannog and the Black Beast within, this viscious killer has the ability to make even the bravest knights soil themselves. Luring King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table into a false sense of security, the rabbit then procedes to maul and decapitate those foolish enough to confront it. Only the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is enough to finally slay the Vorpal Bunny, although it does make a return in Spamalot, seemingly making reincarnation perhaps its scariest characteristic.

 

3. Frank – Donnie Darko

Frank - Donnie DarkoFrank is one bad mother. Perhaps the most disturbing rabbit of all time, Frank reveals himself to troubled teenager Donnie Darko and tells him the world will end in precisely 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Initially saving Donnie’s life by luring him out of his house moments before a jet engine crashes through it, Frank manipulates Donnie into committing a series of crimes, as well as confusing audiences as to the meaning behind this creepy-ass bunny. What is Frank? Who is Frank? Why is Frank? Anyone who claims they can satisfactorily answer all those questions is, quite frankly, a liar.

 

2. Whitey – Fatal Attraction

Bunny BoilerThe only dead rabbit on the list (let’s not get into the whole Frank getting shot thing, and yes I know the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog gets blown to smithereens, but you know what I mean). This little rabbit has, unwittingly, coined a phrase that is now completely engrained in popular culture, and has led to many a man terminate a relationship in case their partner goes the way of ‘bunny boiler’ Glenn Close. So, what’s the lesson to be learned from Fatal Attraction? That’s right, don’t leave your pet rabbit alone with your bat-shit crazy mistress. Schoolboy.

 

1. Roger – Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Roger Rabbit

Without a doubt, the most iconic bunny ever to grace a cinema screen. Roger’s knack for screwing things up, his cartoon physics and the fact that he’s nailing the smoking hot Jessica Rabbit make him endearing to any and all who witness his hapless escapades. Stick him next to Bob Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant and you get what is essentially a buddy movie, but one with a smattering of some of the most famous toons ever created. Add to that Christopher ‘Doc’ Lloyd as the forebodingly named Judge Doom, and the reason why it’s acceptable to fancy a cartoon in Jessica, and you’ve got a winning formula. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (it’s not a typo, there is no question mark) broke all kinds of ‘rules’ with its mix of toons and real life characters, but it worked brilliantly, and few films since have created a world so obviously artificial yet so believable.

So, there we go, the top 5 movie rabbits. If you disagree and think we’ve missed a particular bunny out, then please let us know in the comments below.

Words: Chris Thomson

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