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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)


The Hunger Games Catching Fire Poster

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

As I mentioned in my review of The Hunger Games (2012), I told my friend that I would see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with him, even though I was not very interested in either of the films.  I’m not going to watch a sequel to a film without first watching the original, so I watched The Hunger Games at home before going out to the theatre.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games, and this made me excited to see the sequel.  I would certainly not recommend watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire without first watching The Hunger Games.  It is pretty much essential to watch the movies in order.

I would advise against reading the rest of this review if you have not yet seen The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Harrelson Hutcherson Lawrence

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up where the first film left off.  Through an act of defiance, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) were the winners of the 74th annual Hunger Games.  Their public defiance was enough for the government to want to make an example out of them by punishing them in hopes of preventing a revolution.

The film was directed by Francis Lawrence and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Jena Malone, and Toby Jones.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Hutcherson Banks Lawrence

Like most sequels, I expected this movie to be a step down from the first film.  My expectations were wrong once again.  It’s a rare thing that a sequel is better than its predecessor, but this is exactly the case with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  It’s as if the filmmakers ironed out all of the kinks from the first movie in order to make the sequel.

Everything that I liked and disliked about The Hunger Games was improved upon in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  It was another welcomed surprise.  The acting was more passionate, the special effects were sharper, the story was more interesting, and the quality of the film as a whole was just plain better.

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Lawrence Hutcherson

Fans of The Hunger Games will undoubtedly like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire even more.  The film is a higher caliber and therefore delivers a stronger potency.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

The Hunger Games (2012)


The Hunger Games Poster

The Hunger Games (2012)

I’m not usually the type of guy to rush out and see a movie like The Hunger Games in theatres.  I guess that is why I had not seen the film, until now.  I probably would have put off seeing this movie even longer, but since a friend of mine wanted to see the The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) in theatres, I thought it best that I see the films in order.

People have raved about this movie, but it just wasn’t a must-see for me, even though, for the most part, it has a very solid cast.  I don’t know if it is the PG-13 rating or what, but it just appeared to me like it would be a teenie-bopper film of sorts.

The Hunger Games Banks Lawrence

The movie takes place in the future where a society is split up into twelve districts.  Once a year a lottery takes place in order to select a young man and a young woman from each of the twelve districts to take part in a televised battle to the death called The Hunger Games.  The latest Hunger Games gets its first volunteer, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).  Katniss volunteers in order to protect her younger sister from almost certain death.  Now, Katniss is facing the same odds.

The film was directed by Gary Ross and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, and Toby Jones.

The Hunger Games Lawrence Bow

I’m not sure that I buy into the concept of a society that would force a few of its residents to battle in a fight to the death.  The idea was a little bit of a stretch.  However, it did remind me a little bit of gladiators being forced to fight in an arena.  It’s a backwards advanced warped society that would be a sick world to live in.  Maybe I just hope that it could never get that bad, but given the world that we live in, maybe I’m just in denial.  After all, if the holocaust can happen, maybe something like this could too.  A movie like this that takes place in the future can get away with a concept like this one, because nobody knows what the future holds.

The film was a cross between The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Death Race (2008), and Gladiator (2000).

The Hunger Games was certainly better than I anticipated it would be. The big name actors in the movie all played their parts well.  However, it was ultimately Jennifer Lawrence’s film.  It was an intensely engaging, heartfelt movie with lots of cool visuals and a good soundtrack.

The Hunger Games Hutcherson

At times, the graphics were a bit overdone and almost too colorful.  Some of the costumes were far out.  The technology in the film seemed a little too advanced for a poor society.  All of these things temporarily took away from the story along with a touch of lower quality acting from the lesser known supporting cast members.

Overall, The Hunger Games was a big surprise to me.  It far exceeded my expectations and I wish I had given it a chance sooner, because I didn’t give it the credit that it deserves.

I rate this movie an 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)


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Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

The movie should have just been called The Butler, but director Lee Daniels somehow felt that he had to put his name in the title.  I’m not sure if there is a real reason for his name being in the title, but to me, it just seems a little narcissistic.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is very, very lightly based on the life of Eugene Allen.  The film changed Allen’s name to Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker).  The film paints a pretty disturbing picture of the struggles and pain that Gaines and his family faced during his childhood and throughout his life as a butler at the White House for 34 years.  The movie showed how the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement had a major impact on his life.

Lee Daniels' The Butler Whitaker serving Williams

The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Cusack, James Marsden, Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Clarence Williams III, John P. Fertitta, Colman Domingo, Yaya Alafia, Minka Kelly, and Nelsan Ellis.

The movie modifies many of the facts about Allen’s life in order to make it more entertaining and therefore less true.

I left the film wondering just how much of it was true.  After doing a little bit of research, I found out a number of things about the movie that are completely fiction.  It’s a little upsetting to me how this film tries to pass itself off as based on a true story.  I don’t want to spoil anything about the movie for anybody, but let me just say that a lot of it is pure fiction.

Lee Daniels' The Butler Whitaker Gooding Jr.

I really felt for the main characters after seeing what they went through, and thinking how terrible things were for them.  After finding out that a lot of the details in the movie are made up, I question just how honest the rest of the movie is.  I feel like I was a little duped.  I felt bad for Cecil Gaines, but that was not even his real name.  I felt bad for some of the things that Gaines went through, but found out that some of those things didn’t even happen.  Because the writers and director played so fast and loose with the facts and tried to pass it all off as truth, they succeeded in ruining the movie for me.

The film was very slow and dragged on at times.

There were so many big names in this movie that a few of them were underused.  A lot of the supporting characters do not get fully developed.  They are in the film in almost cameo-like roles, and then they are gone.

Forest Whitaker is superb in the lead role.  His performance alone is enough to make the film worth watching.  Even at the film’s slowest and almost boring parts when the movie seems like it is unraveling, Whitaker is enough to bring everything back together again.

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Oprah Winfrey was miscast.  Her character hardly seemed believable and this took away from my enjoyment of the film.  The rest of the supporting cast all did a fine job.

Overall, I felt like the movie was too slow at times.  If they had trimmed some of the fat and gotten rid of a few scenes, the film could have been better.  I am a little annoyed at how many facts were changed as they are trying to pass this movie off as inspired by a true story.  Most people read “true story” and think that it is true.  If they dressed this movie up to make it more entertaining, I cannot imagine how slow it would have been if they had stuck more to the facts.

The Butler (2013) Forest Whitaker (Screengrab)

Setting all of the things about this film that I did not like aside, Whitaker and most of the rest of the cast all do a great job.  It’s fun to see all of these big names in the same movie even if some of them are not in it long enough.  The film does an excellent job of showing people overcome hatred and violence and that is always a good shot to the arm for the human spirit.

I rate this movie a 6.5 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Rent.