Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Hunger Games"

I enjoyed it and recommend seeing it, if not in your friendly neighborhood theater, then in the comfort of your home a few weeks from now.

It's a fine story of loyalty, sacrifice and love in the face of oppression. These values are highlighted throughout most of the film, though at times, the message got a little muddy, though not in any terminal way.

It's about 20 minutes too long; I found myself getting slightly bored by a mostly repetitive plot - kill or be killed, though the lead character played by Jennifer Lawrence is spared most of the killing.

The lead actor (Lawrence), though touted in the media, lacked the emotive power essential to the story.

The same for her fellow Tribune (Josh Hutcherson). They're young actors and may yet mature, but their lack of intensity was slightly disappointing, though the story itself has plenty.

I haven't read the books, so it's hard to say, but the Hutcherson character, Peeta Mellark, was played ambiguously - is he trustworthy? I don't know it that was the intent, but that's how it came across to me. If he's not to be trusted, that was played a bit too weakly. If he's to be trusted, that really didn't come across all that well.

Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence in
The Hunger Games
Lawrence's character has strength of mind and soul, but her lack of emotional intensity never quite delivers. Does this hamper the story? I don't think so, but a more mature actor might have made the role more memorable.

Stanley Tucci is the Hunger Games Host, and he does a fine job, along with Woody Harrelson who is a former games' winner, a mentor to the new contestants, and now mostly a drunk, who reluctantly takes an interest in our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). Donald Sutherland portrays President Snow, a dangerous and calculating man who uses the games to entertain the nation and reinforce the power of the state.

These three actors bring a considerable maturity to their roles, compensating for the younger cast.

While the film has plenty of violence, it's well choreographed to enhance the story rather than being the story.

Filmed in North Carolina, the glories and mystery of the Eastern Mountains and Forest are front and center, along with some last-minute mutants created by the high-tech computers employed by the Games.

In some ways, the film had the feel of a sci-fi B movie, but all that aside, I enjoyed it.

Worth seeing in the theater?

Sure, if you want to see it now and be able to talk about it with your children or grandchildren.

But it'll be fine on your TV, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"The Artist"

Wow, an impressive piece of movie-making.

A window into a time of transition.

A love story, with a young lady achieving fame in talkies, a famous man, a silent star, falling out of favor, her love for him, his pride that further drives him into despair, a fire, a dog and a "Bang!" ... and her love persisting, until they find a place where both of them can dance!

From the get-go, mesmerized!

Wonderful acting by Berenice Bejo with a smile that never quits, charm and energy, and, of course, a beauty mark - what a delightful role ... and her male counterpart, Jean Dujardin, a face, a hero, a dashing blade, with pencil-thin mustache and all.

And a fine supporting cast all around: John Goodman as a powerful director with a heart, James Cromwell as the always-loyal butler, and a host of other lesser and greater lights that fill the frames of this terrific tale.

My heart still belongs to the "The Descendants" and George Clooney.

But this is a piece of superb film-making, with a delightful ending ... and, of course, Uggie, all dog, and all hero.

Don't miss it.