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Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

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I never really payed much attention to the hype surrounding the Hunger Games upon its release. I’d never read the books, and I wasn’t prepared to go in on what I thought was the next Twilight series. Then everyone I knew was talking it up. Then everyone I knew saw it and came back glowing. Then I had to see it.

If you’re like me, and had no knowledge of The Hunger Games, read on. If you can know what a tracker jacker is, you can probably skip this paragraph. The Hunger Games is the first part of a trilogy based off the book series by Suzanne Collins. In this dystopian future, the country of Panem and its 12 districts is ordered to send two children (one boy one girl) between the ages of 12-18 to the Capitol each year as tribute. The tributes then fight to the death on live tv and the winner is showered with prizes and wins food for his or her district. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), from the coal mining district 12 has hardly any chance of victory, but her volunteering after her sister was selected has grabbed the attention of the world. Now Katniss, and her District mate, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are trying to outlive each other and the rest of the contestants as the world watches on.

The Hunger Games starts off feeling a lot like 1984 or THX1138. Very futuristic, but old in the same way. The whole premise might seem far fetched but the acting makes you suspend your critical thinking enough that you forget. I’ve already seen what Lawrence can do in the woods in Winters Bone, and she is just as good when acting for a bunch of teenagers. The rest of the cast isn’t memorable, but solid nonetheless. What the film is able to do is make you anticipate the Games. The whole first half I was just constantly looking forward to the Games. And when they do start, the film isn’t afraid to make it a violent PG-13. Right away we realize how sick this game just is, and start rooting against the game master. The Hunger Games brings you into its world and doesn’t let you leave.

My Rating: B+

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Review: X-Men First Class (2011)

I was late to the game when it came to the X-Men films, and although they were arguable the ones that made superhero movies box-office guarantees, the effects are a tad lacking nowadays. Add to the fact that the last one I saw, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was subpar at best, and X-Men: First Class wasn’t the most drool worthy thing when I heard about it. What sets First Class apart is the fact it really isn’t like any of the other 4. A new cast and a more character driven plot shows us how good an expected “popcorn flick” can be.

Set in the 1960’s, First Class is really the Origins for the rest of the crew, specifically Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). Although I love McAvoy, Fassbender really stands out due to the arguably better role as the concentration camp survivor who needs to control his rage. The two of them, along with familiar faces like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) go after another mutant (Kevin Bacon) who, like all good villains, is attempting to start World War III.

Casting? Great. Bacon plays the villain quite well, while Fassbender and McAvoy bring their steady acting chops to the table. We also find out that Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone fame, can also work on a blockbuster like the X-Men franchise. Story wise, the plot is great, showing us a side of Mystique and Magneto that we never knew. They actually make their choice seem somewhat logical. Technically speaking, First Class stays well above the average with some fantastic effects, including a certain final battle scene involving a coin, that is beauty on film.

My Rating: A-

Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Winter’s Bone, the surprise movie of the 2010 award season, showed off numerous accolades, including 4 Oscar nominations, a few Sundance awards, amongst others. In fact, it was seen so little in theaters, it was actually the lowest grossing film to be nominated for an Oscar. The low grossing might have something to do with the slow plot, the lack of any sex or action, or simply the dark cold atmosphere of the film.

Set in the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone has the same mood as it’s setting. Cold, dark, harsh, unpleasant, both the weather and the film set high marks in these areas. The story revolves around 17-year old Ree. Aside from taking care of her two younger siblings, her sick mother, and keeping the house in order, she must now find her drug-dealing father, who is on the run, in order to keep her home.

Even though I am not the biggest fan of slow moving dramas that sometimes drag, I kinda enjoyed Winter’s Bone. The emotions Jennifer Lawrence has to portray is staggering, and she does it all in stride. The setting, from what I’ve heard, is dead on from real life, and it really shows how this movie could really happen to someone. Great acting, and even greater setting and mood make this one of the years best.

My Rating: A-