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Review: The Hunger Games, the Movie

I really need to come up with a standard review format for films. I have it for books. What do people put in movie reviews? The director? The actors? The rating? Well, here’s a pretty picture, then I’ll get on with it.

The book is always better than the movie. This saying, common among us reader-types, holds true for The Hunger Games. The book was very good and made an important, needed commentary on our society and how it regards youth. The film did a commendable job as an adaptation of the book, and, as just a movie, was excellent. With the months of hype leading up to the actual release, we had very high hopes. No movie could possibly live up to the expectations of the hard-core fans, so there was bound to be some disappointment. I was much less disappointed than I thought I was going to be.

For the most part, I agreed with the casting. Jennifer Lawrence, who fills the main role as Katniss Everdeen, is an extremely talented actress and conveyed Katniss perfectly. My only argument with Lawrence is her physical appearance: obviously older than the heroine’s supposed age of sixteen and lacking the malnourished edge fans of the book would expect. Josh Hutcherson portrays Peeta well, and Liam Hemsworth, though we hardly get to see him, is outstanding as Gale. The vast majority of the supporting actors are quite suited to their roles.

I felt that, up until the Hunger Games themselves started, the film was fast-paced to the point of rushed. We hardly got to meet the other tributes to the Games and got little sense of Katniss’s life back home in District Twelve. The movie gets the main points across, however: District Twelve is poor, the Capital is decadent and wealthy, there’s a range of ability among the Tributes, and the Capital somehow refuses to see how brutal the killing game is and is only entertained.

Once Katniss and Peeta are thrust into the arena with the twenty-two other teenage tributes, the action starts and hardly lets up. My heart hammered through the fighting, and it was hard to remind myself that I knew the outcome. The “Cave Scene,” somewhat infamous among fans, is one of the only lulls, and was handled masterfully by Lawrence and Hutcherson.

Overall, this is a film worth seeing even if you haven’t read the books. It might be slightly hard to get into if you’re not familiar with the story, though, so I do recommend reading at least Book One in advance.

Overall Rating: 4 stars

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Movies and TV

 

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Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

October 2010, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Young Adult fantasy

The world is changing: the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now, kids are disappearing. For 15-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside down when they are torn from their parents one night and slammed into a secret prison for no reason they can comprehend. The New Order, as it is known, is clearly trying to suppress Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Being a Normal Teenager. But while trapped in this totalitarian nightmare, Wisty and Whit discover they have incredible powers they’d never dreamed of. Can this newly minted witch and wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents–and maybe the world?

No one can dispute this: James Patterson is good at writing page-turners. I finished Witch & Wizard in less than two days– given, I was trapped backstage at a dress rehearsal and show at the time, but hey, reading is reading. Part dystopia, part classic fantasy, this book will appeal to a wide range of teen readers as a fast and fun thrill ride. There are some heavier topics thrown in there–individualism, “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” to name a few– but they are nothing new. These themes carry across every YA dystopia I can think of, from The Hunger Games to Across the Universe and back.

Readers will get a quick sense of character and will immediately care about what happens to Whit and Wisty. My heart was pounding from practically the first sentence, and it didn’t stop until the “Excerpts From New Order Propaganda” at the end, which offered a welcome respite from the death, destruction, and white-knuckle tension. On the surface, this was a great book. But long-time readers of this blog will know that almost nothing annoys me more than lack of originality in a novel. For one, did anyone else think that the Lost Ones were an awful lot like dementors? How about the whole “kids have the greatest power to save the world from evil”? I was reminded of one of my middle-grade favorites, The Mysterious Benedict Society. And I already mentioned the heaviness on themes that can be found almost anywhere.

For hard-core fantasy fans, this book is not the greatest. However, if you are not looking for new insight or mind-blowing imagination, just a fast-paced read to kick off the summer, and haven’t yet read this book, Witch & Wizard is worth a try.

Rating: 3.5 stars

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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Bread and Circuses

Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pub. Date: August 2010

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Genre: Science Fiction

Age Range: Young Adult

Synopsis/Teaser: Katniss Everdeen has survived two rounds of the Capitol of Panem’s deadly Hunger Games, and is now safely in District Thirteen, the mysterious heart of the rebellion against the Capitol. Her family and a few of her friends who survived the bombing of her home district, Twelve, are safe as well. But Katniss’s fellow Hunger Games tribute and half-real, half-pretend lover Peeta is in the Capitol’s hands. Katniss must learn to swallow the horrors of her past and her emotional ties in order to lead the rebels to victory and act as their Mockingjay.

Review: I’m probably one of the last fans of The Hunger Games trilogy to read Mockingjay. I put it off until now for two reasons: 1) I’m too cheap to buy the hardcover, and it didn’t show up in my local library until now, and 2) I was rather afraid of the ending. Given the series’ history of being “realistic” in the killing off of characters, I was nervous who we were going to lose in the end. It was worse than I imagined. We lost our Katniss from the very first chapter– figuratively, anyway.

The fearless, spunky, acerbic, and honest narrator I’d grown to love over the course of the series was missing from the first line of Mockingjay, to be replaced with an uncertain, confused, suspicious, and rather nasty girl that I didn’t quite recognize. If Suzanne Collins meant that Peeta being in the hands of the Capitol and District Twelve really destroyed her protagonist, she did it effectively– sacrificing, however, readers’ adoration for Katniss herself.

I found the doom and gloom of this book to be utterly too much. It was depressing, frankly. I won’t go in to detail– this is a spoiler-free zone!– but I’ll assure you that anyone with deep attachments to all the good guys will be positively devastated. I was. I really think Collins could have done better to lighten up a bit. But, when you get to the core of the matter, the truth is that this is a hard, jarring, dystopia novel, not some beach read.

One very intriguing aspect of this novel was the “Bread and Circuses” concept. Panem et Circenses is the Latin term referring to the system of providing commodities and entertainment to a ruler, city, or other prominent entity in order to keep the peace. Finally, the connection between Ancient Rome and Panem comes to light! Panem is Latin for “bread,” something your resident classics geek is ashamed that she didn’t notice earlier. Quite a few of the names of Hunger Games characters are Latin– Cinna, Octavia, Castor and Pollux– so it makes sense the Panem is a rather Rome-like society. I suppose the Hunger Games are akin the gladiator fighting, and the Districts of Panem provide the Capitol with all that it needs.

Mockingjay is a gripping, fast-paced whirlwind of a novel. Its high level of death and destruction isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is a worthy ending to the Hunger Games trilogy.

Recommended for: Fans of futuristic dystopias who can stand the murder and mayhem. It’s pretty essential to read the rest of the trilogy before delving into Mockingjay.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 possible stars.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

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