Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Golden Globes in Review with Us Two Guys (Who Didn't Actually Watch Them)

Ah, the Golden Globes...the Academy Awards' and Emmys' bastard offspring. Apparently, every year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out awards at a ceremony no one watches...because it's not the Oscars. If they do watch it, it's to hedge their bets for the upcoming Oscar pool. Basically, it's spoilers for the Oscars.

We've actually seen some of the nominees this time, though. And by "seen," we mean "caught part of...once...by accident." But some we did legitimately watch. And that would be Les Misérables. And some of the television shows. But we are still in a position to commentate because America.

Okay, after literally just going through the red carpet photos, our opinions on the fashions are a resounding "bleh." Too much red, too much naked, too many ridiculously high neck lines. What happened, Hollywood stylists? You had one job. Lie down before you hurt yourself. You're hired to make people look good, make them look good.

Maybe we should talk about the awards now.
(Chandler) Can I just say that I got this far in the review without gushing over Tina Fey and Amy Poehler? New personal record.
(Joanna) This is why I don't watch awards shows with you.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy: Lena Dunham for "Girls"

As long as Manic Pixie Dream Girl Zooey Deschanel didn't win, we're content. (Speaking of Zooey Deschanel, look forward to an Actor Analysis on her because we need to have a talk about Ms. Deschanel.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy: 

Don Cheadle for "House of Lies"

Joanna: House of Lies really grew on me over the summer and I'm a huge Big Bang fan (much to Chandler's chagrin), so if either Don Cheadle or Jim Parsons won I'd've approved. 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama: 

Claire Danes for "Homeland"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: 

Damian Lewis for "Homeland"

Joanna: Love Homeland. Nothing funny about Homeland except Claire Danes' crazy faces. 

Any actress willing to make faces like those is seriously passionate about her craft and deserves all the awards. No pride. No shame. Just jutting jaws and snot. Fantastic. 

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy: 


Chandler: This was one of the shows I've only caught part of once by accident. I was intrigued and would watch it, you know, if I had a day off and nothing else was on and I didn't already have plans to do something else.

Best Television Series - Drama: 


Joanna: YES. Really, the only way this show could be better is if Damian Lewis took his shirt off more. (And there were more pictures of it on the internet-- what the hell, internet?)

Best Foreign Language Film: 


We didn't see any of the foreign language films, and we always feel guilty about that. And since we never see them we never really care who wins, so we feel doubly guilty about that. So we've got a lot guilt. We're sorry, World. We're sorry, foreign language film casts and crews. And foreign language fans. 

Best Animated Film: 


Brave gets a lot of heat for not living up to the "Pixar Standard" but we enjoyed it. And her hair was crazy, like, from both technological and stylistic perspectives.

Best Original Score - Motion Picture: Life of Pi

John Williams was nominated. He's still at it, huh? Good for him.

Best Original Song - Motion Picture: 

Adele and Paul Epworth for "Skyfall"

Joanna: Skyfall isn't just a great Bond song, it's a great song, period. I don't like Bond, James Bond, movies in general but I can't deny they've provided some fantastic music over the years: the theme, Live and Let Die, um...and others, but this was jazzy, sexy, romantic hotness of a song. And "Skyfall" is such a stupid non-word, too. 

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture: 

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

That seems about right. 

Best Director - Motion Picture: 

Ben Affleck for Argo

Joanna: Ben Affleck gets a lot of crap for being Ben Affleck...and Daredevil. But The Town? Gone, Baby, Gone? Those are decent flicks, and he directed them both. Now he's best director for Argo? I think he's earned a little respect. Not a lot, Gigli happened, but some.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: 

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

In her...very few minutes onscreen Ms. Hathaway delivered a truly devastating performance and every accolade she receives for it, hands down, no comparison. We hope she enjoys the Oscar that's coming to her. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

The only word to describe Christoph Waltzs' performances is delicious. He is scrumptious. He luxuriates in every role to tasty, succulent, perfection. In short, Christoph Waltz is a delicacy. A German delicacy that is not sausage. He is a strudel. Avec creme

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence over Meryl Streep, Maggie Smith, and Dame Judi Dench? I haven't seen this movie, but her performance better be fucking amazing. (And as for the controversy, she DID beat Meryl. Leave her alone.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: 

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Moving on...

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama: 

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Of course it won. Because America. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama: 

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

It's nice he won the Golden Globe because he's probably not going to win the Oscar. 

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Les Misérables

And the surprise goes to...

Best Motion Picture - Drama: Argo

Ben Affleck can use his two Golden Globes to wipe away his Oscar-snub tears. 

We're looking forward to the next gathering of the Justice League of America and The Avengers at The Oscars. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Random: This Train Don't Stop

I think what brought this on was this fever I have (thanks, nephew) and hearing (NSFW) "D*** in a Box" come up on my iPod:

Remember when Justin Timberlake played a Young Elton John in an Older Elton John's music video for a Then-New song? This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore. For some reason (fever?) thinking about this made me laugh hard enough to post it on here out of nowhere.

And start the music portion of our Media Blitz.

Look at the fake gap in his teeth!

Also, I like the song better now than I did then. Fever?

Chandler may have a problem with this. Just...all of it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Quick and the Scared

Well it's October so it's time for an obligatory Halloween centric blog post. Instead of talking about my favorite horror movie, however, I'm going to do what I do best: talk about things that annoy me.

I appreciate a good scary movie now and again. I just recently watched George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" for the first time and I absolutely loved it. It had all the right ingredients for not only a great horror movie, but a great movie in general: fantastic story, a perfectly suited atmosphere, and to top it all off, it had an African-American in the lead role who was smart, well-spoken, and didn't die in the first ten minutes of the movie. Even more impressive was the fact that this movie was shot in the late 60s amongst extremely high racial tension. I don't know why it took me so long to see this movie, given my pro-zombie disposition, but I'm a better person for doing so.

The plot of all the great slasher movies from the late 70s into the 80s were all the same, but they were the pioneers of that genre and movies were (and still are) very entertaining. It's now about 30 years later and horror movies now just rehash the same story: there are a group of people who wander somewhere unfamiliar and they are killed one by one until the movie ends. Thing is, writers and directors of current movies do nothing to improve the genre; if anything, the movies now are worse. There is no time spent building up tension with foreboding set and developing a well established threat or villain. The concern now is more on how gruesome the deaths can be or there are "jumpers" every five minutes than actually making a good movie.

Nothing bugs me more than "jumpers" in horror movies. "Jumpers" is the name for when there's a long period of silence in a movie before something jumps out (hence the name) to startle the audience. Bottom line: jumpers are cheap, lazy ways to scare movie goers. There's no need for foreboding sets or well established threats when these movies are doing the equivalent of what a child does to scare a sibling. The worst part is that now the entire remainder of the movie is spent in anticipation, waiting for something to pop out unexpectedly. I get that's the point of the movie and that's why people see these movies in the first place, but for me, as soon as the first jumper appears, my focus shifts from the dialogue or plot to wondering which dark corner the killer will jump out from behind next.

What I think is truly scary are psychological thrillers. The horror movie slasher can always be defeated or outran, but what if the true horror is all in your mind (cue lightning and maniacal laughter)? Almost every episode of "The Twilight Zone" dealt with someone losing their sanity but that's what made them equally terrifying and entertaining. Whatever was menacing them was all in their mind, therefore making the threat unescapable thereby making it even more terrifying. It takes actual writing skill to develop characters and then gradually break down the human psyche over the course of a movie.

A horror movie should not be about how much blood is shown on screen or how brutal a certain kill was, but rather making the audience feel unsettled and uncomfortable in their own mind. That's why so many people are afraid of the dark; they know nothing is there, but they're terrified of what could be there. And the best part is: whatever unseen, unspeakable thing is lurking in the unknown is being imagined by the scared party themselves. The best horror movie words to live by? Nothing is scarier.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Emmys 2012: The Media Blitz with Just Jo

Welcome to Movie Gaga's coverage of the 2012 Emmys. And I seriously paused typing that because for a second I thought it was the Oscars and therefore 2013 already. Oh, boy. We're going to have fun tonight.

Or I am, anyway. Chandler's indisposed. Won't tell me why. I'll make up reasons as we go. See if he ever does this to me again. I think not. But stay with me! Comment here, on my Facebook page (Plum Jo), and/or on my Twitter (@PlummyJo)...I'll definitely reply, because if you forgot, I'm all by myself!

Good luck to the nominees!

(Times listed are relative, based on what my laptop says and how long I think it's been since the thing I was writing about happened.)

Red Carpet Coverage, or "Hey, look, it's Edie Falco! I watch Nurse Jackie!":

7:48 pm: Edie Falco looks beautiful! Wow. Stunning. I just started watching but that's a spot on the best-dressed list for me.

Glad that's over.

Actual Awards Coverage:

Did I mention Chandler left me high and dry an hour before broadcast? I didn't? Well, he did! And I didn't even know we were doing a thing.

8:01: I love Kathy Bates. And those Emmy robes are awesome.

8:07: Lena Dunham is nominated 3 times and she's only 2 years older than Chandler. Let's not talk about how much older I am than Chandler. And he has something to do tonight. And I'm sitting here blogging about the two of them.

Actual, Actual Awards Coverage:
8:13: Eric Stonestreet just won for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

8:20: Zooey Deschanel seems stoned. Or drunk. Which is funny. Expect an Actor Analysis on Zooey one day, because I have some thoughts. Oh, do I have thoughts. Chandler does, too, but his are mainly dirty.

8:21: Louis CK won Best Actor in a Comedy Series.

8:24: Julie Bowen won for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

8:26: I think Julie Bowen just admitted to polygamy instead of thanking her children's nannies/babysitters...

8:32: Kathy Bates and Jimmy Fallon won for Best Guest Appearance on a Comedy Series.

8:34: Steve Levitan won for Best Director, Comedy Series. If that was him "directing" Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate than his little introduction thing was hilarious. I wasn't paying much attention.

8:39: Jon Cryer won for Lead Actor in a Comedy. He's cutely flustered. No threepeat for Jim Parsons, though, which would be a shame if I didn't hate the word "threepeat." I may not even be spelling that right, and it doesn't even bother me.

8:44: COLBERT!

8:46: Julia Louis-Dreyfus won Best Actress in a Comedy. Edie Falco's dress is still better. But that was funny with the swapped acceptance speeches. Amy Poehler hasn't made me laugh since Weekend Update.

8:49: Julia received the first official play-off of the night. Congratulations, Ms. Louis-Dreyfus.

8:52: The Amazing Race won Best Reality Something-I-Don't-Care-It's-Not-Project-Runway.

9:01: Tom Bergeron just won for Best Reality Host-I-Still-Don't-Care-It's-Not-Project-Runway.

9:04: Grey's Anatomy is still on?

9:06: Aaron Paul just won for Breaking Bad. He looks oddly familiar.

9:09: Aaron Paul was Sarah Henrickson's (Amanda Seyfried) baby daddy on Big Love. Boom. In other news, Chandler is enjoying his mani-pedi and facial.

9:16: Homeland won Best Writing in a Drama, 100% deservedly. Then they got played off like, 30 seconds later.

9:18: Maggie Smith deserved that Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Emmy just on her facial expressions alone, good Lord.

9:24: I went to get a drink and have no idea if I missed anything or not. Jeremy Davies and Martha Plimpton won Best Guest Appearance in a Drama.

9:25: God, I love Buscemi.

9:26: Jim or Tim Van Patten won for Boardwalk Empire. He did something for it really well.

I knew the wheels would come off the wagon eventually.

9:29: Damian Lewis won Lead Actor in a Drama. Homeland is awesome. Damian's color commentary tidbit was he was born in St. John's Wood, London. There's a tube station there and yes, it's a lot of fun to say "I like to get off on St. John's Wood." loudly and in public.

9:37: I wish I could rag on Tina Fey now unreservedly without Chandler's yelling at me in her defense, but I actually like her dress a lot, for once. Her hair is stupid, though.

9:39: Claire Danes won for Homeland. Rock on, Claire. She also wins on facial expressions alone.

9:40: Nice dig on the writer's acceptance speech play-off! Also, rock on, Claire, for the first reference to Mandy Patinkin all night.

9:46: Louis CK won his 3rd Emmy of the night just now. Something about Variety shows, I don't even know anymore, I can't keep up, even with the 20 minutes of commercials in between awards.

9:50: YES. Gervais. About time. Outstanding Direction for a Variety Special. Why is this on and why is this on now? Ricky's right, this is totally unnecessary...

9:53: I wonder if Glen Weiss knew there was a guy standing next to him holding an Emmy. I also wonder if they're going to play him off for taking too long when he's the director...Oh snap, he called my joke while I was typing it.

9:57: Best laugh all night! Fallon and Colbert tackling Jon Stewart, hahaha. 10 years of the best Variety Series. Good work, Daily Show.

9:59: Jon just got the longest-- only?-- bleep-out of the night. Good work, again. That'd totally be me. I'd win something, get up there, and go, "F***." I wouldn't even do it in French like Jean DuJardin. I'd just yell it out. For instance, speaking of my time in London, I tripped over a rug in Buckingham Palace because of course I did, and boy did I let it fly then. I was embarrassed until I realized a lot of awesome people have probably said worse in that building. Lord knows Prince Harry has. If I'm lucky, Churchill did.

10:04: Why does Patricia Clarkson always have cancer in stuff? Professional Cancer Patient Pretender. And heck yeah, American Horror Story! Watch it. Ohhhh goddd why isn't this over yet--

10:06: Yay, Buscemi!

10:07: Yay, Jessica Lange for American Horror Story! Lead in a Mini-Series, I think? I got distracted by Buscemi.

10:15: Tom Berenger just won for Best Supporting in a Mini Series for Hatfields and McCoys.

10:20: Gosh, some amazing people died this year...always a shame.

10:47: Tom Hanks? Where did he come from? I think I fell asleep.

10:49: Homeland won Best Drama series-- there's Mandy! And that actress I like whose name I can never remember. Inara from Firefly.

10:53: This may be a horrible thing to say about somebody, but when Sofia Vergara is...for whatever reason, in my vision-- especially that picture she did done up like Lucille Ball-- all I can think of is Hank Azaria in The Birdcage saying he's "Lucy and Ricky."

10:56: Ooooh, Michael J. Fox!! The poor dear, he really seemed to be struggling to speak...and open the envelope...I'm a little weepy now. I don't watch Modern Family, so whatever, but oh, Michael.

It's over! And I almost didn't f*** up too badly! If you find my coverage lacking, take it up with Chandler, who I hear was enjoying the company of a paid escort. He said he was going to maybe make vlogs, I don't know. I was busy. Not as busy as he was (getting his money's worth and all), but maybe check those out. I'm not responsible for their content, though.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to declare Movie Gaga officially returned from our summer hiatus. We're sorry for deserting you and hope to do better by you in the future.

Goodnight and congratulations to tonight's Emmy Winners! Next year more NPH, I say.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

6 Seriously Rude Things People Do in Theaters (Even Though They Definitely Know Better)

When I went to see The Avengers (review coming soon) the other day I was shocked at the behavior of the people in the theater-- it was honestly one of the worst movie-going experiences I've ever had. And it's not even like it was some kind of crazy thing happened, like somebody setting their seat on fire, but things that people should really know better about. Things that are just common courtesy, things they would hate if other people did to them, they were just throwing around like...like...rude confetti?...or something.

And it's not like I don't understand emergencies or that things pop up, but really, there are some things we can all agree on.

1.) Sitting Unnecessarily Close to People

Sometimes there isn't much of a choice where you sit. And sometimes there's only 7 other people in the theater with you. I'm not talking about the former. I know that we all have our seating preferences, but really, we all know that average movie theater seating is first-come-first-served. So when you get to the theater and one of those 7 people is sitting in your seat-- with rows and rows of free seats around in all directions!-- don't sit directly in front of, next to, or behind them. Try to space yourself evenly from the other patrons. No,  you may not sit in the same row, that's still awkward. Be an adult and sit somewhere else. You are not Sheldon Cooper.

2.) Saving a Ridiculous Number of Seats, or Saving Them Too Long

This was the first of the cinema plagues I experienced seeing The Avengers with my friend Jason (@cptmrvl). You know that feeling when you turn the corner into Theater 7 or 12 or 24 or 2, and you see how full it is and your stomach just drops? Then wait! Look! There's some seats there! Great ones, too, wow! You make your way over to them to be told by the guy sitting at the end of the aisle, "Sorry, these are saved."


At the Avengers, this one guy was saving like, 14 seats. Which, okay, yeah, birthday party. Sure. Problem was the movie had been out for like, 2 days at this point and the theater was packed. People were actually sitting in those first three rows right up against the screen where nobody over the age of 10 willingly sits. And he continued saving them after the lights had gone out for the 15 minutes of previews that start at the listed screen time, so these people were technically late.

I already had a seat by this time, but I was distracted from the Dark Knight Rises preview by the guy telling a small group that the seats were being saved. I'm still a little pissed about that.

Look. If it's so important that a large group of people all sit together make sure you not only get there on time, but get there early. If it were up to me, and there were some way to enforce it, all saved seats would be forfeit when the lights go down. Scatter to the winds, people, you were late.

3.) Leaving Garbage

My goodness, people, clean up after yourselves. It's not that hard-- bottles and cups and bags and boxes are empty so it's not like they're too heavy. Garbage cans are provided, you're gonna walk by them anyway.

And don't you dare give me that crap about, "It's their job to clean up after me! If I didn't leave my crap around they wouldn't have anything to do! I'm getting my money's worth!"

No. You're lazy, rude, and selfish. Give the minimum wage high school students and recent college grads a break-- you would have appreciated it when you were in that position. Be the customer you wish you had, it'll make you a better person.

4.) Talking

I can't even believe I'm saying this. Whispering to the people sitting next to you (directly next to you if the lights are down, thank you) every once in a while is one thing. Flat out talking? You know better. It's not like you forgot. There are even at least 5 pre-show commercials reminding you not to be flappin' your jaws. Keep it down, people.

5.) Bringing Your Baby

Little Itty-Bitty isn't so cutsie-wootsie when she's screaming. Don't get me wrong, nobody loves babies more than me, really-- but not in a movie theater. Get a babysitter. If you MUST take the baby to the theater (though Lord only knows why), show a little consideration for the other patrons and take the baby OUT of the theater if and when it starts crying. This was another element of the terrible Avengers experience, a crying baby. Two seats away from me. Another woman in the audience actually yelled three or four times to the guy to shush the baby or take it out of the theater.

I don't understand what the problem is. Get someone to watch the baby. If you can't get someone to watch the baby, go to Redbox, it's way cheaper and if they baby starts screaming you can pause it. And you don't bother anyone else that ALSO shelled out the $10 to go see a movie.

And do people not realize they can get a refund in this situation? "Sorry, Johnny's screaming, we had to leave halfway through." Ta-da! Refund.

Just as bad, also, are children technically too young to be seeing the movie causing a disturbance. Years ago when I saw the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie in theaters there was a 4 year old sitting behind me that drove me up the wall. That time I was the one telling the parent to take their kid out of the theater-- the little boy asked who every character was every time someone new came on screen. AND he kicked my chair. Drove me nuts. And again, the theater was full because the movie had just come out.

I know, I know, how special a trip to the movies can be-- but if you're under 5 there's really no shame in not being able to handle it. Not that it can't be done, of course it can, but it's better for everyone involved if you just take your leave if things go wrong. (And you can get a &*!$#^@ refund!)


This was the worst at The Avengers. And I freaking hate it.

Anyone who's seen me hold my lit cell phone above the head of the person sitting in front of me using their phone at the movies can speak to how much I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I'd rather have a crying baby. I'd rather have a crying baby on my head.

Everyone behind you can see that distracting little square of light. Have you ever noticed that? NO, because you're too busy looking at your phone!

Put it away. If you're so important or absolutely have to be available every second of the day you're too busy to go to the movies.

Set it on vibrate. Get up and go into the hallway if you have to answer something-- you can still see the screen! Sit on the aisle and leave the people around you in peace. Or, better yet, DON'T GO.

Drives me nuts.

There's a time and a place for everything. Movie theaters are not that place.

If you want to bring a small child, if you absolutely need to bring your cell phone, if you're bringing a group of 17 people that have to sit in a group, plan your trip to the cinema accordingly. Don't go the weekend the movie opens. Arrive well before your selected screening begins. Go at an unpopular time (shows will be cheaper then, too!). Excuse yourself if you have to. Shut your mouth. Clean up after yourself.

It really all comes down to the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Look at yourself and think, "If the person sitting next to me was doing this, would I be annoyed?" If you would be, then stop it. You're no more important than any other person in the room.

These aren't difficult things to do, but doing them would ensure a better movie-going experience for everyone-- and wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tandem Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Jo: In another case of "Reading is hard, guys...", Chandler has again opted out of reading a mega-bestselling young adult series. I, on the other hand, have added the mockingjay to the list of literary tattoos I plan on getting one day.

(For the curious, also on the list are the Deathly Hallows symbol, an "umbrella tree" from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and two stars- the one on the right a little fancier, it being the "second star to the right." If you don't get the reference you don't deserve to know.)

Yes, I'm a Hunger Games fan. And for the first time in a long time-- come to think of it, maybe ever-- I wasn't disappointed by a book-to-movie adaptation. Which isn't to say there weren't things I didn't like about it, but overall I did enjoy it. Chandler not so much.

Chandler: I’m never on the up and up when it comes to books turned movies. I knew nothing about Harry Potter until the third book was out. It took me a while before I discovered that Twilight was both a book and movie series. Naturally, I was surprised when I learned that the hype surrounding The Hunger Games was because it was a wildly popular book series. From now on, I’m just going to assume that every movie that comes out is a book adaptation so I seem “hip” and “with it”.

If you read my Harry Potter review (This-Post-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named), then you’ll know that, because I didn’t read the book, my review of the movie will be based solely on the quality of the movie rather than what I should know from the book. You didn’t know that? Well, you should have read my Harry Potter review.

I had the plot of The Hunger Games explained to me as “a bunch of kids go to a secluded area and fight each other to the death,” I was overwhelmingly unimpressed. This was the exact plot of the novel/manga/movie Battle Royale, the novel having been released in 2000. And Battle Royale isn’t some obscure story only popular in Japan; Battle Royale has a pretty strong following in the States and I’m surprised very few people have made the connection. Essentially, to me, The Hunger Games was the plot of Battle Royale with a bit of Twilight sprinkled in to appeal to adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 18. I’ll admit that I had no intention of seeing this movie, but I was relieved when I found out that it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined. Still, however, the movie was certainly not for me.

The Hunger Games shares the same problem with the Godzilla movies. Stay with me here. The problem being that the main draw of the movie is right in the movie’s title so viewers aren’t so much as watching the movie as they are just waiting for this titular event to occur. The difference between the two movies (other than the obvious) is at least in the Godzilla movies, Godzilla makes a brief appearance early on in the movie to whet the audience’s appetite for what’s to come later. The Hunger Games was just one long, drawn out build up to the actual Games that, after a certain point, I didn’t even care what the characters were doing or saying, I just wanted them to start killing each other. I think having the movie in media res format-- that is, start the movie with the Hunger Games already in progress, then go back and show the events leading up to that point-- would have been a more engaging and exciting way of telling the story.

I understand that there is a certain amount of backstory and character development that must be done before we get to the action. However, in The Hunger Games, the backstory and character development becomes so heavy handed that it skews the pacing of the entire movie (i.e. it slows down a lot). I could peg each character’s defining trait as soon as they came onscreen (that’s good) but there were so many superfluous scenes devoted to further expound these already established traits that it became almost insulting to the viewer (that’s bad).

Amongst these scenes were two flashbacks that show up and then are never explained. The first shows Katniss watching Peeta throw burnt bread to some pigs in the rain, then more burnt bread to Katniss, and is beaten by his mother for doing so. This particular flashback appears almost every time Katniss and Peeta are together, but its significance is never made clear, only revealing that they have some shared history. The other, trippy flashback comes out of nowhere late in the film and, much like the first flashback, alludes to very little. Because of the dreamlike way it’s shot and the fact that only appears once so late in the film, this flashback is jarring and left me confused. However, because it revealed so little, I didn’t even give it a second thought.

Jo: I really didn't like how much I have had to explain to Chandler since we saw it because, like he always says, a movie should be a stand-alone unit and you shouldn't have had to read the books to understand. So there's a few things I'm kind bothered they left out, like the significance of the Mockingjay pin, the severity of Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson) illness in the cave, how important the loaf of bread that Peeta gave Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was, and the importance of food in general because all of those things are referenced and are important to the plot. And those are only a few of the things Chandler asked me, we couldn't remember them all.

The two most egregious misses, I thought, were the pin and the significance of food. The food especially, in the book, is used to constantly illustrate how desperate the outer districts are and how decadent the Capitol and wealthy districts are, and how it's such a great incentive to win for the outer district tributes because a win promises extra food for their district for the following year. And I was seriously looking forward to seeing Katniss really tear into a meal-- probably the best meal of her very hungry life-- and offending Capitol appointed tribute escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks).

And don't hate me for saying this but I do wish Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth (Gale) and had been just a shade thinner. NOT as an aesthetic thing, but as a starving-to-death thing-- like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. In the beginning of the book, before Gale breaks out the roll he got, their breakfast was going to be sharing a lump of cheese.

Chandler: With so much build leading up to the Hunger Games, the Games itself was a bit of a let down. Out of 24 competitors, we don’t even see half of them. The characters in the Friday the 13th movies survive longer than majority of the kids in the Hunger Games. Plus, we actually get to see them die. I was expecting an all out battle royale, what I got was a lot of bloodless violence and off screen deaths. On top of that, these off screen deaths made it hard to keep track of how many tributes were still alive. I did, however, like the fact that when the characters had a chance to kill, they took it. Except for one instance that irked me where a girl from one district (Clove, Isabelle Fuhrman) literally had a knife to Katniss’s throat, then decided to describe how she was going to make her suffer before killing her. Katniss, being the main character that she is, is saved last minute by one of the only black people in the movie. Now, if everyone was only trying to kill Katniss, the pre-murder taunting would have made sense. However, in a situation where everyone is equally trying to kill everyone, the gloating would have to take a back seat to neck slicing.

("Frozone: So now I'm in deep trouble. I mean, one more jolt of this death ray and I'm an epitaph. Somehow I manage to find cover and what does Baron von Ruthless do?
Mr. Incredible: [laughing] He starts monologuing.
Frozone: He starts monologuing! He starts, like, this prepared speech about how *feeble* I am compared to him, how *inevitable* my defeat is, how *the world* *will soon* *be his*, yadda yadda yadda.
Mr. Incredible: Yammering.
Frozone: Yammering! I mean, the guy has me on a platter and he won't shut up!"

-The Incredibles)

Jo: The film also glossed over the characters' personal relationships, with the exception of Katniss and her sister, Primrose (Willow Shields). Through The Hunger Games, the novel, the driving force is the relationship between Peeta and Katniss and their fight for not just survival, but mutual survival. With the truncated relationships it was hard to see why Katniss would risk her life for Peeta (who didn't seem nearly as close to death as he probably should have), and why Katniss reacted so strongly to Rue's (Amandla Stenberg) death. Which isn't to say that the movie blew Rue's death, it didn't, I tried to wipe away my tears sneakily so Chandler wouldn't notice. (Turns out he did. I wish he wouldn't stare at me so much...)

Katniss and Cinna's relationship was barely there as well. When Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) says he likes Katniss there was really no reason for him to do so, they'd barely spoken. If they had showed them interacting more during Katniss' preparations it would have made more sense why she would be comforted by his presence at the tribute interview.

I'm hoping that the lack of attention paid to the relationships is going to be remedied in the next three movies-- which would make sense, I suppose, as they need to come up with 3 more movies worth of material.

Chandler: Another bit that threw me for a loop was when the Game’s overseers all of a sudden spawned gorilla/bat-faced dog monsters out of nowhere. I could accept the fact that they controlled the world the Games took place in. They established that early on when they started a forest fire, forcing Katniss to fight rather than hiding in the tree tops. What I couldn’t accept were gorilla/bat-faced dog monsters literally appearing from God-knows-where actively trying to kill Katniss and Peeta. That took what I thought were fixed rules and completely changed them. If they could spawn gorilla/bat-faced dog monsters anywhere on the playing field, the possibilities of what else they could make appear would be endless.

Jo: Visually, Panem looked exactly like I thought it would. The dreariness of The Seam, the opulence of the Capitol, I thought it was perfect. The arena I imagined was open-air, but I can see why they would go with a Truman Show-type set-up, so no biggie. The costuming was pitch-perfect from the Depression era styling of the Reaping to the tribute interview flame dress to the frilly, innocent, poofy, yellow dress at the victor's interview.
I do take issue with Peeta's casting, though. Josh Hutcherson has very little charm (Julianne Moore's hair had more charm and brought on more emotion than he ever did in The Kids Are Alright), which is only made more obvious by his subscription to the Kristen Stewart school of acting: open mouthed and staring blankly. Feel the anguish.

Chandler:What sets The Hunger Games apart from most teen dramas (notably Twilight) is that it has a strong, independent female lead that isn’t shoehorned into a trivial love story. She does get thrown together with Peeta, but only to boost her likability with her sponsors, thereby increasing her chance of survival. This might have been the only aspect of the movie that I thought was really well done.

The Hunger Games fell flat with me. It wasn’t outright a bad movie, just not for me. It was one long build up that culminated to absolutely nothing. It seemed like they focused so much on the lead up to the Games that the ending just seems tacked on. On top of that, it gave no indication that the story will be continuing. I wasn’t aware that The Hunger Games was a trilogy until after the credits had rolled which is ironic, with so many movies nowadays ending with a sequel hook. Now I’m torn: the OCD part of me wants to see the next two movies out of necessity for completion, but the movie snob in me is telling me to stay away. I guess I’ll just have someone tell me what happens.

Jo: That's what he thinks. He's coming with me whether he likes it or not.

For me, the movie had all of the excitement of the book. While watching I couldn't help but think "It's almost perfect." Maybe that's because I got the references-- I was watching it more as a companion to the novel. I felt the tension boiling just below the surface for the people of Panem, and the oblivious decadence of the Capitol. I can't wait to see the next movies when that precarious situation explodes, but I worry that the un-initiated will feel the way Chandler does because the filmmakers decided to cut important story elements and extend or add unnecessary scenes to take up time.

Overall, though, I really did enjoy it. I literally laughed and cried.

Jo: 3.5 arrows out of 5
Chandler is too stubborn to give a rating. His argument is "I don't even like Ebert. Plus, I said the movie wasn't bad, just not for me." I propose you leave a note in the comments about how awesome ratings are and how Chandler should do them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The world that author J. K. Rowling has created with the Harry Potter series is one filled with fantasy, drama, and amazement. The books have sold over 450 million copies world-wide making it the best selling book series in history. And it's no mystery why. Each book introduces new characters, creatures, and twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan's head spin.

At least, that's what I'm assuming.

See, I've never actually read all of the books. I remember words like "Harry Potter," "Hermione," and "muggle" being thrown around in sixth grade homeroom constantly before finally caving in and picking up my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, not having the faintest clue as to what I was getting myself into. Halfway through Prisoner of Azkaban I thought, "wait a minute, what the hell is going on?" and promptly stopped there (ironic, since Prisoner is probably my favorite in the movie series). I had realized that the only reason I made it through two and a half books was because everyone else was reading the books and I wanted to fit in (remember kids: peer pressure is wrong).

Don't get me wrong, though. I don't hate the Harry Potter franchise. In fact, I find it very interesting extremely well written. The problem is that you either love the franchise or couldn't care less. The sheer number of characters, plots, sub-plots, and seemingly unimportant objects that are introduced every book becomes overwhelming to keep track of to anyone less than a die-hard fan.

I've always been on the fence about returning to the series and this year, after playing through Lego Harry Potter without the slightest clue as to what was going on, I made a vow to finally find out why Snape killed Dumbledore (do I really have to put SPOILER ALERT?) and what exactly a "horcrux" is.

But not through reading the books. Reading is hard, you guys.

No, I'm going to watch the all movies within a close enough time frame to each other so that I actually remember the multitude of characters, plot twists, and seemingly unimportant objects that show up in the first act that become extremely important during the last.

Done and done. That was the least anticlimactic way to say that I have now watched the movies.

Now that I've watched them, I'm going to give my thoughts and reactions on the movie series as a whole. I already said that I'm not reading the books, so if at any point you think to yourself something along the lines of, "But in the book..." I'm going to have to ask you to stop right there. A good movie is a good movie and should be able to achieve that on its own; you shouldn't have to go back to the source material to fill in plot holes or else it wouldn't be a good movie. Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let's start my unbiased review of the Harry Potter movies.

Let me start by getting this out of the way: the child actors are all terrible with Daniel Radcliffe being the worst offender. He had to have been cast based on looks and nothing else. He acts the way I imagine a robot would trying to emulate emotion: smile when happy, grimace when mad, mouth slightly agape when surprised, yell when sad. In the first movie, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson aren't any better by comparison but by the last, Radcliffe's performance make Grint and Watson look like a couple of Marlon Brandos. That is to say, Radcliffe is the only actor who's acting doesn't improve throughout the ten years these movies have been released. The worst part is that he's the titular character, so his astonishingly sub-par performance gets the most screen time across the eight movies.

However, the adult cast is fantastic. Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, and Ralph Fiennes are only some of the stellar actors boosting the movies' watchability. There's no other way I can say it: they're all just so damn good. It's obvious that they're all classically trained theatre actors and boy does it show, especially in scenes when several of the adult cast are interacting with each other. However, as much as I like Alan Rickman as an actor, I can't say that I'm completely in love with his portrayal of Snape. His manner of speech comes off unintentionally hilarious rather than "reluctant, stone-faced professor with a heart of gold".

The Harry Potter movies were the first to make me admire both the scenery and special effects in a film. All the set pieces, make-up effects, and CGI are gorgeous. The scene that really blew me away when I first saw Sorcerer's Stone was the Quidditch match.

Can I just take a moment and ask just what are the rules of Quidditch? It seems to be "throw the ball through the hoop and also don't die." From what I can see, there's no out-of-bounds or, more importantly, any penalties for actively trying to murder your opponents. Also, take into account the fact that everyone, both playing and spectating the game, knows powerful magic? To top it all off, it's a school sport in which players can be as young as 11. This calls into question just how responsible the faculty at Hogwarts really is. And that's nothing compared to the walking liability case that is the Tri-Wizard Tournament, but we'll get there soon enough.

Goblet of Fire was when the series did an almost complete 180, going from a light-hearted children's film involving magic to Voldemort's return, Cedric dying, (c'mon, you've read the books) and shit getting real. Arguably, this is where the series begins, with Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban serving as one huge build up to this point. Despite this, I still can't get over how the wizarding world can host a tournament in which the first challenge is pitting teenagers against a dragon, again, with the only rule seemingly to be "don't die."

Actually, the wizarding world is blasé to the whole "the kid who survived an encounter with the dark lord is now attending the most prestigious wizarding school in the world where, coincidentally, strange and terrifying things are starting to happen." This is one of my biggest gripes with the series. Throughout the entire series, no one ever believes Harry when he says something bad will happen, despite everyone knowing him to be the chosen one. Hell, no one even believes the school's seer when it's her job to predict the future. When a student ends up possessed, petrified, or missing, there are no investigations, the school is never shut down, and the only action is to send the students to their rooms while the teachers wonder who could be behind such heinous acts. When the kid who survived an encounter with evil incarnate says that the bad guy is back, you had better damn well believe him.

The good thing about the Harry Potter universe is that any little inconsistency can be explained away with "it's magic" and get away with it. However, I did find two instances that left me scratching my head. Even though it's explained that Harry and Voldemort's wands connected because of very specific circumstances, they never explain why Dumbledore and Voldemort's wands connect other than because it looked awesome. Maybe because of Dumbledore being who he is coupled with his possession of the elder wand? Okay, fine, I guess we could chalk that one up to "it's magic." The other instance sadly falls into the "it explains it all in the book" category: after the climax of The Half-Blood Prince, Snape reveals that he is the Half-Blood Prince with no explanation as to why or what it means. The only reason they put that line into the movie was because they had to incorporate the title somehow so they don't leave viewers in the dark as to who the Half-Blood Prince is.

I said that the movies were amazing to look at before, but that gets turned up to 11 once David Yates gets behind the helm as director. The cinematography gets noticeably and drastically better with his Harry Potter directorial debut Order of the Phoenix. What stands out to me as the best scene in the entire series would be, hands down, the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore. Everything comes together, from how it was shot, the set, the effects, the acting, and the use of music (there was none) to make not only a visually stunning scene, but an awesome scene overall. These techniques effectively come into play throughout the rest of the film series during key moments; for example, to create tension when Harry, Hermione, and Ron are in the woods in Deathly Hallows, the camera switches to handheld, giving it a slightly shaky feel and the music is completely dropped. The shaky camera give an air of instability and the lack of music makes you focus on the dialogue or ambiance. One superfluous camera trick I noticed Yates using a lot was where the camera would zoom in or out on a character through a transparent object, such as through a window or through the defensive spell around Hogwarts during the last battle in Deathly Hallows. It really didn't serve a purpose, it just looked cool.

I can understand now why the Harry Potter franchise has been so successful. The story is very well-written and the characters are fully fleshed out and developed. For someone who found it hard to keep track of the multitudes of characters with constantly changing alliances and mundane objects becoming extremely important well after you forgot about them (the Deluminator springs to mind), seeing the movies practically back to back finally made me appreciate and understand at least part of the Harry Potter fandom. Still not going to read the books, though.