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To no one’s surprise, Gary Ross’ widely anticipated and hyped, The Hunger Games topped the weekend box-office with an astounding $152. 5 million. Although, I had never read Suzanne Collins’ novels on which the film is based, I was genuinely excited to see this movie, especially because of all the critical praise that it was receiving. Sadly, this was one of those films that I really wanted to like but enjoyed less and less as it went on.

This is not to say that The Hunger Games is a bad film – it’s actually quite good in parts – but I couldn’t help feeling that the movie was superficial and soulless. The film is pretty thin on plot and the concept of a dystopian future featuring games where contestants fight to the death has been done before. The Running Man, Roller Ball, Death Race 2000 and Battle Royale (which I have yet to see) have all covered similar ground. However, I am not suggesting that just because something is not original, it’s necessarily bad; lack of originality is certainly not my issue with The Hunger Games.

I’ll start with the acting, while Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of the main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen is very strong, several other Hunger Games contestants were painful to watch on screen. I cringed every time Amanda Stenberg’s, Rue had scenes involving dialogue. The actors portraying the adult characters were fine for the most part, but hardly spectacular; Donald Sutherland, however, looked bored in his mailed in performance of President Snow. Then again, stellar acting is not something I expect in this genre and it’s also not my main gripe with the film.

For a relatively big budget sci-fi film where the main story line revolves around a brutal game involving contestants fighting to the death, action scenes in The Hunger Games were for the most part, incomprehensible. The majority of the action employed the shaky-cam technique, which became extremely bothersome after a while. It’s extremely disappointing when action/thriller films constantly feature scenes where you can’t distinguish who’s fighting who or what is happening on screen altogether. In the case of The Hunger Games, this technique felt extremely gimmicky, as it was often used to mask the violence in the film in order to maintain its PG-13 rating. I also have to admit that the production values on a film this big were quite underwhelming (apart from the costumes); the sparse special effects failed to impress and the majority of the movie takes place in a very unspectacular forest-like environment.

Again, I do not want to give the impression that I absolutely hated this film. I thought Jennifer Lawrence was great and found the first half to be very captivating. I also appreciated the movie’s social critique of North American greed and the modern obsession with reality television; I realize that this material is miles ahead of other films aimed at similar audiences à la Twilight. Had the director presented the content in an edgier fashion (it is after all a film about a violent game where the main goal is to eliminate your opponents) and actually held the camera steady during the action scenes, I think I would have enjoyed The Hunger Games a lot more than I did.

6.8/10

In a year where the Best Picture Oscar went to The Artist and nominees included the awful, War Horse, the mediocre Money Ball and the critically panned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I think it’s safe to say that 2011 was not a good year for film. Thankfully, now that 2011 is well behind us and the Oscars have come and gone, it’s time to forget about last year’s weak offerings and look forward to what Hollywood has in store for moviegoers in 2012.

February – otherwise known as the month when Hollywood unloads bad or shelved product – has finally passed and a slew of AAA titles are right around the corner. Without doubt, I am most looking forward to the upcoming Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises.

Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens are sci-fi classics that have spawned numerous less than stellar sequels; the franchise’s low points were the recent Alien vs Predator and Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Hence, I was admittedly skeptical when I learned that Ridley Scott was returning to the Alien universe with a prequel entitled, Prometheus. My initial thought was that after a string of bad flops, Scott –in need of a hit – was simply returning to familiar territory that made him an icon. However, after seeing the trailer, I was completely blown away. The film looks like old-fashioned R-rated sci-fi that seems to have disappeared and replaced with everything PG-13 and Marvel. The cast also appears to be very strong and includes the talented Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pierce and Idris Elba. Prometheus opens on June 8th and I’m already counting down the days to its release.

What more can be said about the Dark Knight Rises? Forget the entire Bane muffled audio fiasco that has internet and comic books geeks in an uproar. The film will undoubtedly be the biggest hit of the year and most importantly, it will be very good. While I doubt that the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy will reach the greatness of its predecessor, I have faith in Nolan’s visionary direction and believe that he will ultimately deliver a thrilling and emotional conclusion to the series. The only reservations I have so far are the casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and the unfortunate absence of Heath Ledger, who helped transform The Dark Knight in to an instant classic. Nevertheless, Tom Hardy is a great up-and-coming young actor whose Bane looks like a formidable foe to Christian Bale’s sociopathic Batman/Bruce Wayne. The latest trailer and art work suggest an even darker tone than that of The Dark Knight and perhaps even a tragic fate for the caped crusader. The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20th and my anticipation for this one is extremely high.


Copyright © 2016 Alex Vainberg.