Tag Archives: film

Book and Film Reviews: Of Ice Princesses in Disney’s and Martin’s Worlds: Frozen and The Ice Dragon

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I found George R. R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon at a shop called Too Many Books and had to take it home with me because I was having a difficult time deciding whether or not Martin would be able to write children’s literature.  This high fantasy novella is probably meant for middle-grade readers.  It gets into none of the depth that A Song of Ice and Fire does, but the story remains a wartime story, with the battle not coming to the protagonist’s doorstep till the climax, but always with the growing threat of approaching armies and increasing numbers of soldiers passing through the village where the protagonist lives.  Its protagonist is young, seven at the novel’s climax, and Martin as he does within A Song of Ice and Fire remains relatively true to the childlike perceptions of his protagonist.

Martin handles this children’s book with the same flowery and abstracted prose with which he writes A Song of Ice and Fire.

It was impossible to watch Disney’s Frozen without thinking about this book (which is a good way to give this review a jumpstart: turn it into a paired book and film review).  Like Adara, Elsa is winter’s child, though she seems to have been born in summer (seeming to come of age and have her coronation in summer), which I find an interesting choice.  Like Adara, she is cold to touch and can interact with ice and snow in ways that others cannot.  Yet, while Adara is cold and removed, Elsa feels too strongly.  This seems to me to be a difference in the writer’s visions of winter.  Martin seems to see—or at least to write about—the winter of the medieval farmland, when plows are stilled and harvests are no more and all that can be done is to huddle by a fire and hope to survive to the spring and the planting while consuming the year’s harvest.  Disney saw the blizzard and the biting wind.

Martin’s ideal reader seems to be a younger child who feels like an outsider among peers for being too into his or her books and too reserved.  Such children undoubtedly exist and need literature that caters to them, so yes, I guess I would say that this is successful children’s literature, but I’m not sure it’s what I expected.  It’s more message than it is adventure.  I think I wanted an adventure, especially as I am used to expecting A Song of Ice and Fire from Martin, and it is difficult to draw any moral direction from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Adara loses her power when she begins to feel love, but in losing her power, she gains the love and acceptance of her family and her village.  The Ice Dragon‘s message is that you can be loved despite your distance from the world and that that which makes you different from others can be used to save others but also that you will be better loved if you do interact with the world at large and lose the chill of your power.

With love, Elsa learns to control her power and gains the acceptance of her family and kingdom as well as a crown and power of another kind, making Elsa seem at first the more empowered heroine.  However, Elsa’s power must be curbed to make her safe, while Adara is never a danger to others, just a puzzle.  I still think Disney’s is the better message to send to young girls because Martin’s story says that you will be loved better if powerless and Disney’s allows a heroine to keep her power and to wield it openly so long as she wields it with prudence and control, and prudence and control really ought to be used with power regardless of gender.

Before I close, a few brief notes about the illustrations of Yvonne Gilbert’s in Martin’s The Ice Dragon:  At first I was miffed to see that each chapter with the same illustration of dragonback battle, but I grew to really like the repetition of that image as an illustration of the constant but distant war that pervades Adara’s life.  Otherwise her illustrations are wonderfully detailed and expressive.

***                                    ****

Martin, George R. R.  The Ice Dragon.  Illus. Yvonne Gilbert.  New York: Starscrape-Tom Doherty, 2007.  First published 1980.  Tom Doherty Associates, LLC is now an imprint of Macmillan.

Frozen.  Dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.  Walt Disney.  2013.

These reviews are not endorsed by George R. R. Martin, Yvonne Gilbert, Starscrape Books, Tor Doherty Associates, LLC, Macmillan Publishers, or Walt Disney Animation Studios.  They are independent, honest reviews by a reader and viewer.

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Film Review: City of Bones Shatters Illusions It Should Not Have

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Major spoilers for the movie and for the book series.  Do NOT read if you don’t want spoilers.

I have enjoyed even loved some very loosely adapted films (How to Train Your Dragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, even The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian).  In fact, sometimes the looser adaptations make better movies, I’ve come to realize, but sadly, Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not one of these instances.

Really, I have two major problems with the adaptation’s plot:

1)   Simon, if you want to have him bitten now, cannot then be okay with sunlight before drinking the blood of a Shadowhunter.

Vampires don’t just become Daylighters, and if you plan on a second movie, I want a thorough explanation of how hanging him in a shaft of sunlight (where was that sunlight coming from since it was still dark outside?) made him into a Daylighter, this being a conscious attempt by the vampires of New York to create such a creature.

Simon’s Daylighting without having drunk Shadowhunter blood I might have been able to rant about and let go (as I do with Chris Columbus’ and Craig Titley’s decision to make Hades the villain of The Lightning Thief), however:

2)   Having Jace recognize Valentine as the man who raised him is what creates the tension in the climax.

The screenwriter, Jessica Postigo, attempted to avoid the lengthy explanation of Valentine assuming Michael Wayland’s identity and then later faking Michael’s death by placing a memory block upon Jace like the one that Magnus creates for Clary and giving Jace one solid memory of his father that he shared with both Clary and the audience prior (though it was not mentioned that this was his only memory of his father, and perhaps it should have been).  She then has Valentine be able to show him that memory through some sort of spell.  I understand wanting to avoid that lengthy dialogue and can even thank her for the attempt, however, that proof was not enough for me to believe that Valentine was Jace’s father, and I was surprised that it was enough for Jace.

If a shared memory is how you want to have Jace come to realize that Valentine is his “father,” rather than having him recognize Valentine on sight, then that memory needs to be shown from two perspectives, or at least needs to be shown from Valentine’s in this later instance, not from a third or omniscient perspective, because as it is filmed the memory seems to be neither of theirs but rather the memory of a third person, watching, and the claim that Valentine is Jace’s father and the man who gave him the falcon is nullified.  (This quibble reminds me of this lesson by rufftoon in storyboarding.)

Also having Hodge suggest that Valentine lie to both Clary and Jace, telling both that he is their father implies that neither are his children when in fact, according to the series, Clary is Valentine’s legitimate daughter and Jace was raised by Valentine, and again, to suggest otherwise destroys the conflict and tension of the story.

One more, broader quibble:  Emphasizing Jace’s ability to play the piano (though I like the Bach as a Shadowhunter idea) only serves to draw a connection between him and Edward Cullen.  The original fans of Cassandre Cla(i)re were not Twihards (fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga).  The original fans were Potterheads, The Mortal Instruments being an evolution of a Harry Potter fanfiction series.  Twihards and Potterheads are in something of a fandom war.1  By taking our series (I am a Potterhead without being a Twihard) and trying to pander it to the Twihards, you perhaps win the Twihards to your movie but at the expense of a large, invested, and committed group.  Those who were or are Twihards may be ready now to be introduced to The Mortal Instruments, but we, the Potterheads, loved it first.2

Also, it needs to be mentioned—particularly for parents deciding whether to take their children—that the violence in this movie is graphic and realistic.  Imitating a Killing Curse causes no physical hurt; smashing someone’s face with a frying pan or a fridge door can cause some real damage.  I was rather impressed actually by Zwart’s refusal to shy from the violence that surrounds the lives of Shadowhunters if I grew a bit tired of extended battle sequences that were mostly too busy and too fast to follow.

The farther back I step and the more I analyze the adaptation, the more forgiving I become, but I was not a pleased fan at 2:30 AM on August 21, and I really did dislike that the novel’s internal conflict seemed to be shunted aside:

Jace tightened his grip on the angel blade.  “I can–“

“No, you can’t.”  Valentine reached out, through the Portal, and seized Jace’s wrist in his hand, dragging it forward until the tip of the seraph blade touched his chest.  Where Jace’s hand and wrist passed through the Portal, they seemed to shimmer as if they had been cast in water.  “Do it, then,” said Valentine.  “Drive the blade in.  Three inches–maybe four.”  He jerked the blade forward, the dagger’s tip slicing the fabric of his shirt.  A red circle like a poppy bloomed just over his heart.  Jace, with a gasp, yanked his arm free and staggered back.

“As I thought,” said Valentine.  “Too softhearted.” (464)

That is heart-wrenching, tells us a great deal about Jace, proves that Valentine knows Jace very well, and shows us a touch of Valentine’s insanity more so than Valentine battering Jace aside as Jace attempts to get near enough to break his pentagram.

1 There are of course Potterheads who are also Twihards and vice versa.

2 Cassandra Clare is not universally beloved by Potterheads, but she is one of us.  I am unsure whether she is also a Twihard.

**

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.  Dir. Harald Zwart.  Constantin, Don Carmody, Unique Features.  2013.

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book 1: City of Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2007.

This review is not endorsed by Constantin Film Produktion, Don Carmody Productions, Unique Features, Harald Zwart, Jessica Postigo, anyone involved in the making of the film, Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster, or Margaret K. McElderry Books.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Challenge: Camp NaNo: Day 24: Imagine If I’d Brought My Charger

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April 24

Here’s one way to make yourself focus: overestimate the ability of your laptop battery.  I’ve had to close all the things to try and make my battery last the duration (6.5 hours) that I will be sitting in this café.

Observations from the BN café: The family in Brave is a genetic improbability: four redheaded, blue-eyed children when the mother has the dominant expressions of brown hair and brown eyes.

Today’s goal: 40000

Total word count: 37559

Day’s word count: 2617

Average daily word count for April: 1567

Death count: 1

Total word count towards other projects (including this project, Facebook messages, cover letters, etc.): 27651

Daily word count towards other projects: 351

Average daily word count for other projects: 1227

Today’s playlist: “Poetry” including Children of Eden, Harper Blynn, The Civil Wars, The Mountain Goats, and Liz Phair.

Songs I’m singing: “Ring of Stones” from Children of Eden, “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia, Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” “When You Come Home to Me” from The Last Five Years

Cups of tea: 2 caf

Sugar: 0!

Hours spent at work: 5.5

Hours driving: 1

Times I’ve visited the minefield: 2

What else distracted me: I was pretty good today (for reasons explained above)

Other campers: Apprentice, Never MasterMore Than One Page

Book and Film Review: Warm Bodies is Deliciously Meaty

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Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order, synopsis, starred rating, and preview.

Beware spoilers.

Reading Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, I realized just how many escapist, donuts-for-dinner books I’ve been reading.  After all those donuts, it felt great to sit down to a real meat-and-potatoes dinner, the type of book that begs literary analysis of a classroom level—which Warm Bodies did despite being a zombie romance made recently into a motion picture.

Warm Bodies is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but also combines elements of “Beauty and the Beast” and of course the zombie apocalypse/post-apocalypse genre.  I saw the film before I read the book.  The Romeo and Juliet storyline did not fully register—though it did niggle—in my mind in the film till “the balcony scene.”  In the film, the balcony scene was subtly done, with camera angles echoing other, truer Romeo and Juliet adaptations mostly, though Julie echoes Juliet’s “if they do see thee, they will murder thee” (2.2.70) sentiment.  Marion’s book was a bit more blunt about the connection it wanted the reader to draw from this scene, where Julie uses a tape recorder to soliloquize to and wonders aloud what R is, what zombies are: “isn’t ‘zombie’ just a silly name we came up with for a state of being we don’t understand?  What’s in a name, right?” (127).  In this scene, I preferred the film to the book, but I wonder if that would still be the case had I not seen the movie already and already connected the story to Romeo and Juliet.

The film catered to its medium—as it should have done.  The plot was simplified, though it still asked the questions of “what is living?”, “what is death?” and all that must come up when a zombie begins to think about itself and its place in the pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse world.

Prior to this story, I’d not seen any zombie films or read any zombie fiction, but I know enough about the genre to recognize that Marion has done something different with the zombie concept.  R is a zombie who questions himself and questions the structured zombie society of which he is a part.  Where the Boneys in the film were eaters of everything with a heartbeat, creatures of chaos and destruction, in the book they were priests more than anything else.  In Marion’s book they led the zombie church, preformed weddings, and reminded the undead about the dangers of the Living, a force for structure.

Yet ultimately, the Boneys are the enemy of both mediums.  Unable to return from the undead as R and the Fleshies are, they seek to destroy R and Julie and their hope and love for the threat that they pose to the new world order that the Boneys have created among the zombie hives.

I could not say that either medium presented the better story.  The humor of the film gave the action/adventure/zombie apocalypse a romantic comedy tone.  The mix of the genres was very appealing.  The book asked more of the deeper questions with more force than the film did and was more tragic ultimately than the film, though both ended with hope.  The book ventures more deeply into the effects of a zombpocalypse on humanity and on individuals and more dramatically portrays how the Living can be made dead by fear.

*****

for the book

Marion, Isaac.  Warm Bodies.  New York: Emily Bestler/Atria-Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Warm Bodies.  Dir. Jonathan Levine.  Summit, Make Movies, Mandeville.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Isaac Marion, Emily Bestler Books, Atria Paperback, or Simon & Schuster, Inc or Summit Entertainment, Make Movies, or Mandeville Films.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Well Titled, Jackson)

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Click to visit the official site, for soundbites, showtimes, information, videos, stills, games, and more.

Spoilers ahoy!

There’s no one quite like Peter Jackson to portray the melee of battle.  Nor is there anyone quite like Howard Shore to compose catchy themes of great heroic timbre.  (Though I actually think that “The Lonely Mountain” could make a great lullaby—though a lullaby of disaster and vengeance, but those exist and are often sung to infant heroes.)

Jackson adds much of the fantastical history and mythology to the first installment, An Unexpected Journey, of his adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, giving viewers a greater understanding of the dwarves’ history, and particularly that of Thorin and the line of Durin, and also introducing viewers to Radagast the Brown and the Necromancer.  He draws heavily from appendices material from The Lord of the Rings, material from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (a weighty and difficult book to read, written with the tone of history tome), and sentences mentioned in passing and as throwaway facts of adventures not shared by Bilbo Baggins.  Yes, Jackson expands the story, but it’s almost entirely canon.

In expanding and adapting the tale, Jackson puts weight and draws connections where Tolkien does not—at least as clearly.  In Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo saves the dwarves by his cunning and by his stealth but never draws sword to stand up to a great orc king (in fact, no such orc king enters into Bilbo’s tale); he really only ever enters combat in desperate self-defense, and then I can remember him doing it but once.  Bilbo has gone from trickster in Tolkien to late-blooming hero in Jackson’s version.  Further, the dwarves quest in Tolkien reads primarily as one to recover “long-forgotten gold,” but Jackson puts greater emphasis on the return to the homeland (fitting for our time; there are parallels between this and so many cultures in our world that could be drawn, while a gold-lust we think of as primarily a bad thing in this modern era—and in fact, Jackson does highlight the greed of Thror as a sickness and as his doom).  To loyalty and friendship, Jackson adds (towards the end of this first film) to Bilbo’s motivations for remaining one of the company of Thorin Oakenshield shared love of home and hearth and the belief that everyone deserves these basic comforts.  This shifted emphasis will lend the quest more legitimacy and epic proportion.  Certainly it will generate more sympathy for the dwarves.

Jackson is working himself towards a strict divergence of plotlines, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this in later films.  Gandalf eventually leaves the company of Thorin to combat the Necromancer in the south of Mirkwood.  There will be too epic battles at least: that at which the Necromancer is put into remission and the Battle of the Five Armies on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain.

For all these altercations, it’s difficult to say whether reading or rereading the book really prepares you for the tale.  Parents should be advised that the movie is be more harrowing and darker than the book.

As ever, the scenery constructed by Weta Workshop is stunning, the Lonely Mountain carved in the manner of the tomb of Ramses II.

In sum, this is an enjoyable movie that exceeded my somewhat lukewarm expectations and high anticipation.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Dir. Peter Jackson.  Warner Bros, New Line, MGM, WingNut, 3Foot7.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), WingNut Films, 3Foot7, Peter Jackson, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: Brave: Too Much a Tale Type

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Brave tells the story of a wild-spirited Scottish princess, Merida, who does not want to marry when her mother tells her to.  In an attempt to get out of the marriage, she visits a witch, and she accidentally changes her mother into a bear.  She seeks to reverse the spell, and after getting to know and love her mother better in her changed-form, only tears and a confession of love and Merida’s wrongdoing cause the change.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought so too.

And there’s really nothing new and original enough to justify to me retelling that story.  It was an enjoyable movie, yes, but really, the story itself was a little… flat….  It relied too heavily on a fairy tale type, and never really seemed to transcend the type to compare with the moving, original stories with which Pixar has before impressed me (Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Up, Toy Story 3, The Incredibles).

Many elements, in fact, of this movie seemed too familiar.  Whenever the will-o-wisps appeared, I saw the little bobbley-headed tree spirits from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (though I know the two spirits are not identical by any stretch and know too that will-o-wisps are traditional spirits and so come with their own rules, but there was something oddly similar I thought between the renderings of the spirits in the two films all the same), so they seemed unoriginal and not-so-magical because of that.  The scene in which Merida attempts to teach her mother to fish bear-style seemed to be a near-replica of a scene in Disney’s Brother Bear.

Brave probably suffers mostly because of my higher than average expectations of Pixar.  I’ve already listed a number of Pixar films I think are of a much higher quality.

Particularly, the characters in these stories seemed better rounded than the types in Brave, which included the reluctant princess, the king, the queen/the strict mother, the witch, the brothers, the nursemaid.  Few of these characters can be much described by me beyond this.  To me, only Merida and her mother had any real depth to them; most of the others are just fulfilling a role that needs to be filled for the plot to work and their characters were not explored enough to make them “real.”  Some like the nursemaid and the brothers are unnecessary and included purely for pleasure.  These two (or really four characters) are entertaining.  One could argue that they are perhaps the necessary comic relief in the tale, but the witch, necessary to the plot, also serves as a great deal of comic relief, being incredibly quirky and punning briefly on modern-day society (sales pitches and recorded phone messages).

Pixar does again demonstrate its keen ability to convey plot with speechless characters (the queen in bear-form, the brothers, and the nursemaid) and as ever creates a visually stunning piece.  Brave also boasts an incredible soundtrack, one I think I’m likely to purchase.

I know others will fight me on this review, but these are my honest opinions.

In sum, I liked it, but certainly didn’t love it and wasn’t overly impressed by the story.  I would watch it again, but not I think with the regularity of Tangled or How to Train Your Dragon.  I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy it.

***

Brave.  Dir. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, & Steve Purcell.  Disney & Pixar.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Disney, Pixar, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: Red Tails Offers a Thrilling Flight but Misses the True Target

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Red Tails had an amazing trailer, so much so that without having ever heard of the film, from the trailer alone, my Sherlockian friend and I decided to meet at the theater the following week to see the film.  The movie was not entirely what I was expecting.  Knowing little of WWII history, I would have appreciated more of the history being worked somehow into the plot and script of the film.  I think Red Tails assumed a little more era-specific knowledge.  Which, I admit, the majority of the audience, I saw when the lights were turned on, probably had.

My major complaint about the film was this:

For a movie the message of which is that race does not confer greatness or difference, it was horridly black-and-white.  I understand, of course, that WWII fighter pilots, possibly even by necessity, did in fact see the Germans as little more than targets, but I would have appreciated less demonization of the Germans, many of whom were following orders—bad orders, yes—but, too, the Germans in this film were not those who probably ever saw the atrocities of the concentration camps.  It seemed almost as if the African American characters were foisting their own problems onto another group of people; rather than recognizing that prejudice and the demonization of one race by another is bad, the African Americans dehumanized the Germans similarly to how they—the African Americans—had been dehumanized by the Caucasian Americans and Europeans.  I honestly would almost expect more gray from an executive producer whose best-known project has been detailing the fall into darkness and rise from it again of a young Ani.

Red Tails shone in the scenes between the aerial battles.  It did not represent army life as always one of rigidity and marching.  The scenes of guitar-playing, card games, football, mess hall, and celebrating victories made the characters seem more human than they would have without these scenes.  I can’t say I’ve ever been in a situation I could relate to aerial warfare, but I can relate to time spent hanging out with friends.

The camaraderie of army life (which I’d like to believe exists though, again, I don’t know first hand) was nicely illustrated in the interactions between the characters and even among extras.

There were some really pretty fantastic action sequences in this film and the filming and special effects are quite impressive, though I might be remembering the effects as better than they were.  The opening credits seemed so retro that I suspected a low-budget film, but Red Tails was actually made with $100 million of George Lucas’ fortune according to Entertainment Weekly.

I think I would have preferred fewer aerial battles—or at least more scenes between.  I wanted to linger with the characters and instead was thrust into dogfights where it was possible to glean something of the characters, but not perhaps as much as I was able to gain from their grounded scenes.

Overall, I wish the film had been more slowly paced.  I wish it had shown the African American fighter pilots as more sympathetic to the Germans, though I realize this historically might be impossible.  Red Tails is more of an action than a perception-altering film—enjoyable but not as important as it could have been.

Red Tails.  Dir. Anthony Hemingway.  Exec. Prod. George Lucas.  Twentieth Century Fox Films & LucasFilms.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Twentieth Century Fox Films, LucasFilms, George Lucas, Anthony Hemingway, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: A Game of Shadows of the Canon

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I am not a Sherlockian, but I have read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective, and one of my dear friends is surely a Sherlockian.  Seeing the movie the first time, I squeed in the theater to recognize lines from the stories in the script of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  These lines made the film seem to me to be a good adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, though (I’ve checked with my Sherlockian friend) the film’s plot has nothing to do with anything that Conan Doyle ever conceived.  The film’s is certainly an exciting plot, but outside of the realm of Conan Doyle’s original works, where, yes, Sherlock is an internationally renowned detective and a drug-addict and boxer as this film series has portrayed, [SPOILER] but not perhaps the bullet-dodging hero who delayed World War I, any more perhaps than Moriarty is an international arms dealer. [END SPOILER]  Perhaps one of the greatest differences between Conan Doyle’s original characters and Ritchie’s interpretations of them is that in Conan Doyle’s stories Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game, the goal of which is to outwit the other, while in Ritchie’s movie, [SPOILER] Moriarty is motivated by desire for power and wealth, and Holmes is motivated to save the world from Moriarty and avert world war; he does not as is said at his funeral “play the game for the game’s sake.” [END SPOILER]

I saw the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film but once and that last year, but to my remembrance, this sequel focuses more on the characters and their relationships to one another than did the first film, which was more focused on the mystery to be solved.  The “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, which, believe it or not, is canon, is greatly played up in A Game of Shadows.  The enmity and similarities between Holmes and Moriarty are fantastically rendered on film and in the script.  Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are all interesting by themselves, but to see them all together on film is fascinating.

Tension is kept reasonably high through the film, with exciting exploits, gun battles, daring escapes, and a cross-countries race against time.

Because Holmes knows his opponent, which is not unheard of in Conan Doyle’s original stories, there seems to be less mystery in A Game of Shadows, but the mystery to be solved—what is Moriarty’s plot—is still the driving force of the movie’s plot.  The film gives you all of the puzzle pieces and then lets you tag along as Sherlock puts all of those pieces together.

Now, I’ve said a lot without actually giving any opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was exciting.  The unexpected lines, delivery, and actions made it humorous.  It was at times touching in the way that only “bromances” really can be.  The film was intellectually stimulating while still satisfying that desire (that is not purely masculine) for explosions, high-speed chases, and adrenaline.

What I most disliked was the feeling that I was missing several years of Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship.  I ought to rewatch the 2009 film because my Sherlockian friend tells me that I’ve forgotten the romantic subplot between Watson and Mary, and remembering that, I might have felt less of a gap and enjoyed it still more.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Dir. Guy Ritchie.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  2011.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros., Guy Ritchie, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor anyone connected with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: The Hunger Games: “Thank you for your consideration”

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Minor series spoilers.

I’ve just returned from seeing the much-touted cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which was highly influenced by Suzanne Collins herself in her roles as co-screenwriter and co-producer (I applaud her victory on that count).  You might remember that I wasn’t a huge fan of the book itself.  I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that I wasn’t head-over-heels for the film either.

The film cleared up Katniss’ gender easily (reading the book, her first person voice was masculine enough to greatly confuse me, really, till I turned to the back and saw that she was given the feminine pronoun), and I enjoyed its insight into life outside the arena, in the Game room, President Snow’s garden, Districts 12 and 11….  These insights deepen the plot by showing the causes and effects of Katniss’ actions in the arena, about which Katniss might speculate in the book but of which she knows nothing for certain.  As someone who I think ships the (I believe, but remember I haven’t read the second or third books yet) star-crossed pairing of Katniss/Gale, the scenes of Gale’s reactions to Katniss and Peeta’s budding though potentially pretended relationship were particularly heart-rending.

Almost all around, this is a well-acted film.  The characters were easy to feel for (or hate as appropriate), and little interaction was required to express their feelings for one another.  Especially skilled were Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, and Amandla Stenberg as Rue.

What this movie failed to express—or failed to express as clearly as the book does was Katniss’ and Peeta’s reactions to being pawns in the Hunger Games.  The focus seemed to be on the excitement and peril of the Games and less on the problem with the government that the Games exposes.  This, I think, is mostly the fault of the medium.  Katniss’ voice is a close one in the novel.  Her inner monologue is absent from the movie.  Peeta’s anti-government feelings, though, might have been played up more on film.

Much, really, overall might have been better explained, such as mockingjays’ and tracker jackers’ historical importance and the symbolism of three upheld fingers.

I’d be interested to hear opinions from those who haven’t read the books.  Was the story clear?  What did you or didn’t you understand?

I can see though where fans of the books would come away quite satisfied.  The movie’s plot adheres quite closely to the book’s (so far as I recall), so fans of the series will grumble about errors more quietly than, say, Tolkienites or Potter-heads tended to after seeing their films.

I almost think though, for all this and all my previous grumbles, that I prefer the book to the movie because it more strongly comes across as a political struggle, and I enjoy a strong focus on politics in my plots.

It maybe should be mentioned that, while I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, I’ve read a few spoilers.  I’m not actually sure that I felt that The Hunger Games book did emphasize political struggle as strongly as I’d have liked; I think I’ve imposed a stronger emphasis on those stirrings of political dissent post-spoiler than I originally read in Katniss’ grumbles.

My film rating?

***

The Hunger Games.  Dir. Gary Ross.  Lionsgate.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Lionsgate, Gary Ross, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor Suzanne Collins or Scholastic. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.