Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games and Stage Fright

The Hunger Games

(Mild Spoilers)

It's been a while since I've seen a movie in theaters.  It's been an even longer while since I've come out of a newly released movie and just been unabashedly excited about the movie.  The Hunger Games is awesome!  However, I have not read the books so I am very curious to hear what fans of the book think of the movie.

The movie is well crafted.  It draws you into the dystopian reality of The Hunger Games immediately.  You can tell that there are rules, customs, and traditions to the world: the contrast between the capital and wealthier districts and the poorer districts, the mocking jay, the horrendously bright fashion of the people in the cities, the sick tradition of the Reapings, and the games themselves.  It also does a good job building the suspense.  Even though I knew something was going to pop out from the woods or that the countdown clock was going to get to the start soon, I was nervous for the characters for what was going to happen next.

Katniss Everdeen is a fantastic heroine.  She's genuinely tough (nicely played by Jennifer Lawrence)-rough around the edges.  I appreciated that she was motivated by her family to make it through the games.  It's refreshing to see a heroine motivated not by romantic love but by something else- the sheer will to survive and familial love.  I wish we got to see more of Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and I'm interested to learn more about him as the series progresses.  He had a very natural chemistry with Katniss.  And then there's Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).  I appreciated that early on, they establish Katniss and Peeta as having different strengths, and in many ways their strengths are complementary.  (On a side note, don't you love the unstated rule of how YAs have characters with fascinating names?)  Another little thing I also appreciated was the nod to fans and fandoms.  There're the viewing parties as well as the snarky note from the parachute for Katniss and Peeta ("You call that a kiss?").    

I'm not sure how great of a movie it'll be on a second viewing.  It tells a good story well, but I feel like knowing the story already takes away from the excitement of the initial viewing.  I am, however, fascinated by the world in the Hunger Games and I want to learn more- I want to learn about the background- how did the districts come about?  Why hasn't there been an uprising already?  Overall, great movie and great performances.  I'm excited to see what happens in the series (if I don't pick up the books before then).  

Stage Fright

I caught this on TCM the other day with the movie about 30 minutes in.  Not knowing the name of the movie or too much about it, I was drawn in.  I was even more captivated when Hitchcock popped on the screen in one of his signature cameos.

Stage Fright is about Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) who involves herself in a murder mystery when her friend Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) comes to her with a problem: the police suspect Jonathan of murdering his lover-actress Charlotte Inwood's (Marlene Dietrich) husband.  Eve is convinced of Jonathan's innocence and sets out with her father (Alastair Sim) to gather evidence to prove Jonathan's innocence.

The characters are all well developed and likable.  In particular, the female characters in this film were really great.  Eve's a great heroine to root for- she's plucky and smart.  And Charlotte, just when you think you know her, you see another facet of her and you almost feel bad for her in the end.  I liked the relationship between Eve and her father- in many ways, it reminded me of my favorite father-daughter duo Keith and Veronica Mars.  The only character who didn't really work was Ordinary Smith, the detective, who for plot purposes was important but generally just felt flat and one-dimensional.  He seemed to get more boring as the movie continued.        

There are some really gorgeous, well made scenes in this movie.  One of my favorites is when Jonathan finally hugs Eve-it's all she thinks she's wanted for a long time, but right then and there, all she wants is to hear Smith play the piano again.  While Stage Fright, for the most part, maintains a humorous tone, you also learn why Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense.