The film adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel “The Hunger Games” doesn’t hit theaters until Friday. But the hype is wall-to-wall and many of the movie reviews by film critics are in. The verdict? The movie looks to be a winner whether you’ve read the book or not.
For most reviews, “Hunger Games,” which has currently sold more advance tickets than any non-sequel, scored ratings of at least four out of five stars, three out of four stars, and a few "A" grades. Critics particularly praised actress Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as heroine Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to replace her sister in the deadly Hunger Games run by a dystopian government.
“At its center is Jennifer Lawrence, an ideal choice to play this strong, independent young woman,” Associated Press reviewer Christy LeMire wrote of the film. “There’s a youthful energy and even a vulnerability that make her relatable to the core, target audience of female fans. Lawrence is endlessly watchable."
Chicago Tribune reviewer Michael Phillips said he would praise Lawrence as the best thing in the film if the rest wasn’t equally as good.
Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum agreed: “Jennifer Lawrence… is, in her gravity, her intensity, and her own unmannered beauty, about as impressive a Hollywood incarnation of Katniss as one could ever imagine,” Schwarzbaum wrote.
Reviewers also agreed that director Gary Ross’s film treatment of the source material keeps the societal commentary of author Suzanne Collins’ original trilogy.
“So-called reality TV is given a sharp, satirical kick as Tributes learn to play and pander to hidden cameras,” writes Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers.
Guardian critic Xan Brooks wrote that “[Ross] rustles up a film that is harsh and satisfying; a candy-coated entertainment with a chip of ice at the centre."
Also praised: the supporting cast, which includes stars like Elizabeth Banks as perky contestant escort Effie Trinket, Woody Harrelson as alcoholic mentor Haymitch Abernathy, and Stanley Tucci as unctuous TV host Caesar Flickerman, of whom Phillips writes, “Nothing in "The Hunger Games" is more frightening than Tucci's smile.”
The AP's LeMire, however, did complain that the less-attractive behavior of the character Haymitch, who spends much of the beginning of the novel intoxicated or suffering the after-effects of it, were toned down for the film. “The character’s rough edges have been buffed significantly and it’s not an improvement,” LeMire writes.
A different heroine than Twilight
The books and movies have been compared to the last boffo young adult series, Twilight, which centered on the teenager Bella Swan and the tortured love triangle made up of her, vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob. Many suggest that “Games” will appeal most to female teenagers.
“Teenage girls are going to love this film — so much so that I wouldn’t mind betting it will be the first in a very profitable franchise,” Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey wrote.
But many reviewers pointed out the positive (in their eyes) differences between “Games” and the vampire saga featuring mopey Bella Swan. “Katniss makes Twilight's Bella Swan look like the wimp she is,” Travers writes. Telegraph critic Robbie Collins noted that “both teenage heroines journey deep into the woods at dusk, but while Twilight's Bella returns flanked by bickering supernatural beefcake, Katniss emerges alone, smeared in blood and muck and gnawing on the charred remains of a spatchcocked squirrel.”
Some critics also had problems with the film’s ending, which apparently differs in some way from the novel. “Only at the end does the director falter, hindered by the demands of franchise film production (there are three books in the series) and bowing out with a whimper not a bang,” Brooks wrote of Ross.
But so far, response to the movie has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans can take a deep breath and buy their midnight tickets – if there are any left, that is.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
The Walking Dead season 2 finale has aired and our favorite group of survivors are now on to their next adventure. Since October is such a long time to wait for the next season of The Walking Dead, why not find out what’s in for season 3 now.
Following the shocking finale that brought about – among other things – the introduction of Michonne (Danai Gurira – who was NOT the actress in the shadowy cloak), as well as the reveal of next season’s setting: the prison. Now, fans are wondering what’s in store for Rick and Co. next season.
Speaking with TV Line, Kirkman talked about some of the things fans can expect to see in The Walking Dead season 3:
About ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3:
What I really like about the transition from Season 2 to Season 3 as opposed to Season 1 to Season 2 transition is that when we were moving into Season 2 there were so many unknowns. All of the questions were, “Are we going to see the farm? Are they going to follow the comic?” And now that we’re moving into Season 3, we’ve seen Michonne. We’ve seen the prison. We know that that the Governor has been cast. So the fans really have a clear indication of what kind of things to expect in the third season and where we’re going and some of the stories that we may be telling if they’re familiar with the comic book series.
Our third season is definitely going to be our best season yet. I’m really excited to get into it. It’s actually hard for me to do interviews about Season 2 because I’m like, “Oh my God, Season 3 blows this stuff out of the water. You just wait.” We’ve been working on Season 3 for a few months now. We’re wrapping up the first half and we’ve got everything nailed down. I can’t wait for people to see it.
There are still some surprises around the corner. We wouldn’t be revealing so much in our final episode of Season 2 if we didn’t have so much more to reveal in the marketing for Season 3 and also in the episodes when the season begins. There are a lot of surprises around the corner.
He’s forced into this leadership role and, at the end of the episode, we see that he is taking this on and it is affecting him. And he’s growing darker. And he is saying, “Hey, you want me to be the leader? That’s fine. I’m going to be the leader. You don’t like it? Fend for yourself. Let’s see how you do.” He’s growing harsher in this world. And the series is always going to be about whether or not he can retain his humanity, or whether or not he is going to become some kind of hardened monster that really exists only to provide survival for him and his family.
The original plan was to hold her for Season 3 and introduce her then.
…as far as her relationship with Andrea goes, she cut the head off of a zombie. She could easily stab Andrea next in the first minutes of Season 3, so who knows what that relationship will be like?
She will be very similar to her comic-book counterpart. Most of the characters as they’ve been translated into TV are pretty much exactly the same character. Andrea is Andrea, Rick is Rick and Michonne is going to be Michonne. Now, the stories that we’re going to tell with her are going to be somewhat different at times.
But the fans have expectations for Michonne, and I can say with full knowledge that their expectations are going to be met. They need not worry.
She is for all intents and purposes in the most danger out of anyone in the group by the end of the episode. And we’re going to be exploring that a little bit more in the third season. But really just putting her in the pressure-cooker situation and seeing how she fares and how she’s going to do and how she’s going to survive is going to be interesting thing to follow in the third season. We have some really cool stuff planned for Andrea.
About Hershel and the Greene family:
Hershel was very connected to the farm, and losing the farm and losing these people at the same time is going to mean a lot for him — as well as Maggie and Beth — in Season 3.
Who will die next:
One of the things that’s always been important to me with the Walking Dead comic book series is that you always be willing to get rid of every character at any moment if it serves the story. I’ve always tried not to grow any kind of attachment to any character. And also, there have been times where I’ve had big arcs plotted out for [someone] but at the moment it seemed like the right thing to do to completely get rid of the character. And now that we’re getting further and further into the show, and we’re able to tell the stories [with] high stakes, pretty much everything is on the table when we sit there in the writers room. There’s some pretty terrifying, crazy things discussed. And every character, at some point, we’ve talked about, “Now? Later? When are we going to do this?”
(This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the episode ‘Beside the Dying Fire’ and season 2 as a whole. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the entire season.)
What a difference a death makes. As occasionally entertaining as it was to have Shane (Jon Bernthal) around, watching him devolve into an ever-bigger threat toward Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his character was a lot like the walker Carl (Chandler Riggs) found at the edge of a creek: stuck. That metaphor of being stuck in the mud, and desperately trying to move on, pretty much sums up a great deal of The Walking Dead season 2.
Arguably, season 2 will be looked at as the swan song for Shane, whose downward spiral began with the killing of Otis, and perpetuated throughout the season with increasingly obsessive feelings toward Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl, as well as a need to best Rick at every turn.
But at a certain point the season will be scrutinized for how well it lived up to the expectations set forth by the first season, the continued success of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and the knowledge that Frank Darabont, the primary creative force behind the series, would be gone half-way through. More than the issue of expectation and Darabont’s shocking dismissal, however, The Walking Dead has it’s own internal concerns wherein the writers seemed to be struggling to find the essence and personalities of the characters experiencing the ongoing zombie apocalypse.
It was with the last half of season 2 – arguably the last four episodes – where the writers succeeded in unshackling themselves from the intermittent monotony brought about by the serial nature of the show. Case in point: the issue of Randall, wherein the show allowed time to pass that wasn’t necessarily accounted for. This was a major success for what has been described fairly often as a slow, drawn out season. By telling some compelling, full stories in the confines of a single episode, while also hinting at the future of the season and series, these “season 2.5” episodes have breathed new life into this undead series.
By in large, the events of the season’s finale, ‘Beside the Dying Fire,’ play into the idea of having a complete story arc contained within the runtime of a single episode. That’s not to say the episode didn’t leave plenty to speculate on, it certainly did, but those were glimpses of things to question and hold on to during the wait for season 3.
‘Beside the Dying Fire’ works primarily because it keeps the most unattractive part of the program, and its characters, on hold until after it has done the work needed to keep the audience enthralled and excited. To put it bluntly, a massive horde of walkers effectively keeps the survivors so busy they can’t spend an hour displaying how horrible or inconsistent (here’s looking at you Lori) their personalities can be. While the essence of any good story is conflict, a group of people actively working to irritate one another is not enough of a conflict to sustain a series that isn’t called Seinfeld. After taking the long way around, The Walking Dead seems to have realigned its priorities accordingly.
This is evidenced by the fact that Carl didn’t see his father kill Shane, and by Rick not feeling entirely compelled to come clean to his son. By not immediately addressing Shane’s death, and instead getting straight into the walker killing, it acts as a turning point for the series, one where there is a time and place for bickering and discussion, and one where there is not. By having the walkers storm Hershel’s farm, the series is forced to progress and, hopefully, begin to better understand the motivations and reactions of its characters.
The calamity of the situation is as compelling as anything The Walking Dead has so far put on screen, and with the back-to-back deaths of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Shane, it’s nice to see the show hadn’t lost its stomach for further thinning of the proverbial herd. Jimmy (James Allen McCune) and Patricia (Jane McNeill) arguably had to depart, as their roles in the series were never really established, and the passing of any recurring character quickly translates into the possibility of T-Dog (IronE Singleton) having something more to do than stand idly by in the background.
With their numbers depleted, ammunition scarce and the safety and security of Hershel’s farm completely jeopardized, the group separates and flees. Rick, Hershel (Scott Green) and Carl are the first to arrive back where this storyline began: the crowded highway on which the group lost Sophia. There is a moment where Rick seriously considers making a run for it with just Carl by his side, and had we not been shown the survival of the others, the scene may have worked out to be more substantial than it really was, But in the end we settle for Glenn (Steven Yuen) taking charge of his relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), which welcomes a stronger presence from Glenn in future.
For someone so willing to punch her own ticket at the end of last season, Andrea fights tooth-and-nail to survive, and although she is overwhelmed with exhaustion and nearly consumed by a single walker, she is saved during the heavily speculated appearance of Michonne. Though we don’t see her face, or hear her speak, Michonne’s cameo will likely serve to be the highlight of the episode.
Meanwhile, Rick’s revelation that the zombie infection is universal – you die, you become a zombie, regardless of being bit or scratched by the undead – quickly returns the group to normal and his leadership is once more called into question. Granted, with this group, Rick could have revealed that he was in possession of the Colonel’s Secret Recipe and they likely would have reacted the same way.
Just to kick him while he’s down, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) responds negatively to Rick’s account of Shane’s death – despite a statement to the contrary that Lori made in ‘Triggerfinger.’ It’s hard to tell if Lori’s wildly inconsistent behavior is a result of miscommunication amongst the writers, or if the urging for her husband to kill Shane was secretly intended to end with Rick’s death instead. For now, we’ll have to assume the latter.
The season finale ends as it began, with a solid tease. The helicopter seen in the beginning of the episode was as intriguing (if not more so) than the glimpse of the prison standing a short distance from where the group had stopped for the night. And with that tease comes a clearer indication of what can be expected from season 3 (and beyond), which certainly works to end season 2 on a positive note.
In many ways, The Walking Dead season 2 worked as two separate seasons, the latter half being remarkably faster paced than the first. As Glen Mazzara is now firmly entrenched as the series’ showrunner, it seems reasonable to assume that the last four episodes will serve as a template for Mazzara’s run – however long that may be.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.
Children between the ages of 12 and 18 forced to kill each other in a large arena until only one of them is left standing.
It hardly sounds like an ideal story for pre-teens, or, depending on parental views, some early teens. But many parents may be making the choice soon whether to bring their children to the cineplex when “The Hunger Games,” the first installment of the dystopian young-adult trilogy about children taking part in a horrible reality show, arrives in theaters March 23. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, which is the first of a trilogy.
The book’s violence, in which many children and teenagers are killed, has been a hot topic since it was released. Star Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the heroine Katniss Everdeen in the film, was asked about the controversy after seven seconds of the film was cut to earn the movie a 12A rating in the UK, a rating that would allow children 12 and older in the theater, with younger children requiring an accompanying adult to gain entrance. In America, the movie is rated PG-13 for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images, all involving teens."
Lawrence told Reuters she thought the violence was acceptable.
“It's the violence and the brutality (which) is the heart of the film, because it's what gets the people angry to start an uprising and to start a revolution,” she said. In the “Games” trilogy, it’s a corrupt government that forces the children to compete in the deadly Hunger Games.
“I do think the violence and brutality is justified,” Lawrence said. “But I understand if everybody has a different standard for ratings.”
“I think kids are more mature than they have been over the years… It's not overly gruesome or brutal but it is part of the story in some way,” Hutcherson said.
The idea of kids being more mature is what seems to worry some parents, who think children will become desensitized to violence. In 2010, a New Hampshire mother, Tracy LaSalle, requested at a school board meeting that the first book be removed from her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom because she said her daughter had started having nightmares and that she worried the other children would become too used to the brutality described in the novel. The book was being read aloud in the classroom.
“Mrs. LaSalle stated there is no lesson in this book except if you are a teenager and kill twenty-three other teenagers, you win the game and your family wins,” the minutes from the meeting read, according to a School Library Journal article.
A school board member, Philip Pancoast, told the SLJ that he considers the book to be average young adult literature.
“A fair reading of ‘Old Yeller' would likely cause a child to have nightmares of the death of the dog,” Pancoast said.
If you’re a parent who’s wondering whether to take your child next weekend, a quick flip through the book may be the best bet. At the very least, know that the violent Games, in which children are encouraged to kill each other, is the center of the book (don’t read any further if you want to avoid spoilers)…
And all but two characters out of twenty-four die, some in very nasty ways. Many are killed immediately in the arena by others, and one character, who is 12 years old and whom the main character Katniss becomes attached to, dies after a spear is thrown into her abdomen. Others die from having their neck broken by a fellow teenager, having a rock smashed against their head by another teenager, and having a knife thrown at them by a competitor. One experiences a shudder-worthy fate when he’s attacked by wolves, unable to move after being shot by an arrow, and comes close to being eaten alive before the heroine shoots him out of pity. The heroine, Katniss, and her love interest each kill at least one person.
You may be sensing the word “Games” in the book is meant ironically.
On a discussion board on the website Goodreads, a user named Terrie who said she is a fourth-grade teacher wrote, “While I whipped through all three books in nothing flat, I was constantly aware of the extreme violence. I would even be hesitant to recommend these books to 5th graders, but maybe middle schoolers could handle them.”
Another user named Natalie said she read it to her sister when her sibling was nine years old and that there hadn’t been a problem.
“My brother (12) is reading Catching Fire now,” she wrote. “Certainly the child's maturity level comes into play, but I don't see why nine-year-olds wouldn't understand the novel.”
As for the film? A review by The Hollywood Reporter said, "It's also clear that the need for a PG-13 rating dictated moderation; a film accurately depicting the events of the book would certainly carry an R," seeming to imply that the events are at least a little toned down, though the review notes of the Games, "Quite a few [contestants] are butchered at the outset in the mad dash for weapons and supplies."
A Variety review seems to agree things are a little toned down, writing, "The PG-13 rating that ensures the film's suitability for its target audience also blunts the impact of the teen-on-teen bloodshed, most of it rendered in quick, oblique glimpses."
Check out a video of the stars of the movie discussing the violence below:
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
One thing that’s been an point of interest for fans of The Hunger Games books is how director Gary Ross will approach the issue of point of view. The entire trilogy of books is told from protagonist Katniss Everdeen’s point of view. A film is a different beast than a book, however, and if the recent “single-take” horror film Silent House proved anything, it’s that having an entire film that only focuses on one person is tricky proposition.
That said, The Hunger Games movie will have to feature scenes that don’t feature Katniss (played in the movie be Jennifer Lawrence), and now we’re getting a look at one with this latest clip from the film.
In The Hunger Games, 12 impoverished districts of what was once America are forced by a militant capital city to sacrifice a male and female contest (24 teens in total) for a battle to the death in a deadly arena. But the games actually live up to their name, as public relations, sponsorship, and video game-style traps are all part of the experience.
Well, every game needs a designer, and the Hunger Games have Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) for that task. In the clip below, the game master goes to meet with the tyrannical President Snow, who will be portrayed onscreen by Donald Sutherland (in a bit of pitch-perfect casting):
It’s clear that the screenwriters (Ross, series creator Suzanne Collins and State of Play screenwriter Billy Ray) are using the expanded viewpoint to begin sowing seeds for the sequel – specifically Snow’s words about “a spark” needing be contained – dialogue that not-so-subtly refers to the title of already-in-progress sequel film, Catching Fire.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
There is a fake war brewing between fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and fans of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and the fate of entire worlds, universes, random chat threads across the Internet hang in the balance. The fake war in question will be waged by Oscar-nominated director Gary Ross’ big screen adaptation of The Hunger Games, and Oscar-winning director Bill Condon’s two-part finale to the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn.
We now have early reconnoissance reports stating that Hunger Games has gained some tactical financial ground, as early projections are that the film will break…er, Breaking Dawn – Part 1‘s opening weekend numbers.
THR reports the so-called “shocker” that Hunger Games is currently tracking to have a bigger late March opening than Breaking Dawn – Part 1‘s $138.1 million debut back in November 2011. The Hunger Games started racking up opening weekend projections a few weeks back, when we reported that the film had sold more advanced tickets than Twilight Saga: Eclipse; since that time, the profit predictions have only gone upward – a rarity in the film business.
If predictions hold true, Hunger Games would blow the original Twilight‘s $69 million opening weekend out of the water, and could come close to, or even best, New Moon‘s $142 million debut. Of course, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn – Part 1 were all sequel films, while The Hunger Games is an untested film property – making these lofty predictions even more surprising. We here at Screen Rant were even skeptical about whether the Hunger Games marketing campaign had done enough to attract the wider audience who weren’t already fans of the books. Apparently that skepticism was misplaced.
Of course, this fake war between Twilight and Hunger Games is just what the term would imply: it’s fake. Lionsgate owns the rights to The Hunger Games movie(s) and Summit Entertainment owns the rights to the Twilight movies – and earlier this year, Lionsgate and Summit merged into one studio, ostensibly brining both HG and TS under one roof. All the money on these big franchises now flows the same way.
More to the point: these movies based on popular Young Adult novels tend to appeal to the same crowds – those who like stories about teens thrown into fantastical situations / love triangles with sensitive, brooding men. Both have strong(ish) female protagonists, familiar genre tropes, etc…
…Bottom line: their similarities are stronger than their differences, and both will be cash-cows for Summit/Lionsgate.
Kofi Outlaw blogs at Screen Rant.
Jennifer Lawrence has already enjoyed a remarkably unique career path. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Lawrence had the nearly unheard of good fortune to be discovered on a visit to New York City when she was just fourteen years old. After a good deal of goading on the part of agents (who saw a rare talent in Lawrence), her parents agreed to allow her to stay in NYC and begin auditioning.
After a few commercial and guest star roles, she was cast in the TBS television series The Bill Engvall Show. Lawrence went directly from the short-lived sitcom to the role that would secure her a Best Actress Oscar nomination at the tender age of twenty: playing Ree Dolly in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. Shortly thereafter, Lawrence humanized Mystique, one of Marvel’s most beloved villainess’, in X-Men: First Class.
Lawrence is now taking on her biggest challenge: the lead role in a film that is poised to (potentially) be a worldwide phenomenon, The Hunger Games. In the film, Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl from a dystopic future in which a fascistic Capital selects one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts of the nation of Panem to fight to the death in an annual tournament called The Hunger Games. Katniss is forced to volunteer to fight when her much younger, much smaller sister is selected in that year’s lottery.
We had the chance to participate in a roundtable discussion with the Jennifer Lawrence at the Los Angeles press event for The Hunger Games, where we discussed (among other things) her propensity toward roles that involve hunting and the woods, the pressure that surrounds taking on a much-beloved character, learning how to act backwards from Woody Harrelson and the surreal experience of participating in a mall tour.
Screen Rant: What is it about these downtrodden, strong women who take care of children? What is this pattern that we’re seeing here in your career?
Jennifer Lawrence: “I don’t know, before I get the script I ask ‘Does she like the forest, does she have younger siblings? (Laughing) Jodie Foster told me I’d look back at my career twenty years from now and see a pattern, and what it has to do with my life. But now I’m just like ‘I don’t know.’”
You do you see a through-line between this and Winter’s Bone?
JL: “Yeah, they’re similar. Ree is much more of a walker at Katniss is more of a runner.” (Laughs)
What was the most challenging aspect of this film as an adaptation?
JL: “That she was already in the minds of so many different people. When you’re coming out with a movie where nobody’s really seen the character before you can say ‘here it is.’ I’m playing a character that most people have already seen in their mind. That’s scary.”
Did you have preconceived notions?
JL: “Yeah, but that’s just what I did. I understood her in a certain way and my understanding informed my performance.”
Speaking of scary, I hear you guys are doing mall tours, how’s that been?
JL: “Yesterday was our first one and I felt like Justin Timberlake from ‘N Sync. It was nuts. One girl almost fainted. But it’s never over me. I sit in between the guys, and they start with Liam (Hemsworth) and they say ‘Say something! Say something!’ And he speaks in his Australian accent and someone passes out, and I barely get a chance to put my name on the poster we’re signing before it’s slid over to Josh (Hutcherson). And it’s, ‘Oh my god so I loved you in…’ and then crying. And I’m like ‘It’s okay. I practiced my signature for so long and I didn’t get to use it.’”
Is there a star in the middle of it?
JL: “There was a heart, but I took the heart out.”
What kind of physical training did you do to play Katniss?
JL: “Free running for agility, archery, climbing, combat and yoga…But that’s all.”
How’s your archery now?
JL: “Good. I had an Olympian train me, so if I couldn’t say ‘good’ it’s my fault.”
How are your tree climbing skills?
JL: “Also good if I have a harness.” (Laughs)
Knowing that this is a franchise is fitness something you have to keep up?
JL: “When you’re in a movie called ‘The Hunger Games’ when you’re not working you eat. But as far as exercise goes I like to stay in relatively good shape anyway, running and so on. And it’s also so that when training comes along I don’t have to start from square one. There is relative maintenance. Just being able to withstand cardio.”
In the book, everything is conveyed from Katniss’ perspective. And the film is primarily from Katniss’ point-of-view as well. How many days off did you have during shooting?
JL: “None. For a while I had Saturdays and Sundays, and then I had Sundays.”
How useful was it to have the book and all those first person thoughts?
JL: “For an actor it’s an amazing thing to have my character’s inner dialogue. It never happens.”
At some point do you have to let go of the book?
JL: “Yeah, when you’re making a film, the book is a good tool, but once you have the script and you’re making a movie, you have to let go of the book. I held onto the inner dialogue, but yes, you do have to let go.”
JL: “He doesn’t have one. He can communicate with every single actor. He can make anything work. I’m better with technical stuff, just tell me what you don’t like and I’ll fix it. Don’t tell me about what’s happening internally – that doesn’t work for me. Just tell me what’s right and what’s wrong, and he was very technical with me. With others he might give more emotional guidance, he could do that. He can work with any actor, he can communicate with the lighting director. He had a very specific vision and he never once gave that up. Which is hard when you’re doing a film, but to his credit he did it and the studio was amazing. He’s strong and he’s brilliant, but he listens to everybody. He’s artistically free.”
You said that you like technical direction, is that something you consider when you take on projects now?
JL: “It’s something I’ve always looked at when I look at scripts. You can love a script but if it doesn’t have a good director it won’t be that.”
And do you hope that they can adapt to your way of working?
JL: “No, I like to adapt to their way of working. I love doing that. Each director’s so different and you have to adapt to a new way of doing something. That’s amazing to me; I love that. I don’t want a director to have to work around me, I think it’s more fun to come in on their thing.”
Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
JL: “Yeah, the scene when Stanley Tucci (who plays talk-show host Caesar Flickerman in the film) interviews me before I go to the games. One because it’s just hilarious to see that, but also that’s the moment that Katniss realizes it’s a game, and if she wants to win she has to play along.”
There is a sense that Katniss is playing to the camera. Do you have to be conscious of the moments where she is playing to the cameras and the audience that is observing the game and when she is being herself?
JL: “I think it was important to her to not look weak when she was on the run. Some of that would be too complicated to think about. When she does find the camera, then yes, but otherwise it was… running.”
There’s an interesting stylistic choice where the camera is all around you. Sometimes it’s from behind, which you normally don’t see. Does that change your performance? Or do you have to ignore the camera?
JL: “You can’t ever let yourself be thrown by a camera. That’s never good for an actor. So, no, that’s also trusting your director. When you’re reading the script, you want to work with someone you trust so there’s nothing to worry about.”
You’re working with veterans like Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland here. Is there anything you have to be cognizant of, or is there anything you learn from going toe to toe with them?
JL: “I always try to be a sponge and soak up as much as possible when I’m working with them.”
What did your sponge soak up from Woody?
JL: (Laughs) (Does Beavis laugh) “Woody is the nicest person in the entire world, and you know he’d be the exact same person no matter what his job was. He’s just that guy from Texas, he can strike up a conversation with anybody. It’s just odd to see him on a movie set. He’s just one of the most incredible actors in the world, and he almost doesn’t fit onto a set. He’s just too relaxed – he’s got no airs about him. You see him hanging out, like someone brought their really nice cousin from Texas and then all of a sudden he does backwards acting. One time we were doing this scene where I stab a knife through his fingers and to do that you have to do everything backwards and they put it forwards in post. And so we would start and everything would go backwards and Woody said ‘I’m even doing backwards acting cause when I’m here I start to feel my desire for the jam.’ (Laughs) So he would go back and then he’d see the jam and want in. He’s full of gems like that.”
When we were talking to Liam and Josh, it was brought up that twenty years ago we probably would have seen Katniss be a guy and the love interests be women. I’m just curious from your perspective how you feel about that shift, being the strong female character at the end of this story?
JL: “It’s great because I feel like we’ve gotten to the place where we have strong female leads. We’ve got Lara Croft as the female James Bond and we have someone who’s not even the female James Bond. We have a young girl being thrown in to this situation and not knowing if she’s going to survive it. It says a lot.”
Well, to be fair, Lara Croft is very sexualized, while you can’t say your character is objectified in the same way a lot of women are in these movies.
JL: “It is great.”
How did you steal yourself up emotionally for your scenes with Rue (seen above), especially your final scenes with her?
JL: “That was awful. Reading it in the book, and reading the script it was terrible, and then meeting Amandla Stenberg (the actress who plays Rue). The scene was hard because I knew that it meant that she would wrap. And then working with her – you meet her – she’s the funniest, sweetest little girl…she’s amazing.”
She kept telling us you were the one making jokes in between takes during the death scene.
JL: “Yeah, that’s true. I had to do something. There’s a funny picture of us in her grave laughing. But we were all thinking that people would leave the theater during that scene…but then, there were some hilarious moments for us. (Laughs)”
Roth Cornet blogs at Screen Rant.
What does Daylight Saving Time sound like?
The best 10 songs about the sun:
10. "Walking on Sunshine," Katrina and the Waves, 1985
9. "Sunny," Bobby Hebb, 1966
8. "Hello Sunshine," Super Furry Animals, 2006
7. "Sunny Afternoon," The Kinks, 1966
6. "The Warmth of the Sun," The Beach Boys, 1964
5. "You Are My Sunshine," Ray Charles, 1962
4. "Good Day Sunshine," The Beatles, 1966
3. "Sun it Rises," Fleet Foxes, 2008
2. "Keep On the Sunny Side," The Whites (O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack), 2000
1. "Here Comes the Sun," The Beatles, 1969
That's our list. What's yours?
John Kehe is the Monitor’s design director.
This recap contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the episode ‘Better Angels. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the episode yet.)
Early on in ‘Better Angels,’ it looked like the untimely death of Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) had instilled in The Walking Dead survivors a sense of kinship that had been overshadowed by the constant internal squabbling, which plagued them more relentlessly than a group of walkers. With Lori apologizing to Shane and Hershel inviting his guests to share the house with the family, it seemed like there was an organized effort to not let the group’s proverbial moral center be buried with Dale.
Rick’s eulogy for Dale is inter-cut with scenes of Shane (Jon Bernthal), Andrea (Laurie Holden), T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) all working out their various feelings and frustrations on a group of walkers that had managed to find their way onto the relatively zombie-less grounds of Hershel’s farm.
Afterward, with the group together, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) shares his plan for he and Daryl to ditch Randall (Michael Zegen) about an hour away from the farm. Shane and Rick have another terse conversation regarding the decision to let Randall live, but after the talk the two had at the end of ‘18 Miles Out,’ Rick feels confident that Shane is more or less onboard with whatever decision he makes.
Later, Carl (Chandler Riggs) visits Shane to unburden himself of both Daryl’s handgun and his feelings of responsibility for Dale’s death. Partially reassured, Carl leaves the handgun with Shane, expressing a desire to never touch a gun again in his life.
Making a bizarre 180-degree turn from her Lady Macbeth-like urging of Rick to kill his partner, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), inadvertently antagonizes Shane with a short speech that was likely meant to sound like a thank you, but instead more closely resembles a goodbye. She leaves Shane heartbroken and on the verge of a psychotic break.
Before Rick and Daryl head out with Randall, Shane stops by to discuss what Carl had been up to and to deliver the stolen handgun, urging Rick to speak with his son about his actions. The whole thing once more devolves into Rick and Shane arguing over who gets to tell the other what to do, and proves that the relationship between the two men is without a doubt fractured beyond repair.
Rick does heed Shane’s advice, though, and has a surprisingly frank conversation with his son that begins with an apology for Carl’s childhood being ostensibly lost, but ends with the demand that the boy stow his childish behavior, because the world is just waiting to claim the lives of everyone he knows and loves. Rick concludes the talk by giving the boy Daryl’s stolen handgun once more, and urges Carl to keep his wits about him and to use the gun to protect himself and the others should the need arise.
Meanwhile, Shane pays Randall a visit and while he works through some pretty severe mental issues, comes to see the bloody evidence that the young man was trying to slip his cuffs. This apparently spurs Shane’s imagination, so he takes the prisoner into the woods and frees him under the pretense of wanting to join the group Randall is traveling with. We learn the group is much closer than previously thought and is as prone to violence and atrocity as the survivors had already feared.
But Shane has no intention of traveling any further than behind a tree to snap Randall’s neck. You have to admire Shane’s willingness to sell the lie that Randall accosted him by smashing his face into a tree trunk to break his own nose. Bloodied and dazed, Shane returns to the farm to find everyone already aware of Randall’s disappearing act, and he works quickly to mobilize a small team of Rick, Daryl, Glenn (Steven Yuen) and himself to track down the escapee in the day’s fading light.
The search continues well after dark, which leads to Daryl and Glenn stumbling upon a zombified Randall. After a brief scuffle, Glenn bludgeons Randall, and the two notice that although his neck is broken there are no clear signs of zombie infection – leading the two to question how that could possibly be.
Elsewhere, despite the inevitability and unfortunate spoiling of it, the confrontation between Rick and Shane still proves to be pretty tense – mainly because Glen Mazzara and Co. managed to have the situation play out slightly different than many had expected.
After holstering his weapon, Rick turns to face his would-be murderer and attempts to appeal to Shane’s sense of right and wrong, and assures him that whatever he had planned, nothing undoable has yet transpired. Despite the assertions that he is more fit to be husband and father to Lori and Carl, Shane seems willing to listen as Rick calmly closes the gap between them and gestures to hand over his sidearm. As Shane reaches for the gun, Rick plunges a knife into Shane’s chest, lamenting how Shane forced him to take this action.
Sitting next to his partner’s corpse, Rick is confronted by Carl, who brandishes the handgun his father had given him earlier – and for a split second the audience is left to think that Rick truly has the worst family in the history of television. All that is put aside, however, as Carl fires a single shot over his father’s shoulder, putting a zombified Shane down once more; at long last ending Shane’s emotionally taxing and harrowing journey with the Grimes clan.
‘Better Angels’ ends with the promise of more trouble ahead, as a large cluster of walkers make their way over a hill toward Hershel’s farm.
Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.
After a breakout performance in Sean Durkin’s 2011 drama film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the infamous Olsen twins) is set to try her hand at the horror genre in Silent House. Olsen’s performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene earned her several “Best Actress” nominations – leading many film fans to question whether Silent House would impede Olsen’s rising star, or prove that even in a horror-thriller project the young actress can deliver a compelling performance.
Of course, Silent House isn’t just a basic slasher-horror film where brainless co-eds run up a flight of stars instead of out the front door. Directed by cinematography team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who cut their teeth on the 2003 survival-horror film, Open Water (about a pair of scuba divers who are inadvertently left alone miles from shore in shark-infested waters), Silent House offers 88 minutes of “based on true events” story presented as a single, uninterrupted take.
Does the pairing of Olsen with the “high-concept” premise make for a gripping and unique theater experience?
Ultimately, the performances in Silent House - as well as the unique filmmaking presentation – elevate the movie above normal horror-thriller cliches; however, the film definitely has a few shortcomings that, despite the larger successes, undermine the overall effectiveness of the experience.
Taking cues from the 2010 Uruguayan film, The Silent House, Kentis and Lau’s Silent House story is pretty basic – which makes sense for a movie with only a few characters and an especially limited scale. We follow leading-lady Sarah (Olsen) through a tense, and at times horrifying, ordeal: Sarah, along with her father, John (Adam Trese), and Uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), is in the process of fixing up the family’s dilapidated vacation home, in an effort to make the property more attractive when they attempt to sell it. Sarah begins to hear mysterious noises in the upstairs portion of the house, and when she and her dad attempt to investigate the sounds, it quickly becomes clear that they are not alone – nor are they safe. Whether or not the alleged “true event” inspiration of the film ever actually occurred remains unsubstantiated (and was a point of contention among fans of the 2010 Uruguayan film); however, “based on true events” or not, the fundamental storyline works well enough within the confines of the 88 minute timeframe.
Despite that simple set up, Silent House is a meticulously crafted film. Not only is the house isolated, every window is boarded up (to prevent local kids from breaking the glass) and all the doors are dead-bolted (to keep out squatters) – creating an atmosphere of dark isolation that works to the film’s advantage again and again. Sarah (as well as John and Peter) rely on handheld propane as well as LED lamps – which, coupled with the “uninterrupted take” presentation, will definitely keep audience members squinting into the darkness, along with the film’s main characters.
Silent House features a number of lengthy takes and, unsurprisingly, Olsen is up to the task – delivering a successful and engrossing performance. Admittedly, the role isn’t going to earn her too many accolades, but considering most of her onscreen time is spent reacting to sounds in the dark, her performance definitely brings added layers (and believability) to a role that might have otherwise been portrayed by a less convincing actress.
The “real time” presentation brings events to life in a compelling way, but at the same time, undermines any opportunity for audiences to gain insight into Sarah – beyond basic demeanor and rapport with Peter and John. Even as the darker mystery of the house unfolds, there’s very little chance for audiences to “get to know” any of the main characters – which is somewhat of a missed opportunity, especially given Olsen’s onscreen presence. Some moviegoers will no doubt defend the barebones portrayal of the characters, arguing that they are merely vehicles for the audience to become immersed in the creepy situation; however, given that they have a history with the “Silent House,” the choice ultimately detracts from the effectiveness of the film’s finale.
Regardless, the “hook” of 88 minutes of “uninterrupted” footage will definitely provide moviegoers with a unique theater experience, as the format ratchets up the tension in certain scenes and successfully captures the sense of claustrophobia that Sarah is experiencing throughout. With “found-footage” movies starting to wear thin (just look at Apollo 18 and The Devil Inside for proof), it’s hard to ignore the possibility that “real time” horror films could be the next go-to move for Hollywood executives. The prospects are certainly intriguing (until the concept is used up) - at least based on how the idea is employed in Silent House. While a few of the “transition” moments aren’t as fluid as others, the overall effect is pretty compelling.
That said, some moviegoers may be somewhat underwhelmed by Sarah’s over-arching “ordeal” – as Silent House is much more grounded than other horror-thrillers. There are a number of jump scares and truly creepy moments, but in this case, the real horror is in the uncertainty of each and every moment – which, for some viewers, might result in the opinions that there’s not a lot actually happening. Fright fans looking for on-the-nose Paranormal Activity-like visual set-pieces could walk away underwhelmed, as the film’s climatic ”reveals” will, for some viewers, be somewhat of an unearned cop out (or, worse yet, overly obvious). However, that doesn’t mean that the film fails to present plenty of tense, albeit grounded, moments.
Moviegoers looking for a unique horror-thriller experience, who find the “real time” premise intriguing, are likely to enjoy Silent House in spite of its flaws – since the film manages to succeed in a number of its lofty ambitions. Unfortunately, the fundamental structure of the movie prevents the experience from doing anything more than immersing an audience in the moment to moment situation – leaving the characters and over-arching storyline struggling to gain traction or lay a workable foundation for the film’s finale.
Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.