I first heard about The Hunger Games when I was looking for a book to buy my niece.  I ended up getting her Judy Blume books and eventually buying The Hunger Games for myself. I loved the book and quickly bought and read the next two in the series of dark and complicated young adult fiction

Like all fans, I was concerned when I heard the book about a future totalitarian United States split into 12 districts that every year must each send a boy and girl to fight to the death in a gladiator version of American Idol, would be made into a movie.

The Hunger Games movie is a necessarily stripped down version of the book. At two hours and twenty-two minutes it certainly couldn’t be considered short, yet I wanted more. What is captured on screen works. It’s what is left out that lessened the emotional impact of the film and makes reading the books a much deeper experience. The importance of Katniss’s relationship with her father, his death in a mine explosion and her mother’s subsequent breakdown is barely alluded to. Moviegoers who have not read the books will not get the deep connection between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who is barely seen. The significance of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss facing off each other in the games is not revealed until well into the film, which minimizes the tension between the two. A full scene with the prep team as they serve as an introduction for Katniss to the world of the capitol also would have added some texture. Continue reading »

the brooklyn mouth had a chance to catch up with refreshing young actress Brooke Bundy who plays Octavia, a member of Katniss Everdeen’s prep team in The Hunger Games. The northern California native and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts shares her views on acting and how ingenuity and taking initiative led to her first professional on screen role in one of the most anticipated films of the year.

Bundy is a member of Bats the resident acting company of downtown New York theater The Flea and produces a monthly variety show, The Witching Hour at Jimmy’s 43 in the East Village.

Riding in an elevator is a genuine phobia for some and getting stuck in one isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Now, imagine not only are you trapped in an elevator with four other people but one of them is also a cold-blooded killer who is picking the rest of you off one by one. That’s the simple “and then there were none” setup of the movie, Devil. M. Night Shyamalan wrote this low-budget, limited location supernatural thriller set in Philadelphia, although the setting hardly matters. I’m not a big fan of Shyamalan’s work who is a far better showman than he is a writer/director and who for years has been riding on the success of his one stroke of brilliance, The Sixth Sense.

The stripped down to the basics Devil though is a made to order rental meant to be watched in the comfort of your home with a bowl of popcorn. Chris Messina, still memorable from his turn as Claire’s mainstream lawyer boyfriend on Six Feet Under, is Detective Bowden who in the course of investigating a suicide in the area is called to the scene when things start to get out of hand. Continue reading »

Big surprise, Meryl Streep delivers another of her spot on performances as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Seriously, by this point audiences know Streep will bring it. Unfortunately, The Iron Lady does not even come close to equaling the level of her work.

The structure of the film is disjointed and just plain annoying. The story jumps back and forth between the present day Thatcher who suffers from dementia and snippets of her as a young woman on the rise and as the first female Prime Minister of England. Thatcher’s condition was brought on by a series of strokes, a fact that I had to look up because the filmmakers assume we know all the details of Thatcher’s life. As a result, the audience gets only a surface look at this fascinating political and historical figure. The constant switching back and forth means that as soon as we get caught up in and invested in what’s going on, the timeline switches to the modern day Thatcher who roams around her house speaking to her dead husband. Continue reading »

The beginning of War Horse consists of sweeping vistas of the English countryside accompanied by uplifting music to underscore “we shall overcome” moments designed to make the audience cry as Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) bonds with his horse, Joey while training him.

Albert’s father, Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) a stubborn drunk sets out to buy a workhorse to plow the fields but instead ends up overbidding for a beautiful yet impractical thoroughbred he can’t afford. Emily Watson is the matriarch, Rose who doesn’t approve of her husband’s actions but remains loyal to him. Ted’s irresponsible impulse leaves the family on the verge of losing their home and livelihood. Up to this point, the film is beautifully shot, well acted and entirely predictable.

It isn’t until World War I erupts that the story takes off and starts feeling more real and less manipulative. Ted sells the horse to the cavalry and the rest of the story follows Joey and the numerous people who come in contact with him throughout the war. The film comes to life as Joey affects individuals from disparate backgrounds and both sides of the conflict to lend a human face to war. Joey’s encounters illustrate what we already know; war is brutal, random and leaves no one untouched. Continue reading »

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