Thursday, 16 August 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES (now on Blu-Ray and DVD from Alliance Films) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Yes, this is now out on Blu-Ray and guess what? It still stinks!

The Hunger Games
(2012) dir. Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland

Review By
Greg Klymkiw

"What the fuck!" bellowed an angry sweet-faced teen as she and her girlfriends stood outside of the theatre playing The Hunger Games. "That was such a piece of shit. I didn't wanna see some bullshit PG-13 version. I wanted to see way more killing." Other than her proclivity for sadistic violence and the litany of sailor-worthy epithets barfing out of her gullet, you'd think, just looking at her, that she was a simple girl next door in Bible Belt Country. In most respects, she was, no doubt a genteel young miss. And importantly, she was right about two things. The movie was indeed a "piece of shit" and the violence - given the subject matter, proved to be all sizzle and no steak.

That this extra-long episode of Hannah Montana with killing is now out on Blu-Ray, I did so choose, like Our Lord, to sacrifice myself for the sins incurred by those who love the movie. I nailed my feet to the floor and watched it again.

I am now happy to report that The Hunger Games is no worse than it was on the big screen.

Based on the first of a trilogy of bestsellers by Suzanne Collins (I skimmed the first novel, but never bothered with the others), this might well have made for a decent picture if it had veered towards Norman Jewison's Rollerball and mated with Kinji Fukasaku's aforementioned Battle Royale - the cool dystopian future vision of the former and the utterly insane ultra violence of the latter.

Alas, even with the dreadful Hunger Games script (co-written by its original author Collins), a watchable movie would have required something resembling a director which, helmer Gary Ross clearly is not.

There is not, of course, a soul on the planet who is unaware what The Hunger Games is about. This teen-friendly miasma of fetid science fiction cliches is set after an apocalypse wherein the world has been rebuilt as The Capitol, a right-wing city state with a bunch of satellite districts representing the working class. Two kids from every district are selected by lottery to engage in too-the-death combat games which are broadcast live to all.

Clumsily, we are forced to follow the idiotically named couple Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the mining district as they wend their way through the proceedings, presumably fall in love and leave an open door for the sequel since they have displeased the government and Katniss has betrayed Gale (Hemsworth), her love interest from before the games began. Great! We'll enjoy a Twilight-like love triangle for two more miserable movies.

Gary Ross really can't direct.

He's written a few decent screenplays in his time - notably Big, Dave and The Tales of Despereaux - but his directorial output to date includes the lame attempt at quirky mainstream psuedo-post-modernism Pleasantville and the horrendous biopic of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit (which made me long for the 1949 Shirley Temple and Barry Fitzgerald weepie The Story of Seabiscuit).

With The Hunger Games, Ross reaches his filmmaking nadir. He's yet another director who has absolutely no idea how to direct suspense and action. Full of annoying shaky-cam and endless, cheap-jack quick cuts, he's all bluster. He has no idea of spatial geography, the camera placements are, dramatically, a mess and there is nary a genuinely thrilling moment in the entire movie.

For screen violence to really work - for it to have the power to alternately tantalize and sicken, a director needs to have a combination of craft and style. Ross has neither. Sam Peckinpah, for example, often shot his violence with a myriad of shots and numerous quick cuts, but the shots were exquisitely lit and/or composed and every single cut was like a dramatic beat - moving the film forward in terms of pace, but also conveying vital visual story information. The Hunger Games is edited in today's typical Attention Deficit Disorder style with a cornucopia of ugly shots.

Adding to the film's ineptitude is a lumbering 142-minute running time which inspired me to yearn, in vain, for the 80-90 minute length of Roger Corman New World pictures that were oft-blessed with crisp, stylish, humour-infused direction.

Neither Ross nor author Collins have anything resembling a sense of humour, but luckily, a couple of great supporting actors livened things up just in the nick of time. Stanley Tucci as the host of the broadcast and Woody Harrelson as a hunger game mentor, both serve up more than a few laughs (plus really bad haircuts) whilst Donald Sutherland in a small role as the Capitol's head-honcho is deliciously chilling and as such, comes closest to capturing what the movie might have been if the rest of it had actually been directed.

Our two leads have both acquitted themselves superbly in other movies - Lawrence in Winter's Bone and Hutcherson in Journey to the Centre of the Earth and its sequel Journey 2 The Mysterious Island. While they're both attractive here, our ability to feel anything at all for either character has more to do with their commanding screen presence as opposed to any of the lame dialogue forced into their memory banks and out of their mouths and the garbled action gymnastics they're put through by the woefully incompetent camera jockey Ross.

Nothing one says or does will stop the Hunger Games juggernaut. It's going to make a few thousand times as much as the GNP of all the Third World nations put together. This, sadly, has a lot to do with the genuinely brilliant marketing coupled with the increasingly susceptibility of younger audiences to outright crap.

Like the moronic Twilight films (save for the first half of the decently directed first instalment), Hunger Games is another example of how young audiences, so desperate to follow the Pied Piper of the current cultural dystopia plaguing our world, will happily, greedily, moronically and voraciously scarf down whatever buckets of excrement are placed before them.

They don't even need a spoon to scoop the fecal matter into their mouths. They bury their faces deep into the waste matter. Like pigs at a trough - bulking up for slaughter

"Hunger Games" is now on Blu-Ray and DVD via Alliance Films.

If you really feel you must own this abomination, feel free to order from the Amazon links below and support the maintenance of this site.

There's really no reason to present a Hunger Games clip here, so instead I'm presenting clips from much better movies with a similar theme.

Norman Jewison's Rollerball trailer:

Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale trailer: