Theatrical Releases This Week
The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (Synopsis by Lionsgate)
What can you say about a film that is predicted as the hit of this week and possibly of the year? Early reviews are universally positive. The film has the rare combination of intelligent action and taut drama. With strong source material and compelling characters it should be hard to screw it up. Fans of “The Hunger Games” should check out the 2000 film “Battle Royale” and the Stephen King novel “The Long Walk.”
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
When Britain’s leading fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help realize a sheikh’s (Amr Waked) vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert, he immediately thinks the project is both absurd and unachievable. But when the Prime Minister’s overzealous press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) latches on to it as a “good will” story, this unlikely team will put it all on the line and embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible. (Synopsis by CBS Films)
Despite having two fantastic lead actors, this film stoops to the most overly sweet, blasé romantic-comedy cliches. While there is certainly an audience for this type of dribble, most of us will utter a small sigh and turn to something more worthy of our time.
Director: Andrew Erwin (II) and Jon Erwin
As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before her first lines, she collapses. Countless medical tests all point to one underlying factor: Hannah’s difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to discovering that she was actually adopted…after a failed abortion attempt. Bewildered, angered and confused, Hannah embarks on a journey with Jason, her oldest friend. In the midst of her incredible journey to discover her hidden past and find hope for her unknown future, Hannah sees that life can be so much more than what you have planned. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
Hannah states in the trailer that “This is my story. And it’s not what you think.” Actually, it is exactly what we think. Apolitical posturing wrapped up in a soppy mess of self-discovery film-making. Playing off the lowest common denominator of emotions when dealing with a serious issue only glosses over the deeper, fundamental problems. While it is cute to put this kind of veneer on the issue, it really only succeeds in deepening the cultural divides that are preventing actual change from occurring. Then again, fixing the adoption and foster care systems do not make for enjoyable films.
Director: Agnieszka Holland
From acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland, In Darkness is based on a true story. Leopold Socha, a sewer worker and petty thief in Lvov, a Nazi occupied city in Poland, one day encounters a group of Jews trying to escape the liquidation of the ghetto. He hides them for money in the labyrinth of the town’s sewers beneath the bustling activity of the city above. What starts out as a straightforward and cynical business arrangement turns into something very unexpected, the unlikely alliance between Socha and the Jews as the enterprise seeps deeper into Socha’s conscience. The film is also an extraordinary story of survival as these men, women and children all try to outwit certain death during 14 months of ever increasing and intense danger. (Synopsis by Sony Pictures Classics)
A difficult film to watch in the vein of “The Boy with The Striped Pajamas,” it is a movie that delves deep both literally and figuratively. Both a long and difficult film, it is worth exploring at least once. While the genre is starting to wear thin, the weight of the historical reality still provides the tension needed.
DVD Releases This Week
Director: James Bobin
On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. (Synopsis by Walt Disney)
A pure slice of nostalgia that works solely in that context. Viewing this film about a month after it came out, in a mostly empty theater; the girlfriend and I were amused by the parents behind us trying to explain this film to their son. What works for the generation that grew up with Kermit, might be lost on the younger ones. That being said, it is an awful lot of fun and really clever at times.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Director: David Fincher
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first film in Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy. Directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, the film is based on the first novel in the trilogy, which altogether have sold 50 million copies in 46 countries and become a worldwide phenomenon. (Synopsis by Sony)
It is worth seeing if you never watched the original Swedish version. The flaws are most visible in comparison, but even standing alone it is largely a bland adaptation. Fincher’s version is most disappointing in that expectations are so much higher for his work.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Based on the classic novel of the same name, the international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government, which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. (Synopsis by Focus Features)
Previously reviewed by The Dagger.
Director: David Gordon Green
When the world’s most irresponsible babysitter takes three of the world’s worst kids on an unforgettable overnight adventure through the streets of New York City, it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to make it home in one piece. The Sitter is a new level of twisted and debauched hilarity from the director of Pineapple Express, starring Jonah Hill. (Synopsis by the Official Site)
Set your expectations extremely low and you might get through this. Not “Jack and Jill” bad, but still pretty terrible. Not only does it mistake being offensive for being funny, it is simply a mad lib of a dramatic-comedy. Not worth your time.