I love that it starts without the traditional scrolling text. This Star Wars story is more urgent, less epic–but not less significant!
I love that the first visual we get is disorienting, planet rings from below half-blocked by the planet’s shadow, and you’re not sure what you’re even looking at until it changes perspective and now we see, ah, there’s the planet, and now the rings and the shadow make sense. Because this film’s story is looking at a series we’re familiar with, but from a very different perspective than we’ve seen before. The other side of the rings!
There’s really not much doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Catching Fire is a fantastic film, (it was the highest grossing film of 2013), but did you notice the knitwear theme to Katniss’ wardrobe? The first time I watched the movie I was sitting next to my friend and fellow yarn-enthusiast bowrene (check out her etsy shop) and she kept hitting me in the arm whenever a new bit of yarn-crafted clothing showed up on screen, whispering things like “look at that cowl!”, “that sweater is gorgeous!” and “this movie is ruining my life!” Tumblr user feminerds posted a collection of pictures of the knitwear from Katniss’ wardrobe in Catching Fire and captioned it with the brilliant pun “Katknits,” a term I am intensely jealous not to have thought of first.
Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image. Continue reading →
I was finally able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for a second time, and I have to admit it was better watching it again. Whether that was because I knew what would happen so the disappointment/annoyance wasn’t fresh, or I was able to focus on the elements that I did enjoy since I’d already cataloged the things I didn’t like, I don’t know. And I did notice a few new things that I didn’t like. But I don’t want to let my first reaction to the movie be my last post about it, because I neglected to include any of the things that I did like about the film in that post, and there were some really great moments.
I still think the movie is way too long, and there are inclusions that I will never understand–like, do we really need so many lingering shots of the giant bumblebees at Beorn’s house? And how are the orcs so fast they can keep up with and at times run ahead of the dwarves, who are traveling at the speed of the rushing river? (And how is there a seemingly never-ending supply of orcs anyway?)
Thranduil is PERFECT, though. He might be my favorite thing about this movie. I know I already said that but it was just doubly reinforced watching his scenes a second time. He’s majestic and petty and knowledgeable but sassy and selfish and beautiful.
When you read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, did you think, “yeah this is a great story and all, but my favorite things are the character and place names! Everything else could be changed,”? If so, then Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the movie for you!
I suppose that summation may be a little overly harsh. But for the last two weeks I’ve been feeling guilty about deciding I wasn’t going to be able to do a whole spectacular costume and line party like I did last year for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and as I sat in the theater last night I kept thinking wow, I’m glad I didn’t go all out for this one, because it would have been an embarrassing waste of time and energy and made the film an even more bitter disappointment. After the first Hobbit film came out I said I would reserve judgment on splitting the 300-page book into three extra-long films until I’d seen them all, but that’s no longer necessary. I can definitively state that it was a bad decision, and no matter how glorious the final installment may end up being, this middle movie, in which no substantial plot progress is made and there are no character arcs, should never have been made.
Biblo is terrified the movie will end before he gets substantial character development.
So I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends. I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late. It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.
The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort. (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)
We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia. Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health. When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15). Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor. The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost. (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too). It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was. I think it’s totally marketable.
This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game’s. The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.
Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to “death” they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.
Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere. Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.
I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical. It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote. The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius! And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)
They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard). When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin! I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard? To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way. Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular. Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked. Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.
So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:
Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too. Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film. It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach. I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV? (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell). Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?
But really, almost everything was perfect. Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely! Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice! Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak! Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale. Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great. The whole thing was just spot-on! Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this. (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).
I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again. But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s only a few weeks away!
I have become so disillusioned with this series. I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.
Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation. Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!” Like, look at this poster:
Really, guys? Really?
This poster makes me absolutely rage. WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!! And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else? (Hint: nothing). Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”
So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:
Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four. His American accent is not consistent. Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP! Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless. I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.
OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer. Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.
If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it. Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer? What did you think of it?
A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past. The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer. It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song. Compare:
I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic. What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?
With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing. I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything. For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears. I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar. Watch the trailer for yourself:
Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four. And it’s totally apparent in this trailer. In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:
Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.
I am not okay with this. I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16. If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris. I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl. I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.
Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up. I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session. But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!” It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.
Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides? Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity? Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon? (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink. Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art. And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?
Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.
Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).
I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book. I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting. When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.
In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is. As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops. I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.” I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues. I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.” I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme. I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely. I felt I could relate to that, too.
I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED. Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well. But that’s not what the story is about. At least not to me.
The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration. But Four is too old. Tris is too defiant. (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).
Ugh. I don’t know. Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days. What do you think?
I saw Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring last night, and I loved it. It captures a based-on-real-events drama that, in the director’s words, “is so contemporary, it’s really a story that could only happen today.”
I thought it was both funny and a sad a cultural condemnation, but only because it so brazenly exposed the obsession with superficial values that most of us are implicit in encouraging. .
What I loved most were the insights through the little things; details like ringleader Rebecca wobbling in her heels when she’s walking away from casually robbing unlocked cars on the street. And the collage of celebrity pictures cut from magazines that were plastered all over a wall in her room.
I did think it was a little strange (or maybe sad is a better word) that the kids kept referring to gossip blog dlisted.com to find out when celebrities were out of town; I mean, I find it sad that they could be avid readers of dlisted.com, which is written with a very snarky tone towards celebrities, continually mocking them, and not have that attitude alter their idolization of the stars. Are they just too dumb to realize it’s negative attention, or do they crave and envy the attention to so much they don’t care? I suspect it’s some of both. After all, their idol Paris Hilton’s house is decorated seemingly entirely with pictures of herself. And when they go out clubbing, they seemed only interested in posing for selfie after selfie. I wish I had been keeping a tally of how many pictures they took of themselves.
Nicki complains that Marc is “stressing me out” when he’s worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news. Because none of them seem capable of processing how their actions might affect anyone else or their own futures, and nothing is more important in this moment than that Nicki not feel the burden of stress.
I laughed at lot throughout the movie, mainly at vapid or unbelievably self-centered dialogue from Emma Watson’s character Nicki. The actress has talked about how she prepared for the accent partly by watching hours of reality television, and I noticed an awful lot of vocal fry in her lines, which is totally on-point. I thought she pretty much nailed the accent, except in some of the scenes when she was speaking very quietly her natural accent peeked through a little bit. Like when her mom asks if she got a new dress at the dinner table and she makes up an answer to cover for the fact that it’s stolen, she drops the -r in “my manager”. But overall she was very good. My favorite lines by her included “Your butt looks awesome,” “Let’s go to Paris’s, I wanna rob,” “You’re stressing me out”, and everything in her statement to the press outside the courtroom (“I wanna lead a country one day for all I know”) and in her Vanity Fair interview scene, (“Mom! Shut up! It’s MY interview!”)
But despite all that laughter, I also found much of the film to be incredibly sad, like Marc confessing his constant worry that he wasn’t attractive enough to be liked. “I know I’m not ugly but I never saw myself as an A-list-looking guy.” I just wanted to tell him “oh, honey, almost nobody has genes that good, don’t make that the standard you compare yourself to!” It’s the same heartache from chasing unattainable body-image standards that so many young girls feel trying to look like the photoshopped-into-impossibilities images in magazines.
And in the scene where they break into Lindsey Lohan’s house, and the camera lingers on Rebecca spritzing herself with LiLo’s perfume and admiring herself in the star’s mirror while her eyes fill with tears and Marc’s voice-over states that this was her highlight, all I could think was how utterly sad and pathetic it was that the moment that made her happiest was pretending to be somebody else. She was an amoral, selfish a-hole, but I still felt bad for her, the emptiness of her dreams, and the futility of trying to adopt an identity that isn’t yours instead of just accepting and being yourself, in that moment.
The scene where Sam flippantly handles the gun that they find under Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox’s bed made me incredibly uncomfortable, because she seems to have absolutely no concept of how dangerous it is, that the instrument she’s holding could permanently maim her friends with the slightest slip, or even kill them. And she just thinks the fact that Marc is bothered with this realization is funny. It’s a pretty perfect metaphor for the reckless behavior the Bling Ring kids exhibit throughout the film, with no thought to the possibility of consequences.
And I love that the last shot is a fresh-from-truncated-jail-sentence Nicki, on a talk show, looking straight at the camera and shamelessly self-promoting her website. She has apparently learned nothing. But hopefully the audience has.
But let’s start with the positives: the background is fantastic. A dystopic Chicago skyline, just like the American book covers have featured. I’m glad that Four is included and it isn’t just narrator Tris, the way Katniss appeared solo in EW’s first look at The Hunger Games. Thank goodness Tris isn’t portrayed wearing nail polish, because she wouldn’t. It’s good that the title word is featured boldy, and I like that the font and color remind me of the way it appears on the book cover. And the text on the left promises we’re about to get more pictures from the set, which will be great.
However. I hate the total lack of connection between Four and Tris in this pose. Did they even take this picture together, or where they photoshopped into the same frame?! They have Tris, whose casting I’m still iffy about, giving us a steely stare in an effort to convince us she’s so tough and Dauntless but they deprive us of Four’s eyes which, lets face it, is what we really want to see. And not only is he looking away from the camera, he’s looking away from Tris! There’s nothing about their body language that hints they’re going to be a couple, except the fact that they’re on a magazine cover together. This glimpse of Four is basically the same as the one other picture revealed so far, except we see a piece of his Dauntless logo back tattoo curling up around his neck on both sides instead of just one. This is the best view we’ve gotten so far of Tris’s raven tattoos, and while I think they’re okay I’m disappointed at the direction they’re flying. She gets the ravens to commemorate the family members she leaves behind when she chooses the Dauntless faction, along her collarbone because it’s close to her heart. I can’t remember if the text specifics the direction of their flight or not, but I always imagined them going towards her heart, not away from it. Flying away from her heart makes the whole thing sadder and more pessimistic, like they’re getting further away from her even as she tries to hold them close. I realize that’s an extremely nit-picky criticism, but while I’m at it, Four’s hair looks like it’s thinning on top. And speaking of hair, why does it look like Tris is wearing a wig? Was her hairline photoshopped to be a little too perfect? And I don’t like her pants. Why do movies always feel the need to make costumes different from regular clothes, when the setting doesn’t require it? I guess costume designers need something to do. But the Dauntless initiates don’t walk around with knives in their over-pocketed pants. And these pants are almost gray, but she should be wearing all black. So the shirt is the wrong color too.
In conclusion, I am a curmudgeonly old fan of the young adult genre and I will never be satisfied. Unless maybe one of the photos inside the magazine is a really awesome one of Four; then I might forget all the negatives and swoon over its perfect capturing of his good looks plus self-determined resolve plus sensitivity. No pressure, Theo James.
There are some more pictures up now on EW’s website, but I’m not really feeling any more optimistic about them. The one I’m including below has got to be the derp-iest running ever from both of them.
Furthermore, one of the scan of the inside pages of the magazine circulating on tumblr shows that EW has chosen to caption an image from the scene where Tris is molested and nearly killed as “FRENEMIES: Excelling at Dauntless training can be dangerous, as Tris learns when her fellow initiates become jealous and attack her.” As I vehemently pointed out in a post on tumblr that has over 100 notes of agreement, “frenemy” is a completely inappropriate word to use to describe a scene where three people, two of them antagonists against Tris from day one, make a pre-meditated attempt to throw her over a bridge to her death. And grope her chest while she’s dangling over the bridge. This does not fall under the definition of “frenemy.”
Worst, most tone-deaf moment in Divergent movie marketing so far.
Finally, my instinct about the direction of the bird tattoos was correct. While it’s not really a huge deal, I don’t see what they’ve gained by changing it. It had more meaning as written, and pretty much all the fanart I’ve reblogged on divergentfanart has drawn the bird tattoos flying the way they’re described in the book:
But I understand now what Tori said about her tattoos representing a fear she overcame–a reminder of where she was, as well as a reminder of where she is now. Maybe there is a way to honor my old life as I embrace my new one.
“Yes,” I say. “Three of these flying birds.”
I touche my collarbone, marking the path of their flight–toward my heart. One for each member of the family I left behind.