My Week: March 24, '12

Attack the Block - Joe Cornish, 2011
"This ain't got nothing to do with gangs, or drugs, or rap music, or violence in video games!" The weakly justified plot hole of a premise makes for a unique alien invasion flick with an unlikely team of protagonists and self-assurance to spare, though I can't say it ever absorbed me beyond the level of an '80s camp-fest on super-crack. There's a moment when lead actor John Boyega hypothesizes the aliens are government constructs designed to kill blacks, thereby speeding up the process of the government's drug and gun conspiracies... now that's a more compelling (and poignant) adversarial concept. As it stands "Attack the Block" is a sufficient dose of entertainment significantly superior to the lukewarm state of the contemporary blockbuster, so I'll give credit where credit's due. Excellent slo-mo finale, too.

Further first-time viewings:

The Hunger Games - Gary Ross, 2012
What is the idea of tentpole franchises doing to Hollywood? For example, there may yet be hope for "The Avengers", though last year saw Marvel churning out not one but two vanilla offerings with the key interest of keeping mainstream audiences whetted while avoiding the alienation of a core fanbase as opposed to delivering actually great products. These films lack what we most admire in cinema - risk. We gravitate toward risk, and with the right talent that risk can pay off in a win/win scenario for both us and the studio. The first major event picture of 2012 was crafted from the start to be a tentpole, and thusly does it suffer. It is obligatorily drawn out, politically correct to detrimental ends and habitually rather goofy. I'm sure there's a great movie in the material, but this missed opportunity isn't it, which makes me wonder why it is so apparently difficult to get right. Hollywood is neutered. I can say this, at least - flaws and all the film does offer a full, if not engrossing journey driven by character, albeit straight down the middle of the road. For better or for worse "The Hunger Games" brings more to the table than mere fleeting diversion. Read the full review at Icon Magazine.

Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale) - Kinji Fukasaku, 2000
A crude onslaught of kill sequences amongst characters hardly developed by default simply for the fact that there are far too many of them. Frequent melodrama fails to lift it all any level above flat-out boring, particularly since that isolated aspect itself fails to breach the level of even the cheapest J-inspired dating game. Political metaphor? Easy thrills? Neither are to be found, says I, unless you really get off on seeing what high school social dynamics could be like were the phrase, "I'm going to kill you!" taken literally. It's been done better (fewer characters - or at least less reliance on sympathizing with them as individuals - being a key), and it will be done better again.

Total: 3

Episodic Television (2): Parks & Recreation (End of the World - Lucky); Louie (Pilot - Dogpound)
- Louis C.K.'s on-screen vision of himself is compellingly unique in that it is as relatable as any successful comedian would want as much to be, but in what is about the practical opposite of self-deprecation, C.K. often overtly acknowledges his general intellectual superiority and enviable fame. More importantly, with his show as with his stand-up he is unflinching in throwing his audience in uncomfortable and even scary situations for the sake of unveiling - or in certain cases, justifying - much of modern Western living's preposterousness and short-sightedness.

Episodic Television Rewatches (1): Parks & Recreation (Rock Show - The Camel; Li'l Sebastian; Citizen Knope; Lucky)

Video Games (2): Burrito Bison Revenge; Kirby's Adventure
- "Burrito Bison Revenge" is almost annoyingly addictive. I've poured far too many hours in to missions and upgrades for a flash game that involves mere clicks to control. The colorful irreverence that is a man-bison luchador-crushing seething throngs of gummi bears and bashing through walls to retain his Bad Mother Fucker wallet has been, however, too captivating to put down. So far I've completed 90 of 120 missions with high scores of $72,183 earned, 43,145m traveled and 393 smashed.


  1. Attack the Block I found to be somewhat fun, but I'm hard pressed to remember anything about the movie now only a couple months after watching it.

    The Hunger Games - I just finished reading the book a few days ago and watched the movie immediately afterwards. I had been holding off on reading the book for a long time because after hearing the premise, I was confused as to why the government would think setting up games like this would be a good idea, and also because I could not think of a ending that could possibly be satisfactory. After reading the book and watching the movie, I think my initial impressions were extremely valid.

    Still, I liked the book quite a bit. The pages starting from when Katniss is put into the arena, to the moment that a particular rule change is announced is extremely engrossing, and my jaw literally dropped at that moment in the book. The movie took these pages which consumed a third of the book and reduced it to roughly twenty minutes, instead shifting the focus from Katniss and allowing us to see what the gamemakers and Woody Harrelson were doing outside the arena.

    I think this is the biggest flaw in the movie. That we don't feel the loneliness and hopelessness that Katniss feels because we are constantly being pulled away as the filmmakers focus on other characters.

    The second biggest flaw in my eyes is the way the action scenes were filmed. Instead of filming a decent action scene, the camera is shaken back and forth and we get lots of quick cuts to simulate action. It's ridiculous. I hate this strategy in filmmaking, as it just makes everything a blur of nothing. I might as well be watching the movie in fastforward.

    As for your comments about it being set up as a tentpole for a new franchise, I understand where you're coming from. The filmmakers seemed to focus more on setting up this world than in telling us what I thought was a very personal story. It was set up as an EPIC TRILOGY, when the source material would have been better served as a low budget story of survival.

    I'm not sure what they are thinking when they are setting this up as a franchise anyways. I have not read the rest of the series yet, but from what I've heard the next book is significantly different, and the one after it is not even very good. So are they planning all this setup and hype just to get good returns off Catching Fire? Doesn't make much sense to me.

  2. I absolutely agree. And I actually am curious about the books now, because I'm quite enticed by the premise... but you're right, the reasoning behind the games is not well-established (same goes for many other aspects of the story... you pretty much have to have read the book to get it all, like why there are different districts and why there are computer-generated pig-dogs, etc.) and the ending is indeed unsatisfactory - a cop-out, really.

    I've heard what the premises for Catching Fire and the next book are, and they're quite intriguing... so I'm still on board to see where the franchise goes, but it's off to a VERY soft start.


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