The Hunger Games

poster for The Hunger Games movieJacobson, Nina (producer) and Ross, Gary (director). (2012) The Hunger Games [motion picture]. USA: Lionsgate.

Plot Summary:

Film adaptation of the popular book series.

Critical Evaluation:

Creating a blockbuster film out of a novel that takes on reality tv, the commodification of violence, and consumerism, while staying true to these themes, is no small feat.  For the most part, Ross and Jacobson have managed to accomplish this seemingly impossible task.

As in the book, the actual games takes up only a fraction of the of the film; the first two acts of the movie follow Katniss’ journey from Reaping Day in the Seam to training and appearances at the Capitol – and only then finally do we arrive at the games themselves.  While it makes the film longer, those small moments, not just in Flickerman’s chair but backstage as well, are essential in turning the film into commentary like the book, rather than becoming the thing it is discussing.  The lead up to the games makes it clear that this is a show that Katniss is participating in and that we are watching the creation of the show, not the show itself.

still from The Hunger GamesThere are a few missteps (the shaky cam needs to die a horrible death and the mutts just don’t look real compared to the other dangers the teens have faced) but overall, the casting is brilliant (Lawrence, of course, but Harrelson, Stenberg, Tucci, and Kravitz as well all completely capture their character’s presence and purpose), the score is perfect (understated and haunting), and the ending is disturbing and thoughtful, not triumphant.

It’s going to be tempting for many reviewers and pundits to dismiss this film and those forthcoming as merely another Twilight, albeit perhaps a more “boy friendly” one.  I’d like to encourage anyone thinking this to go to a midnight showing when Catching Fire comes out.  If the experience is anything like when I saw The Hunger Games at midnight, what they will learn is that this series is connecting to teens in extremely profound ways and that they are not treating it as yet another movie.  The theater I was in was almost deathly quiet from the moment the Lionsgate logo appeared.  Call phones disappeared and the slightest sound was immediately shushed (aside from a few moments of laughter, surprise, and elation).  There was a tremendous amount of reverence in the air; it was clear that the silence was not just to make sure that everyone could hear, but more importantly in order to show respect to the character’s experiences and deaths – even the careers – and steadfast a refusal to allow the film to be transformed into that which it critiqued by their own applause.

Reader’s Annotation:

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Author Information:

http://www.thehungergamesmovie.com/

Genre:

movie

Booktalking Ideas:

NA

Possible Reasons for Controversy:

Many parents find it too violent and the dark subject matter will be even more inescapable and devastating on screen.
While it may, in fact, be more violent than some younger teens should see, I would like to note that, among some of my teen patrons, it seems as though their parents’ opposition to them seeing the film is part of an organized effort rather than simply an individual decision.  I don’t mean to say that this is not a grassroots movement or even that it is anything as established as that, more that the similar language I am hearing suggests not individual decisions based on private research; but that the parents are getting their information about the movie from the same or similar sources.  I think this is important to be aware of because, since the movie has increased public knowledge of the book series, challenges to the books have increased.  Not only is this likely to spill over into inclusion of the movie when it comes out on dvd, but also that challenges to one will possibly prompt challenges to each other – so the arrival of the movie in libraries may prompt challenges to the book.
Rather than simply taking each challenge on as it comes, it may be useful to identify if there are any organized groups opposing the series and create a more comprehensive rebuttal.

Reasons for Choosing This Title:

I loved the books; I had to see the movie.

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Karate Kid

poster for The Karate KidEkins, S. & Han, S. (Producer), & Zwart, H. (Director).  (2010).  The Karate Kid [Motion picture].  United States: Columbia Pictures

Review:

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker is moving.  Not across town, or to another state.  No, his mother is moving the two of them all the way to China.  Which means he not only has to deal with being the new kid at school, but he also doesn’t know the language, customs, or even how to turn the hot water on in the shower.

As is often the case in such stories, Dre also quickly runs afoul of the local bullies.  Only, these bullies are no ordinary bullies; these bullies are champions at karate. With the help of Mr. Han, an eccentric handyman, Dre find himself training for the biggest karate tournament of the year in an effort to beat his bullies and win the admiration of the cutest girl in school.

As someone who grew up with the original The Karate Kid, I have to say this is a truly awesome movie.  Needless to say, Jackie Chan as Mr. Han (counterpart to Mr. Miyagi) is both inspired and perfect.  Not only do the fight sequences show his trademark skills and humor but he also brings to the role a depth that wasn’t in the original.  Jaden Smith does seem a little young to be training quite so hard, but his age fits the earnestness of the role well and makes the actions of his peers – from the bullying to his love interest’s lack of power – much more believable and a little less camp.

Personally, the two things I loved most about the remake was that it highlighted karate as a skill that takes training and practice and set the story in a place where karate is regarded as a respected tradition and not simply a new, cool fad.  Together, these two things did a lot to mitigate the appropriation found in the original.

This is a great movie for tweens and I think it would be really fun to screen both versions at the library and see what kids think of both.  I have a feeling it would spark all kinds of interesting discussions.

Best for ages 8-14

 

Official Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/thekaratekid/

Hoot

cover image for Hoot dvd

Buffet, J. (Producer), & Shriner, W. (Director).  (2006) Hoot [Motion Picture]. United States: New Line Cinema.

Review:

I’m going to skip the recap, because the movie follows the book fairly closely.

Hoot is nice, solid, book to movie translation.  Some of the details had to be left out in order to get the movie to fit into the required running time, but the only time that mattered all that much was at the beginning, which seemed rushed and choppy in places.  Other than that, the story flowed smoothly and captured much of the spirit of the book.  Two things that were extra nice about the film were the casting of Like Wilson as officer David Delinko and the ability to do nice, sweeping shots of the natural landscapes in Florida.  The former gave his character – who was pretty much just a bumbler in the book – some much needed sympathy and the latter helped drive home the larger issues at stake within the story.

Like the book, Hoot has just the right blend of suspense and humor to appeal to tweens.  It also touches on many themes – such as dealing with transitions and finding one’s voice – that are especially relevant to them.

Best for ages 8-13

A Walk to Remember

cover image for A Walk to Remember dvdShankman, A. (Director).  (2002).  A Walk to Remember [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.

[must find something good to say…can’t make the review all negative… must find something good to say…ummm…Shane West is very pretty?]

Jamie Sullivan is sweet and caring – and the odd girl out at school.  Landon Carter is popular and charming (when he bothers to be) – but he’s hardly the boy to take home to your parents.  Especially if you’re the minister’s daughter.  So what happens when the two of them are thrown together for a community service project?

To be perfectly honest, I would have loved this movie when I was about 13.  Not only is it chock full of drama! tragedy! true love! sacrifice! and just about everything else that made me all swoony as a tween (yes, including pretty boys) but Jamie is a complete dweeb.  The only thing that would have made my inner 13 year old love her more is if she had been a geek as well.  And slightly less perfect.  And for Landon to have been a bit more scruffy in his bad boy stage.

As it is, I am no longer 13, and at the moment my noggin is aching from all the head-desking I was doing over the idea of a movie that is all about the importance of love and chastity and long term monogamy – and yet fails to show a single marriage that doesn’t end in divorce or is cut short – really short – by death.  Also, the whole “bad boy made good through the love of a decent woman” left my eyes strained from all the rolling they did.

This isn’t a completely awful movie for teens, and it’s one that few parents would object to and many tween girls would love.   There were even a few moments that made me go “awww” (Landon saving the day in the lunch room and Jamie making him promise not to fall in love with her among them).  However, it’s not a good movie either.  It’s the kind I’d make sure I had in my collection – resources allowing – but not really one I would talk up, except maybe to convince fans of the movie to try reading the book it’s based on.

Best for ages: 11-15

Avalon High

Gillard, S. (Director). (2010) Avalon High.  [Motion Picture].  USA:  Jaffe Braunstein Films

Review:

Allie Pennington is the new kid at Avalon High.  Being the new kid is nothing special for Allie, but Avalon High isn’t going to be quite like any of her other schools.   For starters, she might actually get to stay in her new digs long enough to not only try out for the track team but also stay for the length of the season.  Then there’s the Miles, the kid that seems to know what’s going to happen before it does.  To top it all off, listening to her parents go on about the legends King Arthur (their specialty) must be messing with her brain, because suddenly Avalon High is starting to look a lot like Camelot.

You can tell this is a movie for tweens and not teens simply because all the teenagers (minus the villain) are far too happy and nice to be real.  Like the Camelot itself, and Disney Channel’s other recent tween movies, Avalon High presents a very idealized version of high school and teen relationships.   Despite the twist at the end, everything in the movie is pretty black and white; there isn’t a whole lot of nuance.  The book it’s based on was not one of Cabot’s deeper stories, so it’s no surprise that the movie is a bit shallow.  However, it’s still fairly entertaining and might prompt interest in some of the more classic and complicated King Arthur tales.

Official Website: http://tv.disney.go.com/disneychannel/originalmovies/avalonhigh/