Feb 212012
 

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 374

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc

Release Date: 9/14/2008

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian Future, Teen

Characters:

Katniss Everdeen-  16 years old and  lives in District 12 in a future North America, Panem. She helps her family and community to survive harsh times by hunting in forbidden areas using her skill with the bow.

Peeta Mellark- 16  years old, and more well of than others in District 12 because his parents are bakers.  He is an artist and is skilled at decorating cakes.

Gale Hawthorne-18 years old is another District 12 hunter and he and Katniss have undefined feelings for each other.

Haymitch Abernathy- Former District 12 champion of the Hunger Games.  He becomes a mentor to Katniss and Peeta despite him being a very large fan of drinking large quantities of alcohol.

Prim Everdeen- Katniss’ younger sister.

Rue- 12 year old girl and tribute from District 11, and she reminds Katniss of Prim.

Cato, Clove and Thresh- Trained from a young age to compete in the Hunger Games.  They are ruthless and band together to have a great advantage over less organized competitors.

Synopsis: In the semi-distant future all that remains of North America is Panem, consisting of the Capitol, and 12 areas called Districts.  The Capitol has a very high technology but forces the other districts to live in poverty and sacrifice the resources they produce so the citizens of the Capitol can stay fat and happy.  Each district must even sacrifice two of their children to fight to the death against children from the other districts in a gladiatorial battle called The Hunger Games.  Katniss Everdeen lives in the coal producing district, District 12,  with her mother and sister, Prim.  She learned basic folk healing skills from her mother and hunting skills from her father before he died.  She is able to provide extra food for her family by hunting game outside of the barrier fence and sells or trades extra food with the community.

When the yearly lottery is held to pick the 74th Hunger Game competitors for District 12, sadly Katniss’ sister, Prim, is picked to compete.  Unselfishly, Katniss takes Prim’s place.  Along with Peeta ,the baker’s son  and Haymitch, the town drunk and winner of a previous Hunger Game, are sent to the Capitol to prepare for battle.  Haymitch is designated at their mentor.  The cruel Capitol states that their can only be one winner, so Katniss and Peeta must fight to the death even though Peeta has convinced the public that he and Katniss are in love.

Since the story has some twists and turns, I will not go any further and spoil the ending, but suffice to say, Katniss must use all of her skills and intelligence to try to win the game and at the same time retain her humanity.

Pro: I really didn’t know much about this series when I picked it up earlier this year, but I had heard that it was similar to the novel Battle Royale. That intrigued me since I liked the idea of gladiatorial battles for survival in novels but the fact that it was for younger audiences made me wary.  The Hunger Games ended up being a pleasant surprise for me.

  • I like some of the future technology like some of the genetically altered birds and some of the things later in the novel.
  • The relationship between Katniss and Prim is very touching and believable.
  • I really liked the audition scene where Katniss really shows her abilities and her spunk.

 Con: There wasn’t much lacking in the novel considering that it is written for a younger audience, the language isn’t very complex and the themes are kept at a simple level.  I am left with some general questions though;

  • I really never got a good grasp of the size of Panem.  At times it seems small, but others pretty large.  I know that it is the remnants of the whole United States and some of Canada, but it seems like District 12 only has one town even thought it supplies all of the coal for Panem.
  • I would also like to know more about the history of the games and if the rules were always very strictly followed or if they could be changed depending on public sentiment.

Conclusion: I read this book very quickly and then went out and bought the two sequels because I enjoyed it so much and needed to find out how it ends!  I almost wish I had known ahead of time and bought all of the books together in a pack, but then I would have had to wait longer.  I highly recommend it and also am looking forward to what they do with it in as a film in 2012.

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 3
Plot 3
Imagery 3
Read Again? 4
Average 3.25
Feb 172012
 

Director:  Corey Yuen

Rating:  PG-13

Running Time: 1hr 27 minutes

Release Date: 9/7/2006

Genre:  Action Adventure, Video Game, Martial Arts, Fighting

Cast:  : Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly), Christie Allen (Holly Valance), Kasumi (Devon Aoki), Ayane (Natassia Malthe) and Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter).

Synopsis: The movie,  DOA: Dead or Alive  is based on the best selling video game of the same name.  The plot is similar to other movies based on fighting games, like Mortal Kombat or Tekken.  The best fighters from around the world are picked to go to a remote location to fight to see who is the top fighter, but his movie is slightly different because the protagonists are all very good looking women.  So instead of only having slow motion shots of people punching and kicking, there are many slow motion shots of scantily clad ladies playing volleyball and sunning themselves on yachts.

Review: I wasn’t expecting much when I started watching DOA, but the story flowed smoothly and  there were some entertaining fight scenes.  One of the best fight’s takes place in the beginning during the introduction of Christie (Holly Vance).   She is suspected diamond theif and the police have tracked her to a Hong Kong hotel room and as she is coming out of the shower, they barge into the room and a huge fight ensues.  I’m pretty sure the director used a liberal amount of  CGI to prevent the censers from giving the movie higher than a PG-13 rating.

Since I have been accused of having nerd-like tendencies in the past, it was nice to see that the computer nerd character, Weatherby fall in love with the good looking fighter, Helena (Sarah Carter). and that he was really weak compared to her.   The movie also passes the Bechdel test in that; there are at least two named female characters, who talk to each other about something other than a man,but it probably doesn’t meet the spirit of that test.

Rarely does the movie make the viewer forget that it is just a typical video game fight with the same cliche characters but with female leads, but it was still entertaining and seemed to surpass movies like Mortal Kombat in that it has better special effects and doesn’t stray as far away from the games plotline.  In the end it is a light hearted movie with good looking women and men fighting each other, what could be better?

 

 

 

 


Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 2
Story 2
Special Effects 4
Would Watch Again? 4
Average  3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 162012
 

Director: Scott Charles Stewart

Rating:  PG-13

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Release Date: 5/13/2011

Genre: Horror, Action, Aventure

Cast: Priest (Paul Bettony), Hicks (Cam Gigandet), Priestess (Maggie Q), Black Hat (Karl Urban), Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer),  Salesman(Brad Dourif), Monsignor Chamberlain (Alan Dale), Lucy Pace (Lily Collins) and  Shannon Pace (Madchen Amick)

 

In an alternate far flung future, humanity has defeated the vampire menace and locked the survivors up in underground reservations.  Only with the help of a greatly changed Catholic church and their genetically modified “Priests” was humanity able to accomplish their victory.   It appears that the war nearly destroyed humanity and they exist in heavily fortified cities tightly controlled by the authoritarian Church.  Personal freedom is non-existent and people are forced to go into booths and give video confessions to a computerized version of their leader, Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer).

Not all of the vampires have been locked away and early in the film a outlying settlement is attacked by them  and a young girl, Lucy Page (Lily Collins) is kidnapped and her parents are killed.   Her uncle is one of the few remaining Priests (Paul Bettony)  and escapes a heavily fortified city and breaks his vows to find her with the help of a local lawman, Hicks(Cam Gigandet).  Along the way he also gets help from a warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) and discovers that there is more to the kidnapping of his niece than he first expected.   The vampires are coming back and are being led by a figure from his past.  He must make some tough decisions to save his niece and humanity!

I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to, especially after seeing the less well made Legion also staring Paul Bettany and directed by Scott Charles Stewart.  The movie starts with a brief cartoon explaining the history of the war with the vampires.  The style reminded me of some of the stories in my favorite old comic book, Grendel by Matt Wagner.  Only later did I realize that this film was based on a newer graphic novel by  Hyung Min-woo and  I have promised myself I  will have to check it out at some time  in the future.

The scenery of the war ravaged earth was very well done and show a very different earth from ours.  I would love to ride one on of the Priest’s souped up motorcycles through the desert and see all of the crumbling giant statues and strange mountains.  My favorite weapon in the movie was the Priestess’s meteor hammer.  I know that it is not a very practical weapon in the real world, but it they are really fun to watch.  I really did not care much for the crucifix weapon with the tiny little blade the Priest was using towards the end and did not see any point to it except to say, look I have a cross that is also a weapon!

Priest is one of those movies that relies very heavily on CG.  Some of it works, like with the scenery I mentioned earlier, but at other times it fails miserably.  During one scene, the Priest is fighting a guardian vampire and to help him the Priestess throws a rock at the same time the Priest jumps.  The Priest ends up using the flying rock as a stepping stone and jumps even higher.  I ended up laughing at this scene because it looked very fake.  Also the vampire were not very believable looking because  they were completely made out of CG and moved too fluidly.  I think that sometimes using puppets and CG at the same time provides a physical presence of characters that you just can’t get with CG alone.

One other thing really bugged me was the cross tattoo on the Priest’s forehead.  On at least one occasion it appeared to have faded from the actor sweating!  It seems like they could have spent a few extra dollars to fix that up with a computer!

Priest was not my favorite film of all time, but it was not unbearable.  There were some really great action scenes and some memorable characters.  I would recommend this film if you wanted to watch something that got your adrenaline pumping but did not make you think too much!

 

Frank’s Ratings

(1-5)

Characters 2
Story 3
Special Effects 4
Would Watch Again? 2
Average  2.75