I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

tn_catchingfire(I’m trying to mark the biggest spoilers as usual, but be careful with this one if you don’t want anything given away)

You remember back when THE HUNGER GAMES came out I avoided it. I know this makes me a weirdo, but it wasn’t until Francis Lawrence signed on to direct the sequels that I got interested. The conventional wisdom was that part 1’s Gary Ross (PLEASANTVILLE, SEABISCUIT) was a classy director and this was a step down to replace him with the guy who did CONSTANTINE and I AM LEGEND. But I’m a fan of Mr. Lawrence, I see some genius behind the admittedly large flaws of those movies. As pretty good as THE HUNGER GAMES is I’m way more impressed by Lawrence’s depiction of post-human-New-York-City and Will Smith’s performance as the lonely omega-scientist. Yeah, we all know that there are some problems when the vampires turn out to be leaping computer animated beasts, but shit, they’re better than the animated dogs in HUNGER GAMES. Scarier and with more personality and meaning. Let’s not pretend either of these is flawless, but I know which one I like better.

Now Lawrence’s first HUNGER GAMES chapter has hit, and virtually ever review I’ve seen says what I predicted, that he made a better movie than the first one. See you guys, I know shit.

I AM LEGEND and CONSTANTINE are pretty liberal adaptations of their source material. I hear CATCHING FIRE is more of the literal Harry Potter approach to adaptation, pretty close to the book by Suzanne Collins except that it shows us discussions between the president (Donald Sutherland) and another dude (P.S. Hoffman) that you figure were going on behind the scenes but didn’t see because the book was all in the perspective of the heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). Actually that kinda sounds better.

For the most part CATCHING FIRE feels more like a “hey that was popular, let’s make another one” than a middle chapter of a planned trilogy. It’s largely a rehash where arrow-shooting death game survivor Katniss has to get pampered and smile for the cameras and then finds out she has to train again and then hunger game again. But bigger and better!

You know how American Idol has their yearly competition and then after it’s over they take the contestants on an arena tour and make more money off of them? That’s kinda what they do here:

mp_catchingfireb
They put Katniss and Peeta on a train to go around and make speeches on the “Victory Tour.” This is really fucked up because #1 the government is deliberately rubbing the deaths of the other contestants in the noses of the residents of their districts, and forcing our heroes to turn it into propaganda. #2, you can’t fucking reclaim the term “Victory Tour,” you bastards. Everybody knows there is one and only one meaning to that phrase:

victorytourposter

Anyway, second time’s the charm (or maybe Frances Lawrence is the charm), so I believe the hunger game part of part 2 is more exciting than the one in part 1. If you’re wondering, there’s less of the first movie’s notorious shake-o-vision. The filmatism is much more confident, with planned camera moves and no reliance on handheld cameras to symbolize realism. Ross was accused of wiggling the camera around so you couldn’t really see the violence and that would keep it from getting an R-rating. Lawrence does it smarter and gets more bang for his buck. For example there’s a scene where a soldier is about to shoot a civilian in the head as Katniss is dragged inside and a door is closing. The way we lose sight of the old man just before the gun goes off doesn’t tone it down, it makes it more upsetting. But the MPAA just doesn’t want to see blood or tits, so they’re okay with it.

There’s not enough straight up action to require an ACR. If I gave it one it would definitely be higher than the first one, but to be frankly honest there was one important action scene that was shaky and I was confused about who did what exactly and which character was dead. So Mr. Lawrence is not without his sins.

By the way I noticed UNDISPUTED 3 fight choreographer Larnell Stovall listed as a stuntman. I guess he was in the first one too. In case that comes up at your trivia night or something, I thought you should know.

So anyway there’s some improvement, but it’s not about style. The first movie has a big problem that it sets up this dramatic conflict (the only way for her to survive is to murder a bunch of innocent victims like herself) but it’s a PG-13 movie based on a book for tweens so it has to cheat its way out (she only has to self-defense kill a couple assholes and she makes them change the rules so she and her friend can both live). Part 2 wisely ditches that problem altogether. Now some of the players team up and she just has to worry about who she can trust. And she’s gone in planning to die. She never gets to a point where it pretends she has to make a hard decision that you know she’ll just loophole her way out of.

The game itself has more going on. Like before there are weird dangers they have to face (poisonous fog that gives them genuinely disturbing piles of boils on their skin, like a Gremlin in the sunlight), but they figure out a pattern and structure to it. It’s a puzzle. Usually the Hunger Games drafts random young people from each district, but this is a special 75th anniversary edition where they choose between the winners of previous games. That’s how the same shit happens to the same Katniss and Peeta twice. It’s kinda like The Ultimate Ultimate, where the winners and runners up of previous UFC tournaments were entered into a super tournament.

In fact if I made this movie I would’ve had Ultimate Ultimate winner (SPOILER FOR THE ULTIMATE ULTIMATE) Dan “The Beast” Severn play one of the hunger gamers, out of respect. But I guess nobody would believe him not winning. He’s retired, but this is what he looked like as recently as 2010:

dansevern
It’d be pretty funny to see a tough bastard like that make a big entrance and then the next thing you hear he’s dead. Yeah, I can’t picture how but I guess some kid got him. That’s what happens to most of the characters here, they get killed off screen before we even saw them on the battlefield. It’s a pretty long movie, but like the first one they spend so much time on the setup that the games have to be kinda rushed.

Because this is The Hunger Hunger there’s a wider age range on the contestants. There’s a team that I thought of as Basquiat and Honey Bunny (Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer), two middle aged science geniuses. Also an old lady named Mags (Lynn Cohen, who played Golda Meir in MUNICH). But even the grownups have to wear wetsuits that are supposed to be cool looking, we got the home viewers to think about. I was hoping Mags would get a 300-style slo-mo-running-at-the-camera-chopping-motherfuckers-up-with-an-ax type of moment, but no dice, she’s just a sad old lady in inappropriate clothing. SUCKER PUNCH’s Jena Malone does get to use an ax though.

Because all the contestants have been double jeopardied some of them give up on the kayfabe and make public statements in defiance of their oppressors. The title “catching fire” refers to Katniss’s trademark actually-literally-on-fire formal gowns but also the idea that her spirit of rebellion is spreading to the cities. Their symbolic gestures at her promotional appearances lead to riots and executions, and now the other contestants are speaking out in interviews and yelling at the cameras during the games. Her girl power spirit is even spreading to toy commercials:

The Hunger Games competitors were supposed to distract the people from how bad the government treats them, not call attention to it. The president is so worried about it that he shows up at Katniss’s house and threatens her family. He can tell she’s going to inspire an uprising. He wants to put out this fire by killing her character off in this convoluted plot twist of having to play again.

These are stories about a society where the decadent rich are completely indifferent to the suffering of the impoverished majority, and where shitty reality entertainment keeps the masses in line. Of course I like these types of themes, but I wish they had faith in the ideas coming across without the characters having to spell the shit out in plain English. I’d love to just get in there and cut out some of this dialogue. Woody Harrelson doesn’t have to say that they’re on TV to be a distraction to keep the people from rebelling. If it was up to me all those lines would go in the incinerator with that scene from the HILLS HAVE EYES remake where “Big Brain” makes a speech explaining why the mutants hate the vacationers.

The worst one is in a scene where we find out that the Grey-Poupon-commercial-living-motherfuckers in the capitol have champagne glasses full of Ipecac or something so they can binge and purge. I loved that idea and then they feel they have to have Peeta point out that this is horrible when people in district 12 are starving. Yeah, thanks buddy, I never could’ve put two and two together even though “Hunger” is in the damn title.

A little more subtlety here and there could do wonders. This President Snow character is scary, but in a movie bad guy way, not in an accurate way. A scarier villain would be one that seemed to have no idea he was the bad guy. Like real politicians. This guy is pretty open about being an evil dictator who will do anything to hold onto his power.

Not all of it is that clumsy though. There are some really powerful moments, like when SPOILER Katniss is in the tube elevator about to enter the competition and suddenly the masked stormtroopers of Hungerland storm in and start beating the shit out of her fashion designer, pal and confidant Lenny Kravitz. She screams and cries from inside the tube and at exactly that moment hey, let the games begin and she rises up into the battlefield. It’s a truly cruel way to fuck her up. And then you gotta wonder if they did something like that to all the other players too.

I like the scene where Hemsworth’s been flogged and they bring him back to their little house. Everybody knows what to do. Katniss’s little sister (Perriwinkle?), who would’ve died in the first movie if Katniss hadn’t entered the games in her place, knows how to make a salve with snow and herbs. It tells us two important things: this is a shitty world where little kids are experienced at aiding the wounded, and Katniss’s family can take care of themselves.

Another good one where they resisted the urge to underline everything is the part where Katniss and Mags discuss that Mags is in the competition because she volunteered in place of a child. You can read between the lines that she was inspired by what Katniss did for her sister. They look at each other and there’s all kinds of unspoken emotion in their eyes. That’s how I like it.

At one point Katniss and Peeta’s overly fashionable handler Effy (Elizabeth Banks) makes a sweet gesture to unite them as a team. It’s a nice moment but it also maxed out my bullshit meter, because this is a lady who remorselessly sends kids off to kill each other. And seems to enjoy it. And now they act like we’re supposed to love her because she’s goofy and wears a dress made out of butterflies. I guess it’ll turn out in the next one that she’s changed her ways and is in on the uprising, but as it plays at this point in the story we’re supposed to be all “ahhh, what a sweetheart” for the nice slavemaster. ‘Cause she bought them some jewelry before sending them to die.

mp_catchingfireJennifer Lawrence is still good. For those keeping track she does hunt a rabbit, but not a squirrel. I hope this doesn’t mean she’s turning into a sellout.

I like seeing her be defiant and shoot arrows and shit, and also she’s a good actress so she can show us her true feelings behind empty for-the-cameras smiles. Katniss is a fun character but I think maybe her reputation as a great female role model is exaggerated. Ripley and Sarah Connor never had to do the choose-between-two-cute-boys bit. She has her real boyfriend back at home (EXPENDABLES 2 expendee Liam Hemsworth) and then Peeta is her Hunger Games beard who she pretends to love on TV and seems to start having real feelings for, romantic comedy style. I mean that’s fine but it’s the same shit little girls get in all their other entertainment that’s supposedly bad for them.

I forgive Katniss for crying in multiple scenes and waking up screaming from nightmares. She’s only human. And at what turns out to be the climax she does a really smart and badass maneuver that earned a round of applause from the (largely young and female) audience at the Cinerama. But in retrospect when you know what’s going on there (SPOILER) it’s not even clear if that was really her brilliant inspiration to do that or if it was what the men were setting her up to do. (If not, what were they trying to do? And was Jeffrey Wright not in on it and really did want to electrocute all the other players? I doubt that but it’s possible.)

Another thing that occurred to me only after the fact: Katniss actually might’ve slowed them down. She figures out the whole thing about the island being a clock, but remember the first time they saw the lightning strike the tree? They count twelve times and Jena Malone says “Midnight.” I believe it’s Katniss who incorrects her, saying it’s 12 strikes for the 12 districts. But Jena was right! It was a clock! You shouldn’t brush her off like that. She’s observant and she has an ax.

These problems I’m bringing up are mostly small ones, important enough to be worth discussing but not enough to ruin the movie for me. The biggest problem I had, actually, must come completely from the material and the fact that it’s a book that was designed to be book #2 and then you would buy book #3 which would be split into movies #3 and #4. This feels like the structure of a big exciting movie but then, nope, they’re just stringing you along until the next one.

In a surprise twist, Wes Bentley’s character must’ve died in the last one and I forgot about it, or maybe he died in between movies in a goatee-lasering accident. His replacement as official dungeon master of the hunger gaming is Gator Purify or whatever (P.S. Hoffman). In his first scene he heavily implies that he’s planning to subvert the hunger games and SPOILER at the end Katniss escapes the arena and he’s there and he reveals that yes, it is true what I heavily implied earlier and let’s get those motherfuckers!

YES, I thought, now we’re getting to the good shit. Big ol’ smile on my face, I couldn’t help it. The movie had me.

Then the animated bird logo appeared on the screen and I got that dreaded “wait, that’s it?” heart-sinking feeling. LATER we’re getting to the good shit. It might not even be until two movies from now, because if they split the book in two doesn’t that mean all the good shit is in the second half?

It makes me almost miss the old days when Hollywood even wanted to squoosh the Lord of  the Rings trilogy into one or two movies. In that case it would’ve been a mistake, but this installments approach to movies is not cuttin it for me. Sometimes it works on TV because there’s another one next week, but if we gotta wait a year or three to get to the next part you better tell a complete story. It’s cool to leave some loose threads and throw in some epilogical curveballs to propel us into the next one, but give us a full movie’s worth first. In STAR WARS they didn’t leave you hanging when they’re about to attack the Death Star. And don’t give me no lip about EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. There’s a huge climax before the cliffhanger: Luke fights Darth and finds out a big secret. This is like if he got knocked out before fighting Vader, then when he wakes up they tell him that Han was frozen in carbonite off screen and that Vader said he was his father and then it’s over and we assume he’s gonna go fight Vader in the next one.

The movie kinda acts like the people starting an uprising at the end is a surprise, even though it’s been anticipated throughout the movie. Katniss has been seeing these brutal acts, trying to stand up against them, getting shut down. When she pulls a Pocahontas and stands in between her boyfriend and a soldier with a whip the soldier doesn’t stop, he pulls a gun out and has to have two men talk him out of executing her on the spot.

The president has been talking about we have to stop her from sparking an uprising. Multiple people remind her multiple times to “remember who the real enemy is,” meaning to focus on stopping the evil government and not shooting arrows into her fellow victims.

She wants to be able to take a stand and fight against the real enemy, but her enemy is too powerful. She has to bide her time, she has to play along. Unbeknownst to her there’s a secret plan going on to make that happen. And it all leads up to this moment where she sees an opportunity, and she has this idea, and she uses her unique skills, she does something crazy, something that turns her from imprisoned troublemaker to active rebel. (Or Rebelle.) With one single motion she says fuck you, fires a shot across the bow, throws the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria…

…and then she wakes up and they tell her her town got blown up. Tune in next year everybody! What the fuck is this? The whole thing has been will she or won’t she spark an uprising, but that’s just a front because not one single adult or child in that audience thinks there’s a possibility of nah, let’s pass on the uprising.  They’re not even giving us what we expect… they’re telling us they’re gonna give us what we expect at a later date. At the risk of sounding like a Filmcrit Hulkamaniac: build something throughout the movie so you can deliver on it. Don’t build it so you can promise it will be in the next one.

(pause for peaceful reflection)

Okay, don’t worry, I’m almost done. Sorry about this guys. One more paragraph about this.

Hopefully it’s just me. Alot of people are familiar with the books, so they won’t think it’s weird where it ends. But I think this is on the way to being a real good one and then it fails to seal the deal. It uses an “oh shit it’s on” moment as a cliffhanger instead of its god-given purpose as the anticipatory pause before the best part of the movie. If this was a truly great popcorn movie they would bust out of that arena and have their first battle before we’d get a cliffhanger. But I guess after I re-orient myself I can settle for a pretty good popcorn movie.

Oh jesus, I just looked it up and actually Hoffman’s character is named “Plutarch Heavensbee.” That is not a joke because I would not joke about something like that. How am I even getting around to any other criticisms when I have “Plutarch Heavensbee” to deal with? I should take the movie’s advice and remember who the real enemy is.

“Plutarch Heavensbee.” For crying out loud.

No, you know what? Strike that. Now that I think about it I believe I used to work with a Plutarch Heavensbee. I think this guy spelled it with three e’s at the end though, Heavensbeee. This was back when I worked for Mr. Magorium. So anyway it’s not that shitty of a name. Nice job with the naming, Suzululu Collinsbane.


 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 25th, 2013 at 3:06 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

99 Responses to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

  1. I agree about the ending. Too abrupt, too jarring, and WTF was up with that “Fear not, Katniss— we too are down with your homies, and uhhhh, by the way: District 12 got vaporized”. REALLY, Fran-Law? Would it have been too much to give us the courtesy of a reacharound montage actually SHOWING District 12 being decimated? We’re talking about adding 90 seconds to a movie that runs nearly 2 and 1/2 hours.

    I wasn’t really on Team Katniss to begin with; my interest in both movies thus far was born out of curiosity and very little else. But after this, I think Mockingjay 1 and 2 are gonna be Blu-Ray rentals at best.

  2. Give it a chance, Larry. I didn’t care much about MOCKINGJAY but Katniss goess through some really dark shit in that one.

  3. I haven’t seen the first one yet, but if seeing this one means I finally get to watch Lenny Kravitz get beaten down like a mangy dog in the streets then I might just have to plan on a matinee.

    With a thematically consistent lack of subtlety I must now explain that the reason for this is because I have always entirely despised the music of Lenny Kravitz, who never met a mediocre riff he couldn’t repeat without variation for five minutes straight.

  4. “I have some money here for you
    So reach into me and grab it

    And I have never understood
    Why anybody likes Lenny Kravitz”

  5. Do we have to like this? Do we even have to see it? Can’t the little girls have this for themselves?

  6. “The worst one is in a scene where we find out that the Grey-Poupon-commercial-living-motherfuckers in the capitol have champagne glasses full of Ipecac or something so they can binge and purge. I loved that idea and then they feel they have to have Peeta point out that this is horrible when people in district 12 are starving. Yeah, thanks buddy, I never could’ve put two and two together even though “Hunger” is in the damn title.”

    This drove me crazy! How stupid do they think their audiences are?

    Otherwise, yeah, a pretty decent movie all around. But I agree that the sudden stop ending is just fucking horrible. Give us SOME semblance of some closure, please, something, anything, not this “tune in next time, same hunger games time, same hunger games channel” bullshit.

    and with Mockingjay being split into two-halves, guaranteed we are getting one more cliffhanger style abrupt ending at least one more time. So lame.

  7. The complaining about the ending baffles me. For a movie full of CGI spectacle and big action setpieces, this bigass budget blockbuster simply ends on the human face going through the emotions of shock to pain to anger. THAT is a good fucking impactful ending instead of an epilogue filler until the credits. (MOS, IM3, WWZ, STID, etc., I’m looking at all of you) I mean its like sausage. If I enjoy it, who cares how that sausage was made?

    Best blockbuster of the year as far as I’m concerned, and I enjoyed quite alot of them.

    Its funny but as a nerd, I’ve bitched at WB and Marvel for not doing what should’ve been done already: a good superheroine movie. I mean Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel, whatever. But no, zip nada. Nothing in the plans.

    Yet I think I finally got that to a degree in these picture. Here we have HUNGER GAMES, a pretty good sci-fi franchise with a heroine that the audience has to invest their fears and dreams and hopes and pain and excitement into. No superpowers, but hey she can use a bow very well.

    Plus I guess it was nice to have Donald Sutherland being awesome again. I liked how slowly under that false mask of calm he’s clearly losing his shit, especially obvious in those scenes with his granddaughter. Hell I even enjoyed Hoffman. Very small part, but I like that he’s in something like this and hopefully he gets more to do next time.

    Hey Vern, didn’t you like MATRIX RELOADED? Didn’t that have an abrupt ending?

  8. I considered going into a whole RELOADED comparison in this review but I thought that would be going overboard. I thought of it ’cause they both wind up with somebody laying on a medical table getting an explanation about something. But RELOADED gives its characters a very specific plan and goal and then weaves a complex series of jaw dropping action and suspense sequences around it. They do what they need to do but but Trinity makes a decision to sacrifice herself. Then Neo makes the decision that he’s not going to accept what they’re telling him and he’s gonna save her. How is he going to save her and save the world? It was a specific question that would be answered in 6 months when the next one came out.

    (the business with the guy on the table is actually the dumb part of the cliffhanger that doesn’t amount to that much)

    CATCHING FIRE is different in my opinion because it ends on the same question it begins with. “How are they gonna rise up against this shitty government?” At the beginning “man, they gotta rise up,” at the end “man, they are gonna rise up now in the next one.” Taking it too slow, in my opinion.

    Of course, if it had had something as jawdropping as the freeway chase in RELOADED it would’ve been easier to forgive. The Hunger Games are interesting but they’re not what the story is about, you aren’t invested in who’s gonna “win,” you’re invested in how she’s gonna get out of this mess. So to me it feels like that’s the last act of this movie, the part they aren’t doing until the next two movies.

  9. Vern – I have to give you credit mate for one thing. You’re the only blogger online who would actually say MATRIX RELOADED is a better film than THG 2. (Or probably remember TMR for that matter.)

    Anyway I disagree with you completely. Remember her arc was that in the beginning, she wanted to just fucking disapear, run away even if possible. She’s forced to be part of that whole PR tour, if you remember. She wanted nothing to do with the regime, nothing to do with any rebellion. Hell even in the Hunger Games 2.0/All-Stars Edition, her main objective is still (1) get the fuck out of this alive and (2) Get her friend (and possible love interest) Pita or Peeta (whatever the fuck his name is spelled) out of this alive too. If she just got those 2 objectives accomplished, went home, disapeared to hunt rabbits or whatever and never had to do another thing for the regime (or become a rebel soldier) she would die happy.

    But the bad guys destroyed her District, killed most of her people. (A little convenient that her mother and sister got out though, but whatever.) That last look of hers at the camera screams “war!”

    Dude to use your love of action movies, its like Rambo if you think about it. All Sly just wanted to do in FIRST BLOOD was something to eat and move on maybe to a car wash job in Seattle. But no Bryant Brown’s partner in F/X wasn’t down for that shit. Oh no, that hick town sheriff couldn’t tolerate a drifter spending 5 more minutes in his little fish fond of a world. So his boys pushed Rambo and treat him like shit until he snapped. “They drew First Blood, not me!”

    Same premise. Just in a Young Adult book series. and a Vagina.

    Its just that J-Law aint Luke Skywalker, who would love to go out there and leave his stupid farm and join the rebels and fight the Empire and given that chance when Stormtroopers zapped his Aunt & Uncle. She really would’ve prefered to stay on that moisture farm but now she’s got no choice but to fight.

  10. I must be a 12-year-old girl at heart because I kinda want a Rebelle bow and arrow set.

  11. I want a Hunger Games between all the super-archers we’ve gotten at the movies/TV lately.

    Katniss
    Hawkeye (Marvel movies)
    Green Arrow/Hood/Vigilante/Arrow/whatever (ARROW)
    that Princess from BRAVE
    Legolas (LORD OF THE RINGS)

    Who else am I missing?

  12. It sounds awful. But Lenny Kravitiz getting beat to a pulp? I might try and youtube it. The film sounds just like the first one. Not for me.

  13. RRA> Bard The Bowman. He’ll be in the next Hobbit movie. He was a big deal in the book for me as a kid.

  14. I agree that the ending was abrupt. The pacing of the whole thing felt off for me. The lead up to the actual games seemed to take forever – maybe because they were treading a lot of the same ground – taking them from abject poverty to crazy, lavish parties, making them give fake interviews, putting her in burning dresses, seeing her practice archery, etc. Then the games themselves seemed to last a second before it was suddenly cut off. I get that it wasn’t supposed to be about the actual games and more about the uprising bubbling under the surface. It still felt like it was all buildup, quick action and over.

    Jennifer Lawrence was incredible, though. I loved how you could feel the fear and terror always just under her surface, even when she was being quiet and stubborn with the whole dog and pony show. The scenes where she was unable to contain it were excellent. Jena Malone was also great.

    I think Katniss is a pretty good heroine. Not the greatest ever, but pretty good. I don’t like this idea that I see popping up in discussions that for a female character to be a strong role model she has to have no romantic interests. I like romance and I like watching relationships develop or evolve. I also like seeing strong women characteres. Emotion and relationships are part of life, so to say that a girl wouldn’t think about these things because her life is bleak and hard is ridiculous. I’m glad they don’t focus on it more in here, but it’s there for a reason. It would be more unrealistic if she was going through these intense experiences with a guy and didn’t develop some kind of bond or feeling for him.

    And that last scene, while abrupt, was an awesome piece of work by Ms. Lawrence. I can’t wait to see more of what she can do throughout her career.

  15. MMP – Yeah that shit annoys me too. Most male heroes have love interests. Nobody says the dudes gotta have no love. I mean people have emotional conflicts with the other sex (sometimes the same one), that’s life since Caveman days when poor Ugh worked hard and is a decent chap but lost the girl Reeech to Arrgh because he’s better looking and got a bigger club.

  16. Actually, it’s been said millions of times that bullshit love interests need to be cut out of male-oriented movies. Nine times out of ten, it’s a drag on the plot that’s been cynically inserted into the film to try to appeal to female audience members. So-called chick flicks compound this problem by usually having TWO love interests sucking up screen time. This isn’t that big a problem when the plot is “Will the teenage witch’s family ever accept her for who she is?” but when the entire world is at stake, I can’t help but feel that maybe now is not the time for love. Either way, I think it’s condescending in both cases to assume that women won’t be interested in a story unless there’s romance involved.

    My favorite “chick flick” of recent years is WHIP IT, where she has one love interest, he turns out to be kind of a douche, she dumps him without shedding a single tear and moves on with the plot.

  17. Need to stop pausing mid paragraph to go check another tab. I got confused reading the intro and thought “Wait…Jennifer Lawrence was in I AM LEGEND…no she DIRECTED it? Whaa?”

  18. If nothing else, I hope the positive reaction to this movie leads people to go back and re-assess Constantine as the amazing genre movie that it is.

  19. Yeah, I’ve heard that about the annoying romance angle in action movies. Sometimes it is stupid and unnecessary, not to mention insulting to women that we need a romance to be interested in a movie. I just have heard a lot of stuff lately about girls needing better role models and stories than sparkly princesses and love stories. I agree whole heartedly, but I don’t like the undertone that if you like the sparkly princesses and love stories you’re stupid. There’s room for all kinds of stories and characters. Or hey, here’s a crazy idea, how about creating more diverse and complex sparkly princesses and better than love stories, than demonizing them.

  20. I decided that I just don’t care enough about this series to see any more of the movies in the theater, but I’ll check this one out when it hits either the blu rays or TV

  21. I don’t think I’m demonizing love stories. Everybody likes a little romance now and then. When it’s done well, it really elevates a movie. I’d just rather see it when it’s an intrinsic part of the story and not just something programmed into the script so they can have a hostage situation in the third act.

  22. I liked that the male and female leads of PACIFIC RIM are just very good friends with a close bond at the end of that movie rather than romantically involved. Yet because they aren’t, there’s people who just assume it’s because the studio don’t think a white man and Asian woman aren’t marketable to a western audience(even though from what I’ve seen it’s only ever a problem when it’s a white WOMAN). That’s one of the effects of romances being such an arbitrary inclusion.

    I also enjoy HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS for the fact that the two leads are brother and sister, a familial relationship that doesn’t get as much play as two brothers or two sisters do for some reason, and while it gives Hansel a love interest in another character, it’s not something the movie is sold on, and Gretel isn’t given a love interest because she’s more concerned with her job.

  23. RRA – the FIRST BLOOD comparison is a good one. They push him and they push him and they push him… and then he fights back. In part 1. You didn’t have to wait until part 2. And still it gets to climax with an emotional outburst.

    I know Katniss is a reluctant hero, but the audience knows that she has to get involved. You see it in scene after scene after scene after scene. The old man getting shot, she tries to do something but can’t. The boyfriend getting whipped, she intervenes and with the help of two men temporarily solves the problem and doesn’t get killed. The rich people purging while her people are starving, she just has to look away. Lenny Kravitz beaten (to death?) she screams but can’t do anything. This is a classical type of story where eventually she can’t take no more and she goes after the motherfuckers.

    I’m glad it didn’t bother you, but don’t you think it could’ve been more satisfying to you if there was another act outside of the arena before cutting it off?

  24. Mr. M I agree with you completely. I didn’t mean you were demonizing them. I meant that I’ve seen that a lot around lately.

  25. Unnecesary cash-in sequels I am perfectly fine with, but stretching the climactic final chapter of a story across multiple movies is unbelievably cynical and just results in a lumpy, disatisfying cinematical experience. There’s got to be better, less evil ways for movie studios to make money.

  26. Yeah this felt like a better version of the first movie. Annoyingly overdone wobbly cam is gone and that’s the biggest plus. You also get more teamwork and more characters to care about. The games are still pretty lame, though. This time there’s really no fighting and most of the action involves our heroes running away from game designer threats like cg fog and cg monkeys and cg birds that sound like loved ones. I’m glad the arena stuff is over. It’s over, right?

    I was also disappointed with the ‘ending’. The movie takes it’s time remastering the first film and then just stops when it gets close to the REVOLUTION stuff that you thought you were getting close to at the end of the first movie. Plus, “Hey your family is totally fine, but…they blew up District 12” didn’t get much of a reaction from me. It would have been more interesting if Katniss’ beloved family was in danger as well. I know shit is already PERSONAL because pathetic Peeta is MIA, but who gives a shit about that guy?

    Also, I think the military guy who whips Hemsworth deserves some praise for his angry pro wrestler performance. When he’s not screaming and beating people he shakes with rage. *That’s* the person Katniss should fight for the FATE OF THE WORLD at the end of Hunger Games Saga Part 3.5.

  27. wadew— “… but who gives a shit about that guy?”. Indeed, sir… the thing is, he’s a squirrely boy playing what essentially amounts to the girl’s role… hence the feminine name “Peeta”. I’m either one of the first people to make that connection, or the 1,000,000th. Either way, I think (at least in the movies) he’s purposely meant to be somewhat of a putz.

    There’s only one pair of big balls a clankin’ in this movie, and they belong to Jennifer Lawrence.

    I got the impression that that military guy who went off on Hemsworth was a total sadist. Katniss could probably take him down, but it would require some serious effort.

  28. Vern – Hey Frodo didn’t destroy the ring in FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. And before you go off about how that was its own arch and own self-contained story blah blah….remember Tolkein wrote LOTR as one big-ass book before his publisher chopped it down to 3 parts when it was published. That was the first fucking Act that just became a book of its own.

    And really Vern, not to be a douche, but what “other act” did you exactly want in part 1? Sometimes I prefer a movie just to end instead of playing with itself for a few pointless filler minutes before the credits finally come. Especailly if its one chapter in a series. Or non-franchises, remember BULLET TO THE HEAD earlier this year how you had a natural badass ending with Sly walking away, but they had to add a whatever scene afterwards to supposedly “wrap it up”?

    Contrast that with THE FRENCH CONNECTION 2, how did it end? Popeye Doyle kills the bad guy finally. BANG! The End. That’s it. Did you want an extra scene of Popeye being relieved that he finally got that mother fucker? Fuck no.

    I just find it fascinating…not criticizing or saying its wrong….how we’re more picky with this than MAN OF STEEL. You know that movie where Pa Kent let himself get killed like an idiot and (pointlessly) traumatize his son he supposedly loved because….well, there’s no good reason except EMOTIONAL MOMENT!

    Wadew – You know what Pita (or Peeta or Peta?) is? The male damsel in distress. Pretty useless, an emotional prop for the hero, needs to get rescued as dramatic plot point. He’s the Pepper Potts of these movies. Just with a dick.

    And viewing it that way, Thor’s brother is like the bitchy girlfriend who exists just to snipe one-dimensionally at the hero who by default of cinematic perspective always come off the responsible party trying to do the right thing.

  29. Also completely off-topic but as a nerd it was very nice that another sci-fi franchise this weekend in good ole DOCTOR WHO fucking delivered the goods too with the 50th Anniversary special. I thought the last half-series that ran this past spring was just about mostly shit but showrunner Mr. Steven Moffat was in prime form on saturday.

    Seriously it’s always pleasant when you think you know how a story is going to roll, and then it pulls the rug out from under you…and its much better.

    The special was so satisfying, I could think of 20-30 things to nerd over without even having to bring up that certain cameo at the end, which was just cherry on top.

  30. RRA— Fuckin’ A RIGHT! They should be reduced to being credited as BoyToy #1 and BoyToy #2 in the Mockingjay movies.

    Still, I almost feel bad for Liam Hemsworth. First he ill-advisedly hooks up with omnipresent pop music tramp Miley Cyrus, and now he’s primed to become the Joseph Fiennes of his generation. It’s like one of those tragic rollercoaster ride catastrophes you occasionally read about.

  31. RRA – no, I was talking about this one, not part 1. The “other act” would be the part where they get out of the arena and then the shit goes down. Unfortunately they felt we would prefer if no shit ever went down until 2-4 years after the end of the second act when they get out of the arena.

    And I’m not gonna even say a word about Superman because you got a fuckin problem pal and I am not an enabler.

  32. See, I told you there were artistic ways to show all the violence of the book without jerking the camera away from it. Movies used to do that all the time.

    Great review, Vern, and I’m glad you call bullshit on a lot of the things these films get false credit for. It still bugs me that Katniss never has to kill in cold blood because I think Collins was worried about like ability, maybe she was anticipating a conversation with studio executives.

    It actually does bother me that the games are so insignificant. Yeah, it can be about a bigger revolution but if I still want the Hunger Games to be fucking awesome survival battles. And how many movies do we have about epic revolutions? That’s boring. But Running Man style battle Royales, we need more of those. And they always kill half the cast off screen, or off page in the case of the book. Show us all the battles dammit!

    The structural problems come entirely from the book though, no? Catching Fire was written to tease the third book, unless they changed something. It seems audiences of all entertainment have allowed stories to go incomplete. Maybe after enough BTTFs, PIRATESes and MATRIXes authors thought, “Hey we can do this too.” Really even the Harry Potters after part four had no climax. Four was still about a wizard tournemant that someone won but after that it was just a series of reveals leading to the next book/movie.

    Makes you appreciate the Nolan approach, which should really just be “the approach.” Put everything in this movie. Then think of more when you do the next one.

    And show, don’t tell. But yeah, much better than the first one.

  33. Vern— Mockingjay 1 & 2 are filming concurrently as we post and are slated for release (respectively) on 11/21/2014 and 11/20/2015. The makers of said movies are adopting the same strategy that was employed by Twilight: Breaking Dawn 1 & 2.

    Cynical? Yes. Unoriginal? Yes. Deploying timewise to target the same demographic? Yes.

    Probable outcome of success? 100%. But count me the fuck out. The only two reasons I saw the first Twilght movie was 1.) A perpetual interest in any high-profile vampire movie, and 2.) It also starred Billy Burke and Sarah Clarke (who both figured prominently in Season Two of 24, my favorite TV show from the past decade). New Moon was a showcase for Taylor Lautner’s buff bod and not much else, but Eclipse was somewhat better. I should have cut my losses right then & there, but NOOOOOO!! I just *had* to let curiosity compel me further.

    Not this time. Maybe if they offered me a role as Katniss’s android fuckbuddy (think Cherry 2000 role reversal), but otherwise… no way, Jose.

  34. In an unrelated (and positive) note, Escape Plan is apparently making huge bank in China, and has now made over 100 million worldwide. So if US audiences have shitty taste in action movies now, at least the rest of the world can still keep Arnie/Sly movies getting funded.

  35. I was actually considering seeing this one at the good ol’ cinema, but honestly I think I might skip. I didn’t like the first film anyway – it missed my “worst of 2012” list because I didn’t see it in the cinema, although I don’t think it would’ve gotten on there ahead of “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Young Adult” anyway – but the fact that I literally couldn’t tell what was going on in the first twenty minutes of the movie or so just spoilt it for me. The good news: everyone seems to agree that “Catching Fire” fixes this problem. The bad news: nobody’s saying “Wow! You need to see this movie!” I liked the novel and would rather save myself another bad experience.

    Talking of “worst of” lists, I’ve been trying to compile my thoughts about how this year has gone. Last year I saw over fifty films at the cinema, this year I’ve so far barely scraped thirty. That’s kinda depressing in itself. More so is the fact that I have, easily, six films that I could comfortably put on a “worst of 2013” list, and I didn’t even see the ones that most people here seem to agree are stinkers (“Die Hard 5”, “Parker”, etc). And with the exception of “Movie 43” I haven’t gone out of my way to see films that I know are probably going to be bad.

    Bullet – I’m glad that that’s the case, as a fan of action movies, although I do think “Escape Plan” is probably the worst of the three Arnie / Stallone movies that I’ve seen this year. I’d rather have a film like “The Last Stand” rewarded. One positive note of 2013 for me was that action movie fans of all ages and types got something good in the cinema this year. Unfortunately we haven’t had another film like last year’s “The Raid”, but there’s definitely been some good stuff out there.

  36. Vern – To ignore a problem is to enable it.

  37. bullet3 – ESCAPE PLAN has done $100 million global. Not since do well in China, it actually outgrossed its American box-ofifce performance over there.

    I think you can chalk that up to starpower. Starpower puts people in seats overseas while the in states anymore its all about hype/Word of Mouth/properties. But hey good for foreigners if they appreciate the Arnold/Sly team-up.

    You know what’s weird though? The HG movies released in China. I wonder what censorship took place (if any) to get them distributed over there, but I’m just surprised Beijing had no problems with them. (This is the same dictatorship that yanked AVATAR from Tibetan theaters so to not give the locals get any ideas.)

  38. CrustaceanHate – what can you do, pandering to teenage narcissism is incredibly lucrative.

  39. On the recommendation of some of you, I saw Winter’s Bone last night. The performance was excellent, and I even learned a bit about skinning a squirrel. I’m still mulling over the ending, not sure if it was depressing or hopeful or a bit of both.

    (And since we’re on a bit of a feminine empowerment kick, has Vern reviewed American Mary?)

  40. “It’s a nice moment but it also maxed out my bullshit meter, because this is a lady who remorselessly sends kids off to kill each other.”

    It seems like the movie is walking a fine line between commenting on the absurdity of the relationship with this lady, and actually wanting us to genuinely like her. Bookreader comments?

    Jena Malone waltzed away with every scene she was in.

    It occurred to me that Peter Jackson would have given us a slow motion shot of D12 getting destroyed with voiceover instead of just hearing about it. And yeah I don’t see how anybody can argue with Vern’s primary criticism of the film. Without giving us something more, all we have is a refined rehash of the first film.

    Are the next two movies really going to be called “The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 And 2”??? There aren’t going to be any more hunger games are there? As the tagline for Ender’s Game would say, This Is Not A Game.

  41. renfield— Three words of advice: Don’t get chumped. I get the clear impression from that ending that the “Games” ship novelty of the Hunger Games movies has sailed, and it’s not coming back. Which is utterly stupid, since it’s clearly the best part of the first movie, but somehow skimming on it in the second didn’t deter a massive opening weekend (4th best ever in the U.S.).

    From here on in, it’s about Princess Katniss & The Revolution. And in spite of what Felix mentioned about the “dark shit” that the Mockingjay book may have contained, I just sense that the two split-movie adaptations are gonna be sanitized beyond recognition just to keep that PG-13 rating and (try to) make sure this cash cow keeps mooing.

    Damn shame.

  42. I should preface this by saying that I teach at an international school in Hong Kong. Actually, the ‘international school’ and ‘Hong Kong’ bits aren’t all that important but the bit about me being a teacher is much more so.
    I just took a bunch of 16 year olds to see this film. I’ve been their home room teacher since they were 10 years old so we all read the books when they were tearing up the Young Adult book scene.
    I thought the movie was pretty good and the problems with the film are indeed problems with the book. The kids and I agreed that this Lawrence chick is pretty incredible and the only thing that bothered us was that Hoofman seemed to get away with just wearing jeans and a sports coat when Tucci, Banks, and Jones had to get all Capital crazy in the wardrobe department.
    Anyways, I cannot see how they are going to make two films out of the third book. It barely covers enough plot for one film. Are there some Tolkien-like appendices that I don’t know about? Are they going to Hobbit it up by having Primrose and Gale sing a song about the menial chores they do around their bunker in District 13? I don’t know, but I do know there are at least 16 Eurasian kids that are dying to find out.

  43. A:

    “CrustaceanHate – what can you do, pandering to teenage narcissism is incredibly lucrative.”

    As opposed to pandering to the repressed violent / misogynistic instincts of a certain subset of men, as many films and videogames still do? Don’t damn the films / books for this. If you want your shit to sell, a certain amount of pandering might help to do it. Unfortunate but true.

    I think I have the exact opposite reaction that you do when it comes to “pandering” anyway. I had no problem getting my younger sister a Twilight box-set for her birthday (“eight hours of Mormon abstainance porn!”) but “Shaun of the Dead” really annoyed me. Its humour was the opposite of subversive, whatever that is, and I felt that it was pandering to the prejudices of a subset of elitist nerds with superiority complexes who “look down” on anything that’s popular at the time. (And yes, I know I’m not exactly the best person to complain about people who go against the crowd; the difference being that I don’t dislike popular stuff BECAUSE it’s popular, nor do I “judge” those who disagree with me. I’m not built like that.) I felt that the writers of the film were lumping me, as their “target audience”, with these douchebags, and it absolutely turned me off the film.

  44. Paul— Funny that you should mention Shaun Of The Dead, because I had a very similar experience as the one you speak of… except in real time, when I saw it in the theatre back in 2004.

    So, there I was by myself, seeing SOTD in a small-sized theatre during late summer, at a late Sunday night showing. This was during its 3rd week of release in the U.S. I’m seated 2/3 of the way back, and the only other people there was this posse of obvious movie geeks (not movie aficionados, which we seem to have here, but rather the kind of people who attend ComicCon as if it were a pilgrimage to Mecca), about 6-8 people, evenly split among male/female, seated (no shit) in the very front row.

    Anyway, they were guffawing through the whole movie tantamount to a typical TV sitcom laughtrack, and the whole time I’m thinking “OK, it’s *kinda* funny, but fuckit if it’s hilarious”. Later on, when I saw it on DVD, I appreciated it a bit more, but still… yeah, it’s a movie that’s intentionally aimed at conforming non-conformists (if that makes sense).

    There’s a point where irony turns a mirror onto itself, but clearly those geeks who embraced SOTD didn’t quite get the joke.

  45. Or you guys didn’t. Humour is difficult. I laughed like a maniac at SOTD. And everything else Pegg, Frost and Wright does.

  46. Well said,pegs.

  47. Easy, pegs. Not a good day to get snippy about European splinter groups (i.e., The Pilgrims) who traversed the ocean blue so they could gnaw on a turkey leg with Native Americans, then bust loose on much of an entire continent.

    And don’t get me started on green bean casserole, or pumpkin pie for that matter.

    I’ll grant you Pegg and Wright, but Frost? Fuck him, he’s the EuroJack Black, which is not a good thing by any stretch.

  48. Oh, come on. That’s just an absurd statement. Not all fat, fun-loving men are created equal.

  49. Mr. Majestyk— Indeed, sir. The late Jerome Lester Horwitz, aka Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, would agree.

    Speaking of which, that guy who played Tinker in the original Road House movie has this pseudo-Curly “yeeb-yeeb-yeeb!” vocal moment when the polar bear falls on him near the end of the movie, which leads me to believe that Will Sasso should play Tinker [Redux] in that soon to be ill-fated Rob Cohen remake. Just sayin’.

  50. Shoot and Pegs – well that’s one interpritation. The other is that you guys are just bad people for liking “Shaun of the Dead” (I say that in the most non-judgemental way possible of course. No judging here!)

    I absolutely hated Nick Frost in SoTD – I despise the “blobby guy” stereotype, and his character in that movie might easily be the single worst example of it – but give the guy his due. He was freakin’ awesome in “The World’s End”, AND a total badass. Seeing him perform a full overhead backbreaker on a replicant was a moment of sheer unadulterated bliss.

    Anyway, apolgies for derailing the thread a bit with my talk of “pandering” and subsequent Shaun of the Dead arguments. Please feel free to go back to your “Hunger Games” discussion now.

  51. Paul— I think some enterprising, forward-thinking soul should get snappin’ on an Anglocentric Hunger Games remake (yes, for once, let’s do it before the dust has settled on the original) with Wright directing, Simon Pegg in the Woody Harrelson role, Juno Temple as Katniss, Bill Nighy in the the Donald Sutherland role, Sophia Myles in the Elizabeth Banks role, and (yes, it must be said) Daniel Radcliffe as Peeta.

    YES, that would work. I don’t just think outside the box; I LIVE outside of it. Sometimes it’s useful.

  52. grimgrinningchris

    November 28th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I just saw this and have little to add that hasn’t already been said. Mainly in agreement with V.

    However, I do find it odd that with all these comments, only one person has mentioned Jena Malone. Really?

  53. I find it difficult to resist launching into a tirade in response to Paul’s claim that the most misogynistic mainstream document of the last decade’s worst sin is that it’s “abstinence porn”.

  54. Majestyk: On the subject of “demonizing love stories,” here are some thoughts on the second and third seasons of Buffy.

    I’m enjoying the show a lot, though I see more continuities between the first season and the two that follow than I do significant improvements. The tone is more refined, the actors are more comfortable, the stories slightly more ambitious. The patience with which they laid the ground work for the mayor’s story in particular was nicely played; ditto the witch stuff. It’s very clever and skillfully made with an impressive eye for detail and continuity. I like that events have repercussions that sometimes resonate several episodes later. The show’s tone remains its greatest asset.

    It’s kind of amazing how many cool monsters they come up with and blithely discard. I don’t doubt that there’s an entire subculture out there writing fan fiction about the numerous memorable ghoulies that the show has invented (the Judge in particular being a real charmer). I don’t think I’ve once been bored by whatever silliness they come up with in the monster department, even Robot John Ritter, which honestly was terrible but somehow worked. And that episode where they brought back my man Monster Mash in an alternate reality was really ballsy, compelling stuff.

    I like how they integrated Mean Girl into the body of the main group but let her retain her perspective and attitude. It’s a nice source of gentle conflict, and it developed a neat little theme about the benefits of tolerance and friendship, as well as its limits. The way they brought what I thought was a one-off character into the fold (the former demon girl) was really cool, and the running joke with the girl who turned into a rat never gets old. If the show insists on continuously expanding their cast, I hope they keep coming up with inventive juxtapositions like Seth Green the slacker werewolf. Some nice stuff there.

    Not sure how I feel about Dollhouse chick turning up. The actor was in over her head, but the character brought themes that were brave for a violent show like this to flirt with. Likewise, Crappy New Librarian didn’t really work as a character or a source of tension, but at least I recognize that he was needed as a plot catalyst on several fronts (though the romance with Mean Girl was more clumsy than it had to be).

    It continues to impress me that they pulled such a good show out of such lousy source material.

    The show is done with such wit and energy that it’s easy to overlook the flaws, but, because I’m a cranky bastard, I’m going to mention a couple of them:

    The Angel character didn’t work from day one and only got worse as the seasons progressed, especially the third where he had no reason to be there apart from the show’s obsession with teenage romance. When your character turns evil for half a season and the scariest thing you accomplish is to bear an uncanny resemblance to Ted McGinley, there’s something wrong on a fundamental level. Yes, Angel killed the Cyber Wiccan just as I was starting to like her, but that was telegraphed a mile away the moment they gave her a tragic backstory. Lonesome Vampire Bill on True Blood was a much better character on an infinitely worse show.

    They should have combined elements of the Spike character with Angel from the beginning. His internal conflict needed to be more pronounced than just regret about his past; there needed to be an element of danger and volatility to him that they failed to provide. And he should have been played by the actor who played Spike, which would have allowed the dude who played Angel to follow his true calling in life as shampoo commercial model. As it stands, Angel’s romance with Buffy and ultimate death completely failed to resonate because he wasn’t a character, he was an inexpressive placefiller where doomed romance was supposed to reside. Unfortunately, Whedon seems to have the inner life of a 13 year old boy and couldn’t figure out how all that adult stuff was supposed to work. He conceived some interesting themes for Angel, but had no idea how to develop them. I’m morbidly curious to watch his spin-off show just to see if they revamp his character as drastically as he requires. At the very least, maybe that pimpin’ 1970s guy with the pork pie hat will show up from time to time. I like that guy.

    Spike was a cool character, but they did very little with him. He was the Chewbacca of that season; everyone talked about how badass he was, but really he just struck poses. After killing the little minion kid in an exceptionally cool moment, Spike just sat around bickering with his increasingly annoying girlfriend. He deserved better.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying the fourth season considerably more than the first three. I just watched the episode where those creepy grinning floaty guys rob everyone of the ability to speak, an episode I doubt the show will ever surpass. I like the new military stuff much more than the goofy mayor plot, and the Potatohead Soldier is a much better written and performed romantic figure than Angel.

    And they finally figured out how to use Spike properly.

  55. Paul, if you’re the only one in the world that doesn’t “get” SOTD, then it’s you not us that need a few weeks at the humour academy.

  56. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 29th, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Jareth – Thanks for posting your viewing experience with Buffy, it’s a lot of fun to read. Especially those controversial opinions. Season 4 better than 2 and 3? Team Riley instead of Team Angel? If this were 1999 you’d have been better off keeping those statements to yourself!

    In any case, definitely start watching Angel too. Boreanaz is not a great actor but they figure out how to use him better and he should really grow on you. Same goes for Crappy New Librarian, I can guarantee you that guy will become one of your fav characters. Also they finally find a natural place for Spike and it’s glorious.

    The only real drawback of Angel is that it got cancelled just as it got really, really fucking good.

  57. Season six was my favorite Buffy, and the Trio my favorite villains. Very controversial opinion. I did like 4 for the college stuff which I related to more than high school but 2 is really the essence of Buffy. And you must know there’s an episode coming up even better than HUSH!

  58. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 29th, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Fred – which episode would that be? I’m thinking Hush is pretty high up there. Although I do have a very soft spot for Once More With Feeling…

  59. Wait, that fucking Angel is going to take Spike away from Buffy? BOO! Spike in all his incarnations (Victim Spike, Hostage Spike, Ass Kicking Spike, et cetera) is without question the highlight of Season Four. And Crappy New Librarian is on that show too? Geez. Is that also where Mean Girl disappeared to? Do they teach her to kick ass? That would be neat. Especially if she kicks Angel’s ass. Repeatedly.

    I’m going into this show knowing absolutely nothing about it, but I can imagine how impassioned the fans must have been at the time. I think they must be lovestruck nitwits with overactive imaginations if they think Angel was a well conceived character, but I’m willing to admit that maybe I just don’t get it: after all, I’m the guy who absolutely despises that similarly whimsical show Community.

    If I favor Season Four over the first three, a large part of it is due to the impressive way they’ve made the continuity of the show feel organic, as well as the inventiveness of the challenges each character faces, Giles and Dork Boy in particular. I really like how they’re handling Giles’ change in circumstances and the questions he is forced to ask himself. And Dork Boy’s Bruce Campbell schtick works so much better now that his bravado is undercut by working crappy jobs while living in his parents’ basement. His girlfriend is hilarious too. They could have left these characters in their established roles, but instead they found subtle shades of relative profundity to administer to them. I like this stuff more than the romantic motions they went through in the second and third seasons.

    Also, whenever they’re down in the miliatry base I keep thinking they’re going to stumble across all of the CABIN IN THE WOODS monsters. I wanna see a merman.

    You know how Buffy was part of some Ancient Order, who she just ditched after they fired Giles The Mighty? Do those guys come back at any point to try to assert control over Buffy? That’s an idea I’d like to see them explore. That and Willow’s so-obviously-lesbian new friend (well, new as of Season Four; lesbian as of my imagination). I also think Amy the Rat Girl needs an entire episode from her POV.

    But seriously, I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with Gellar’s performance. Going in, I assumed she’d be cute and spunky, which she is, but, man, her commitment to the physical aspects of the role is phenomenal, especially the fights, which are always impressive. Remember that episode where she turned into a caveman? That’s some fantastic physical acting.

  60. Man, are you ever off-book, Jareth. Preferring Season 4 to Season 3 is one thing (I personally feel it has the series’ weakest season arc but some of the best standalone episodes) but speaking well of “Beer Bad” used to be a paddlin’ offense. I like the episode because I think Cavegirl Buffy is simply adorable, but it was at one time considered the nadir of the series. (This was before such things as “magic addiction” and “potential slayers” and “that fucking cunt Kennedy” were even a twinkle in Joss’ eye.)

    It’s almost impossible to describe how much improved Angel is by being the center of his own series, rather than an oft-superfluous love interest. He has a deadpan sense of humor that allows the more eccentric characters to revolve around him in a really natural way. It also helps that the milieu of ANGEL is “twenty/thirtysomethings making their way in the world” not “high school is hell,” so Boreanez’s obviously advanced years become a boon, not a hindrance. He becomes a noir antihero, never as good or as bad as he thinks he is. I never liked him on BUFFY (I am 100% Team Spike) but he’s a great character on his own.

    Also, Crappy New Librarian becomes not just the most improved character in the Whedonverse, but arguably in all of television/pop culture/world literature/the universe. He has moments so badass I get tingles just thinking about them. Denisof is a really underrated actor who can play whatever you throw at him, much like James Marsters, who has a great (if short) run on ANGEL as well. Faith never becomes a cast member but she does some good stuff on ANGEL, too. If you’re liking the way BUFFY burrows into itself to find depth in even the most convoluted plot tangles and character origins, you’ll love ANGEL, which is never afraid to follow its muse down the strangest rabbit holes. It seems fairly normal on the surface but it’s actually one of the weirdest shows ever made.

  61. Thanks Majestyk and Gaul. You guys make a good case for watching Angel’s show. I’m a big fan of MILLENIUM and CARNIVALE, so it was probably inevitable that I’d get to it eventually.

    It’s weird that so many Buffy characters are turning up on Angel’s show. I had no idea. I hope that Dollhouse is still in her coma when she makes an appearance. They can just roll her around, using her wheelchair in fights the way Jackie Chan uses a shopping cart, occasionally wiping the drool from her chin.

    I wanted to like the Angel character. There were moments of wit and charm among all the blandness and lack of definition. I think they tried to freight a lot of significance into his backstory, but they were unwilling to upset the conventional romance with what should have been far more disturbing consequences, both for Angel and for Buffy. He never should have been such a chummy guy with the rest of the cast, which I think they realized when they brought Wolfman Seth into the cast to fill that aspect of his role. On a plot level, the fake-out where Angel pretended to be evil again was really well done, but it failed to overcome the overwhelming feeling that his return from hell (if it had to happen, which it shouldn’t have) was a huge missed opportunity.

    In contrast, while not striving to be especially profound, there is so much delight in the way that Buffy kicks the ass of the Potatohead Soldier and his team, and the way his clearly defined systems (both procedural and moral) are overturned. I find that lighter moments like that sit much better within the framework of the show and resonate better.

    Potatohead Soldier seems destined for the trash heap. Maybe that’s part of the appeal; you just know this guy won’t be around very long. Or maybe he’ll end up on Angel’s show with all the other misfit toys.

    It’s funny that the beer episode would be controversial. It’s not a subtle show; they’re always throwing far-too-literal stuff at the viewer, but tempering it with audacious wit. The show repeatedly pulls this stunt, and it’s something of a wonder to behold each and every time. Robot John Ritter was far clunkier.

  62. I agree that the show is weakest when its metaphors are too on-the-nose. My least favorite episodes are the one where the parents get all “Won’t somebody think of the children?” and start literally burning witches at the stake (although it does introduce Amy the Rat, a seemingly throwaway development that continues to resonate until the last days of the series) and the aforementioned “stepfathers sure are scary” episode “Ted.” Although Ritter does a good job in the role (when didn’t he?), the flirtation with real-world consequences was too inconsequential in light of the way the show ended up going (wiping the entirety of normal societal repercussions away with “In case you haven’t noticed, the police in Sunnydale are deeply stupid.”)

    As for “Hush,” it’s the series’ very best entry point for newbs. It lets you see the show’s biggest strengths (its never-bettered blend of horror, comedy, and melodrama) without getting distracted by its acquired tastes (the too-cool-for-school post-modern patter). One of the show’s finest hours, it pales only in comparison to a certain (also formally experimental) fifth season episode, but that’s only because that one is arguably the best episode of television of all time. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

  63. Even when it is too on-the-nose (which is often), the humor works wonderfully against the high-mindedness of some of the sillier conceits. It’s a tightrope walk that I never fail to enjoy. Maybe someone more invested in “world building” and realism might have more trouble with the episodes you mentioned. I’m inclined to grant a show about ghoulies and demons a fair amount of tabula rasa from episode to episode.

    For me, the bigger problem is the insistence that Buffy have a Significant Heteronormative Experience that eats up much of each season. I understand that romance is part of the show’s DNA, but I’ll be disappointed if they don’t thematize the utter sameness of each romantic figure and each romantic plot that they introduce into her life.

    I like the postmodern quips; they complement the structural innovations employed by the show, like when Spike gives his Big Evil Speech only to be interrupted by a bunch of soldiers who zap him and drag him away (a buddy tells me that a more profound example of the same technique happens very soon to a major character but la la la I can’t hear you la la la if you kill Giles I’ll never forgive you Whedon you pudgy bastard).

    Remember those impotence double entendres that followed Spike around after he first escaped from the soldier’s bunker? It’s such a joy to watch the show when it’s functioning at that level. Like you said, horror, comedy and melodrama in perfect balance.

    Also, what were the fan responses to Wolfman Seth and Former Demon Girl? Were they a beloved characters?

  64. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 29th, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Ah, THAT episode. A great one indeed but very grim and realistic, not one that I have revisited often. It’s just too damn effective.

  65. As far as I know, everybody loved Oz and Anya. (I’m not going to pretend I don’t know these names better than those of most of my cousins.) Anya is my favorite of the female characters, and I’ve actually used Oz’s method of asking out Willow to get a phone number. Worked like a charm. It’s a perfect mix of bluntness and bet-hedging that I plan to reuse again and again.

  66. I loved BTVS so much that I will try to keep my fangirl squealing to a minimum here. Whether you like or dislike Angel or any of the romances on the series, I am always impressed with the chemistry those actors share. It was actually the chemistry between Gellar and Boreanaz in the episode titled “Angel” in the 1st season, along with the crazy humor of The Puppet Show that hooked me. I think the least chemistry filled romance is Buffy and Riley and I still never hated it like other fans. I thought it made total sense for Buffy to attracted to what she saw as a “normal” guy. And it wasn’t just romantic chemistry that was so fantastic in the series. The chemistry between them as friends or as mentor/student are just exceptional. I heard that there was absolutely no plan for any kind of romantic connection between Buffy and Spike until “Blue” in season 4 when Willow accidentally put a love spell on them and everyone thought, “Whoa,” when they saw the kind of chemistry they had. If that’s true, I love that Whedon was able to see it and capitalize on it.

    I’ve never heard any fans say they disliked Oz or Anya. I think Oz, in particular, was beloved. I will had my 2 cents that Crappy New Librarian will blow you away in Angel. And Angel is much better in his own show.

    Gellar’s acting ability, along with her commitment to the physical aspects is excellent. Part of that goes to her stunt double. Not only was she an excellent match to Gellar, physically, but she was just badass. I still think the sword fight with Angel at the end of season 2 was one of the most badass things I’ve seen on tv.

    Jareth, you have so many great episodes coming up! I’m excited for you to see them. Hush is definitely top shelf. The one the other guys have mentioned from the 5th season is really, really stellar. The musical episode in the 6th season is probably my favorite. Part of that is because I am also a musical theater nut and it’s the only time any tv series has ever done a musical episode that was a quality musical and not just another episode with some musical numbers thrown in. And it’s funny that you used the term “tabula rasa”, because that is another of my favorite episodes. Okay, I’ll stop before I start listing more and more episodes.

  67. Thanks guys. I know Seth Green often gets confused in some people’s minds with the douchey depiction of him they featured on Entourage. It’s nice to see that his work on Buffy is appreciated. That conversation he has on the telephone where a family member explains to him how he became a werewolf was handled so deftly. They could spend five minutes of each episode from this point onward showing him living out in the woods chasing squirrels for food and I’d be okay with that.

    That episode you mentioned where Spike and Buffy almost get married was exceptionally well performed. You could tell as early as the second season when the two characters formed an uneasy alliance that they worked really well together. It was at that point that a lot of problems with the Angel character became glaringly apparent to me. Kudos to the writers for bringing back their breakout character in a way that never felt pandering.

    Even though I strenuously disagree that there was any chemistry between Angel and Gellar, or even any hint that the actor who played Angel had a functioning cortex, I still generally liked what they attempted with him. If my earlier remarks about him seemed harsh, they’re actually quite positive compared to how I feel about Thor. Fucking Thor. The only way I’m going to sit through another AVENGERS movie is if Thor dies in the most gruesome manner possible in every single scene, like a Best of Kenny video on YouTube. Comic book fans, when jocks bully you for your geeky interests, blame it on Thor. He’s an embarrassment to your hobby. He’s your Urkel.

    But seriously, it’s really cool that you guys took the time to share your opinions about the show with someone who is about as late to the party as a person could possibly be. I appreciate your insights.

  68. Gaul, that’s the one. Though a case could be made for THE BODY, CONVERSATIONS WITH DEAD PEOPLE or DOUBLEMEAT PALACE(j/k)

  69. Saw CATCHING FIRE again today and i still enjoyed it. Especially Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss.

  70. Maggie – you’ve now heard one fan say he disliked Anya. Even “season 6”-era Dawn was preferable. For me the absolute nadir of the entire freakin’ show was the Anya-Xander love plot, culminating in “Coronation Street”-esque wedding scene and subsequent alter betrayal. (Although at least in “Coronation Street” the constant trail of ruined weddings is played with some sense of irony.) Uuuuugh. FTR I agree completely with the majority on the best moments – “The Body”, “The Wish” or “Doppelgangland” would probably be my choices.

    Pegsman – “Paul, if you’re the only one in the world that doesn’t “get” SOTD, then it’s you not us that need a few weeks at the humour academy.”

    WHAT? Didn’t I just demonstrate that I get it entirely… I just don’t LIKE it? I don’t enjoy spending time with the characters. I find them to be unlikeable stereotypes. Furthermore I dislike the style of humour that it represents, and that Pegg, Frost and co wisely dropped from their next two films. I’m hardly alone in that opinion either. I think the majority probably DO like SotD, but it’s hardly a case of me being the only one in the world with this view.

    And while we’re on the subject: “Young Adult” is the most obnoxiously predictable movie about horrible people that I’ve ever seen, “Casino Royale” is a dreadful movie adaptation of a classic novel with the soul and production values of a Sony advertisement, and it’s not my bloody fault if everybody who doesn’t get that “Out Of Sight” is sneering at its viewers happens to be congregated on this one website – because nobody who’s NOT on this website can stand that vapid plastic turd masquerading as high art! NOW ARE YOU HAPPY? DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO??!!!

    Goddamn… it seems to me that I’ve been in the majority opinion about approximately 90% of movies around here, at least since “Young Adult”. But if you guys keep casting me in the role of “that one guy” then I will take it and I will OWN it. See if I don’t.

    Also I agreed with you all (well, not Mouth, but who cares about that guy?) about “Gravity”. So FUCK YOU, you also-“Gravity”-liking scumbags!

  71. I just can’t even kind of see where you’re coming from, Paul.

    SPOILERS AHEAD FOR JARETH AND OTHER BUFFY NEWBS!

    The Anya/Xander breakup was not one of the more popular storylines, but man, could I relate to every second of it. I’ve been that guy, the sorta dorky one who through some fluke of fate finds this quirky, sexy, one-of-a-kind girl who thinks you’re this knight in shining armor, except you’re just some dumb kid who’s not ready for all that, and no matter how hard you try not to, the only thing you can do is break her heart. That storyline hit me right where I live. When Anya cries, the world cries with her.

    My ex did not become a vengeance demon after we broke up, though, so I guess I handled it better than Xander did.

  72. Jareth

    Dude, I don`t know how I can rave about Buffy anymore on this sight without coming over as a total nerd, but seriously, if you wanna get the full impact of Buffy season 4, u need to start watching it with Angel season 1. They originally aired back to back, and the plots keeps intertwining. The Bangel- storyline, which is pretty much the focus of Buffy 4, doesn`t make sense without watching this in this order. Season 4 gets a lot of criticism from Buffy-fans, but mostly because watching this season on it`s own is only half the story. It´s quite ambitious, and the only tv-show which splits up its story between 2 shows.

    I`ve actually wached buffy 4/angel 1 over the last couple of weeks and finished it today. And yes, Hush is awesome, but one of the best episodes is coming up. An episode, that you will watch again and again.

    I must admit, everytime I start watching a Buffy-season, I`m kinda underwhelmed. But Buffy is all screwing with its audience in the best possible way. Funny, that I defend this show b-movie show, and it stills blows my mind every time I rewatch it.

    Paul

    Yeah, you´re wrong about everything. Young Adult is a masterpiece, Casino Royale is the best actionmovie of the naughties, Gravity is the best scifi since 2001, and yes, we care about Mouth. And don´t get me started about the brilliant Out of Sight… Keep it real, dude.

  73. Thanks dna. I’ve noticed a few references in Season Four to stuff that was apparently happening over on Angel’s show, like the deus ex machina amulet that’s going to allow Angel to visit the beach in daylight and ruin everyone’s picnics with his hangdog expression. Considering Buffy isn’t a particularly heavy show, it’s pleasures are fleeting and a lot of the specific details escape my memory a few days after viewing (the Grinning Floaty Ghouls Who Rob Speech notwithstanding; that monster design is phenomenal, right up there with the Flukeman in the hall of fame). I could easily forget most of Buffy if I put off watching Angel.

    Does the Pork Pie Hat guy show up on Angel’s show? The guy who first pulled Angel out his his funk and encouraged him to stalk Buffy? That guy is hilarious.

    Actually, at the end of Season Two, when it looked like Buffy had sent Angel to hell (where I’d been telling him to go for two entire seasons), I was a bit jazzed about watching his show. I assumed that it was going to take place entirely in hell, like that cool sequence in CONSTANTINE where Keanu Reeves chases a swatch. But then Season Three began and Angel came sulking back to do exactly nothing for 22 episodes on Earth. The missed opportunity of him trying to find an apartment with a view of the Lake of Fire pretty much scuttled my enthusiasm. I figured Angel would own a bar, like Sam Malone, and all the regular customers would be monsters. Norm would be played by The Gorn.

    “Gorn!”
    “How’s the world treating you, Mr. Gorn?”
    “Bleaarrrrgggh!!” [Gorn lop’s off Cliff’s head; laughter ensures.]
    Carla: “You’re cleaning that up.” [More laughter.]
    [Angel sulks in the background, quietly drying a beer glass.]

    Also, I just watched the first part of that Season Four episode where Dollhouse wakes out of her coma and the whole season just took a nosedive. I forgot how much I dislike that actor’s lame performance and the very limited palette of themes she brought to the show. The old Switcheroo conceit is also my second least favorite trope (after the Whammy, which is one of my countless complaints against TEMPLE OF DOOM). All this shit was better left in Season Three when there was a relevant antagonist to lure her; now it’s just distracting from the cool Bruce Campbell Frankenstein monster stuff. That is Bruce Campbell, right? I ought to read the credits on these damn shows.

    Paul: I didn’t want to read any of your spoilers, but let me say this in defense of Former Demon Girl: I have absolutely no expectation that she’ll carry any weight on the show, dramatically or thematically. She’s there for the quips that result from her very unique perfective as a former monster with limited social skills. As such, I think she’s an all star member of the team, and a more enjoyable placefiller for MIA Mean Girl. If she keeps Dork Boy from getting on my nerves, she’s done her job.

  74. “Perspective,” obviously, not “perfective,” though the freudian slip is worth a chuckle (though actually I prefer Slayer Kendra who died too soon).

  75. DNA: “Yeah, you’re wrong about everything.”

    And my work here is done!

    Jareth: now I don’t want to spoil anything more for you, so I won’t respond to your comment about Anya. I’ll just let you watch it and see what you think about her later role in things.

  76. Also DNA:

    My “fuck you” was because I agreed with everybody, including you, on how good “Gravity” was. Which obviously means two things:

    1) Gravity is clearly a terrible, terrible film.
    2) Not only am I wrong about it, but so is everybody else here (except Mouth).

    And you know I love Mouth; but he’s had a few digs at me here recently, and honestly he’s kinda been upstaging me recently in the “odd man out” stakes. Hence his outright hatred of both “Gravity” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (I agreed with some of his criticisms of ZDT, by the way, but I still thought it was a good film overall. I disagreed with him completely about “Gravity”.) I don’t relish being “that guy”, but if that’s the role that’s been handed to me then I’m not giving it up without some SERIOUS smack-talk.

  77. Jareth

    Well, Faith is one of my favourite characters, and the one where she punches herself repeatedly in the face, is one of my favourite episodes. I`m not sure why everybody else hate her (or the actors performance). Faith is a lonely, self loathing wreck of a teenagegirl, who poses as a spunky and cool badass.

    Angel, for some reason, turns lame every time he visits Sunnydale. I didn´t like him as a character on Buffy, but I think he is awesome in his own show. And yes (minor spoiler) he gets to punch Buffy and yell “get out of my town!”

    But the Bangel-storyline doesn´t make sense (and feels stupid) without watching Angel, and the Faith storyline from Buffy 3 kinda concludes in Angel Season 1. And it´s pretty darn powerful (imo)

    The porkhat guy doesn´t return, but Cordelia turns into a real human when she moves to LA.

    – Paul

    I often disagree with you, but I like your posts. I don`t think less of people with a different taste as mine as long as they can discuss their opinions, and you often has interesting thoughts about the movies you discuss. It would be a boring debate if we all agreed on everything.

  78. Paul: We’ve agreed about a lot of stuff in the past (in fact, if you hate WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT as much as I do, we’ll be BFFs), so I’m willing to concede that you have a point about Former Demon Girl. She and I are pretty much still in the honeymoon phase right now, but it’s possible that the whole thing could go sour over the next few seasons. It’s happened to better shows (coughAgentReyescough).

    dna: Dollhouse calling Buffy “B” could stand in for everything I dislike about her: the show relies on idiotic hip phrases, empty posturing and mustache twirling instead of hiring an actor that can convey the trauma they wrote for her. Basically, she’s like an annoying rooster strutting around without any of the panache or pathos of Spike, who serves a similar function but makes it transcendental. The fights with Dollhouse are always good, but that might be because I’m hoping that Buffy will bash some talent into her noggin.

    But hey, I disliked Cyber Wiccan at first too and ended up liking her.

    Also, as far as I’m concerned every antagonist on the show has fallen far short of Monster Mash from Season One. That guy had a way with pulpy dialogue that is unsurpassed.

  79. If you like Anya, the character never jumps the shark. She just gets embroiled in the crushing megalodrama (I just made up this word and feel that it is entirely apt) of Season 6 like everyone else before rebounding strong in the next (and last) season. Some people just hate everything about Season 6, and I understand why: It’s a huge fucking downer. I watched that whole season over the course of a weekend one time and it drained me emotionally. It was like that crying montage in MAGNOLIA lasted 24 straight hours. I still find it amazing that the show ended up in such a dark, depressing, decidedly adult place after starting out as a disposable teen comedy costarring Pee Wee Herman. It’s a devastating piece of work that is so cruel to its characters that it borders on sadism, but it’s also some kind of major achievement in the art of bumming people the fuck out.

    But at least it has the musical episode. And it introduces national treasure Tom Lenk to the Whedonverse. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

  80. FTR Jareth, you have Angel Season 4 to look forward to. One of my all-time favorite TV series seasons ever. Faith plays a minor but extremely significant role in that one, and if anything will convert you on her, that probably will.

    We seem to have gotten very, very far from “The Hunger Games”. Katfish and Buffy – both of them use bows!

  81. Paul

    Fuck no, Buffy introduced the grrrl-power heroine, which lead to, among other things, twillight, and thus the hunger games. Discussing Buffy in a hunger game thread is just deep and, you know, kinda relevant.

    Jareth

    To each his own. I know the Faith character. She´s a fake, she`s portrayed as a fake, and the small glimpses where she actually lets her guard down, and we see the pain, is pretty heartbreaking (imo). It takes a pretty smart actor to pull of a character, who plays a character. Or maybe I just got a thing for violent chicks who needs a hug.

    Faith is a horrible person, but I feel sorry for her, and the smackdowns with B is the best scenes in the series, cause I don`t who to root for. B is a whiny valley-girl, but I empathise with her, even if I disagree with her actions. That´s pretty good acting too. SMG doesn´t try to sell Buffy as a cool heroine. No way, Buffy is fucked up, a mess, but even if you dislike her, you understand her.

    Talking about SMG acting. I often find her unbearable. But when I watch an episode like “who are you”, and see SMG being sexy, sassy and funny in her portrayal of Faith, I have to remind myself that SMG is much more than Buffy. She is amazing. A lesser actress would never have the guts to portray Buffy as the whiny, neurotic, insecure bitch she is.

    Yeah, I finished Buffy 4/Angel 1 tonight and am on a high. Best goddamn television show ever.

  82. Season 6 was such a bummer I haven’t watched Season 7 to this day. Should I bother? If it’s just the dying whimper of a show on its last legs I’d rather just skip it and remember BUFFY’s final hours as the weird, fitfully brilliant Season 6.

  83. Season 7 is easily the worst. It has some good episodes (mostly toward the end of the season) but it’s the only one I can’t really defend as a whole. It adds a bunch of problematic characters and spins its wheels a lot. But you need to watch it for the series finale, which is a suitably epic and moving sendoff. It’s not quite as good as the ANGEL finale (what could be, though?) but it’s good enough that it mostly succeeds in washing the taste of the rest of the season out of your mouth. My advice? Watch it with lowered expectations and with the knowledge that it’ll get better eventually and it’ll be a relatively painless experience.

  84. dna: The second part of that Season Four episode with Dollhouse ended better than I had expected. I understand your points about how the Dollhouse girl is written. But Gellar playing Faith inhabiting Buffy performs the Faith character better than Dushku does on her own. That’s just my opinion.

    Majestyk: Buffy 7 can’t be worse than X-Files 9, can it? I cut X-Files way more slack than it probably deserves, but that last season was pretty dire. Watching a good show go to hell like that is an especially cruel kind of heartbreak.

  85. CrustaceanHate, me and my wife are huge BUFFY fans and we can’t recommend to anyone that they don’t watch every single minute of all 7 seasons. It all ties together in the end and you need to see everything to get closure.

  86. I started watching Season 7 last night and it turns out I had already watched the first half dozen episodes or so. I guess they didn’t make much of an impression. It not terrible, though. I’ll keep watching the rest of the series, if only to see how it ends. Then I’ve got to watch the rest of ANGEL. I skipped the last season of that show too, but I’ve had every character death and plot twist spoiled so thoroughly that I feel like I’ve seen it already.

  87. Ok I’m gonna test a spoiler tag here, because you can’t edit posts… sorry all.

    [Spoiler]Test[/spoiler]

  88. Ok, let’s try triangle brackets this time… glad I tested.

    Test

  89. Awwww fark it. I can’t even do this.

    Well I’m not going to start posting spoilers of the final, final episode of “Buffy” here but I will say this: Crustacean, I’m just gonna confuse everything for you, because I’d recommend watching every season 7 episode of Buffy EXCEPT the final one. As a series it’s absolutely no way near as bad as most of Season 6 (although even that series that has a few standout episodes as well – for my money “Tabula Rasa”, “Once more with Feeling”, and “Normal Again”.)

    As for Season 7 though, “Same time, Same place” and “Conversations with Dead People” stand out as highlights for me. I might be in a minority of one here because some of it was VERY cheesy, but I also really liked “Showtime”. It just has such a great payoff at the end.

  90. Can we get back to talking about Catching Fire?

  91. I didn’t understand the part where Jena M. strips off her costume in the elevator. Was that to show how rebellious she was? And of course they didn’t show anything; just a tease frustratingly. Another example of wanting it both ways. If it’s geared for young girls why have that scene? Way have the scene if you’re just gonna tease the guys?

    It doesn’t serve any purpose for either demo for that particular scene.

  92. What’s this about Jena M. stripping?

    {*buys ticket for HUNGER GAMES STRIKES BACK*}

    See y’all in a few hours. . .

  93. GQtaste, I had absolutely no idea why she suddenly decided to take off all her clothes. I ended up getting into a big argument about with somebody who thought I was demanding an explanation for something that needed none.

  94. This movie’s wack. Marginally better than the first, but still altogether terrible. Not only did I not care for one single second about anyone or anything*, I actively disliked most everybody, especially Peeta & Katniss and the “prestige” actors who inexplicably round out the cast and each get crammed into an array of artless close-ups for the duration of this movie’s excruciating runtime.

    I feel like a real sucker for giving money to this piece of shite, a corporate behemoth Subway commercial (like SKYFALL + Heineken, CASINO ROYALE + Sony, and PROMETHEUS + Coors Light before it) allowed into our IMAX auditoriums.

    How is it possible for this subject material to be boring? You got bow-n-arrows, you got flammable costumes, you got electrocutable environments — and somehow the whole shoddy, money-grubbing ordeal flits away from my mind as I type this. Like William Hurt at the end of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, I wonder, “How do you fuck that up?”

    I hate this film.

    *okay Jena Malone is pretty great at first, but by the end I don’t even remember why I ever cared about her or what happens to her, and fuck you I’m not seeing the next boringass shitty episode

    Also the previews/commercials lasted 26 fucking minutes.

  95. *SPOILERS* Man, I really liked this one until the end (even if I knew it’d be a cliffhanger I still wouldn’t have liked it). It wasn’t just the fact that the “ending” was dramatically unsatisfying, but it raises WAY too many questions about what the actual plan was, who was in on it, what would they have done if she didn’t do such and such, etc… (Can we have a moratorium on the whole “I did this because I knew you would do this and then do this” twist that I guess got popular in Dark Knight and wouldn’t go away after Skyfall, STiD, etc.. and now continues here (even though it’s the good guys who are thinking 20 steps ahead this time)? It’s become my least favorite cinematic trend.

    Also it just seems weird that in a movie that follows the time-honored slasher/action movie structure where the number of characters slowly whittles down to one (or two), this one basically stops cold when there’s SEVEN people left, two of which are literally in the middle of chasing down Jena Malone when we last see them (or maybe they’re in on it too, who knows.) Sure it’s surprising but it was a big reason I was like “that’s it??” at the end.

    But despite not sticking the landing, I still think there’s plenty to recommend. The Games themselves don’t start until almost 90 minutes in, (the length of a whole other movie!) and I weirdly didn’t mind one bit, if that’s any indication on how involved I was. It’s entertaining despite being incredibly dour and oppressive and practically Schindler’s List-ian in how not-fun it is. The acting is strong (I still maintain Lawrence was better in the first one than she was in SLP, and she’s even better here). But man, that ending pretty much guarantees I won’t bother watching this one again.

    Re: the on-the-nose dialogue in the bulimia/dinner party scene, maybe I’m just an idiot but I kinda needed that spelled out for me (as did the other people I was with). I mean we just collectively got done with a national holiday entirely based around gluttony, where we literally stuff foods into other foods and make the meal last ALL FREAKING DAY, where we kill, what 50 million turkeys because we’re told that’s what we’re supposed to eat that day, half of which probably ends up in the trash. (I won’t even touch the morning after spent fighting each other at Walmart)* I guess what I’m trying to say is the line from the woman about the ipecac syrup and Peeta’s facial reaction made me think “ah, the people in the Capital are bulimic/shallow weirdos (a broad parody like Stanley Tucci’s over-tanned, over-teeth-whitened host) but Peeta’s line, though possibly redundant to you guys, made me realize that the Capital is us (or more accurately, the U.S.?)

    I mean, there’s literally a Covergirl Capitol Collection makeup line for those who want to, for some reason, look like Effie. (I seriously thought that was some Onion shit until I found out it was real) There’s a Subway sandwich with siracha on it because the title has the word Hunger in it and siracha is hot like Fire, see. There’s a soundtrack featuring huge acts like Christina Aguilera and Coldplay and hey, let’s get act du jour Lorde in here doing a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” because it sorta fits the theme and let’s not actually put most of these songs in the movie, but kids will snap this album up! The commercialization of such a dour, depressing story shouldn’t have surprised me, what the hell am I thinking.

    *And yes, I gorged all day on Thanksgiving and have been in eating contests and assorted nonsense, I’m as guilty as the next guy. I will probably also buy that Subway sandwich despite myself.

  96. The whole purging thing at the party made me think of the myth that ancient Romans would have binge and purge parties, using a vomitorium. It actually never happened and a vomitorium is a passageway from a theater or stadium, but it’s such a widely believed myth that I would be the writer was thinking about it when she put that part in the book.

    I do see aspects of the U.S. as the model here, but I think it’s more than just the U.S. I think it’s any society at it’s pinnacle. There’s the vomitorium myth, there’s references to France before the revolution with all of the wigs and outlandish costumes. I would bet there’s something in there referencing Great Britain during the whole “the sun never sets on the British empire” era that I didn’t get.

  97. And I think the part about Jena Malone stripping in the elevator was supposed to set up for the viewer that she wasn’t down for all the hoops they were required to jump through as tributes, didn’t give a shit who knew and wasn’t opposed to doing what she wanted about it, even if it wasn’t generally accepted behavior. And, in fact, she enjoyed ruffling feathers.

  98. Nicely said Vern!

    I have some things to say also.

    I too was disappointed by the abrupt end, but I found everything preceding it so rewarding it didn’t matter. Also, I saw a lot of depth and complexity in the story, which I thought earned every beat, every pay off and even earned it’s ending. I felt like in the end, it would be a disservice to the slow-burn of the movie if they rushed to any uprising by the end of it.

    In a typical film of this type, you get from A to Z without hitting anything in between. I felt this went A,B,C and so on fluidly, in an entertaining way and with some earnestness that let’s you take it all seriously.

    I mean, the issues it’s dealing with, the growth of the characters, the evolution of their situation from the beginning to the end, I just thought it all pieced together so well. Then the commentary on the media, reality TV, advertising, marketing and political landscapes at the moment

    Add to that the whole ‘meta’ aspect of the entire thing – Hollywood puts millions into this blockbuster with the big actors, performing for us, millions in marketing and advertising, celebrity fan-fare etc etc and yet, here is this story panning this system and woah, that 12 year old girl who “gets” it’s head explodes!

    What I’m worried is they’ve built all this up and the 3rd film is going to be shit (I hear the 3rd book is pretty widely panned).

    I agree, it shouldn’t have ended with a bunch of “here’s what happened while you were sleeping on the medical table…” they could have had an actual climax – maybe a battle as they get her out of the city or something, anything and it might have elevated the excitement of the end.

    Anyway, I’ve not read the books, the first one was all right but, a tad underwhelming and nothing about me has an affinity to be into this kind of movie. I loved it though – my thoughts coming out of it were and still are that it’s smart, adult, blockbuster film making, pretty close to it’s finest.

    That is all! Thank you for your comment space.

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