Monday, November 25, 2013

Wknd Box Office: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Book Thief, Delivery Man

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to choosing good movies to watch yourself!

Wknd Box Office: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Book Thief, Delivery Man

By Debbie Schlussel

I wasn’t that thrilled with any of this weekend’s new movies, but none of them is particularly terrible, as in many other weeks. I didn’t have time to finish up and post my reviews before the Jewish Sabbath began, so my apologies. Here they are:

* “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire“: While I liked this second installment of “The Hunger Games” movies better than the first (read my review). But it’s basically the same movie, cut in half.   And my objections remain the same: that it’s too violent and bloody for the kids at whom it is aimed, that its anti-capitalist and filled with class warfare–the enemies in the movie are rich people in “The Capitol” (while the oppressed and the heroes are the poor), that it’s a rip-off of other movies, such as “The Condemned” (read my review) and “Battle Royale,” and that it’s simply not believable that a stiletto thin woman can kick butt against males twice her size.   While the first half of this movie is slow and boring, when it finally heats up, it’s very suspenseful, action-packed, and the special effects are better than those in the first movie (the movie includes very cool clothing made of flames). But just as it gets to its most exciting point, the movie ends abruptly, and you have to wait for the next sequel to find out what happens. That’s a rip-off. Also a rip-off is that they merely repeat the same story almost verbatim in this movie as in the original. I felt like the writers phoned it in, and the story’s kinda silly.

The story: it’s a post-apocalyptic world in which there is no longer America, but Panem, a country made up of the rich and gaudy residents of “The Capitol” and several “districts,” which are filled with poor people who are basically enslaved, oppressed, and at the mercy of the President (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol people. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the Hunger Games in the first movie (a teen male and female are chosen at random and forced to compete in a reality show in the wilderness, where they must kill each other and only one winner is supposed to survive).

The President is upset at what he perceives is a growing rebellion against Panem. So, he tells Katniss and Peeta that they must convince the country that they are in love (they aren’t). Since he thinks that Katniss and Peeta are symbols of the rebellion, he decides to do a new Hunger Games, requiring past winners, including Katniss and Peeta, to compete to the death against each other. So the movie from there is really a repeat of the first one.

Also, I felt like I was watching a futuristic version of “The Butler,” when Katniss and Peeta (both White) visit the districts of those who died in their Hunger Games, and the movie only shows the scene when they visit the Black district, showing how oppressed they are and how the families of the two kids who died in the Hunger Games are grieving. But this is the case in every district, so why focus on the Black district? To show us that Blacks are always the victims?

And, finally, when I saw that Katniss’ clothing designer is murdered, I was wondering if we can get rid of Mark Jacobs, too.


* “The Book Thief“: I was really excited to see this movie . . . and so incredibly disappointed when I did. It soft-peddles the Holocaust and tries to make us sympathetic to Germans who supported the Nazis and their “plight.” Um, no thank you. America doesn’t need a movie from the “German point of view.” The ghost of Leni Riefenstahl is laughing at us.

My late maternal grandparents struggled to survive the Holocaust and nearly died on a daily basis. Both of their families were wiped out, murdered by the Nazis, but you don’t see any of that, just a Jew who hides in a basement, and then miraculously survives at the end despite all odds against him. Yes, one German couple in a fiction movie risks their lives to save a Jew, but they were–in real life–the extreme exception, NOT the rule. I was disgusted at this Whitewash of the German people. Oh, and they show us the German bodies of “innocent victims” of Allied air raids. Guess what? There were plenty of bodies of Jewish Holocaust victims and American and British soldiers. Those they don’t show.

I realize the movie is based on a fiction book for young adults (although I’m told the book is better and the movie screws it up), but come on. The small German town where this takes place is an idyllic German town that reminded me of the “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” set, with gingerbread houses and charming, cute children. Even the townspeople and kids who support Hitler are cute and charming and not at all hateful.

The story: a young girl, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), is the daughter of a Communist. The Nazis take her mother away, and she is adopted by a working class German couple in a small, charming town. Her new adoptive father, Geoffrey Rush, teaches her to read, and she eventually warms to her new parents. They are decent people who are reluctant about the Nazi book-burning rallies and so on. And, as they struggle to survive in meager times, they hide a Jewish boy in their cold basement (he is the son of a Jewish German soldier who saved Rush’s life in World War I).

The Jewish boy gets sick in the cold of the basement, and Sophie reads to him as he is unconscious, hoping this will save him. She “borrows” books by taking them from the Burgermeister’s house. And throughout it all, Liesel has her friend, Rudy, a cute blond friend who is a boy her age. He is a decent kid and helps her keep her secret about the Jew hiding in the basement. And that’s despite Rudy’s Nazi-loving, racist father. That’s not very believable either, as it would be rare for a very young kid to have morally sound views in opposition to those of his Nazi-supporting father.

While the acting is very good–Rush is always masterful and newcomer Nélisse is outstanding, the story is revisionist history. The Nazis came to power because the people in towns like these supported them and their Jew-hatred, but the movie glosses over and soft-peddles most of that. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since the movie comes from the film studio owned by Rupert Murdoch and Jew-hating Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal.

Two other things: the movie is very slow and seemed long because of it. And the use of “Death” as the narrator was not that effective.


* “Delivery Man“: This is a remake of a French-language, French Canadian film, and it’s directed by the same guy. I had mixed feelings about this movie. While there are (a very few) moments that are touching and warm and show the importance of a father in kids’ lives, the overall message of the movie is Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” BS. And it’s that old world values and nuclear families with a traditional mother and father are passe. And it’s that men, particularly fathers, are dopes and losers.

This isn’t your typical Vince Vaughn movie, in that it’s more serious and less funny. And the real cut-up in the movie is the fabulously funny Chris Pratt, who plays Vaughn’s lawyer friend.

Vaughn plays a screw-up/loser who works at his Polish immigrant father’s meat business in New York. He is growing marijuana in his apartment, owes tens of thousands of dollars to the mob, and his cop girlfriend is pregnant with his kid (though she wants to raise it alone). He wants to be in his future child’s life, so he sets out to show her he deserves to be in her life. But just as he’s finally starting to realize he needs to shape up, he learns that a sperm bank where he made over 600 donations of sperm gave his sperm to every woman who sought the stuff. Therefore, he now has over 500 children, more than 100 of whom are suing to learn his identity.

Vaughn decides to see some of his sperm bank kids and gets involved in their lives. This is against the repeated advice of Vaughn’s best friend, Chris Pratt, who is a suspended lawyer and a father of four, whose young kids never listen to him. And, of course, Vaughn’s sperm bank kids are completely diverse as you would expect from any politically correct movie. He has Black, Indian, Asian, gay, and drug addict kids.

As I said, there are some touching points in this movie, such as when Vaughn repeatedly goes to visit a developmentally disabled sperm bank kid of his who is in an institution. The kid who does not communicate and is basically a vegetable (a term I hate, but is the best way to describe the situation), and yet Vaughn shows him love and respect for human dignity.

But almost all of the father figures in this movie–including Vaughn and Pratt–are dopes and idiots. And the one father who is decent, Vaughn’s married Polish immigrant father is seen as “backwards” and poor. He cannot afford to take his wife on a dream honeymoon to Italy, and yet later in life, Vaughn pays for the trip. But we later learn, Vaughn got the money to pay for the trip from his many masturbating sessions donating sperm to the sperm bank. Ick.

Eventually, Vaughn takes responsibility for all of his actions, but that doesn’t justify some of the many whacked out messages in the movie.


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