The Hunger Games

Girl on Fire? You said it. 😉

Today’s review is a movie that I have been waiting all year to see and it is the third-biggest movie of the year, behind The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. So what movie would this be? Well, in a word, it’s The Hunger Games.

Before we get started with this review, I have a bit of a confession to make. Going into this movie, I had never read any of the Hunger Games books yet I heard that it was really popular. When I heard that it was another series of books that had an enormous fan base and that it was going to be a movie, I was like, “Oh, great. This is going to be another Twilight.” Then I heard all the reviews and the positive word-of-mouth coming in and I was like, “Maybe I should check this out.” It took me months to see it and I finally saw it last Friday before I went into school and sure enough, it was everything that the critics and moviegoers said it was.

The world of The Hunger Games takes place in the future where the whole continent of North America has been turned into the fictional nation of Pardem. That means no US, no Canada and no Mexico. At least we can’t blame Obama for that one. Pardem was supposedly divided into 13 “districts.” (kind of similar to how America got started. Get it? 13 districts, 13 colonies?) However, at one point, all the districts revolted against the Pardem government, a revolt that the president ruthlessly suppressed by wiping out District 13 (I think they nuked it or something) and they passed what is known as the Treaty of Treason, which created the idea of the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games was designed as punishment for the failed uprising in which every year each district offers up one boy and one girl (usually between the ages of 12 and 18) to compete in the Hunger Games, which can basically be described as the Olympics from Hell. However, there is no gold, silver, or bronze medals rewarded. There can only be one winner. Everyone else dies. And we’re talking about kids here. Kids killing kids, unpleasant to say the least.

So I’ve said enough, now onto the movie.

The movie actually starts in District 12, which is a coal-mining district that looks like something out of the Depression-era. I did mention this was set in the future, right? Here we are introduced to our main heroine, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (played by Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence) who is actually the strongest female character we’ve seen in movies in ages. She is sort of the man of the house (her father was a coal miner who got killed in a mining accident) who goes out and hunts with a bow and arrow which she is pretty good at and will serve her later on.

Soon enough, the government of Pardem comes a calling because it is Hunger Games season which means time to round up their one boy and one girl to see die on national television. Sent to pick the District 12 contestants is a rather flamboyant reporter (played by Elizabeth Banks.) Normally, Elizabeth Banks is a hot chick. She appeared as Betty Brant in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies but she’s probably best known as the sexy yet freaky girl in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Here, she’s virtually unrecognizable under the excessive make-up, bizarre hairstyle, and an outfit that looks like Victorian Era-meets-80’s era MTV. In fact, when we get to the Capital, you’ll notice that everyone is practically dressed like her, but I’ll get to the capital in a bit. However, all this works for the character and she ends up stealing the movie.

So they come and they pick their two contestants: A boy named Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss’ 12-year old sister Primrose. Horrified that they would pick her younger sister, Katniss volunteers to take her place, which moves everyone in the movie. So Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capital of Pardem which is ruled by the rich and by the media. (Sound familiar everyone?)

There they are introduced to luxuries that they are not used to, like exotic food, a comfortable penthouse apartment with a remote-control window that can change the scenery at any time, and more elegant clothing and spa treatment. Apparently Pardem wants its contestants to live like celebrities before they kill each other. And everything leading up to the games themselves (a parade and talk show interviews) kind of resembles American Idol from Hell. Katniss wows the audience by wearing outfits that emits fire which leads everyone to call her “the Girl on Fire.” Take that, Kristen Stewart!

And finally, we get to the main event, where Katniss puts all her skills to the test against the other contestants, who have been training for this their entire lives. And yes, things do get very intense. After all, this is a duel to the death. Now there have been some criticisms about the violence in the movie and the harm it may have on children. I have to say the violence in the movie isn’t really that bad. It gets its point across without being overly excessive.

As far as the performances go, everything’s pretty good. As I mentioned before, Jennifer Lawrence is a really effective screen heroine. She’s vulnerable when she needs to be but otherwise, she is pretty strong-willed and fearless. In short, she has characteristics that have been missing from big-screen heroines for years. The male performances were pretty good, most notably Woody Harrelson playing Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games champ turned mentor who spends his time drinking and cracking jokes. In short, he’s playing Woody Harrelson and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Another actor in the movie I didn’t recognize right away was Lenny Kravitz (who plays Katniss’ stylist.) I mean, it’s been years since I last saw or heard from him. And Donald Sutherland turns in a chilling performance as the President of Pardem who at one minute is heaping praise on someone and showering complements on someone and at the other minute is plotting to have that person killed. In short, he’s like the Emperor in Star Wars.

And there is something else I like about this film that I don’t like about the Twilight series (both book and film incarnations), the author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (who also co-wrote the screenplay which gives it a degree of authenticity) treats its readers with dignity and intelligence, unlike that OTHER young adult movie series!

So how does The Hunger Games compare to Harry Potter and that franchise that will not be named? For one thing, the film is as good as the best of the Harry Potter movies (maybe even better) and it completely blows the Twilight Saga out of the water. And by Twilight Saga, I am also including Breaking Dawn Part 2 in the mix even though it’s not out in theaters until next month. I saw the trailer for that movie and it sucks! It confirms every bad thing everyone has been saying about that series for years. That while I have said in the past that it’s not required to have seen a Twilight movie to know it sucks, I think I’m actually going to see Breaking Dawn: Part 2 when it comes out so that way if it really does suck, I’ll be able to show it no mercy. Besides, I hope it bombs worse than John Carter and Battleship combined.

But back to Hunger Games. Awesome movie, really worth checking out. I’m glad I saw it. Trust me, it was well worth the really long wait I had to endure just to see it. And if the next two movies (because there are two more books to adapt and the next one comes out next fall) are as good as this, we’re gonna be in for a really awesome film series.

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Q & A

Today we’re going to do something a little different and a little more fun. Today we’re going to do a little question and answer thing that I do on myyearbook.com and usually gets published to both my Facebook and my Twitter. On Yearbook, I usually accept any type of questions from people unless either the person who is asking me the questions is anonymous or if the question pertains to a certain three-letter word that starts with “s” and makes the world go round. So without further ado, let’s begin.

1) Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: Well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be either a writer or an actor when I grew up. And in a way, I sort of accomplished both thanks to the    Internet, most notably this blog and what I do on YouTube and blip.tv.

2) Q: What sport do you suck at?

A: In high school, I didn’t play sports even though my junior high teacher was trying to get me to go out for track. The closest I ever got was being the manager of my high school girls’ basketball team. Nonetheless, I took a guess and said hockey.

3) Q: Would you ever go skydiving?

A: I have thought about going skydiving and I would like to try it, as long as I was assured that there would be no parachute malfunctions.

4) Q: What does it take for a girl to get you to ask her out on a date? This was asked by a woman who lives in Utica by the way.

A: That’s a very good question. I’m still not sure. Usually the girl is the one who asks me out.

5) Q: What’s your favorite fast food restaurant?

A: McDonald’s.

6) Q: What is one thing you would do to make the world better?

A: Well that’s a very good question. For starters, I would say recycle.

7) Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

A: Hopefully famous and successful.

8) Q: Have you ever tried yoga?

A: No. I have considered trying yoga though, being I do work out.

9) Q: Which video game do you like better, Q-Bert or Frogger?

A: Before I answer this, for those of you who don’t know what Q-Bert and Frogger are, they’re classic video games that came out during the arcade boom of the early 80’s, although Frogger was wonderfully parodied on a classic episode of “Seinfeld.” The answer is I love them both, even though my all-time favorite game is “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” for Playstation 2.

10) Q: Would you ever go on a blind date?

A: Nope. They never work out.

11) Q: Would you date a blind person?

A: That’s a difficult question. So I would say I don’t know.

12) Q: What new movie do you want to see?

A: Well I do want to see “Iron Man 2.” It just opened yesterday but I’m probably not going to be able to see it until probably next weekend. Plus I also want to see the new “A-Team” movie and “Predators” looks pretty good too.

13) Q: Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?

A: Nope, I have never been arrested or charged with a crime. 

14) Q: Do you take your coffee black or with extra cream and sugar?

A: I take it black.

15) Q: Are you married?

A: No, I’m not married. And I’m not looking for marriage either.

16) Q: What’s your opinion on friends with benefits?

A: I’m all for it and in fact I like that idea better than marriage.

17) Q: What’s your worst subject in school?

A: When I was in school, my worst subjects in school were math and science.

18) Q: Would you move to another country to be with the one you love?

A: If I had the money and if I didn’t have any reason to stay where I am now, absolutely. But for now, I am not relocatable.

19) Q: Would you rather be rich or famous?

A: I would rather be both.

20) Q: Did you know the scruffy look (in reference to my five o’clock shadow) is sexy on you?

A: Yes I do. In fact, during my time on the web, I noticed that a lot of women like the scruffy look on men better than clean-shaven. In fact when I am clean shaven, I look too much like a kid and when you’re a single man in your 30’s like I am, that is clearly no way to look.

OK, that just about does it. I’m sure I will be doing another one of these soon. In the meantime, the video version of this set of questions will be on this week’s episode of “The Adventures of Blackcatloner” which is coming out later today.

The Big 3-0

Well, last Tuesday was a big milestone for me. As of that Tuesday (February 12), I am now officially the big 3-0. That’s right, I am now 30 years old. It pretty much means a lot of things, but the biggest meaning of all is that the best years of my life are now behind me, or they could be just beginning. It all depends on your point of view.

The night before my birthday, I was able to take a personal day off from work. It was pretty much a good thing I did too. The weather that day was not very good and it was very cold that day, not to mention the fact that if I had gone to work that night and my co-workers had found out about my birthday, they probably would have announced it over the PA and you know how that can be. So in other words, I was pretty smart to take a personal day.

Prior to my birthday, I had been spending some time at the other library because of the weather and other things. I also have taken a “side job” of sorts by shoveling snow for the Historical Society on days when it snows, so that gives me a little extra money a week. I also used the personal day to get some more work done on my book because I really need to get that done and that pretty much ties in with the fact that I have in fact gotten older. I just don’t want to look back on my life and regret not having been able to do things I wanted to do, and there are other things besides write my book that I haven’t done yet but want to do.

The Same Old Grind

So far not much has been happening from this neck of the woods. I am at HCCC tonight and it is about an hour and a half before I go to work. Since the weather held out today, I figured that today would be a good day to come up and have some more fun on the ol’ web before going back to the grind.

It’s pretty hard to come up with new material since nothing really has been going on, so I figured that I would come up with something relatively different. I am now officially three weeks away from the big 3-0. I decided to take another personal day off from work on February 11. Hopefully, I got it.

Well, I have quite a bit going on in February aside from the fact that I am turning 30 this year. I also have to attend a book signing at the Historical Society on the 23rd in connection with the recent release of the book based on Chester Gillette’s diary. You can read more about that on the “Chester and Grace” site.

And then I’m also probably going to be doing the Heart Run again this year in Utica. I have been receiving some things for it in the mail. I should have more details on that soon. Yessiree, I have a whole lot going on, not to mention the fact that I have to get my book finished. I am pretty close to the end as far as that goes and I am still aiming to get that done and out by sometime this year.

The Year Of Opportunity

It is absolutely amazing. This year went by so fast. I can’t believe that New Year’s is only three days away. I’m sorry that I haven’t been here so much the last couple of weeks. It’s just that I have been really busy with things, both online as well as at work, especially with the Christmas shoppers at work. And over the holiday, I ended up with a three-day weekend off from the ‘Net. I spent Christmas Eve sleeping and Christmas Day working on my book until it was time to go to work. Yes, I did work on Christmas night, but the store didn’t open until the following morning.

Last weekend was Christmas for my brother-in-law’s kids in which I gave them all gift cards. This weekend is the grown-up’s Christmas. Anyway, I ended up doing some last-minute shopping this morning before coming in to go online. I also have another three-day weekend from the ‘Net to look forward to because of New Year’s. However, I still do have to work both days. I won’t be back online until Wednesday and by then it will be a new year: 2008.

As I have mentioned before, this year has been really crazy. It started off pretty much with me getting attacked at work by some customer with a baseball bat. That story is still not over yet, but he is still in jail, now awaiting sentencing, which won’t be until February. Then in March, I officially opened this site and ended my Yahoo site after that. I also created my “Cat A Day” site back in August. And if that isn’t the icing on the cake, I found that my online popularity had been increasing significantly. Just think, pretty soon I’ll be another Internet success story and who knows where that will lead.

I also have a book that I am working on, which is still not completed yet although it is pretty close. I started it last December, but was preempted because of the Valentine’s Day blizzard and then my assault at work. I didn’t get back on track with that until the summer. Now I am pretty close to the end. Hopefully within the next month or so, I will be ready to submit it to a publisher.

And so I must close the first year of this site by thanking those of you who have supported me throughout the course of this site and hopefully you will continue to stick around because hopefully, the best is yet to come.