Red Dawn reviewed

I was sick with a cold (courtesy of my 4-year-old nephew) for most of the Thanksgiving holiday (yay me) so I pretty much laid low for three days and drank Dr. Pepper (just what the Doctor ordered), downed DayQuil, and read copiously (a book a day, but who’s counting). But I did manage to sneak out and catch a couple of movies.

One of them was Red Dawn.

It’s probably not a huge surprise to you that I went and saw this movie considering my boyf- I mean, Chris Hemsworth is in it. But I had other motives as well. I’m a sucker for patriotic action films and this one seemed like it would deliver.

*Obligatory spoiler warning* I try not to, but ya never know…oh, and because I’m still a little under the weather this review is probably a little snippier than usual. I blame it on my throbbing headache.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6T2Q4bBcUU]

The movie starts out with news clips about a Russian/North Korean communist uprising that no one was paying attention to, apparently. Then it switches gears and gets all Friday Night Lights-ish. Especially once Adrianne Palicki pops her pretty little head in. The big High School football game is happening. The after-partying and underage bar hopping is happening. Little bro is pissed at big bro for joining the Marines and ditching him for 6 years after their Mom dies but he has a smokin’ hot girlfriend so whatevs. Girl who had crush on big bro spots him and makes contact by reminding him how adorably awkward she was, but hey, check it out, she’s super hot now.  It’s all very over dramatic and I’m not using their names because I didn’t even know them for most of the movie. I had to look half of them up on imdb just to write this review. (Something else that look at imdb informed me of? Apparently this is a remake of a 1984 movie I didn’t know existed. Weird, since I was pretty sure I knew about every movie made in the 80’s, especially the ones starring Patrick Swayze. And ESPECIALLY ones that also star Jennifer Grey making googly eyes at Patrick Swayze a full 3 years before Dirty Dancing. Seriously. How did I not know this??? That fact stressed me out for exactly 3.5 seconds.)

Then the power goes out and gets everyone even more pissy. The next morning they wake up to loud booms and when they go outside it’s literally raining men. This is where the movie gets its name. Communism = Red, Morning = Dawn. Chaos ensues but a ragtag bunch of teenagers manage to escape with big bro and use guerilla-style fighting tactics courtesy of big bro’s Marine Corps training (oorah!) to fight the big bad Communists.

Chris Hemsworth plays the big bro aka Jed Eckert. He’s gorgeous, of course. Way more gorgeous than he has any right to be. He’s recently returned from a deployment to Iraq and he’s a jack of all trades when it comes to weaponry and explosives. I’ll have to ask my real life USMC brother if that’s true to life or total bullshit. During the movie I found myself believing he could know most of it but probably not all of it. He’s the oldest and therefore the de facto leader of the bunch. The only kid that puts up a fight about that doesn’t last very long. We really don’t learn much about Jed other than the fact that his little brother is resentful yet respectful of him and Adrianne Palicki’s character wants to jump his bones. Despite that, you can’t help but care about the guy because he’s doing everything he can to fight the Commies while keeping his kids alive.

Josh Peck is little bro aka Matt Eckert. I had absolutely no idea who Josh Peck was. After looking at his imdb page, I still don’t. Apparently he was on a Nickelodeon show or something. To be honest, I didn’t care for him or his character all that much. He’s cocky and disobedient and sneers a lot. And when I say sneer, I mean he has a weird little stoned-looking half smile that he uses when he really wants to piss you off. And it works. A total pesky little brother.

Josh Hutcherson is the whimpy kid that ends up being a badass. Sounds kind of like Peeta in The Hunger Games but it’s not. It’s totally different. He was probably my favorite character in the film because he seriously rose to the occasion. His BFF was none other than Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s kid, Connor Cruise. I assumed that this was his acting debut but when I looked him up I saw that he played Will Smith’s younger self in Seven Pounds. I never saw that movie though so I ceased to care. He did ok. His character had a certain dignity that I found appealing.

Adrianne Palicki played Toni Walsh, the girl with a hard on for my boyf- I mean, Chris Hemsworth. I like Adrianne. I think she’s cute and she was the best part of Legion (after Kevin Durand, of course). She becomes a bad ass chick fighter who’s really good at hiding her fear. Maybe because she’s trying so hard to impress big bro. She steals his beer and that causes problems so I’m a little pissed at her right now.

The other hot chick is Isabel Lucas aka Erica Martin. The object of little bro’s obsession, she seems way too pretty for this movie from the get go. They try to ugly her up a bit but it doesn’t work. The girl is crazy gorgeous. She fit in perfectly in Immortals. In this movie, she’s distracting. Plus, she doesn’t have much to do besides be the damsel in distress. She holds her own when given the opportunity though and I respect that in a fictional character.

The other kids are kind of nameless and faceless, to be honest. You’re supposed to care about them just enough that you’re bummed when bad stuff happens to them but you can’t remember their names so you don’t care as much as you probably should. Really, the only ones who really pass as High Schoolers are Hutcherson and Cruise. The rest of them are obviously in their 20’s.

At one point some “recently un-retired” Marines led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan show up looking for the Wolverines (this  is the High School mascot and the super original name they give their guerilla group). I’m pretty much in love with JDM. First he played Denny on Grey’s Anatomy, a show I haven’t seen in years but that I used to be addicted to. Then he showed up as Comedian in Watchmen and his fate as a hunk was sealed. But who am I kidding? I have a list a mile long of men I’m in love with 😉 He has a few great lines and a few great smiles. Which is all I really need from him anyway. One of his buddies is Kenneth Choi who is seriously adorable and gaining quite the reputation as a military sidekick. I have no idea who the third guy was but he was cool.

The baddies were led by Will Yun Lee aka Captain Cho of North Korea. He zeroes in on big bro within minutes of landing and knows he’s going to be trouble. He’s so determined to smoke him out, he does some pretty dastardly (wow, I can’t believe I just used that word, what is this, a Disney movie?) things to make it happen. But he seriously underestimates who he’s dealing with and you can guess what becomes of that.

I’m not going to say that this movie was bad but it wasn’t great either. The emotions were obviously forced at times, even from Hemsworth and Hutcherson who I consider to be pretty talented in that regard for such pretty men. And some of the dialogue was so cliche as to be laughable. The one major thing it has going for it is that no one is safe. Not even the pretty people. That led to some truly shocking death scenes, one of which I expected but that still made me gasp audibly when it happened.

But who am I kidding? I love gratuitous violence and I have a thing for watching American’s kick some ass (even if those “Americans” are imported from Australia). So I enjoyed it.

3 out of 5 Sci-Fives!

three out of five sci-fives

Hungry for some Hunger Games (movie edition)

Chelsea and I definitely agreed it was worth a Sci-Five!

Ok seriously, I don’t know wtf was up with the audience in my theatre but I couldn’t tell if I was there to watch a movie or at a meeting of the World’s Smallest Bladder Club.  I think the four people in our group were the only people in the entire theatre that didn’t get up to pee at some point.  And don’t even get me started on the couple who brought the newborn baby.

Aaaaaand my bitch session has officially ended, on to the review of Hunger Games!

*The usual warning: I actually do a pretty good job of not spoiling things but if you’re nervous about it, you may want to wait until after you’ve seen the movie to read my review.

Oh, Katniss Everdeen.  I love you so much.  We have a lot in common, you and I. We are both tougher than we look, don’t make friends easily but are fiercely loyal when we do, would do anything for our younger siblings, and are totally clueless when someone has a crush on us.  That is, until they flat out say it…and maybe clap their hands in front of your face and set off a foghorn in your ear.

Oh, Jennifer Lawrence.  I love you so much.  You’re the actress I would have picked to play Katniss and I’m very happy that the powers that be agreed with me.  You bring strength and vulnerability to a role that could easily have been botched by lesser actresses.  Plus your perty.

Oh, Peeta Mellark.  You’re such a sweetheart.  You represent all the guys who are in love with the girls who say “you’re just like my brother!”  You’re quietly supportive and then completely awestruck when the girl finally starts to see you in a different light.  I’ve been that girl who has dated that boy and I root for you.

Oh, Josh Hutcherson.  I feel like I’ve watched you grow up.  You were pretty good in Bridge to Terabithia and even better in The Kids Are All Right.  You’ve turned into quite the charmer.  Your smile is totally adorkable.  I heard about you introducing Liam to White Castle, then playing basketball so hard you both threw up all those hamburgers.  That’s really gross but really funny.  Male bonding is weird.

Oh, Gale Hawthorne.  You’re the guy that the girls who don’t realize how awesome they are feel like they can never get.  You’re a stud but you don’t even know it.  You’re a great friend and you think of that dorky girl as a cute little sister until the day someone else starts to pursue her and then you realize that you’ve loved her all along. I’ve been that girl who has dated that guy too and I root for you as well.

Oh, Liam Hemsworth.  You’re dating Miley Cyrus and I’m not gonna lie, that kind of turns me off.  BUT, you’re Thor’s little brother and you seem really down to earth in all your interviews so I’m willing to look past the Miley Factor.  You’re also kind of ridiculously cute.  Not as cute as your older brother, but you can hold your own.

Other District 12 peeps:

You might recognize Mrs. Everdeen if you watched the Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica where Paula Malcolmson played Amanda Graystone. I think she was a good choice to play the mom-with-no-first-name.  She’s excellent at staring blankly and crying.  Primrose Everdeen is a character I totally love and I think that Willow Shields did a fine job portraying her.  She’s got some heavy stuff coming up in the next two films and I hope she’s up to the task.  Woody Harrelson was an inspired choice to play Haymitch, the only Victor that District 12 has ever had.  He provided comic relief but also some very tender moments that I found very endearing.  He came to SFSU when I was a Freshman to talk about SOL (Simple Organic Living) and legalizing marijuana and while Miss Mary Jane is not my thing, I really enjoyed watching him speak.  He struck me as the kind of guy I’d like to chill out and have a beer with (or, in my case, a shot of Jager).

Capital peeps:

Lenny Kravitz was lovely as Cinna, Katniss’s stylist and Capital BFF.  In real life Jennifer Lawrence and his daughter Zoe are best friends (they starred in X-Men: First Class together) so they already had a relationship that could be expanded upon.  I’ve really grown to like Elizabeth Banks.  I didn’t pay too much attention to her early in her career.  I thought she was cute as Betty Brant in Spider-Man but that was about it.  Then one day something clicked and I’ve been keeping an eye on her ever since.  She made for a great Effie Trinket, though I always imagined Effie being even perkier than Banks’ portrayal.  Seneca Crane is a pretty minor character in the books.  They definitely expanded his role for the movie to take full advantage of Wes Bentley and his epic swirly beard.  I love Donald Sutherland.  When I was a kid a TV movie came out called The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and I don’t know why (probably because I’m a huge history nerd), but that movie has always stuck with me.  It stars Sutherland as an aging Confederate Captain who takes Diane Lane as a child bride.  In it he has a cold, calm demeanor with a vicious temper lying just below the surface. Much like President Snow.  President Coriolanus Snow is scary because of all the ways he isn’t scary.  He’s small with slightly snake-like features, he zealously tends his gardens, and he doesn’t raise his voice.  Quiet and calculating, the man literally has blood breath that he masks with the genetically engineered super roses he wears on his lapel.  But the Capitalist of the Year Award has to go to Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman.  Brilliant.

I wrote a post after reading The Hunger Games for the first time in June 2011.  Normally I would reread the book before going to see the movie but I’m right in the middle of A Dance with Dragons and I didn’t want to interrupt so I’m purely going off memory here.  From what I remember the movie follows the book extremely well.  A great film adaptation that I can’t help but feel is owed to Suzanne Collins helping to write the screenplay.  Two things that were different and that I really missed were:

1. The omission of Madge Undersee, the Mayor’s daughter who gives Katniss the Mockingjay pin in the book.  The ties that bind them are eventually revealed in Book 2, Catching Fire and take the story to an even deeper, more emotional level.

2. The dogs at the end of the Hunger Games.  In the movie they are pitbull-type and identical but in the book they are mutts with the mutated faces of the kids who have already died in the Games.  The mutt dogs are meant to be a total mindfuck for the remaining Tributes, as opposed to just being giant scary dogs.

Respect yo

I think that the filmmakers are relying on the fact that you’ve read the book and already know about some of the characters and situations.  Having read the books and not finding it a problem, I know this only because one of the people I was with hadn’t read the books and was very confused by certain parts, like the three-fingered salute.  He wanted to know where the heck that came from and what it meant.  I’m hoping the DVD has deleted scenes like the dubbing of the redhead as “Foxface” so that I know they at least tried to get it in there but just had to cut it for time.  Also, I cried twice within the first 50 pages of the book and probably a dozen times over the course of all three.  There is a true sense of hopelessness and despair that just can’t be captured onscreen.  I got a little verklempt during Rue’s final scene but it didn’t deliver the emotional wallop I was expecting it to and that kind of bummed me out.

Stylistically I thought that the movie was gorgeous.  District 12 was appropriately bleak and made the surrounding woods that Katniss and Gale escape to all the more beautiful.  The Capital was gaudy, though not as much as I expected it to be.  I was expecting to see people with green skin and implanted cat whiskers and whatnot but found that I didn’t really miss them.  The flame effect was nicely done.  For some reason I always pictured their whole bodies being on fire, as opposed to just the head and shoulders.  But that didn’t really bother me.

I really liked the Hunger Games Control Room with its sterile interior and white uniforms.  It kind of made me feel like zombies were going to break out of a holding cell down the hall.  But that’s a good thing (for once) because it means that it was creepy and the idea of people sitting around and calmly deciding how best to kill innocent children is a really creepy idea.

If I have one complaint it’s the shaky cam.  I seriously hate shaky cam.  I saw the movie twice, once closer to the screen and once further back.  Being further back I didn’t notice the shakiness that much and I enjoyed the movie much more.  When I was closer to the screen it gave me a bad headache a la Cloverfield (a movie that I will never watch again despite my love for JJ Abrams and Lizzy Caplan).  So if the filmmakers ever read this (haha yeah right) I implore you, please ditch the shaky cam unless you deem it absolutely necessary for very small parts of the film.

Most of all, this movie got me really, really, REALLY excited for the next two films, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  I can’t wait to see how they handle the Quarter Quell and District 13, etc etc.  Gah! I’m trying really hard not to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read the books yet.  If you haven’t, you really should.  They are technically YA novels but that’s kind of like saying the last few Harry Potter books are for children.  They’re really not.

4.5 out of 5 Sci-Fives!