Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games

Perhaps the most anticipated film of the past year, The Hunger Games does not disappoint (which is no small feat). If you don't know the plot, you have probably been living under a stairwell recently. The world is post-uprising where a central government controls 12 colony districts. Each district contributes resources to the central government in return for "security and food". As a constant reminder of their place in the power hierarchy, each district donates (by lottery) two teens each year for the Hunger Games. These games are a gladiatorial fight to the death watched by all on TV. Our hero, Katniss, volunteers to save her younger sister from having to represent district 12. The beauty of this story is that it is not about the glory of battle. Instead it is about the political and human implications of a massive power difference which is supported by brutal force. This is a story of awakening and revolution. The film does an excellent job of developing and portraying this story and not falling into the action-mayhem abyss of many action films. Don't get me wrong, there is enough "action", but I would not characterize this as an action film, but as a drama. Well done, and bring on Catching Fire.
4 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Assassin Next Door

There is something about being surprised by a film that makes it more memorable. I watched this based on the title, thinking it would be an action film with a little bit of Mr. and Mrs. Smith feel. It was not. This is an Israeli film which is largely the telling of a story of two women and how they struggled through abusive situations. It is not a pleasant film in that the emotional state of these women is well played. This is not a film that you just watch women being treated badly and throw it off. Galia is a Russian immigrant to Israel who immigrated via the black market/sex trade. She fails miserably for her "employers" largely because her attitude is not endearing to any clients. So she is put to work as an assassin as she tries to earn back her passport. Clearly her bosses have no intention of ever cutting her loose, but she does not / can not believe this. Elinor is the woman who lives across the hall from her and is regularly abused by her husband. Galia and Elinor become friends and telling more would make the film not worth seeing. There is no glamor here. And writer/director Danny Lerner does well at keeping the focus on the relationships and people and not on the guns. Not a fun film, but definitely a quality film.
4 stars (out of 5)