Venganza Media Gazette

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Stuart in L.A.: Don’t mistake ‘Hunger Games’ for ‘Twilight’ romance

When The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 bows in U.S. theaters on Nov. 20, it will cap a film saga that has seen four films in three years, grossed more than $2 billion (at the time of Part 2’s release), and transformed leading actress Jennifer Lawrence into one of Hollywood’s most lauded, and richest stars.

The film’s release will also mark the end of Now Playing Podcast’s Fall 2015 Silver Level donation series, in which listeners can hear reviews of the aforementioned Hunger Games franchise, as well as the two Japanese Battle Royale films. Both series’ are based on popular novels that feature groups of children isolated by their governments and forced to kill one another for survival. Yet while there is no question that Battle Royale was conceived and presented as a violent thriller, The Hunger Games has occasionally been written off as a Young Adult fantasy for teenage girls – akin to the Twilight franchise.

In addition to reviewing the films for Now Playing Podcast, host Stuart Atkinson is also reviewing the Battle Royale and Hunger Games novels for Now Playing’s sister podcast, Books & Nachos. Stuart spoke with the Venganza Media Gazette about the differences between The Hunger Games books and films, the audience it attracts, and whether the franchise has a future after this fall’s sequel.

Q: Is there a misconception that The Hunger Games is geared toward young teens? The violence is very adult.

Stuart: “I think it’s a misconception to think these films could ONLY be enjoyed by teenagers. I first became aware of Hunger Games as a book phenomenon in 2010. I’d read a magazine article explaining that today’s young women and girls love reading dark science fiction involving kiddie death matches. That kinda blew my mind. I have a young niece. It made me wonder why such nihilism would appeal to girls her age. Once I read the trilogy, it was obvious that this story had much wider appeal. It touches on ideas and satirizes things that anyone engaged with our 21st century social media culture is going to find entertaining.

Q: You’ve mentioned that The Hunger Games have more in common with Stephen King’s The Running Man than Twilight.

Stuart: Yeah, I see The Hunger Games as part of a long tradition of stories involving children killing each other for sport. Battle Royale, King’s The Long Walk (which he wrote before The Running Man), and even Lord of The Flies. I haven’t read Twilight or seen any of the movies, but my perception is that it’s a soap opera where a girl must choose between two dudes. Hunger Games has a love triangle too, but it would be a real stretch to call it a romance. Lionsgate owns the film rights to both Twilight and The Hunger Games, and I think they’ve marketed them as sister franchises. Don’t believe the poster. Katniss enters the arena fighting for her life, not trying to get a date. Think of this as Disney Channel greenlighting The Running Man.

Q: Without giving too much away, what are the biggest differences between the books and the films?

Stuart: I definitely feel like the movie makers struggle with how to portray child violence in a PG-13 movie, particularly in the first movie. You read The Hunger Games and there are some really ghastly things in there that they wouldn’t dare bring to the screen. Reading the story makes your mind deliver the R-rated version Lionsgate was unwilling to make.

Q: For those who haven’t read the books or seen the films, is there a definitive end to this series? Any chance of sequels or spinoffs?

Stuart: There are characters left alive at the end of Mockingjay, so I suppose there could always be more. But I see a very definitive end to this particular story. If they made more films in the Hunger Games universe they would probably involve new characters in a new trilogy in some distant time afterward. Kinda like Star Wars Episode VII, or these not-quite Harry Potter spinoffs they have planned for next year.

Now Playing Podcast’s The Hunger Games Retrospective Series begins Friday, Nov. 6.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | News, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Comments Off on Stuart in L.A.: Don’t mistake ‘Hunger Games’ for ‘Twilight’ romance

Movie Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2

Look but don’t sink your teeth into…

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2
Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephanie Meyer
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Studio: Temple Hill
Release Date November 16, 2012

The first three Twilight films boiled with sexual desire that could never be quenched in a thinly veiled analogy for abstinence. Once the vows of marriage were made in the fourth entry, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Bella entered a twisted fairy tale where the swan is reverted to an ugly duckling. She was heavily bruised through rough sex, literally feasted upon by unborn child and husband, and left for dead. The pent up sexual frustration continues to find violent outlets when she is resurrected for Breaking Dawn – Part 2. However, this final installment still maintains a prudeness that doesn’t allow for a satisfying climax; only giving a peek of enjoyable possibilities before quickly covering up.

Bella (Stewart) is now a vampire; having been saved by husband Edward’s (Pattinson) bite that granted her immortality after nearly dying while giving birth. The Volturi, a ruling class of vampires, believe the half-human, half-vampire newborn may threaten the stability between their kind and humans. Bella and Edward must create an alliance between vampires and werewolves if they want to protect the child from the diabolic plans of the Volturi.

The film lacks a sense of irony. I often found myself laughing at the film when I should have easily been laughing with it. For example, Bella must learn to act mortal again to keep her transformation secret. It’s humorous to watch her practice breathing and how to casually slouch because of Stewart’s reputation for being emotionless and stone faced. However, the humor seems unaware of Stewart’s perceived coldness and relies on the actress’s attempt at physical comedy rather than giving the audience a knowing wink. The entire Twilight Saga must receive some kind of erotic gratification from its broodiness if after five films it just can’t relax and have some fun.

The movie also doesn’t understand what makes for an exciting protagonist. Twilight’s vampires are more like superheroes than the classic Dracula. Each character has a unique power—elemental control, telepathy, electric bursts—to accompany the super strength and speed given to all the creatures of the shade (sunlight doesn’t harm them, only makes them sparkle). However, after waiting so long for Bella to become super, her empowerment is backhanded. She can only block other vampires’ more impressive talents. The result is a heroine, already scorned by feminists for being too passive, who mostly stands around projecting invisible forcefields instead of bloodying her fangs in the climactic battle versus the Volturi.

This battle becomes an orgasm of severed heads that somehow maintains a PG-13 rating. The story takes some risks by having major characters decapitated. While the action is merely adequate, there is a certain pleasure with its excess. Or at least there is until the script decides it isn’t that kind of movie. Even these most exciting moments are positioned as safe, unfulfilling fantasies.

There is little gratification to be had as the film frustratingly embodies the franchise’s abstinence subtext. The non-recommendable Breaking Dawn – Part 2 refuses to penetrate the deeper desires of those who committed to the saga.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and other formats March 2, 2013.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Movie Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2