Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games | Directed by Gary Ross | Screenplay by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, and Billy Ray

Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books, and I dreaded this film adaptation. I feared it would be nothing like I imagined it. I feared the possibilities of the fanbase. I didn't even want to see it. But, I was wrong to fear such things.

In case you haven't read this phenomenal book yet, The Hunger Games is the first dystopian novel of its trilogy. Each year, the annual Hunger Games take place as ordered by the dictating government. In the Hunger Games, two people from each of the country's districts (ranging from ages twelve to eighteen) must fight to the death on live television. Katniss Everdeen isn't chosen, but she volunteers to save her sister from imminent death. In the midst of the chaos and death controlled by a most unfavorable government, Katniss uses her skill to try to win the Games as her life begins to intwine with that of Peeta Mallark, the male tribute from her district. Together, they will make a statement in these Games, sparking the beginning of what will be an action-packed and powerful trilogy.

First of all, fans of the book will not be disappointed in this adaptation. Most of this movie is exactly the way I imagined it in the book, and I had a huge fear that it wasn't going to be. Only a couple of minor things from the novel were left out. However, most of the book revolved around what Katniss was thinking and that obviously cannot be adapted. I don't think this will bother readers though it might not go as far into Katniss' character, but I do think this affects those who didn't read the book first. I think those who didn't read the book first will understand everything fairly well - just don't go to a movie theatre with a less superior sound system or noisy people because this film requires attention as it is set up in a very different type of world.

James Newton Howard wrote an effective film score for this movie, and I don't think I heard any modern music during the story (thank goodness). Even so, one thing I noticed was the lack of any music. There was so much silence. Normally, I'd denounce this idea, but it worked so well for this film. It allowed for the audience's own raw emotions to be uninfluenced by anything except the sitauations at hand as well as Jennifer Lawrence's memorable performance.

I'll be honest... I cry at just about every movie. I don't know why, it just happens. When I'm seeing a movie in the cinema I try to hold back, but there was no need to during The Hunger Games because I heard plenty of sniffles. However, it probably didn't matter; I would have cried anyway. The prime reason for my emotion was Jennifer Lawrence. Her acting was extremely impressive; she was a great Katniss. But, Josh Hutcherson surprised me more than anybody! I don't think anyone could have been a more perfect Peeta! Plus, I really enjoyed seeing Lenny Kravitz (I can't believe I doubted him) as Cinna and Wes Bentley as Seneca.

Throughout the film, the balance of action and emotion is amazing, as it was in the book. This is perhaps one of the most gripping elements in the trilogy, and seeing it played out on screen was so enjoyable. Since I knew the story well, anticipating particular moments of action was like waiting for a Pop-Tart to pop out of my toaster - I knew it was coming, but I flinched anyway.

As I gather my thoughts of this adaptation, I'm trying to find anything negative. I can't find much of anything. The fanbase doesn't even irk me. And that's saying a lot, because I can't even begin to say how much I love this series, how powerful these books are to me. That's why I was so afraid of this adaptation. The book is always better, no matter what. This seems to be a motto of mine, and I have taught myself to look at a book and its adaptation as two seperate entities to avoid disappointment. I'm proud to say that even if this wasn't my motto, I still would have enjoyed this movie.

After all, some things are so good, they're undeniable.

5/5 Stars

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ritual | White Lies

Last summer I discovered the indie band White Lies after hearing one of their songs on a television show. After looking it up online, I decided I wanted their 2011 album, Ritual, figuring that I'd probably like the album after hearing a couple of cool songs.

Before I begin my review, I'd like to bring your attention to the album cover. It's like those creepy little girls from The Shining grew up.
(If you're not a Stephen King fan, you probably have no idea what I just said.)

"Is Love" is the first track, opening the album with a soft rumbling sound, eventually making way for drums and their relaxing singer, whose voice will appeal to fans of Dave Gahan (the lead singer of Depeche Mode) or at least remind people of electronic '80s music. As the song progresses, more of the band comes in but it's still relatively mellow up until the end, with smile-triggering lyrics.

"Strangers" has a similar feel, though the '80s vibe isn't as potent. I really enjoyed the lyrics, but it's not one of the best tracks. However, "Bigger Than Us" is the standout track from the album in my opinion. It has a pulsating, electronic flow in the verses but the chorus explodes in sound, Harry McVeigh's voice nearly blending with the instrumentation. It's not necessarily upbeat, but it's not necessarily mellow. Either way, "Bigger Than Us" is a rather relaxing song that I became addicted to as soon as I first head it.

"Peace and Quiet" comes next, and the opening organ makes me think of Napoleon Dynamite. The '80s vibe is definitely back, and slowly but surely, strings and synths overlap before the singing starts. This track's chorus gets a little too repetative, but not annoying or bad in any way, and the instrumentation after than is quite cool sounding and goes on until the end.

Next, "Streetlights" brings a somewhat different feel with its string line. Harry McVeigh, their lead singer, tends to sound a bit bored in the verses, primarily because the lyrics talk about boredom, and that makes the whole thing feel sort of different. It's very catchy though not one of my favorites.

Finally, another standout track! "Holy Ghost" is likely the most likely song on the album to spark widespread appeal since it's relatively upbeat and makes me feel like dancing - especially that explosive ending! But since it's a White Lies song, it's relaxing somehow, too. I will admit, the lyrics are a bit odd and confuse me... I don't like being confused by poetry since I usually understand it... Anyway, the bottom line is that this song is pretty awesome.

The rock/electronic intro of the seventh song, "Turn the Bells" is very intriguing, slow, and dreamy. Kind of like Harry McVeigh's voice. And it remains that way throughout. Its simplistic yet moving lyrics contain more imagery than most lyrics today, and altogether, this song is kind of beautiful in some way; I love it.

"The Power and the Glory" follows, but doens't really do much for me at all. It's not bad, but not what I'd call good either. It's the most bland song on Ritual. But, the '80s feel is back full force in "Bad Love," another of my favorites. I can't tell you how many times I've sang this one in the shower; it's so catchy and beguiling. Though the lyrics are specific (just in the verses), I think they're something everyone can relate to. Really, that's the beauty in the lyrics of indie music: You can relate despite it isn't specifically directed at you.

The last song is called "Come Down," opening with a haunting feel and giving me chills in a timely manner. Again, the lyrics are relatable on just about every level. Vocal layers build to become choral at the song's climax, and the sound is great. "Come Down" was clearly the best choice for the closing song.

Ritual is a great album and is just a few songs short of being called a masterpiece. I consider six of its ten tracks to be awesome standouts, but not one of its ten songs were bad in any sense. It will have an appeal to a large audience since it will attract mainstream lovers despite it's quite independent. Such independence will not disappoint those with high standards for a more unique sound. Plus, the lyrics on this album were commendable.

I truly enjoyed Ritual and I reccommend it to just about anyone who appreciates quality music.

4/5 Stars

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Silence | by: Becca Fitzpatrick

Silence is the newest installment in Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush Saga, an addictive, action-packed series that I just can't seem to stay away from. I warn that the summary (the following paragraph) may contain spoilers if you haven't read the first two books in the series, Hush, Hush and Crescendo.

Nora Grey has been missing for multiple weeks, but now she has returned to the life she left behind. However, she can't remember anything about what has happened during her time away from home, nor can she remember anything from the couple of months before her disappearance. She struggles to find the truth of all she's forgotton as well as return to her normal, ordinary life. But she's coming to find that what she can't remember of her life was anything but ordinary, and that her captor is closer to home than she ever anticipated. With plenty of deja vu and discoveries, Nora finds that some memories may not have been so bad...

There is something special about this series. Maybe it's the mystery. Maybe it's the way that the paranormal suspense makes me feel like I'm watching a movie.Maybe it's that the action makes me never want to put it down. Or, maybe it's just Patch. Either way, this series exceeds the cliche standard of paranormal romance, and Silence merely emphasized this point.
Like the other books in this series, Silence begins with action right away, catching my interest. But then, lo and behold, my eye-rolling began. Nora. Lost. Her. Memory? I figured right off the bat that this would lay out a long, irritating road of Nora being clueless while I'd be understanding everything that happens, making me want to scream at her everything she needs to know. But, I was pleasantly surprised that this didn't really happen. This element wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and Becca Fitzpatrick actually made it work in a way that didn't tick me off. The plot moves along pretty quickly, actually.

Silence is also like the previous books in the series in the sense that it's creepy and full of mystery, but now the story has taken a darker turn. Everything seemed to get a little more serious, dangerous, and perilous now that we know more about the Black Hand and his intentions. This book seemed to have the most action and suspense of the series because of it, helping make it possibly my favorite of the series. Honestly, I don't really have any complaints about this book in terms of plot. Nor do I have complaints about the writing. Becca Fitzpatrick may not be my favorite writer or anything close to that, but the writing was efficient. Nothing wonderful, but nothing great, like with the other books.

As I probably mentioned in my reviews of the first two books, there never seems to be enough Patch. This doesn't bother me very much in other paranormal romance novels because I usually don't like the main guy THIS much. However, I'm so happy that there was actually a sufficient amount of Patch in this novel! But, we do get more from antagonists. Even though this makes the action skyrocket, the primary antagonist of this novel really got under my skin. You know, the stuff an antagonist is supposed to do.

After the scariest cliff-hanger in the world at the end of Crescendo, I was afraid that Silence would do the same. Although it's easy to tell that there's still more to Patch and Nora's story, readers should be satisfied with the degree of closure given.

Silence proved to be an amazing installment in this awesome series. Despite that it's probably quintessential paranormal romance, this book (and the rest of the series) is darker and quite mysterious. It has suspense in its quickly-paced plot, and I love it.

4/5 Stars

Fitzpatrick, Becca. Silence
New York: Simon & Schuster