Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ginie Reviews Books: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA/ Dystopian
Rating:  4.5/5

Like many internet denizens, it has not escaped my notice that a certain YA novel seems to be making lots of waves in the world wide web (no, not Twilight). I mean of course, The Hunger Games – a novel I’ll be honest, I’ve actually been trying to ignore for awhile now. Perhaps I should explain – as a teenager I practically overdosed on dystopian novels, and now that I’m slightly older and I guess with more things to worry about, reading dystopian novels has held considerably less appeal. When looking for leisure reading I’ll tend towards escapist fluff, especially when it comes to my YA. But what with the trailer out and all, there has been a flurry of excitement over at Tumblr and I’ve felt compelled to pick it up. And boy am I glad I did. To give you an idea of how much of a page-turner this book is, I bought the book yesterday morning at 11am and finished it the same day by 5pm. I did this when I should have been writing a 2,000 word essay.

So for those of you not in the know, The Hunger Games is set in a not-so-distant future where North America has largely been destroyed and is now called Panem. Panem is made up of 12 districts, all ruled by the oppressive Capitol who forces the other districts to give up a boy and girl each year as tribute to The Hunger Games, a gladiatorial event that is broadcast for the entertainment of those in the Capitol.

Initially I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how I felt about the narration – especially in the first couple of pages. I felt like the narrative voice was  bit over-dramatic considering Katniss has only just gotten out of bed. I think you’re meant to get the feeling that this is a character who has been through a lot (and indeed she has), but instead of the kind of world-weariness that I guess I would expect from such a character, it all just feels a bit trite, i.e. “Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we’ll come to love”. That said I suppose the doom and gloom of the narration could be justified considering it’s not just any old miserable day in District 12, but the day of the Reaping. So maybe this is an issue that’s really just down to personal preference.

Once the plot starts moving along though, these concerns are thrown completely out the window. When Katniss’ sister Prim gets chosen for The Hunger Games there’s no more time for mere exposition – it all becomes about Katniss and her will to survive and make it out of the games for the sake of her family.

I have to say that I definitely find Katniss quite a refreshing female main character – not because she’s a warrior (which isn’t an uncommon representation of female characters to be honest), but because of all the YA novels I’ve ever read, she definitely seems to have her priorities set in the way I imagine someone in her position would. I imagine in the hands of another author the relationship with Peeta would have definitely turned romantic, whereas I felt that in this case while you feel that there’s the possibility for romantic development between the two, in the context of their situation there is no way it would have realistically come to bloom. Katniss wasn’t interested in romance, not because she didn’t have the capacity to be romantically involved with someone, but because why the fuck would you if you’re busy trying to fight everyone else in the Hunger Games to the death? Her relationship with Peeta, like her relationship with Rue, developed out of a need for basic human affection and trust; a universal need and one that takes precedence over romantic love when your situation is one of constant danger and the need to make it out alive. And I really appreciated that. I really appreciated that there is a strong relationship between two characters where the basis for the relationship is so much more complex then just attraction; it’s friendship, gratitude, relief, comradeship and very occasionally, self-interest (certainly on Katniss’s part anyway).

Which is the other thing I find refreshing about Katniss. I like that while she does genuinely care for Peeta she’s not above faking a romance if it will get her sponsors and increase their chances of making it out alive. Considering how the media usually portrays women, it’s nice to have the female character be more worldly-wise than the male one for a change (i.e. the way she understands Haymitch will only send sponsor gifts if she plays up the romance, while Peeta is happily oblivious to the strings attached to the gifts) all of this without either character presented as being any less smart or less capable than the other.

As many others have pointed out, the satire on our fixation with reality TV and the way it makes sport of human misery has basically been taken to it’s logical conclusion, with competitors actually having to kill each other to ‘win’. Just like in reality TV there’s a carefully crafted image and appearance each competitor portrays, tactical moves to win favour with sponsors, etc. which is a really interesting take. I also found the examination of class issues fascinating, especially with policies such as the tesserae: where those who are eligible for the Hunger Games get their name put in the Hunger Games lottery an extra time for each tesserae they take out in exchange for basic necessities, such as cooking oil and grain. I’m sure there are plenty of policies in real life we can think up that reflect exactly this sort of mentality, the one where certain people are expendable.

Basically there’s plenty of food for thought, and the plot is very well-paced. I’d definitely reccommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet read The Hunger Games. In the meantime I’ll leave you with a trailer (the white-washing discussion will have to have it’s own post, after I’ve actually seen the movie):



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Ginie Reviews Film: The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn

















Film: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2011
Notable Actors: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Daniel Craig
Rating: 4/5

I’m not going to lie – I was ready to hate this film. Like many Francophone kids, I grew up with the Tintin comic books and animated series and have a pretty fond memory of them (questionable racial dynamics aside) and when I heard there was going to be a feature length film I was unbelievably excited. Then I heard it would be animated using motion-capture technology and my heart plummeted. Oh god no, I thought – not another Polar Express.

The trailer and the teaser images released by the studios over the last six months did nothing to assuage my fears. As I had imagined, the characters seemed to look mostly creepy with their life-like human skin and eyes but cartoonish proportions – and all the reviews I’d read once the movie was released only seemed to confirm my prejudices. Still, it was a Tintin movie and I was going to see it regardless of how awful it might be, simple as that.

Now that I have actually seen it I can honestly say I think all the outraged reviews and accusations of corpse-like animation is mostly over-exaggerated. Genuinely, this was a really fun film with lots of really inventive action sequences and stunning animation that only very occasionally veered into uncanny-valley territory, mainly when the camera focussed a little too closely on the main characters’ eyes – which thankfully, it actually doesn’t do that often.

For fans who grew up with these stories there is plenty to be delighted by: the producers clearly did their research and there are plenty of fun references to other famous Tintin adventures, such as the lovely little cameo by Bianca Castafiore (also got me ridiculously exited). The movie is also visually stunning, from the awesome 2D animated opening sequence to the fight scenes out at sea and does actually make a good use of 3D (something I’m usually very sceptical about) with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and the sense of adventure that the original animated series portrayed. Lest anyone think my enthusiasm is purely nostalgia-based, I’d also like to say my boyfriend who was equally prepared to be unimpressed by the film and had never grown up with Tintin at all still came out of the theatres agreeing that it was great fun and much better than he had imagined it would be.

I also enjoyed the way you got a feel for Tintin and Captain Haddock as characters, especially Tintin who I feel is usually very 2-D and bland; whereas here he seems to be much more fleshed out and much more like a real person. My boyfriend was surprised at how dark some of it was, especially Capt. Haddock’s battle with alcoholism which is played for laughs in the film, but it does also address how much Capt. Haddock’s addiction has negatively affected his life and his relationship with others, including his budding friendship with Tintin who initially finds Haddock impossible to trust.

My only criticisms then would be the occasionally uncanny valley-ish effects of the animation and the very odd gender ratio (which to be fair, was a problem that was also true of the original series). I think there must’ve been literally four women present in the entire film, only one of which had a ‘speaking’ part (sort-of. I don’t think Bianca actually spoke, just sang). It is very much a boy’s own adventure story, which means while it’s fun it definitely seems to exist in a weird world where women just don’t exist, not even as 2-D love interests. As for the racial dynamics of the film, similarly people of colour are purely background characters, but this is a problem that is also carried over from the original series. I suppose we can hope that any sequels might have a better balance next time, but knowing Hollywood I wouldn’t count on it.

All in all a really fun adventure film, well worth the watch if you’re interested in animation or Tintin and don’t let all the negative reviews about creepy-eyed corpses put you off.


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Ginie Reviews Film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula











Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Year: 1992
Notable Actors: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins (Keanu Reeves does not count)
Rating: 5/5

Seriously though, who doesn’t love this film? I know the whole vampire-craze has gotten a bit old, but I think if anyone needs reminding why we ever fell in love with vampires in the first place, all they need to do is re-watch this movie. It’s gorgeous, it’s entertaining, it’s creepy and of course, Gary Oldman is just a legend.

So I actually re-watched this film quite recently after not having seen it in a long time, and I was struck by just how much homage it pays to earlier vampire films like Nosferatu, for instance in this scene:

And there were plenty of touches I hadn’t noticed before, like just how awesome and epic the soundtrack is, or how much Coppola plays around with shadows throughout the film.

There were also some freaking hi-larious bits of course, as there is want to be in any film that pays tribute to Hammer Horror. It’s the camp factor, which unsurprisingly I adore. Other hilarious moments mainly involve Keanu Reeves non-acting. I swear a cardboard box could emote more than that man could – which works in it’s own way. Jonathan Harker is meant to be a safe and boring stiff, and I guess that contrast is all that much greater when compared to the sensuality that Gary Oldman oozes as the Count.

I do enjoy Winona Ryder as Mina Harker a great deal – I guess because I can relate in a way. One of the main themes in the movie I guess is sexual repression of the Victorians vs. the sexual ‘immorality’ of the vampires, and up until quite recently I guess I would have described myself as quite sexually repressed. (Thankfully, not anymore – Halleluja!) And even though there is meant to be a morality-tale edge to it (certainly Bram Stoker’s novel was intended as a Victorian morality tale), I don’t think I’d be alone in feeling that it is Gary Oldman’s count and Winona Ryder’s Mina Harker that come across as more sympathetic and relate-able than the wooden Keanu Reeves and the society he represents.  Anthony Hopkins is delightful as the rather mad but entertaining Van Helsing, and Sadie Frost is great as Lucy (other hilarious moments: how Lucy’s boobs apparently have an aversion to actually staying in her nightgown. Apparently the Count’s sexiness is all it takes for boobs to develop a will of their own and want to break free.)

All in all, definitely one of my favourite films and well worth a re-watch if you haven’t seen it in a while. In the meantime I shall leave you with the opening soundtrack – if this doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.



Somewhat belatedly, Happy Halloween!

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