Category Archives: Friday Films

The Hunger Games

Of upcoming movies this is the one I am most looking forward to – The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is the NY Times best selling opening novel of a trilogy by writer Suzanne Collins. The story follows sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen in a post-apocalytic world where a central government rules the outlying districts with a cruel firm hand.

Katniss is a strong young girl who dreams of being free in a world where freedom barely exists for the animals much less the citizens of District 12, the place where young Katniss lives and her father died.

The Hunger Games is an annual event where each of 12 districts sends one boy and one girl, ages 12 – 18, to compete in a televised battle where there can be only one winner. Twenty-four go in – one comes out. The selection of the competitors is by raffle in a big ceremony in the district center. When Primerose Everdeen, Kat’s 12 year-old sister is selected, Kat volunteers to represent the district effectively saving her sister from sure death.

What follows is a rapid fire sequence that carries Katniss and her counterpart from District 12, Peeta Mellark, a baker’s son she knows from school from the Appalachian mountains where she’s lived her whole life to the glitz and glamour of The Capital (Formerly Denver) to prepare for the games.

Her mentor in the process is Haymitch Abernathy, victor of the 50th Hunger Games 24 years in the past. The question is can Abernathy stop drinking long enough to be of much good to Katniss and Peeta?

As the game preparations begin she quickly learns of the disadvantages she will face against the older, stronger competitors from the other districts who have prepared for the tribute role all their lives. Katniss has one thing they do not. A reason to live and two men who love her, one of which she may have to kill to survive.

The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence in the Katniss Everdeen role. Lawrence was the powerhouse young performer in the 2010 Sundance Best Picture, Winter’s Bone.

Josh Hutcherson takes on the Peeta Mellark role. Hutcherson is another standout young performer with critical performances in Bridge to TerabithiaJourney to the Center of the Earth,  RV,and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.

The tribute’s mentor, Haymitch Abernathy is filled by Cheers and Zombieland alumnus, Woody Harrelson.

Other cast members include Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland as the ruthless President Snow, and Lenny Kravitz as stylist Cinna, the fashion mastermind behind transforming young Katniss for a glamorous introduction.

I’ve read the trilogy and anticipate the whole series endingup on the big screen before it’s all said and done. Move over Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen has arrived.

Hunger Games opens in theaters everywhere in March 23.

The Spaghetti Western

You may recall I decided to dedicate Friday’s to a look at films, people, and trends related to the cinematic arts. I’m calling it – Friday Films.

Turn back the cinematic calendar to 1959 and what film would have the honor of kicking off the Spaghetti Western trend,  Il terrore dell’Oklahoma (1959), directed by Mario Amendola. It was the first of over 600 films made entirely on location in Italy by Italian filmmakers.

The popularity of the genre exploded in 1964 with the release of Sergio Leone’s  “Man with No Name” trilogy (or “Dollars Trilogy“) directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood and with the musical scores of Ennio MorriconeA Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The success of the second film cemented Leone’s reputation as a Western director and helped make international stars of Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and composer Morricone. Sergio Leone defined the style of the Spaghetti Western.

As Sergio Leone is the man credited with bringing the genre into the mainstream it is fitting that his  My Name is Nobody from 1973 saw the spaghetti western era come to a close, giving way to kung-fu movies and porn.  Nobody is a comedy western film that poked fun at the genre. It starred Henry Fonda as an old gunslinger who watched ‘his’ old West fade away before his very eyes as he played his guitar. Terence Hill also starred in the film as the young stranger who helps Fonda leave the dying West with style.

Leon went on to direct the 1984 film, Once Upon a Time in America, an Italian mob movie that came in around four hours in the European market. Hollywood chopped it in half.

One of my favorites was another Leone film, the James Coburn, Rod Steiger effort, A Fistful of Dynamite. (Also known as Duck You Sucker.) It plays up one of the common themes of the spaghetti genre, The Mexican Revolution.

If you like the genre there is a host of great websites out there dedicated to Spaghetti Westerns.

I’d start with the Top-20 Spaghetti films of all time at: The Spaghetti Western Database.