Archive for March, 2012

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

March 26, 2012

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

I’ve already given you my overall take on The Hunger Games movie, but I wanted to comment a bit more on some of the significant changes from the book to the movie. To do that, I’ll have to “spoil” parts of the movie…if you haven’t seen it yet and haven’t read the book, you may want to wait to read this post until you do.

These are just going to be some random thoughts, and I may add to them. I just want to get them down while it is still fresh.


Haymitch is made more charming, more sympathetic. The line “Congratulations, you just killed a placemat” is not in the original book, and it makes us smile. We see Haymitch actually working the Capital for sponsors. We know that’s happening in the book (well, we find out it must have), but it’s different to see it. Haymitch talking to the Gamemaker to propose the “young love” storyline? Definitely makes the “mentor” more likeable. We also see Haymitch refusing or not taking a drink…that seems sooner than in the books. However, it makes sense to me: Haymitch’s advice to win is to “make friends”…the Haymitch in the book doesn’t seem to know how do to that. It’s not unusual for people to give advice they don’t follow, but I understand them doing this in a movie…and casting Woody Harrelson to bring a mischievous grin to the part.

Katniss is significantly weakened by taking away drugging Peeta to enable Katniss to go to the feast against Peeta’s wishes. It’s very different for Katniss to have simply snuck away than to have actively knocked Peeta out with sleep syrup. It also, again, makes Haymitch more sympathetic, because the mentor doesn’t give Katniss the necessary drugs to ensure that the choice isn’t Peeta’s to make.

The exchange between President Snow and Seneca Crane (the Gamemaker) about “containing” the spark that is Katniss? Not in the book, although we know those considerations probably happened. This moves Snow more forward…and gives us more of a motivation for Crane’s fate later on.

There were things in the movie that could have been much flashier, and it was interesting that they didn’t do that. In the book, I conceived as the outfits in the tribute parade as engulfing Katniss and Peeta in flames, and in the movie, it was much more subtle than that. The same thing was true with the mutts (mutants) at the end of the movie…honestly, they were quite plain looking. I think that was wise on the part of the moviemakers.

The tracker jacker sequence was also moderated, with the hallucinations not being as pronounced. Again, I think that focuses the movie more on the characters…that works.

We didn’t see much of the prep team, but that was okay with me…we will later, I presume. I was okay with the switch on how the mockingjay pin gets to Katniss.  While the character who originally gives it in the novel becomes more important later, I can see how we can work without it.

Oh, and I was particularly impressed that when we see Rue’s father, he is short. That was a good sign of attention to detail. Rue isn’t just young: she probably looks younger than she is, and having her father be short makes sense.

So, what did you notice? Feel free to let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to my reader agrazalvaro for pointing out that I had confused mockingjays and jabberjays. In the movie, I expected the birds within the game to mock human words, but that was just my mistake. The book says:

“One they didn’t die off. Instead the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds, creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a child’s high-pitched warble to a man’s deep tones.”

Thanks, agrazalvaro!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Will The Hunger Games save the box office from John Carter?

March 25, 2012

Will The Hunger Games save the box office from John Carter?

wrote earlier about how profitable 2012 was looking at the box office ( for movies making at least $40 million in dogro…domestic gross, at any rate). The top five movies I cited had brought in more than twice their reported budgets.

However, I did mention at the time that Disney’s John Carter might rain on that parade. At a reported $250m budget, and not great pre-release buzz, it was possible that might take a chunk out of the collective profits.

It did.

Disney has suggested they may lose $200m on the movie. Of course, I wouldn’t cry for Disney on this. They may make money on it eventually, when you total up all of the box office (including overseas), the merchandising that may still sell, and the ancillary market fees (a Disney movie is still going to be desirable). IMDB still estimates it as having the fourth largest dogro this weekend, at $5.01m, with a collective dogro of 62.3m. It could putter along up to $75m…which would make its dogro loss $175m.

Enter The Hunger Games…which is being reported to dogro $155m this weekend (the opening), on a $100m budget.

For The Hunger Games to offset a $175m loss for John Carter and keep the box office profits humming, it needs to dogro $275m.

No question, that’s a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of Katniss et al…and they don’t have the advantage of Mars’ lighter gravity. 😉

However, three movies did reach $275m dogro last year:

Yes, all three of those were sequels, but The Hunger Games is performing very well, certainly like a successful sequel. It has received an A CinemaScore, and an MRQE score of 74…so far).

I think that The Hunger Games is going to attract new audiences next week, and should see repeat viewings as well. Why new audiences? There are people who haven’t read the books (they have been marketed as being for the Young Adult audience), but will hear that the movie is good.

Repeat viewings may not be like a pure action movie, but I think that the core audience will want to see it again. Some young fans may see it many times.

So, my guess is that $275m dogro is in reach.

There are certainly some risky movies coming up: The Avengers has a reported $220m budget, and it does worry a bit…I expect it to open big, but I’m not sure it’s going to roll into the $220m range; Battleship has a reported $200m budget…meaning Hollywood has bet close to half a billion dollars on Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) starring movies this year, counting Oliver Stone’s Savages); Ridley Scott’s Prometheus has had a lot of talk about budget. These could all do well, of course, but I don’t think I’d pick all three of them to break, say, $250m.

I do think we can count on a 16-year old tribute from District !2 to balance the Warlord of Mars from Virginia, though…

We’ll continue to track the box office at 2012 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

My take on…The Hunger Games movie

March 25, 2012

My take on…The Hunger Games movie

The Hunger Games

The movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games novel looks like it will make back its $100 million budget during its opening weekend…just based on the dogro (domestic gross).

Is it worth seeing? Will it live up to fans’ expectations?

My Significant Other and I saw the movie today, and the theatre, while not sold out, was as full as I’ve seen it. The audience was pretty diverse…from young kids (ten years old or so) without adults, to older couples.

My verdict?

I enjoyed it. 🙂

I don’t think anybody left the theatre disappointed.

I should say, I’ve read all three of the novels. I thought they were good…better than I expected.

The movie, adapted in part by Collins, respects the source material, while not unreasonably making changes to fit the cinematic art form.

The direction by Gary Ross was strong and assured, without a lot of unnecessary visual gewgaws, which must have been a temptation with a science fiction premise like this. Instead, they kept the story focused on the characters, where it should be.

Speaking of the characters, the acting was generally strong. My Significant Other was particularly impressed with Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, television host of the Games. It would have been easy to turn Flickerman into a flamboyant caricature…to do Richard Dawson in The Running Man. Instead, we see the sympathetic part…the Oprah-style interviewer .

Everyone seems to be making a real effort. Even actors in relatively in small parts, such as Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and Amandla Stenberg as Rue show a commitment that speaks of strong directing.

The one weak link in a main role was arguably Liam Hemsworth as Gale. Hemsworth seems to be struggling with the accent, but is fortunately not given that much to do.

Oh, and I do want to single out Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. The part, all full of deliberate artifice, is so different from how Banks is when interviewed…and wholly appropriate for the role.

SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t read the book)

When I first read The Hunger Games, there was a particular scene that worked for me intellectually, but I didn’t see how it was going to eventually be done in a movie. That’s the mutant sort of killer dogs that have elements of some of the characters. Conceptually, philosophically, it makes sense…but how do you show that on screen? I think reasonably, Collins et al as screenwriters just sort of skipped that.

One quibble for me was how we saw in the Game control room sequences (which reminded me of Westworld) how they seemed to just program the “mutts” into physical existence. That power seems far beyond what existed in the books. It could be that these beasts were already created, and the scene we see is just them being placed into position in the Arena, but it did nag at me a bit.


Overall, I’d recommend the movie. I do like the books better, but it was a good movie-going experience.

In terms of Oscar nominations, it will make too much money for them to consider any acting noms, most likely. Technically, I thought the sound was great. Costumes and make-up are possibilities…there was some excellent wound work in the latter category, but that’s not what impresses the Academy. The score was good: I was concerned we were going to get too many songs with lyrics, but that’s not what happened. There was some interesting editing: there was a disorienting thing they did a few times, where someone would be looking somewhere, and in the next cut, the same person appeared to be in that position, as if they had been observing themselves. I do think that was intentional, and a bit meta, but I don’t think the Academy will go with Editing on this.

 Overall, I’d recommend it, and am looking forward to the next two.

What did you think of the movie? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

The new Doctor Who companion is…

March 22, 2012

The new Doctor Who companion is…

The concept of a “companion” for Doctor Who always seemed a bit…complicated to me.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to hang out with a member of a different, and hypothetically inferior species. I mean, I’ve hung out with dogs, cats, and a whole lot of other species. One of my proudest things is having hand-tamed a wild scrubjay…I could whistle, and have the bird fly over to my apartment from across the street and land on my finger.

The Doctor is a Time Lord from Gallifrey. While human in outward appearance, this is an alien, and an arguably superior one.

Why does the Doctor take a human (or more than one) traveling in the TARDIS?

Are they pets?

Does the Doctor treat them as equals? I respect animals…if I was the only human left, you can bet I’d be happy to have dogs as friends.

However, there is no doubt that the Doctor and at least some of the companions have had…what has at least been interpreted by the audience as a romantic relationship.

There have been many companions. Amongst the best known:

  • Sarah Jane Smith, who many Americans encountered first along with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor (the Doctor changes bodies from time to time…and personalities, to some extent). Sarah Jane would later get a spin-off
  • Leela, who was a low-tech warrior
  • Rose Tyler, who was very memorable and came in with the successful revival of the series
  • Amy Pond…who with Rory Williams, are a married couple of companions…but the Doctor and Amy clearly have a deep emotional connection

Well, the next companion has just been announced:

Jenna-Louise Coleman

Coleman has done television work, and had a small part in the recent movie, Captain America: The First Avenger.

I have to say, I sort of wish they’d gone for something different…how about an 80 -year old? What about somebody from, say, a little-known culture (of course, I don’t know how they’ll play this character)? I just like my entertainments to surprise me, and I’ll have to see if they manage that here…I wish Coleman luck in the new role!

Hollywood Reporter article

BBC Article (includes video)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

“You know, I’m not a scientist, and…”

March 21, 2012

“You know, I’m not a scientist, and neither are you, but it seems to me that you gotta sort of take a scientific approach to this. Either you prove they exist, or you prove they don’t exist…but you don’t pretend they’re not there.”
–Colonel Pete Moore (played by Glenn Ford)
The Disappearance of Flight 412
screenplay by George Simpson, Neal R. Burger

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

“…we do not go to faery, we…”

March 17, 2012

“…we do not go to Faery, we become Faery.”
–James Stephens
writing in The Carl of  the Drab Coat
Irish Fairy Tales

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

The first Dark Shadows trailer is here…and it made me mad

March 16, 2012

The first Dark Shadows trailer is here…and it made me mad

Honestly, it takes a lot to make me mad. When it happens, I recognize it as a visceral, emotional response…different from, say, righteous indignation, which can be more based on a reasoned response.

I’m not indignant about the trailer for the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp Dark Shadows movie.

I know a trailer can be cut in such a way that it doesn’t give you a good sense of the movie.

I’m hoping that’s the case here.

I thought that the movie would be respectful of the series…both Depp and Burton were supposed to be fans.

What we see plays it for laughs, mostly…like Austin Powers on the fish out of time period gag. Maybe more like Adam Adamant, which I always guessed was an inspiration for Austin Powers.

The trailer has slapstick that The Munsters would find demeaning. 🙂 There’s an obvious joke about Barnabas misunderstanding the idiom of 1972…not a good sign for an engaging, challenging script, at least to me.

Even more odd to me is that Barnabas says he is a vampire, apparently to the family. You could watch 100 episodes of the original series (I have), and nobody uses the word “vampire”…even people who know what Barnabas is.

However, in scenes that aren’t given a funky 1970s soundtrack, it looks like we may get a more serious sense of menace. Playing the movie with respect to the series would have worked, in my opinion. Making it into a silly farce? I’m afraid of that…and not in a good way. 😉

It’s possible that we’ll see several advertising campaigns for Dark Shadows…if the studio can’t quite figure out how to sell it. That, by itself, could be a good thing.

I’m willing to wait and see.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Ralph McQuarrie reported dead

March 4, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie reported dead

“That’s no moon.”
–Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Alec Guinness)
Star Wars
screenplay by George Lucas

Star Wars affected us both intellectually and emotionally. No small part of that was the look of it. When you think about the Death Star, you picture it…not just the idea of a giant killer space station, but the way it appeared on screen.

Ralph McQuarrie was the “planet and satellite artist” who was responsible for that look.

Of course, it was George Lucas who conceived of the Death Star, and likely envisioned it in his imagination.

It was up to McQuarrie, though, to make George Lucas’ vision visible to the rest of us. What a conceptual artist does is, in a way, parallel to what an interpreter for the United Nations does: a conceptual artist is a translator for the eyes, not the ears.

Ralph McQuarrie would go on to feed our eyes in Close Encounters, Raiders, and Cocoon (for which he shared a Visual Effects Oscar).

Legend has it that it was his concept drawings for Star Wars, though, that helped sell the movie to 20th Century Fox. Without him, it’s possible the movie would not have gotten the funding it needed to become a reality.

Good-bye, Ralph…the Force would not have been as strong without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

The first $100m movie of 2012 is…The Vow

March 1, 2012

The first $100m movie of 2012 is…The Vow

There must be some happy people in Hollywood right now!

Not just Screen Gems, which had its first $100m dogro (domestic gross) movie ever with The Vow.

It’s been an incredibly profitable year…for all of the studios that have had movies make it on to our 2012 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3 list.

Take a look:

Title Budget DoGro Profit $ Profit
The Devil Inside 1 53.2 52.2 5220%
Chronicle 12 58 46 383%
The Vow 30 103 73 243%
The Woman in Black 17 47.3 30.3 178%
Contraband 25 65.9 40.9 164%
The Grey 25 48.9 23.9 96%
Safe House 85 98.1 13.1 15%
Journey 2 79 76.7 -2.3 -3%
Underworld: Awakening 70 61.6 -8.4 -12%
Red Tails 58 47.9 -10.1 -17%
Total 402 660.6 258.6 64%

A number of movies on this list are still going to make money…Journey 2 will definitely beat its budget, for one.

Now, there are additional expenses outside of this…and additional income. There is box office from outside the USA: The Woman in Black has been racking it in England (no surprise there). There is home video sales…when they license them to Netflix and Amazon, for example.

Still, it’s looking good.

We’ll see how that goes when more big budget movies open…Disney’s John Carter, opening March 9th, reportedly has a budget of $250 million. That’s as much as the top seven movies on the above list…combined. For it to be as profitable (in percentage0 as The Devil Inside, it would need to make a lot more than ten billion dollars dogro. On the other hand, it if launches a franchise, it could be worth a lot…this is Disney, so we can’t leave out big merchandising dollars.

For right now, though, the movie business is the money business…and that’s certainly not always true.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

The Month Ahead: March 2012

March 1, 2012

The Month Ahead: March 2012

This looks like it’s going to be quite a month! We’ll hit the highlights here: for details and daily listings, see The Measured Circle current events calendar.

Thursday, March 1

  • New episode: The Vampire Diaries
  • New episode: The Big Bang Theory
  • New episode: Archer
  • Series debut: Awake
  • Creation Con salute to Supernatural

Friday, March 2

  • Movie: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  • New episode: Grimm
  • New episode: Fringe
  • New episode: Merlin
  • New episode: Ghost Adventures
  • Intercon LARP (Live Action Role Playing) con in Chelmsford, MA

Saturday, March 3

  • Events: Run for Your Lives zombie infected 5K obstacle course, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series series debut

Sunday, March 4

  • New episode: The Walking Dead
  • New episode: The Simpsons
  • New episode: Finding Bigfoot

Monday, March 5

  • New episode: Being Human (American)
  • New episode: Castle
  • New episode: Lost Girl
  • New episode: Alcatraz (2 episodes)
  • Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #8

Tuesday, March 6

  • New episode: The River
  • Videogames: Mass Effect 3
  • DVD: Game of Thrones, season 1
  • DVD: Immortals
  • Literature: Fair Game (Alpha and Omega) by Patricia Briggs
  • Literature: A Rising Thunder (Honor Harrington) by David Weber

Wednesday, March 7

  • New episode: Face Off
  • New episode: Prophets of Science Fiction (George Lucas)
  •  Comics: Night Force #1 (Marv Wolfman)

Thursday, March 8

  • New episode: The Big Bang Theory
  • New episode: The Mentalist
  • New episode: Archer

Friday, March 9

  • Movies: John Carter
  • Movies: The Raven
  • New episode: Fringe
  • New episode: Grimm
  • New episode: Spartacus: Revenge
  • Tech: Apple holds an event, likely to introduce the iPad 3

Saturday, March 10

Sunday, March 11

  • New episode: The Walking Dead
  • New episode: American Dad
  • New episode: Finding Bigfoot
  • Videogames: Mario Party 9

Monday, March 12

  • New episode: Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole
  • New episode: Lost Girl

Tuesday, March 13

  • New episode: The River
  • DVD: The Adventures of Tintin

Wednesday, March 14

  • New episode: Face Off
  • New episode: South Park season debut
  • New episode: Ugly Americans
  • Monster Man: series debut

Thursday, March 15

  • New episode: Person of Interest
  • New episode: The Secret Circle
  • New episode: Archer

Friday, March 16

  • Movies: Mirror, Mirror
  • Movies: 21 Jump Street
  • New episode: Grimm
  • New episode: Blade anime

Saturday, March 17

  • Chasing Leprechauns on Hallmark
  • Leprechaun’s Revenge on Syfy

Sunday, March 18

  • New episode: The Walking Dead (season finale)
  • New episode: Family Guy
  • Comic Book Men (season finale)

Monday, March 19

Tuesday, March 20

  • Videogames: Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
  • DVD: The Muppets

Wednesday, March 21

Thursday, March 22

  • New episode: Touch
  • New episode: Archer

Friday, March 23

  • Videogames: Kid Icarus: Uprising
  • New episode: Fringe

Saturday, March 24

Sunday, March 25

  • New episode: Long Island Medium (season debut)
  • New episode: Mythbusters (season debut)

Monday, March 26

  • New episode: Alcatraz (season finale)

Tuesday, March 27

  • Literature: Lover Reborn: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Wednesday, March 29

Thursday, March 29

Friday, March 30

  • New episode: Merlin (season finale)

Saturday, March 31

  • Videogames: Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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