Film Review: The Hungover Games & The Starving Games

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 22nd April 2014.

Beginning with the hilarious Airplane! (AKA Flying High) in 1980, Hollywood has built a fine tradition of spoofing itself through parody movies. Actually, I’ve just reread that last sentence. I think I’ll start again.

Beginning with the hilarious Airplane! (AKA Flying High) in 1980, Hollywood has a tradition of spoofing itself through parody movies which have suffered from the law of diminishing returns. Sure, there have been a few spikes in quality such as The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988) starring the iconic Leslie Nielsen and um…well, every other comedy he made after that, but the rest of the pack over the past thirty years has been pretty much miss and miss.

I recommend that you look up one of Nielsen’s pre-comedy performances. A noted dramatic actor before he started carrying a fart gun twenty four seven, it’s impossible not to laugh at his ultra serious delivery style, which strangely is also the same as his subsequent comedy style.

The thing about parodies is that they are really cheap to produce compared to a Hollywood blockbuster. Even a bomb at the box office will easily slide into the black with DVD sales and downloads. Unfortunately, for the two latest parodies to hit the straight to DVD shelf, jokes must have been at a premium, because both of these abominations are low budget in every way.

Teen box office smash The Hunger Games has spun off not one, but two parodies. In the spirit of Easter, I have watched them so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Hungover Games combines The Hangover Franchise (already a comedy, I know) with The Hunger Games. Four unknown actors have received their “big breaks” impersonating Bradley Cooper’s Phil and so on. What’s more irritating than Zach Galifanakis? Well that would be someone pretending to be Zach Galifanakis.

Instead of losing Doug in Las Vegas or Thailand, our heroes are instead thrown into The Hungover Games, a battle to the death between various Hollywood franchises including Thor, Carrie, zombies, The Lord of the Rings, 300, Avatar and Ted. Featuring cameos from the incredibly unfunny Tara Reid, Jonathan Silverman and Jamie Kennedy, this film is simply awful. Shot in what appears to be a park in Los Angeles, no-one seems to care when street lights are visible in the background, nor when a car drives up the said street.

As an indicator of the humour blackhole that is The Hungover Games, here are the “sidesplitting” new names of The Hunger Games characters: Katnip, Effing White, Skip Bayflick and Justmitch.

The Starving Games is only slightly better, earning just a handful of titters and maybe a smirk. Following the original storyline more closely, our hero must battle for survival, with not only her life at stake but also prizes including an old ham, a coupon for a footlong sub and a partially eaten pickle.

Shot with a Z grade cast in probably the same park as its counterpart, the film also features ho-hum appearances from The Avengers, Thor, the Na’vi, Harry Potter and The Expendables. For your convenience, here are The Hunger Games alter egos: Kantmiss Evershot, Effoff and President Snowballs.

A sure sign of a terrible comedy is when the bloopers are funnier than the film. Unfortunately, that’s the case for both of these disasters. Avoid at all cost, but if you are a sucker for punishment, ensure that you forget your Hungover / Starving Games experience immediately, Barry O’Farrell style.


Film Review: Iron Man 3

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th April 2013.

Avengers assemble again…in an orderly fashion over the next two years!! Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has begun in earnest with the first of four superhero movies rolling out of the Walt Disney Pictures factory this past week. Iron Man 3 will be followed in October by Thor: The Dark World. Next we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April next year, then Guardian of the Galaxy in August, before the superhero mothership mark 2, otherwise known as The Avengers 2, lands on May 1 2015.

The good news is that Iron Man 3 maintains the fun quotient set by its predecessors and isn’t a letdown following the smashingly brilliant geekout that was The Avengers. The storyline picks up directly after the Chitauri invasion of New York and finds Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unable to sleep following his near death experience free falling from the alien portal. To keep busy, he has designed a further 35 armours, as you do, and is experimenting with a mind-controlled version (Mark 42 for the nerds). A mysterious terrorist attack masterminded by The Mandarin brings Stark back into action as he confronts a new enemy and his own demons.

The challenge for new director to the franchise Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was finding a villain menacing enough to follow an evil alien race. To his credit, he manages to find two, in Ben Kingsley’s The Mandarin and Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian. Kingsley is joyously over the top (and very non-Asian) in a role reminiscent of his turn as The Hood in the terrible Thunderbirds movie. Pearce also seems to be carving a niche for himself in the movie villains department with yet another crazy moustache twirling bad guy, following a similar role in last year’s Lawless.

Alongside the dependable RDJ, Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow return as James Rhodes and Pepper Potts, respectively. Original franchise director Jon Favreau also reappears briefly as newly appointed Stark Head of Security, Happy Hogan. It’s a testament to the quality of the film, and the whole Marvel Universe franchise generally, that a balance has been found in the storytelling which allows each major character to have their moment in the spotlight and not get lost in a plethora of villains and minor characters.

As with most major Hollywood tentpole releases, Iron Man 3 is available in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX versions. Filmed in 2D and post-converted, the movie is not a remarkable 3D experience and after a few minutes I forgot about it altogether.

Tony Stark is armour free for the middle third of the film, and it was a refreshing contrast to enjoy a superhero using his brains rather than his brawn, or his powered suit of high tech weaponry in this case. Of course, fans of mega-armoured suit battles aboard oil rigs will particularly enjoy the finale. A rescue of multiple passengers falling from a crippled Air Force One is also exhilarating.

Make sure you stay right to the end of the credits for the traditional Marvel Movie Universe bonus scene. It’s a corker.

A healthy blend of action, humour and melodrama, set in a comfortable, now familiar universe, makes Iron Man 3 a winner in the superhero stakes.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 17:51  Leave a Comment  
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First Review: Marvel’s The Avengers

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th April 2012.

It’s finally time for The Avengers fans to assemble. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios, now a subsidiary of The Walk Disney Company, has slowly built towards this ultimate team-up movie. Brief scenes, often occurring after the credit have rolled, in The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and both Iron Man entries have pieced together the formation of S.H.I.E.L.D., a peacekeeping organisation led by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. Can the silver screen contain all of these larger than life characters and satisfy casual and diehard fans of the Marvel franchise? The answer is yes, yes, yes.

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of The Avengers. All I had to do was hand my mobile phone over to a security guard, sign a confidentiality contract and be scanned by metal detectors before I entered the screening room. Disney is obviously very aware that a pirated copy of this film could cost them millions in revenue. Not that I minded. It meant that I got to enjoy a movie without interruptions from annoying flashing mobile screens.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers brings Earth’s mightiest heroes together in response to an attack on humanity by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother. Thor (Aussie Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Ed Norton) have little reason to trust or like each other and it’s this friction which allows Whedon to work magic with his trademark witty dialogue exchanges and put downs. There are many laugh out loud moments to enjoy.

Surprisingly, every major character gets their fair share of screen time. Even lesser known heroes Hawkeye and Black Widow, only briefly introduced in Thor and Iron Man 2 respectively, get time to shine. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is appropriately smarmy and a worthy opponent for the team. With the vast majority of characters well established in their own feature films, only Jackson’s Nick Fury seems a little thinly drawn.

I saw the 2D version and there were only a few noticeable 3D moments. I’m not a major proponent of cinema 3D (I much prefer the brighter home 3D) so you’re definitely not missing out on anything by avoiding the surcharge.

The action sequences are well captured and the CGI is convincing. Loki’s attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. flying helicarrier is breathtakingly good. The final showdown in New York City is a little reminiscent of a similar sequence in Transformers: Dark of the Moon but again Whedon’s humorous banter between the heroes saves the scene. The Hulk smashing things up also helps.

Forget The Dark Knight Rises or The Amazing Spider-Man, there is only one superhero film to see this year and The Avengers is it. Fans of Whedon’s Serenity will be pleased with a little nod to the cult favourite (think Wash). Make sure you stay after the credits for the now standard Marvel Universe credit cookie.

Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 12:54  Leave a Comment  
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