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.

Weird Al Rules

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th July 2011.

It’s hard to believe but pop satirist and accordion player, “Weird Al” Yankovic, released his 13th album, Alpocalypse, this year. With more than 12 million records sold over a career spanning 35 years, Yankovic has mostly outlasted and in some cases, outsold, the pop music artists that were the basis for his amusing parodies.

Born Alfred Matthew Yankovic in 1959 (he turns 52 this year), “Weird Al’ released his first official single on Capitol Records in 1976. It was a parody of The Knack’s My Sharona, reworked as My Balogna. This was followed by Another One Rides the Bus, a send up of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust. From there, as they say, the rest is history.

Yankovic’s career particularly benefitted from the emergence of MTV in the early eighties. His hilarious music video for Eat It, a parody of Beat It by one hit wonder Michael Jackson, was virtually a shot-for shot remake of the original clip and was placed on high rotation, becoming one of Al’s biggest selling singles.

No-one seemingly was safe from Weird Al’s focus. Major acts such as Madonna (Like a Surgeon), Nirvana (Smells Like Nirvana), Green Day (Canadian Idiot), Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Bedrock Anthem) and Michael Jackson (a second parody, Fat) were satirised alongside flash in the pan acts such as Coolio (Amish Paradise), The Presidents of the United States of America (Gump), Billy Ray Cyrus (Achy Breaky Song) and The Offspring (Pretty Fly for a Rabbi).

In the USA, permission is not required to record a parody of a song, however, Yankovic generally seeks permission from the original artist before working his magic. Many recording acts consider it an honour to be satirised by Al. His latest single, a spin on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, entitled Perform This Way (the video is fantastic, check it out on YouTube) was initially refused permission by her management. When Gaga, reportedly a huge fan, found out that a decision had been made without consulting her, Weird Al was given the go ahead.

Not everyone wants the Yankovic treatment though. Vegetarian Paul McCartney did not want Live and Let Die to become Chicken Pot Pie. James Blunt’s management didn’t like the idea of You’re Beautiful being made into You’re Pitiful.

My favourite song on every Weird Al album is his polka medley. This is where he takes a dozen or so chart hits at the time of recording and recreates them as a thigh slapping, lederhosen friendly polka, complete with tubas and piano accordions. As my high school’s resident DJ in the early 90’s, I’d quite often turn school dances into Octoberfest by playing Yankovic’s Polka Your Eyes Out.

I had the pleasure of catching Weird Al’s live show earlier this year from the front row of the Enmore Theatre. More of a live theatrical performance than a concert, Al changed costume between almost every song. This meant that there were long gaps between tunes, which were filled with amusing videos, but after a while it became clear that the show was far from spontaneous. His band was amazing, with some members being with Al from the beginning of his career. Their ability to reproduce almost any style of music was uncanny.

With a career almost as long as my life so far, “Weird Al” Yankovic will hopefully be around to poke fun at the ultra serious music industry for many years to come. When the funniest thing in music these days is Justin Bieber, it is good to know that the Clown Prince of Pop is around.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 08:53  Leave a Comment  
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