Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: "The Hunger Games"

Over the past three days, I’ve had three questions tossed at me: 
  1.  Should I read The Hunger Games before I see the movie?
  2.  Should I take my kids to see "The Hunger Games" in the theatre?
  3.  And finally, after catching "The Hunger Games" on the big screen last night during opening weekend, “How was the movie?” 

Since it’s hard to review a movie without tossing lots of spoilers in (and spoilers really aren’t fair when you’re one of the only people you know who snuck out to see it opening weekend), I figure I’ll catch these instead!

Should You Read the Book First?

Let me start off by saying that I’ve had a dozen people ask me this since I scooted out to see the movie last night, and I’m no closer to being able to answer it than I was before.

It should be noted that I’m a dedicated book snob. 9.8 times out of 10 the book is much-much-much better than the movie. Things move at a slower pace. You get a better look at the inside of the characters’ heads. There’s an opportunity for more detail, smaller events, that can set the tone for the story but would take up too much time in the movie.

When I heard that The Hunger Games was coming out on film, I told my kids if they’d read the book first I’d take them to see the movie. After watching the movie, I’m not sure if I made the right call there. On one hand, there are giant gaps in the movie that don’t make a great deal of sense if you haven’t read the book. The screenwriter clearly counted on their audience already being familiar with the book. (I spent most of the first twenty minutes leaning over whispering explanations in my husband’s ear-I suspect he was ready to duct tape my mouth shut before it was all said and done.)

Not having a clue what was going on would have made parts of the movie extremely frustrating. It definitely loses something in translation. On the other hand, as with most book adaptations, there were giant parts of the story that were cut out. It hopped between major plot points without lingering too long over any of them, leaving huge gaps in the action, in events and in the characters’ thoughts that the book would close. So if you haven’t already read the book, think of it as…one of those really awesome movie companions. You get to see all kinds of cool and interesting things that didn’t happen on screen.

So should you read the book before you see the movie? Honestly, I’d say it’s up to you.

Should You Take Your Kids to See "The Hunger Games"?

By the end of the first day, "The Hunger Games" had made a splash. For what? For an excess of death, blood and violence in a story primarily intended for kids.

24 go in. 1 comes out. What exactly did they expect? If you’ve read the book, you know that the entire story is a testament to one young woman’s will to stay alive at any cost. There’s blood. There’s violence. But for the amount of death that takes place in a book like The Hunger Games, the gore was kept to a minimum. It was much more PG than I was expecting it to be.

My 9 and 11 year old went to see it, and I was fine with that. There were a few points where the kids jumped, and I think my daughter covered her eyes at one point. The makers did a good job keeping the more grisly aspects of the games to a minimum. If your kids are prone to nightmares, are easily frightened or flinch from the violence in television shows and cartoons intended for older children, this is a movie best watched at home-or when they’re a little older. On the other hand, if they’re fine with all of that, they’ll probably be okay.

At the point, the question is whether or not you’re okay with your children watching the Games play out on the big screen.

So How Was It, Really?

This is the part where I have to roast a film that had a $214 million opening weekend. The screenwriter who created "The Hunger Games" was guilty of the same crime as the people who created the first (and the last, if we’re going to be honest) adaptations of the Twilight books. They coasted on the success of the book, without putting nearly enough effort into creating a film designed to stand on its own.

The movie itself was 2.5 hours long; obviously some concessions had to be made for time. Despite that, I felt that parts of the movie that should have been allowed to play out were cut short, and parts that should have been cut short (or ignored altogether) dragged on for eternity. Some of the best moments in the book, moments that cemented your relationship with the characters, were nowhere to be seen.

Overall, I’d give "The Hunger Games" three stars. It wasn’t a bad movie. My kidlets both loved it. And we’ll probably go see the second one when it comes out. But unless you’re a die-hard fan of The Hunger Games and absolutely, positively can’t wait to see it on the big screen, I’d say you won’t lose a thing by waiting for it to come out on DVD.

Did you go see “The Hunger Games”? What did you think?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mom Needs to Get a Life

I have no life. 
That’s the mantra of moms everywhere. We have no life. We, those fun, witty women who used to go out to karaoke on Saturday nights and slip out for cocktail on a Wednesday. We, who used to read books and magazines and get together in coffee shops to sip lattes and talk about life. We, who dressed in stylish clothes and actually OWNED a pair of dress boots to go with our jeans, used to have a life.
Now? Now we’re women in ponytails that roll out of bed in the morning, grab the first pair of pants that smell halfway clean and slog to the kitchen, ready to start another fun-filled day of ushering our children through the finer points of life.
“Mother” Is the Name Synonymous with God in the Heart and Mind of Every Child
See that little quote right above here? Those 15 words are probably the most misinterpreted in human history. (Right up there with “I’ll do it tomorrow.”) That one little phrase inspires mothers everywhere to drop everything and come running the minute their kids are awake, burying themselves in the minutiae of their lives and their laundry until the minute they go to bed. At which point, we lovingly fold even more laundry, wash the day’s dishes, and collapse on the couch to watch the only hour of adult television we’ll see all day.
If that.
A warning to all moms, and one I really, REALLY wish they’d publish in those parenting books they’re always going on and on about. If you’re not careful, motherhood will consume you. You’ll wake up one morning and realize that you’ve been so busy being a mom that you haven’t talked to your friends in a year. You have no idea when you last had a girl’s day out. All those hobbies you used to have? Gone. All gone.
Suddenly, you realize you’re not a mom. You’re a nanny drone. When you’re away from your kids, you’re not (insert your name here). You’re just the weird lady with the messy bun at the grocery store without a lick of makeup on, staring at the broccoli in horror trying to figure out where you went wrong.

Time to Stand Up for Our Right to Get a Life
If you’re not happy with yourself, if you don’t feel you’ve got balance in your life, you can’t be the best mom you could be. It’s on headlines everywhere. Single Dad Laughing is working on a whole series on it. But it’s not something most of us have time to think about.
Cause, you know, the laundry breeds the minute you turn your back on it.
You don’t stop being a woman just because you become a mother. A friend told me that shortly before my first was born, and I wish I could frame it for each and every woman I know. Balance is vitally important. Who you are with what you are.
The question is, how do you balance motherhood with actually having a life?
1)      Stay in touch with your friends. The beauty of text, email and Facebook is that it’s easy to stay in touch with your friends. Fifteen minutes a day can cement old friendships, help you stay up on the news and yes, have conversations that have nothing to do with diaper rash and Fisher Price.

2)      Go out. At least once a month, get together with your friends. Not your spouse. Not your kids. Have coffee. Go to a movie. Go out to dinner or hiking or dancing or bowling.

3)      Avoid the urge to live in sweats. This feels a little hypocritical, given the fact that I’m writing this in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, but spending the day lounging around in sweats makes it easy to let the rest slip away. Enjoy your sloppy days, but don’t forget to get up, get dressed, curl your hair and put on your game face before you go out to face the world. You know, the way you did before you were a mom!

4)      Make time for your hobbies. When I was in school, I was a musician. At least an hour a day was dedicated to half notes and whole notes and trills and scales. Except for the occasional Christmas carols for the kids, I haven’t taken the time to play that flute in years. And I miss that. Take time for your hobbies. They’re part of who you are.

5)      Make friends with people with kids. Keep the friends you had before you were kids, but don’t discount the value of making new friends too. If there’s one thing that really makes trying to balance having a life with being a mom, it’s that motherhood brings children into the mix. Tracking down a babysitter every time you want to go hang out is expensive and impractical. And impractical doesn’t even scratch the surface of what having a conversation with the kids in the room feels like.

So, go to story times. Go to playgroups. Join committees at school. Make friends with people who have children. Let the children play while the grown-ups do the same.

How do you balance motherhood with having a life?