You might assume that since The Hunger Games is opening on over 4,000 screens across the country that it’s the only film around, but that’s not quite true. There is Salmon Fishing in Yemen from Lasse Halstrom and Boy from New Zealand and the final weekend of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival at The Uptown. And on the micro-indie front is Invincible Force, which received its North American premiere at the 2011 Olympia Film Festival.
But the big news is The Hunger Games, the latest young adult book series-turned-Hollywood movie franchise. It opens midnight Thursday, March 22 (actually at 12:01, technically making it Friday for contractual reasons), in dozens of theaters in the Seattle area, including Cinerama and the IMAX at Pacific Science Center. Every critic in America is obliged to offer his or her opinion and the response has been, for the most part, respectfully affirmative. (Parallax View’s own Kathleen Murphy is a notable exception, calling it “a glossy entertainment sufficiently bland and sanitized that it will offend no one.”)
Not that any review is going to make one iota of difference in the opening weekend take. The fact that director Gary Ross, who adapted the novels with screenwriter Billy Ray and author Susan Collins, remained so faithful to the book in terms of plot and presentation will satisfy most fans of the book, and the message of resistance and defiance in the face of tyranny is just the kind of rousing theme that everyone can get behind. Ross correctly frames the “games” as both punishment and pitiless entertainment at the expense of the players and shows how the our heroine uses the entertainment factor of so-called reality TV to write her own story and use it as another weapon in her quiver, and he avoids so many potential potholes along the way (focusing on the survival over the competition, making sure the violence is not glorified) that it’s easy to forget that “smart” doesn’t necessarily mean expressive. Clearly Ross gets the book. He merely fails to communicate the experience: the intensity of runaway emotions, the isolation of mistrust and desperation, even the vitality of the characters themselves.
The final weekend of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival brings shorts, documentaries, and features to The Uptown, including Rabies (Israel’s first slasher movie), the American romantic comedy Dorfman, the dramas Wunderkinder from Germany and My Lovely Sister from Israel, and the closing night film The Boys of Terezin, a documentary about teenage boys who risked their lives to create a secret magazine to communicate their experiences while incarcerated at the Terezin concentration camp. Schedule, showtimes and descriptions are here.
The zero-budget Invincible Force, a feature shot over 90 consecutive days using only obsolete video formats, opens for a week at Grand Illusion. Seattle Weekly film critic Brian Miller warns that it is “long and slow, immersed in dull dieting process and amusing home workouts set to bad techno music, but there’s also a creepy art-film fascination as our hero gradually morphs into Travis Bickle.”
Raj Kapoor and the Golden Age of Indian Cinema, opening Thursday, March 29 and running through Wednesday, April 11, presents twelve newly restored films from Indian superstar-turned-director Raj Kapoor spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s. Opening night is at the Uptown, where the Bollywood splendor can play across the big screen, and moves to the SIFF Film Center for the rest of the series, unspools mostly on new 35mm prints (with some digital prints). Complete schedule and showtimes here. Series tickets are also available.