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How “The Hunger Games” succeeds as an adaptation where “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” failed

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There’s a lot riding on the March 23 release of “The Hunger Games.” Whether you like or loathe the film will be based on your personal preferences, but it can be universally agreed upon that “The Hunger Games” not only is a good movie, but that it succeeds as a fully fleshed out adaptation where most before it have failed.

This is coming from a die-hard “Harry Potter” fan. And while I wouldn’t consider myself a Twi-Hard, I am well versed in both the films and the books. So it’s not entirely objective when I say that both series’ onscreen adaptations are not that great, but it is an honest statement.

“The Hunger Games,” on the other hand, stands on its own as a movie. It deviates from the source material in a way that is honest to Suzanne Collins’ book, and also often strengthens the story. Much like HBO’s adaptation of “Game of Thrones,” every additional scene in the movie adds something that should have been there to begin with.

That’s not to say that “The Hunger Games” is without its flaws. Every movie has them. But that’s the key word right there. “The Hunger Games” is a movie in its own right whereas both “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” were chained at the hips to their source material.

This isn’t an editorial with the intention of bashing “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” Both of those franchises are successful for a reason, and are good in their own right. “Harry Potter” tells the story of a boy wizard with a big destiny, while “Twilight” tells the tale of the unrequited love between a human and a vampire. The problem with those films, though, is that they don’t add much to the screen that wasn’t already on the page.

By contrast, “The Hunger Games” isn’t constrained by the book’s story. Collins’ novels offer hints that a larger saga is taking place, and the film shows us that. And its strength lies in that component of the movie.

The argument can be made that “The Hunger Games” was always going to be best served as a movie. The action-packed and dramatic story was constantly constricted by Katniss’s first-person perspective while it was always obvious that the tale being told was much bigger than just her. Without that restraint, the film was able to set the stage for the future “Hunger Games” films while also allowing the world of Panem to be fully developed.

There is one character in particular that gets a much larger role in the film than he does in the books. His presence as a counterpoint for Katniss really works. By amping up his role in the movie (someone else will have to spoil who he is for you), the character helps highlight the brutality of the Capitol in a way just telling Katniss’s side of the story never would.

That’s not to say that “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” never stepped outside of the confines of the novels that they were based on, but those extra or changed scenes never quite worked the way they should have. Showing James, Laurent and Victoria killing innocent civilians didn’t have the same impact as hearing about the mysterious murders occurring in “Twilight” and wondering what was going on. And that scene in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” where Bellatrix Lestrange burned down the Burrow felt out of place and also makes little sense in the continuity of the story.

In those film franchises, there was always the sense that viewers who hadn’t read the books were missing out on something important in the story that wasn’t being portrayed on the big screen. That’s not how it felt walking out of the theater following “The Hunger Games.” The heart of the story was in that film, and it did just as good a job telling Katniss’s tale as the book did.

It’s yet to be seen if “The Hunger Games” will do as well in theaters as the “Twilight” and “Potter” films, but my gut says that it will. Even if it doesn’t end up breaking the same records that the precious two franchises set, one thing is certain: it’s a much better movie than either of those were. And this is coming from a girl who vehemently thought “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ deserved a Best Picture Oscar nod this year.

Do you agree or disagree with our sentiments on “Twilight” and “Harry Potter”? Are you just pissed that I’ve taken those franchises names in vain? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

“The Hunger Games” Super Bowl Trailer: Our five favorite new scenes

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With less than two months to go until “The Hunger Games” hits theaters, the odds are ever in the film’s favor. The latest trailer for the movie still hasn’t given us many shots from the actual Hunger Games — sorry, but Katniss with a bow and arrow dodging fireballs in previously released footage doesn’t really count — but there are still plenty of new scenes to dissect and analyze.

Fortunately for all of you, we have compiled a list of our five new moments from the trailer for your viewing pleasure. Who knows if there will be a third (longer) theatrical trailer before the movie hits theaters and IMAX on March 23, so we might as well occupy our time with these stills to help make the passage of time easier.


Katniss gives Prim the Mockingjay pin

This is a bit of a change from the book-version of “The Hunger Games,” but one that we’re okay accepting. Technically it’s supposed to be Madge who gives Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) the pin right before she heads off to the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games, but this scene switches the story around. Here Katniss gives the pin to her sister, Prim, so “nothing bad will happen.” Unfortunately that doesn’t quite happen — Prim gets picked as a tribute in the Games — so there will likely be another scene later on where Prim gives the pin back.


President Snow welcomes potential tributes

Donald Sutherland‘s President Snow doesn’t get much screentime in “The Hunger Games,” but he does at least get to appear in a video welcoming potential tributes to the District 12 Reaping. We’re not sure if this is one of the two new scenes Sutherland will have in the movie (it seems like those will be completely new to the story) but, either way, it’s chilling to hear him say, “Happy Hunger Games!”


“What did you say to your sister when you volunteered at the Reaping?”

That is the question poised by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) to Katniss during her pre-Hunger Games interview, featured as a new scene in the trailer. “I told her that I would try to win for her,” Katniss responds. “And try you will,” he says back. We love the chance to see Tucci show off the over-exaggerated emotional scale of Flickerman.


Katniss watches Peeta’s interview

Just as Katniss’s interview is featured in this teaser, so is Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson). She looks on as Peeta charms Caesar Flickerman while wearing a red and black suit that matches her Girl on Fire dress. It’s clear from the look on her fact that she’s still trying to figure out if he is her friend or foe doing into the Hunger Games.


Cinna gives Katniss her pin

This ending is not quite as good as the first theatrical trailer’s countdown to the beginning of the 74th Hunger Games, but it comes close. Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) pins Katniss’s Mockingjay pin onto her shirt lapel only seconds before she enters the Games, and then shushes her so she won’t alert anyone. That pin ends up becoming the symbol that represents Katniss in the future “Hunger Games” books. Talk about a good stylist.



Are you excited to see “The Hunger Games”? What was your favorite new scene? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Call-In Commentary: Watch “The Woman in Black” trailer with star Daniel Radcliffe

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Daniel Radcliffe certainly needs no introduction, but his new thriller — his first role since ending the “Potter” franchise — probably does. “The Woman in Black” follows a young assistant for a law firm (Radcliffe) who is dispatched to a remote town to wind down the paperwork for a recently deceased woman. While there, he quickly discovers that the townspeople are convinced the area is haunted by a spectre — the woman in black — who is killing children to avenge her own son being taken from her.

The film is great at ratcheting up the tension and Radcliffe shines as the outsider caught amidst a ghostly infestation. To delve more into the film, we enlisted Radcliffe for our Call-In Commentary series, where filmmakers and stars provide narration to their movie trailers. In the video below, hear the star describe the origin of the movie’s spooky toys, how his girlfriend wound up in the film, what director James Watkins added to the story and more. “The Woman in Black” opens in theaters this Friday.

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MORE CALL-IN COMMENTARIES:

Watch “The Innkeepers” trailer with writer-director Ti West
Watch a “Filly Brown” clip with directors Youssef Delara & Michael D. Olmos
Watch “The Divide” trailer with its star, cult fave Michael Biehn
Watch the “Newlyweds” trailer with writer/director/star Ed Burns
Watch the “Loosies” trailer with writer/star Peter Facinelli
Watch the “Shame” trailer with writer-director Steve McQueen

View more Call-In Commentaries…

Will you be checking out “The Innkeepers”? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

“Catching Fire” will shoot in Hawaii and be awesome, says Jennifer Lawrence

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There are only seven and a half weeks until “The Hunger Games” hits theaters, and we couldn’t be more excited. Such is the case with the entire cast and crew as well, if we can judge their enthusiasm by the way they talk about the movie in interviews. Director Gary Ross and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks all chatted about the movie recently in anticipation of its release, and we’d be lying if we didn’t say that reading the interviews have only gotten us stoked for “The Hunger Games'” March 23 release date.

With Ross officially signed on for “The Hunger Games'” sequel, “Catching Fire,” he was finally able to open up about his enthusiasm for adapting that book. Training will apparently start in July, which means that shooting is still more than half a year off, but that hasn’t stopped Ross from getting prepped for the project.

“I love the title ‘Catching Fire’ because from the moment Katniss was willing to eat the berries, the moment she was willing to give her life for something larger than herself, she set off a chain reaction that was at once bigger than her and also because of her,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “That’s a very exciting movie to make because you’re seeing the emergence of a leader. It’s the birth of a revolution so it has context that’s larger than just the Games themselves.”

It took Ross a while to confirm himself for “Catching Fire,” and apparently he spent a lot of time teasing Lawrence and the rest of the cast on set by floating the possibility of passing them off onto a new director for the next film. Lawrence described the set as being “all a family,” so it was hard for her to cope with the idea of losing Ross for film number two. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to worry about it now.

She told EW that she’s even more excited to prepare for “Catching Fire” than she was to prep for “The Hunger Games.” Maybe that has something to do with the fact that it will be filming in Hawaii — likely because of the setting of the latter portion of the book — but it’s likely just because she loves the story of Katniss Everdeen so much.

“Signing onto the movies I was like, ‘Well, I’ll probably love the first one and then I’ll just want to get the rest of them out of the way,” Lawrence said. “But I can’t wait to start training. As soon as they were like ‘We need to start training in July,’ I was like ‘Woohoo!’ I can’t wait to get back.”

Ross thinks that Lawrence has a definite shot of getting her second Oscar nomination next year for her portrayal of Katniss in this movie. If her performance in the movie is as effective as it was in the full-length trailer, then we could definitely see that being the case.

“The range in this performance, the emotional terrain that she investigates, the demands of what this role are,” Ross said. “It’s such an intensely physical role and an emotional one. She carries the entire movie. To be able to do that at that age (Lawrence is 21) is so kind of incredible that I was in a little bit of awe. Do I think she should be nominated? Absolutely.”

Banks spoke out about “The Hunger Games” recently and said that she thinks its something both fans of the books and author Suzanne Collins will be proud of.

“I really think we did right by the fans,” Banks told Good Morning America. “Suzanne Collins, who wrote the book, she was with us and blessed everything that we did. I know we’ve done something that she’s proud of.”

She added to The Huffington Post that she didn’t know whether fans would be as receptive to her portrayal of Effie Trinket. “Effie has a really theatrical, over-the-top, completely not me look to her. I have no idea if people are going to be into it. I hope they are,” she said.

Are you looking forward to “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire”? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

“The Hunger Games” final poster hits the web

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The latest — and last — “The Hunger Games” poster is going back to the story’s heart by showing that this movie is all about Katniss.

Sure there are plenty of other characters in the flick. And, you know, that whole burgeoning insurrection plotline. But at its heart, this is Katniss’s story, and it’s nice that the poster (courtesy of IMPAwards) reflects that unlike the previous two posters released.

It’s a bit surprising, though, that this is the last poster for the movie. With nine weeks to go until it hits theaters, does this mean we should be expecting a new trailer in the near future? Our fingers are crossed for that.

“The Hunger Games” tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from the poor District 12 section of the futuristic country Panem who volunteers herself into the annual Hunger Games to take the place of her sister. In the Hunger Games, she must fight to the death against 23 of her peers on national television to win fame and fortune to her District. But Katniss only thinks about her survival and returning to her family, and that’s what gives her the edge. “The Hunger Games” hits theaters on March 23, 2012.

What do you think of this latest “The Hunger Games” poster? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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