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.
Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is out now at fine local book shops and at online retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.
The book, a “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music,” is getting rave reviews. The Washington Post writes that, “It’s impossible not to like Brownstein” in their review of her “engaging and witty” memoir. The AV Club called the book “engrossing,” adding that “for fans of Sleater-Kinney, it’s immensely compelling, particularly because Brownstein writes crisply, insightfully, and without vanity.” She even dedicated the book to her Sleater-Kinney bandmates (and Portlandiaregulars) Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker.
Pick up a copy of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in stores today, and be sure to catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more.
BROOKLYN, NY – OCTOBER 27
WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar
In conversation with Questlove
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 28
Barnes & Noble Union Square
In conversation with Gaby Hoffman
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 29
Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater
In conversation with Aidy Bryant
CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 30
Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
As you may have heard, David Cross is returning to IFC for a third season of Todd Margaret. If you were lucky enough to be at New York Comic Con, you may have seen a sneak peek of the first three episodes of the six-episode series. (Everyone else will have to wait until Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 10p ET/PT.)
David Cross was really sorry that he couldn’t be at the New York Comic Con Todd Margaret panel, but as he explains in a personal letter to fans below, his contract very clearly states that he won’t get out of bed for less than $2,500. He had no choice but to prolong his stay in bed by writing you, the loyal fans, a letter to explain what he’s been up to and why you should watch the new season of Todd Margaret. He even gives a few hints about Season three and how you could possibly win a car. Not really, but you should read David’s very funny letter below.
Just because a band is fictional doesn’t mean it can’t be as popular as its real world counterparts. (Admit it, you still have that Zack Attack album buried in your closet somewhere.) Whether spoofing a famous act, or creating their own inept sound, these fake bands often wear their love of the music world on their sleeves. Documentary Now!‘schronicling of the soft rock giants Blue Jean Committee is just the latest example.
It’s no surprise that the folks behind the show (Fred Armisen in particular) have a long track record of finding the funny in the music industry. (It takes musical talent, along with some serious comedy chops, to pull off the smooth lyrics of “Catalina Breeze.”) So, while Blue Jean Committee, or A Mighty Wind’s The Folksmen, could easily have been on this list, it’s not a shock that the folks behind them are. If you love music and comedy in equal measure, you’re going back to that well more than once. Here are some of the funniest fake bands to ever turn it up to eleven.
15. Citizen Dick, Singles
Citizen Dick, the band from Cameron Crowe’s alt rom-com Singles, was both a spoof of, and a turning point for, the Seattle grunge scene of the early ’90s. While many of the bands from that scene were cult hits, the Singles soundtrack helped turn them into superstars. It’s no surprise that the made-up band, fronted by Matt Dillion’s Cliff Poncier, could hold its own with so many grunge standouts, considering 3/4ths of its members were in a little group called Pearl Jam. Heck, Dillion even wore Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament’s clothes for most of the shoot. Now that’s commitment.
14. Titannica, Mr. Show with Bob and David
With hits like “Try Suicide” and “Try Again,” no one rocked harder than Titannica, the heavy metal band made famous in one of the downright weirdest sketches from the cult hit Mr. Show. But no matter how messed up their music was, the boys of Titannica knew it couldn’t hold a candle to the creep show that was their biggest fan, a chipper kid with the body of a wet cigar. This sketch is a surreal lesson in the power of music.
13. Sonic Death Monkey/Kathleen Turner Overdrive/Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, High Fidelity
You can watch Jack Black become a star in the final minutes of the 2000 cult hit High Fidelity, as his character Barry takes the stage to front his frequently renamed band. While Barry may not be able to decide on a sound for his band, Jack Black knows how to deliver when given the chance. A fun movie about and for music lovers, this scene is the cherry on top. It doesn’t matter what type of music you’re playing, as long as you leave it all on the stage.
12. Dethklok, Metalocalypse
When Metalocalypse co-creator Brendon Small was working on his previous Adult Swim hit, Home Movies, few would’ve guessed that he’d be responsible for one of the most face-meltingly metal bands to ever grace the small screen. And Small didn’t just dream up Dethklok – he writes and performs every one of their songs with co-creator Tommy Blacha. While Dethklok has surpassed mere superstardom on their show, becoming the seventh largest economy in the world, their popularity in the real world isn’t far behind. Small and Blacha have fronted more than one tour as the band, and recently played the comedy/music festival Festival Supreme, created by none other than Barry Jive himself, Jack Black.
11. David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, BBC’s The Office
In The Office Christmas Special, which served as the final episodes of the beloved BBC series, co-creator Ricky Gervais revealed his character David Brent had finally chased his dreams of stardom too far, by recording a cover version of the hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” But while the show was wrapping up, this sojourn into music was just the beginning for the former general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg. Gervais has kept up with his most famous character, recording a song for Comic Relief and creating a series of YouTube guitar tutorials. This all culminated in a tour with the made up band Foregone Conclusion. Rumor has it, he’s even been prepping a movie to cover Brent’s presumably delusional journey through the English music scene. While knowing when to say goodbye is a gift, it’s not something David Brent would be capable of, so why should we expect any different from his creator?
10. Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development
Playing in Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band Solution was a great excuse for some family bonding time, while promoting a worthwhile product to boot. At least that’s what David Cross’ Tobais Fünke thought on the first season of Arrested Development, forcing his family to play in the pharmaceutical funded family band. More a promotional vehicle than a hit maker, any chance to see the dysfunctional Fünke family interact is worth inclusion on this list. The music may not be worthwhile, but the fury behind Maeby’s eyes is.
9. The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash
The Beatles were no stranger to parody, as you’ll see later in this list. But what separated The Rutles from the legion of spoof bands that plagued the world as the ’60s turned to the ’70s was the guidance of Monty Python Hall of Famer Eric Idle, and a will to not just send up, but really satirize the boys from Liverpool. The band first premiered in 1975 on Rutland Weekend Television, a sketch show fronted by Idle, and immediately took on a cult following. George Harrison was such a fan, he ended up appearing in The Rutles‘ feature film All You Need Is Cash.
8. Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, Saturday Night Live
Long before Fred Armisen made his name on Saturday Night Live, he was a drummer for underground punk bands. The Clash in particular was an inspiration, and even with a right turn into comedy Armisen’s love of punk never diminished. That’s evident in this SNL sketch about a very Sid Vicious-like rock star who hates everything…except for Margaret Thatcher. Initially just a one time performance, the bit struck such a chord that Armisen reunited The Bizzaros for his last sketch as an SNL cast member. Still not done with his alter ego, he’s since taken the band into the real world, playing gigs as the foul mouthed punk rocker with a love for the Iron Lady.
7. Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
If your band is responsible for world peace, you probably deserve a spot on this list. While Bill and Ted start off as musically inept, one visit to the utopian future brought about by their sweet jams reveals them to be more than a mere rock band. They’re modern day messiahs, which is most excellent.
6. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, The Muppet Show
For many of us, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem was the first exposure we ever had to a rock band, real or otherwise. For the better part of four decades the Electric Mayhem has kept at it, managing to cover everything from classical to “Crocodile Rock” with a drummer so wild he has to literally be chained to the set. Even Keith Moon wasn’t kept in shackles.
5. Faith +1, South Park
It’s tough to pick between the two most famous bands to ever be fronted by foul mouthed fourth grader Eric Cartman. While the boyband Fingerbang is for sure a classic, Cartman’s Christian rock band Faith +1 combines his megalomania, cynicism and racism into a beautiful collage of sacrilegious majesty. And considering South Park is far from done, who knows what other bands creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have up their sleeves.
4. PoP!, Music & Lyrics
Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as one half of a Wham!-esque group in this charming rom-com. And he learned from the best — Martin Fry from the new wave group ABC served as Hugh’s vocal coach.
3. Sexual Chocolate, Coming to America
Both “good and terrible,” Randy Watson may not have been the legend he believed himself to be, but to fans of Coming to America, he and his perfectly named backup band were responsible for one of the funniest scenes in this classic comedy. Eddie Murphy was at his peak here, donning the puffy faced prosthetics necessary to truly inhabit the pitchy son of Jackson Heights. And having Morris Day of The Time fame on guitar didn’t hurt either.
2. The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers
As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, The Blues Brothers, along with their creators John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were forces of nature. The two comedians and friends first premiered their creation on Saturday Night Live, promptly launching a sensation. At one point, Belushi found himself the star of the week’s number one film (Animal House), number one television show (Saturday Night Live), and singing on the number one album (Briefcase Full Of Blues). Belushi and Aykroyd would soon add a hit Blue Brothers movie to that hot streak. Combining their perfect chemistry with a whole lot of soul, Jake and Elwood transcended comedy, and helped relaunch the popularity of the blues genre itself.
1. Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap
If the last two entries show you anything, it’s that the ’80s were the high water mark of fake bands in popular culture. And yet, with all the classics that came out in that decade, there was never any doubt who would sit at the top of this list. Spinal Tap isn’t just a movie. They aren’t just a band. They’re the id of rock music, manifested into reality by the all-star team of Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. In the ridiculous world of rock and roll, which already operates in a perpetual cycle of self parody, finding the balance of comedy and reality is no easy task. By using the form of a documentary, director Rob Reiner allowed his brilliant cast to improvise their way through the movie, creating the gold standard of fictional bands in the process. The film also introduced the “mockumentary” form to a mainstream audiences, which has gone on to become one of the most popular styles of comedy over the last three decades.
Crack open your stockpiled hoards of Thunder Muscle, because David Cross’ series Todd Margaret is returning to IFC for a third season. The show will return on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 with the first three episodes of the six-episode series airing back-to-back beginning at 10PM ET/PT. The remaining three episodes will premiere the following week on Thursday, January 14th at 10pm ET/PT.
Season two of Todd Margaret ended with a literal bang, with Todd blowing up the world as he continued to make increasingly poor decisions in his role as an American titan of industry. “Since we last saw Todd Margaret, which we thought was actually the last time we’d see him, this show has become a favorite among comedy fans,” commented Jennifer Caserta, IFC’s president. “Only David Cross could write his way around destroying the world to resurrect this character and story in a way that’s mind blowing and completely hilarious.”
In season three, fans will meet a very different Todd as the creators guide him on a journey which goes to some truly unexpected places. In addition to Cross, the new season will feature Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) along with Will Arnett (Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman), Blake Harrison(The Inbetweeners 2), Sharon Horgan(Catastrophe), Amber Tamblyn (Two and a Half Men) and Russ Tamblyn (Django Unchained), who return to the series playing familiar characters…with a twist. Check back for more Todd Margaret updates as we head to the big premiere in January.