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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Starving Games

Directed by: Jason Friedberg
Aaron Seltzer

Produced by: Peter Safran

Screenplay by: Jason Friedberg
Aaron Seltzer

Starring: Maiara Walsh
Cody Christian
Brant Dougherty
Diedrich Bader

Music by: Timothy Wynn

Cinematography by: Shawn Maurer

Studio(s): The Safran Company
Louisiana Production Consultants

Distributed by: Ketchup Entertainment (United States)
Signature Entertainment (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): November 8, 2013 (United States, limited release)
November 11, 2013 (United Kingdom, straight-to-DVD)

 Running time: 83 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $4, 500, 000

Box-office revenue (as of publication): (N/A)

Well, as you can tell (maybe you can't) I've been neglecting the blog over the past couple of weeks. Basically, it was a little thing called Christmas, which normally isn't really that much of a big deal for me, but I have had some work interspersed with socialising with all of my friends, a number of whom have come home from university's abroad, and had a good bit of family time, so, much as I love doing this, frankly I was happy to take the couple weeks off. However, here I am, and in my absence I have been working on a number of different wee projects (more of which in due time), so for all the latest and greatest in movies, along with the odd update about completely irrelevant topics, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie up for review is The Starving Games, which, in case you haven't guessed, is a parody film of The Hunger Games, beginning life as a trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins and has spawned into a hit franchise with two high-grossing films (neither of which I have seen) starring Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss Everdeen. Well, as you know, in their great omnipotence, nothing misses the gaze of the cultural trailblazers that are Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, who thought it would be funny to release their five dimes. For those of you who don't know, I have a history with Friedberg and Seltzer to say the least, so I'll just give you a little recap. After a couple of bad movies, the two went on to make Meet The Spartans, a movie that is extraordinarily bad that it really has to be seen in order to gauge just how rubbish it is. Then they made Vampires Suck which, aside from a genuinely spot-on Kristen Stewart-impersonation by Jenn Proske, is another horrendous movie. Vampires Suck got the dubious honour of joining hands with the likes of Deja Vu, Prom Night and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (let us never mention that movie again, again!) as winners of the prestigious Thin White Dude Award for Worst Film of the Year. It's also responsible for one of my critical claims to fame, where after posting my review on their Facebook page, I received a number of angry e-mails along the lines of "How dare you such things about our movie?" This massively over-inflated, pompous and self-righteous attitude, led my to the Dick Dastardly-esque manoeuvre, in my great maturity, of mass-spamming said Facebook page and received more angry notifications from Zuckerberg Inc., telling me I was temporarily barred from posting after "abuse" had been reported and that if continued I would be removed from Facebook. Not that I'm intimidated by such matters (indeed, they usually lead me to be more creative), but a large part of my fan-base comes from Facebook, so for that reason I stopped. Still, doesn't stop me from being angry! So, quick synopsis here goes that Kantmiss Evershot (Maiara Walsh), in order to save her sister from selection volunteers to participate in The Starving Games, a gladiatorial battle to the death amongst young people for the grand prize of an old ham, a coupon for a foot-long Subway (SUBWAY! SUBWAY! SUBWAY!) and partially eaten pickle. Look, I could put a bit more effort into a more detailed synopsis, but really this just isn't worth either that or the veil of objectivity.

To start with the good, of which there isn't much admittedly, I have to say that Maiara Walsh does put in a decent performance as Kantmiss Evershot. While much of the acting is bad, she at least, despite the script, displays some sort of awareness about comic timing, and perhaps with a better movie, there could be a chance for her to shine. The only other good thing to say about this movie, and it's not exactly a positive but I'll use it to fill up space is the fact there is no major studios backing this film. It seems that finally, after all these years of having to endure Friedberg and Seltzer stinking up our cinemas, everyone has finally had enough of these two cretins. I can imagine these two pitching this film to Regency, Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox (their regular distributor for many a year), thinking this is oh so hilarious, and finally they've all had the good sense to put their foot down and said "no!" Emphatically "no," they might some money off of a relatively low-budget parody movie, but they spare so many of us from having to sit through these atrocity exhibitions, and that term is not to tie it into the likes of quality art such as the book of the same by J.G. Ballard or Joy Division's Closer, it's just a term that perfectly describes this latest monstrosity.

Right, seeing as how I've already got a head start on the negatives, here it goes officially, because, hey, I skipped to the next paragraph! That makes about as much sense of The Starving Games as a whole. Don't get me wrong, I got to watch it in the comfort of my home because no major studio backed it and therefore, here in the United Kingdom, it only got a direct-to-DVD release, even my inherent masochism that gets me through so many shoddy releases during the course of the year couldn't save me from the exercise in endurance of this picture. Friedberg and Seltzer have written one of their traditional sledgehammer comedy scripts, full of pace and gags and what have you, the problem being that the only ones who seem to find this shit hilarious are Friedberg and Seltzer themselves. They think that they are writing something like The Naked Gun, a movie with a constant barrage of jokes and one of the funniest comedies of all-time. Here what we've got is a bunch of lame references which only seem to exist in the film for the purpose of name-dropping and being in touch with 'popular culture.' So we see Gangnam Style, Fifty Shades Of Grey etc, but this kind of hits the point of absolute absurdity when you have a man dressed as James Cameron showing up saying "I'm the king of the world" as though he said it at this year's Oscar ceremony and not the one in March 1998. Speaking of Cameron and comic timing, Friedberg and Seltzer have this ridiculous thing of on occasion drawing out a gag for two or three minutes too long. There's a whole scene involving a parody of Avatar (cued on by hallucinogenic bee stings and with a sitar playing on the score. Yes, it's a sitar, it must be a hallucination sequence. A sitar, we must put in a sitar. Flower. Power. Sitar. How very very very topically relevant. Ravi, Sitar. Shankar, Sitar. Must, Sitar. Be, Sitar. Turning, Sitar. In, Sitar. His, Sitar. Grave, Sitar. Sitar...) and the whole thing with the hair strands coupling to simulate mating, and this turns into an orgasm sequence with the hair strands going all over the place. It's like a pre-schooler trying to give me a sex education lesson: "the boy's hair looks a penis and the girl's hair looks like a vagina and they put the two together and make love." The other extended sequence that stuck out was this ridiculous scene where, after a preposterously bowdlerised motivational speech about how the people should rise up against this despotic regime and makes the worst Soviet propaganda films from the 1920s look articulate, the masses are placated by a video showing a burger being made, only this burger is just an assortment of food and mess and junk and it lasts for so long that I just want an excuse to make it all go away. Also, I don't know about you, but I am gonna find out the link between Subway and this movie, because I betcha in some form or another, Subway have put money into this and got their products advertised in it, so I'm convinced that they're partially responsible for this. Just about everything about this film suggest laziness to the highest degree. Don't get me wrong, the acting is bad, it's a dully shot movie, the editing is simply horrible, and while Friedberg and Seltzer were rubbish before, you'd like to think that deprived of the resources that are usually available to them they might actually get their heads together and try to make something decent. No, what get is a movie of the same standard we expect from the two, only the production value is of a far worse order. The special effects are that kind matte copy and paste quality that you might see on a twenty-year-old version of MicroSoft PowerPoint, which would lead me to believe that either the animators suck, or that no one on the set could light a decent fire so as to give some illusion that there is something happening here. Also, is it just me or was the whole movie basically shot on location in a field, a forest and some bit of dirt ground with a small stage, microphone, a couple of barrels and a back wall. This is the kind of movie that if extraterrestrial beings in space were to find a copy of in space and watch, they wouldn't watch to come to earth and engage in communications. Finally, ten minutes of screen time dedicated to bloopers that would normally end up on the deleted scenes feature of a DVD are here on display to fill up an eighty-minute screen time. Friedberg and Seltzer are like two very painful ulcers on the inside if your mouth, but they have outdone themselves, and are becoming cancerous ones that you just can't seem to get rid of.

This year has been an exceptional one in movie quality. On the one hand, I've got four movies so far (as this will continue til the end of Oscar season) I'd consider masterpieces (The Act Of Killing, Rush, Gravity, Blue Is The Warmest Colour) and many other great movies that display unique energy and genuine diversity, making this one of the more interesting year's in recent film history. However, equally we've had a number of real stinkers, and The Starving Games would have been my worst film of the year but for two reasons: 1. they'd probably consider a badge of honour of some sort, then try to eat it thinking that any physical presentation I give them would be edible like chocolate money 2. Grown Ups 2 had an $80 million budget and with that much talent they should know better. The Starving Games is the second-worst film I have seen from 2013, but this a small mercy based upon the fact that they don't seem to know any better than how to be, like hipsters, parasitical cultural leeches.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 0.4/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool (all set for New Year, new day, new me, woo woo!)

P.S. The second link there is an excellent video review that, while not a good sales pitch for my work, puts it better than my own words ever could.

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