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Wilder's Movie Review

By: Dwayne Wilder

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Preaching to the Choir
The new film, “October Baby” will be widely distributed in April after a surprise opening on only 390 screens last weekend; it made a bundle at $2 million.
The so-called “Christian Faith Based” pro-life movie brought tears to many moviegoers and word is spreading among congregations and conservatives. I saw it in a nearly full theater on a Sunday just after lunch, so it appears that many local Christians made a day of it. But don’t let that scare you away……………………
“October Baby” is a movie worth seeing in spite of its overbearing message that abortion is wrong. Other than a couple of procedural things, this is the only glaring aspect of the film that is bad. Basically, it’s too preachy on the abortion issue.
Once you know the message going in, you can take the Erwin brothers, Andrew and Jon, movie at its word; then, you can enjoy the story underneath the sermon. In addition to directing, the brothers – with Cecil Stokes and Teresa Preston – also wrote the screenplay. It is said to be based on a true story.
The story begins with Hannah, portrayed well by Rachel Hendrix, at her college freshman theater debut. She proceeds to faint on stage, but it has nothing to do with stage fright. Her father/doctor runs to the stage to show that it is more serious. This begins Hannah’s journey of truth, which takes her from school to a long forgotten town and then to the realization of what is important in life.
I don’t want to give away the plot in order for anyone seeing this film to get the full impact as Hannah does. So, I will only say that in the process of learning what is wrong with her, she discovers she is the survivor of a botched abortion. Aside from her obsessive lip-biting, Hendrix conveys the emotions of her journey realistically every step along the way.
The film is Hannah’s attempt to regain stability amid all the truths she was never told. Hendrix does a good job as the young woman with a secret past; one that only a journey of self -discovery will solve. The dialogue is good and seems to fit; the emotions are strong and get stronger as the journey continues. Jason Burkey plays Jason, Hannah’s oldest friend and fellow college student; and the one who wants Hannah to get answers.
Their interpersonal ‘play’ isn’t perfect but in this story the two are not a ‘couple,’ but rather longtime friends from childhood. So, I will let it go that they have no real ‘chemistry’ between them because this movie is not a ‘love story,’ as in romantic love. It is a story about an entirely different kind of love……….
This 107 minute movie is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material; and deals with issues such as abortion, difficult births, adoption, letting go and friendship. There is some comic relief from minor characters, but the majority of this story is rock solid serious.
The strength of this film is that it gives a story where people can related to the subjects discussed, the characters involved and the emotions conveyed. There is purpose in the storytelling. And as a side note, there are a lot of really good original songs in this movie.
The two technical issues I had with the story were the idea of renting a car and hotel etiquette. In the plot, the young Jason rents a car to use as they travel on Hannah’s journey. By law, one cannot rent a car until one is 25 years old! And Jason is 20 at best as a freshman in college….
The other is minor as no hotel employee would let a couple sleep on a couch in the lobby instead of their room as Hannah and Jason did one night. It was glossed over in a humorous scene, but reality is simply not like that. (Legally if nothing else; to say nothing of how bad it looks for the hotel!)
Two other actors who did a fantastic job are John Schneider and Jasmine Guy. Schneider, from “Dukes of Hazard,” is great as Hannah’s father. He has really come into his own as an independent movie actor. He is also great in “Doonby,” another independent movie released in February. As Jacob, Schneider has some secrets he has kept from his daughter out of fear of hurting her. Of course, all of this comes to a head during Hannah’s journey.
It was good to see Jasmine Guy again! She, of “Another World” fame in 1980s television, is convincing as the nurse who also has secrets about Hannah’s birth. Much of her scenes are solo and she commands a strong presence as she presents the never told story. As the nurse, Guy has the task of discussing the abortion issue from a medical standpoint. The sermon is full on during her time on screen.
Overall, there are themes in “October Baby” which will resonate with most people. The abortion issue really isn’t an issue if one looks beyond the surface for more of the story. The basic human need to be wanted/loved is central to the final answer; and one universally understood.
The tagline, “Every Life is Beautiful” only tells part of the story. It’s what you do with that life that counts.
Shoot an Arrow in the Air
The phenomenon that is “The Hunger Games” hit a milestone when the film based on the best selling book came out last weekend. The film is long but true to the story, according to fans and critics. The only critique I heard was that the storyline was too sanitary compared to the Suzanne Collins novel. The survival ordeal of the 24 teenagers was basically left out; leaving only the ‘fighting’ part of the controversially violent book.
The hype comes from the success of the trilogy of books based on a world where Panem – what’s left of North America – controls the 12 districts with an annual ‘Hunger Games,’ which pits two teens from each district in a fight to the death survival ordeal shown live on television.
In District 12, at the annual ‘reaping’ young (age12) Primrose Everdeen is chosen only to have her sister (age 16) volunteer to take her place. Katniss Everdeen is the protagonist of the story and is played well in the movie by Jennifer Lawrence. She is paired with Peeta, portrayed by Josh Hutcherson, in the 74th Games.
The film follows the pair, as the boy and girl from District 12, during the trip to the capitol and their training prior to the ‘Games.’ We are also introduced to some of the other ‘contestants,’ some of which have been preparing their entire lives to survive and thus win for their district.
It doesn’t look good for our heroes by the middle of the movie……………………
Author Collins did a good job by giving a semi-romantic relationship to Katniss and Peeta (and another District 12 guy, Gale, to complete the triangle!). The movie script – by Collins, Gary Ross and Billy Ray – played up this part for the pre-teen and teen female audience it anticipated. There isn’t much with Gale since he is not in the Games, but the Katniss/Peeta angle is woven into the action in the second half of the film.
Of course, the violence part is in the Games……..there are only 24 contestants and only one can win………………and all the others……….die……………….Okay…………!
The obvious parallel is War – when a country sends its best/brightest to die for a cause created or seen by its elder leaders. Much has been said about the bloodshed for a young audience, but the film makers chose to hide the actual acts by using the handheld camera method. One does see blood and it is obvious what has just happened, but there are no gratuitous violent actions on screen.
By doing this, the producers and director Gary Ross have a PG-13 rating instead of an “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). This allows that a younger audience will see the film and feed the phenomenon; movie producers are not stupid!
The PG-13 rating is for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images. The film is 142 minutes long; almost two and a half hours, so get ready. My son, who has read the books and went with me, said that if everything was in the movie, it would have been about five hours long! They had to cut somewhere and I believe the screenwriters and producers got the gist of the story with its important subplots right.
As for the other characters and actors, Liam Hemsworth plays Gale (and supposedly will be more of the story in subsequent movies). He does a good job in a small part in this first film. Through him, we learn a lot about Katniss and their relationship and the way they have to live in Panem in our not too distant future. Willow Shields plays Primrose, Katniss’ sister, well; although she doesn’t have many lines, her facial expressions are on.
Veteran actors Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley and Elizabeth Banks play Caesar Flickerman, Seneca Crane and Effie Trinkett, respectively. Flickerman is the television ‘host’ of the Hunger Games while Crane is the producer and Trinkett is the show’s rep. for District 12. Donald Sutherland portrays Panem’s president who is a little more involved with the show than a politician should be.
Woody Harrelson does a great job as Havish Abernathy, a previous District 12 winner who acts as a consultant to the two new ‘tributes.’ In him, you can see the consequences of ‘winning’ it all. Singer Lenny Kravitz is also good as the couple’s ‘make-up’ artist.
This film is the first of four proposed movies about the trilogy. As has been done with Harry Potter and “Twilight,” producers are going to get one more movie beyond the number of books to insure their ‘success.’ (In other words, profits…………)
I haven’t read the books, but my son did and he agreed that it followed the storyline well. I want to look at the film on its own merits. Of course, its hype comes from the books, but I don’t think it was quite up to the hype. I only say that because a marketing program is done to set the bar higher than it should be, so that it lands way above when ‘they’ (movie studios) need it to be.
“Hunger Games” is a good movie. Lawrence is the best actor in it and her relationship with Hutcherson’s character is done well. They give hints that back home in District 12 things aren’t going to be so good, which of course is perfect for the hype machine on “Catching Fire,” the next novel in the series and presumably, the next film story.
“Hunger Games” opened last weekend as the third best opening in Box Office history with $155 million; it was first among original movies. (Sequels top the list of all time money.) Since it only took $100 million to make, the movie studio was making profit sometime Saturday afternoon! Now, that is a rare feat in the movie making industry!
The action is gruesome, but the film keeps pace and doesn’t let up. It may not have lived up to the hype, but it is a good movie with decent acting and nonstop action. I’m sure the DVD will be a best seller, but you will probably want to see it before……………….


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