I’ve previously blogged about the Avengers and their suitability in bed: now it’s time to get *snikt snikt* X-TRA KINKY!

(Note: I know, I didn't list them all, but I can only stretch my imagination so far...)

wolverine-x-men-days-of-future-past-bone-claws1. Wolverine
Played by: Hugh Jackman
Mutant powers: superfast healing, Adamantium skeleton and retractable claws
Let’s face it. The guy never ages, he’s got muscles bigger than your head, and if you’re into BDSM, he heals instantly. Your only challenge would be keeping up with him. And he’s Hugh freakin’ Jackman. Even if the mutton chops and claws don’t do it for you, Hugh’s singing might.

xavier magneto bed2. Younger Magneto/Younger Charles Xavier (ménage)
Played by: Michael Fassbender/James McAvoy
Mutant powers: ability to manipulate metal/world’s greatest telepath
You might think it’s somehow unfair to tag team these two in a battle for bedroom dominance, but when I see these hotties on screen together, it’s like being presented with two cupcakes and being told I can only take one bite. Naturally, I smash the two cupcakes together and shove the whole mess in my mouth. Fassbender’s cold conviction as Magneto is tempered by McAvoy’s softer but equally as intense Xavier. These two sizzle on screen. Throw in some silk sheets, maybe a pair of plastic (nonmagnetic) handcuffs and you know there’ll be fun times ahead.

xmen-days-of-future-past-poster-mystique3. Mystique
Played by: Jennifer Lawrence
Mutant Powers: shapeshifter, superagility, superhealing
Guys. She can turn into anyone. Anyone. That means anyone on this list is fair game…unless she kicks you in the head first.


Nicholas-Hoult-as-Hank-McCoy-in-human-form4. Younger Beast
Played by: Nicholas Hoult
Mutant powers: superagility, superstrength, high intellect, some monstrosity
I’m not wild about bestiality, but I do love me a brain. As non-blue-furred Hank McCoy, I’d be hard pressed not to lead this nerdy cutie off on a leash. Surely someone who can hang upside down from the ceiling by his toes can provide some interesting evening entertainment?

Xmen-Days-of-Future-Past-Fighting-Professor-X5. Older Charles Xavier
Played by: Sir Patrick Stewart
Mutant powers: world’s greatest telepath
First, I don’t think Patrick Stewart has aged at all in the past 20 years—there’s probably a holodeck program somewhere of him getting older. Second, he’s a telepath. He could do anything to your brain—set you in an exotic locale, make himself look like anyone you wanted. He wouldn’t have to touch you to blow your mind.

Least Doable X-Men

anna-paquins-rogue-cut-from-x-men-days-of-future-past-151697-a-1387632295-470-751. Rogue
Played by: Anna Paquin
Mutant powers: absorbing the powers and life force of anyone she touches
It’s not that I don’t like her, or think she’s ugly anything like that. But her mutant power pretty much says it all; if I even touched her, I’d be dead, or maybe I'd end up looking like a shriveled condom drying out in the sun.

james-marsden-and-x-men-profile2. Cyclops
Played by: James Marsden
Mutant powers: optic blasts from his eyes
The ongoing joke I have about James Marsden is that he always plays the other guy. If (God forbid) they remade Casablanca, Marsden would play Victor Laszlo. They should make another superhero movie and cast him as Cockblocker, whose superpower is to be the jock boyfriend to every relationship. Cyclops is a cutie, sure, and leader of the X-Men, but let’s face it, he’s no Wolverine, and he seems to perpetually get the short end of the stick.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Quicksilver-889x10243. Quicksilver
Played by: Evan Peters
Mutant powers: superspeed
Aside from the fact that he’s a minor, something tells me this kid would literally last a fraction of a second. And yet, I still ranked Cyclops as less doable.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Bolivar-Trask4. Dr. Bolivar Trask
Played by: Peter Dinklage
Mutant powers: none (human genius)
Okay, so technically, he's not a part of the X-Men, but c'mon. Peter Dinklage. And yes, I would do him over Cyclops.


X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-character-photo-Ian-McKellen-as-Magneto5. Older Magneto
Played by: Sir Ian McKellen
Mutant powers: master of magnetism
With all due respect to Mr. McKellen, whose talents I revere, boinking older Magneto would be exhausting (if he was a child during WWII, he'd be about 80 now). But I’d still do him over Cyclops.

Honorable mentions (for the underused X-Men)

Played by: Omar Sy
Mutant powers: energy absorption and redirection
Only Thor can wear a cape as well as this guy does, but Bishop has dreadlocks. He may not have had much of a role in the film, but I’d totally hit that.

Played by: Daniel Cudmore
Mutant powers: ability to transform body into organic steel; superstrength,
Look at him. I mean, look at him. Seriously, can we say “hard as steel” like *that* (snaps) about any of the other X-Men?

Played by: Halle Berry
Mutant powers: weather control
So Storm’s one of the most powerful X-Men out there and was played by an Academy Award-winning actress…yet they couldn’t give her anything interesting to do over 7 movies. Pity boink?

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Kitty-Pryde-812x1024Kitty Pryde
Played by: Ellen Page
Mutant power: can phase through matter
Another wonderful character played by a fantastic actress, and yet they replaced her crucial comic book role in the Days of Future Past storyline with Wolvie. A tendency to become incorporeal might be problematic during coitus.

Played by: Shawn Ashmore
Mutant power: creates and manipulates ice and water
Adorable Canadian actor; could make all my drinks cold instantly. But I think I friendzoned him in the second film.

1 Comment

When I first started writing, I heard a "rule" whispered throughout writers' circles:

Never kill a pet in your book.

It sounded like good advice at the time, though it did tweak my sense of authorial autonomy. Why shouldn't I be able to kill a pet in fiction? Pets are just as important as sources of motivation, plot and twists as any human character, and they're certainly just as human as any biped, with their own distinct personalities. Sometimes, they're the greatest source of comfort for the characters, becoming full members of the family. I argue that in order to tell a story, authors must sometimes make the difficult choice to kill off a pet.

Unfortunately, the fan backlash to pet deaths can be quite passionate—some writers and artists have even lost fans over it—which is how I imagine this "rule" came to pass. But as writers, it is our duty to tell the truth—the emotional truth, the literary truth and, the truth that lies in humanity's relationships with all creatures great and small.

I started thinking about the stories I'd read or seen over the years and wondered how a family pet or animal friend could be sympathetically and effectively killed off. Here are a few examples, and how and what they did right and wrong.


Family Guy (TV show)

A couple of weeks ago, the animated show Family Guy suddenly killed off main cast member and fan favorite family dog, Brian. Viewers were shocked, saddened and angry. But it turns out their ire may be short-lived: Family Guy may resurrect Brian. 

While this episode was quite moving and addressed the loss of a family pet in a unique and humorous way, returning to status quo rings false with what should be a life-changing event. Of course, we've yet to see how his "death" will affect the rest of the season, or any future seasons. But if Brian is brought back, even on a semi-permanent basis or in flashback form, it might undermine his importance in the family structure. He risks becoming a running joke, like South Park's Kenny ("Oh my God! They killed Kenny! You bastards!"). Viewers will feel cheated of their one true moment in what is otherwise an often subversive, trite and absurd show (which I still enjoy for exactly those reasons).

One thing is for certain: fans of Brian and of the show have been given an important glimpse at the tenuous threads we have on life, and how easily they can be cut. It's really a blessing this is a cartoon, which allows for the impossible, including the return of a beloved family member, no matter how they bring him back.

For Better or For Worse (comic strip) by Lynn Johnston

In 1995, comic strip writer and artist Lynn Johnston killed off her cartoon family's aging sheepdog, Farley. According to an interview in Wikipedia, Johnston received 2,500 letters, many of them negative.

I remember reading an interview with her where she said people swore never to read her comics again. I remember being equally shocked and depressed by Farley's death, perhaps because like so many families who read For Better or For Worse together, my family grew up with the Pattersons, and Farley was as much our dog as theirs.

Importantly, Johnston managed to make Farley's death meaningful. He not only continued his legacy (he bore offspring who lived on with the Patterson family) but he also died a heroic death, saving the youngest Patterson child from drowning.

It's clear from the interviews that Johnston had known Farley was getting on in years; but Farley didn't just get old and sick and shuffle off the mortal coil while suffering or in pain. None of us want to read about that—it's an unfortunate reality most pet owners don't want to face, especially when our goal while reading a comic strip is to escape. Instead, Johnston treated us to one last hurrah, showing us the aftermath and all that comes with losing a loved one. Despite her medium, which could have kept Farley young and spry forever, Johnston's always been true to her characters, to time and change and life and all that comes with it, for better or for worse.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book) by J. K. Rowling

In Rowling's final Harry Potter book, the first to die is Hedwig, Harry's snowy owl. When I read it, I actually screamed "Noooooo!" What did Hedwig ever do to deserve her ignoble death, trapped in a cage, at the hands of a killing curse meant for The Boy Who Lived? She didn't even get a chance to fight back, to protect her master, to earn a death worthy of a great wizard's familiar.

Here's why Hedwig had to die: her death served as a stark foreshadowing of the many violent and senseless deaths to come. She couldn't be given a fight of her own in this battle because, like the rest of the wizarding world, she was hopelessly outmatched, trapped in the cage Harry thought would keep her safe--a cage paralleled by the final battle at Hogwarts. She wasn't even given a proper burial, which made the whole situation that much more heartbreaking.

On a more practical level, Hedwig is an extraneous character, and when animals and pet sidekicks are relegated the same function as furniture—or, in Hedwig's case, inconveniently easy-to-recognize messenger owl—they are hard to keep track of. An author needs to account for every character's whereabouts in every scene, and frankly, I think Rowling made a wise decision to get rid of the excess baggage Hedwig would have been while using her as an important literary device.

Still, I'm mad she killed her off. Because Hedwig!

The NeverEnding Story (film)

The death of Artax the horse has to be one of the most traumatic animal companion deaths ever in the history of movies. He comes to a slow, heartbreaking and horrific demise by sinking into the Swamp of Sadness, and Atreyu's pathetic, desperate cries for help tell us nothing and no one is going to save that horse.

My issue with this particular death—aside from lasting over an agonizing minute and half—is that Artax's death doesn't serve much purpose in the movie except to make Atreyu's journey more difficult. He doesn't have a steed for the rest of the trek until he meets Falkor, who is arguably a way better means of conveyance, being able to fly and talk and all.

Fans of the film might argue that the boy and horse are, in fact, the closest of companions. There's no doubt they have a connection—we're told Artax can communicate with his boy and serves as a guide on his journey. From a hero's journey point of view, that makes Artax Atreyu's mentor figure. And by the rules of the hero's journey, the mentor must be lost. It's supposed to garner sympathy from the viewers or something, but frankly, I found Atreyu's inability to save his best friend painted him as an unworthy hero. I mean, pulling on his lead and screaming at him clearly wasn't working. A sharp rap on the butt, maybe.

Like Hedwig, Artax is the victim of archetypal story structure, a tool to carry the story and plot forward. But unlike Harry Potter's owl, we resent the hero for letting his friend die in the pursuit of his cause. I might have sympathized more with Atreyu if Artax were a motorcycle or ATV or a tauntaun, because in this instance, making it worse didn't make the story any better. Also, I wouldn't have had to watch a horse slowly drown.

The kicker is that Artax is "resurrected" at the end of the film, which is relieving, but also aggravating for the reasons stated above. Sure, The NeverEnding Story is supposed to be a meta fantasy that revives itself in the fertile minds and imaginations of kids of who read (moralizing! Read and horses won't die, kids!), but when Bastian is soaring over Fantasia on Falkor's back and he spots Atreyu galloping across the plains on Artax, didn't you feel a little cheated?


Were you ever affected by the death of a fictional animal or pet? Did you agree with the author's decision to kill it off? Was it effective or did it turn you off the author's work? Let me know in the comments below!

1 Comment

Back in August, I was asked to participate in the Women Write About Comics roundtable about the 2013 summer blockbusters. I forgot to post it here. Enjoy my ramblings and some very insightful discussion from some very smart ladies.

Part One:

Part Two:

1 Comment

Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Joss Whedon

As much as I enjoy films and though I am a Torontonian, I rarely attend the Toronto International Film Festival. I went once about ten years ago and watched a movie called Chinese Coffee starring Al Pacino and Jerry Orbach. I can't remember much about the film, which probably means I was "meh" about it, and I wasn't into seeing the stars.

This year, however, my in-laws got me tickets to see one of the most anticipated geek fests out there: Joss "Avengers" Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. (Thank you, John & Rita!)

I was thrilled to be attending the world premiere of this movie. Not only was the director present (SQUEE!) but so was the entire cast, including Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion, Sean Maher, Tom Lenk and a bunch of other Whedon alum. (SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!)

I am totally biased when I say I loved this film. For one, I love pretty much everything Whedon does, I love the actors he chooses, and I love Shakespeare. So really, this was a no contest SUPERAWESOMESACKOFWIN for me.

It's a beautifully done in black-and-white movie, filmed over 12 days in Joss Whedon's gorgeous home. Shakespeare's play is quite light and quirky, but Joss does his thing and digs up the darkness beneath the subtext while ensuring a healthy dose of laughs. He called it "romance noir," which was quite apt for the small but bursting-with-life production.

My husband and I were ecstatic about this show, and so was the rest of the audience. I heard one woman in the restroom say she only came because her daughter wanted to see it--she'd never heard of Joss Whedon and didn't enjoy Shakespeare, but she said, "I LOVED this film!"

High praise, indeed.

Silver Linings Playbook
Directed by David O. Russell

The second film we saw, again thanks to the in-laws, was Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. The film, based on a book by Matthew Quick, is about bi-polar man (Cooper) who has just been released from a mental health institution. He moves back in with his quirky parents while he tries to put his life back in order and win back his ex-wife. An off-kilter neighbor, played by Lawrence, agrees to help him if he'll enter a dance competition with her. It's a movie with deeply flawed characters and lots of dark humor. Lawrence and Cooper get to stretch their acting muscles in these roles, and they play off each other quite well.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. Cooper does a bang-up job being obsessive and broken, while Lawrence plays prickly and vulnerable without being sappy. There are some hard-to-watch moments, especially if you've ever had to deal with mental illness, but the story is heartwarming and triumphant.

And yes, the stars and the director were there. Was I impressed? Not as much, considering  the act it had to follow. Still, this was definitely a TIFF to remember.

1 Comment

Take This Waltz
Directed by Sarah Polley

I wasn't sure what I was walking into when I got advance screening tickets to this film. Set in Toronto, Take This Waltz is about a young married woman who is infatuated with her neighbor across the street and endeavors to start an affair with him. Though played with great aplomb by Michelle Williams, there was something...icky about the whole scenario. At it's heart, though, lies the truth: that even shiny new things get old. And while I couldn't drag my attention away from the inconsistencies of the Toronto geographical landscape (sorry, Sarah, I know you live here, too), I did leave the theater thinking about the movie a lot, which is rare for me.

Magic Mike
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

It's kind of an old, but classic tale: a male stripper with a heart of gold just needs a chance to turn his life around. Meanwhile, he guides a lost nineteen-year-old thrust (ahem) into the world of male stripping and plays Obi-Wan to his er...very naked Luke. (Yeah, that went somewhere I didn't want to go...) I went for the sheer camp factor, but instead, I got some really awesome dance performances. The sexual aspect of the stripping faded quickly for me. Channing Tatum has some serious talent and gets to show it—and his fabulous abs—off in this wildly fun but sometimes sobering movie. Good times were had.

The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Finally got around to seeing this movie, mainly due to my current obsession with Jeremy Renner. It was everything the critics promised it would be: taut, intense, unflinching, with performances that had me wanting to curl up into a ball and hide for a while. Renner was at once stunning and terrifying in the role of Sgt. James. If nothing else, this movie will make you appreciate the hell our troops go through.

The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan

This was the nearly perfect cap to Nolan's Batman trilogy. My only gripe about it is that the writing for most Batman movies always comes off as a little campy. But part of the appeal of superhero movies is the absurdity that surrounds masked crusaders. I don't want to have to think too hard at a movie featuring a guy who sounds like Scooby-Doo flying around in a cape. Which is why I exited that theater with a big smile.


I saw him in the Avengers first, and my heart couldn't stop pitter-pattering.

The role of Cupid will now be played by Jeremy Renner


Then I watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and couldn't stop smiling at him doing lunges in inappropriately tight pants. My husband decided I needed a Twitter hashtag on par with #Fassboner to describe my crush on Renner. Contenders included #hawkeyecandy, #rennersploosh and #rennerection.

My seat for The Bourne Legacy has been his lap


I'm not entirely sure I know why I like him. He's kinda...funny-looking, actually. Tufty facial hair is usually a turn-off for me, and his soulful blue eyes are so wide-set, I kinda feel like I'm staring at one of those Mad Magazine foldouts. And then I saw a picture of him as a young musician during what I can only assume was the age of grunge, and I thought, Is he wearing guyliner? No, in fact, I'm pretty sure he's not. But he looks like he is in a lot of pictures, if you Google Image him.

Hide your daughters. He plays guitar.


And yet, somehow, he gets my engine going every. Damn. Time. Part of it is the intense, serious special-agent look that puts cute wrinkles in his forehead. I love a guy who can scowl prettily. The other part is pure on-screen presence. He radiates power and confidence, but keeps it safely stowed beneath a soft exterior. And his no-nonsense haircuts say "I know exactly what I'm doing, babe. But I'm not afraid to let it grow out a little and get wild."

Did it hurt when you fell from heaven and into my dreams?


As of writing this, I've yet to watch him in his breakout role in The Hurt Locker. But I await The Bourne Legacy with bated breath, and will very likely go to see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters for him alone. Such is his hold over me.

Got a celebrity crush you can't quite fathom? Tell me about it in the comments!


I won't go on too long about how much I ABSOLUTELY LOVED Marvel's the Avengers—enough to see it twice in theatres, and for my husband, three times. Suffice to say Joss Whedon got it all bang on, made me care about characters I knew nothing about (Hawkeye, Black Widow) and even made me like the Hulk. I hate the Hulk. Two separate movies and they still couldn't get the franchise going, yet somehow, I loved him in this.

But I promised not to wax on, so I won't. Instead, I present you The Avengers, in order of bangability:

#1 Thor, God of Thunder, son of Odin.
Skills: Super strength, wields a magic hammer. And we all know hammers really stand for.
Bangability factors: Chris Hemsworth's bulging muscles speak for him. With that smile and those locks, old school chivalrous affect plus godlike stamina, Thor is the ideal bedmate. I'd take this guy to my high school reunion.

#2 Captain America, aka Steve Rogers
Skills: Super strength and speed, wields a shield made of vibranium-steel. Imagine the possibilities...
Bangability factors: Like Thor, Chris Evans's physique is impressive, but his wholesome, boyish virgin factor makes him extra appealing to me somehow. Which disturbs me a little. I just want to make him salute the flag and cry while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

#3: Iron Man, aka Tony Stark
Skills: Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist with a flying rocket suit.
Bangability factors: Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, played by Robert Downey Jr., and he's got a wicked beard and a wickeder sense of humor to boot. Many would argue he ought to be my number two, especially compared to vanilla Steve Rogers, but the fact that Stark's with Pepper Potts and his obsessive compulsive tendencies kind of turn me off.  Great for a one-night stand and a few ostentatious "it's not you, it's me" gifts, but that's just my opinion.

#4: Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton
Skills: Master of archery, martial arts, acrobatics.
Bangability factors: I knew nothing about Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye before this film, save for the minute or two of footage from Thor. But wow, do I ever want to see this guy get his own movie, or costar in one alongside Black Widow. The guys sinewy arms and laserlike focus on the mission shine through. Apply that to the bedroom and I'm sure he'd have me bull's-eyed.

#5: Loki, the Trickster, stepson of Odin
Skills: Super strength, telepathy, magic abilities.
Bangability factors: Okay, so technically he's not an Avenger, but look at him. Tom Hiddleston is irresistibly charismatic in this role. As one character aptly put it, "He kind of grows on you," even though he's really a conflicted and kind of pathetic character. But imagine what he could do with the power to manipulate your mind. You could have him AND all the rest of the Avengers with you...

#6: Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff
Skills: Superspy. Particularly good actress.
Bangability factors: She may be the only woman on the team, but she proves herself to be an equal among these powerful men, leveraging her foes' underestimation to her advantage. She's smart and fearless and doesn't back down from a fight. If I had to have a lesbian experimentation phase in my life, I'd be honored and thrilled if it were with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow.

#7: The Hulk, aka Robert Bruce Banner
Skills: As Banner, genius-level intellect; as Hulk, nearly invulnerable, can take flying leaps, smash.
Bangability factors: Mark Ruffalo's performance was adorable, but he still managed to keep the simmering monster visible beneath his trembling nerdy exterior. Yes, I still put him dead last in this series because, let's face it, while size matters a little, I'm not sure I could go one round with the Hulk without needing serious physical rehabilitation afterwards.

#0: Nick Fury
Skills: He's motherf***ing Samuel L. Jackson. All he needs to do is be badass.
Bangability factors: He's number zero on this list because, chances are, he's already f***ed you and left. Because that's how S.H.I.E.L.D. operates, motherf***er.

1 Comment

The commodification of artificial lifeforms isn't new, but it's still chilling to see it resurface again and again in pop culture.

This Playstation 3 short whose purpose was to demonstrate the real-time motion capture technology now available (versus a pre-animated cut scene) tells the chilling tale of Kara:


Similarly, a trailer for Prometheus, starring the lovely and oh-so-sexy Michael Fassbender as "David," literally sells you the man in a box:


Would you ever purchase a robot servant? Even/especially if he looked like Michael Fassbender?

The Secret World of Arriety (2010)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Based on the book The Borrowers by Mary Norton, this charming tale about tiny people who live off the leavings of household inhabitants is beautifully brought to life by the wonderful Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

While not as exciting as some of Miyazaki's other works, the film is reminiscent some of the older Studio Ghibli movies, with a focus on domestic details and the not insignificant trials of everyday living. The art and scenery are lush and gorgeously painted, and there's little a child would find frightening. A must see for Miyazaki fans, naturally.

Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Directed by Drew Goddard

Joss Whedon's much-anticipated horror/slasher flick does not disappoint, blending classic horror tropes and plots with Whedon's trademark wit and sociological insight. I can't give out many details about this movie without spoiling it. Suffice to say, if you're a fan of Whedon, you should go see this.



Shattered Glass (2003)
Directed by Billy Ray

The true story of former disgraced journalist Stephen Glass is one that every journalism student should watch. Hayden "Anakin Skywalker" Christensen plays the erstwhile Glass,  who fabricated many of his stories and eventually got caught. It's a cringeworthy precautionary tale, and watching Christensen really flex those acting chops as a charismatic pathological liar makes you realize how wasted he was in the Star Wars franchise.

1 Comment

The Hunger Games (2012)
Directed by Gary Ross

The most highly anticipated movie adaptation of the bestselling series by Suzanne Collins will likely be reviewed by better than me, and more thoroughly. But I thought I'd give my impressions here.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read the books...well, why haven't you???

Overall: I enjoyed this film. It managed to distill all the important parts of the book into a 142 minutes, and included more in-depth looks at the universe that were not included in first-person narrative of the novel. There was lots of action, enough world-building to understand the basics of Panem, and lots of great performances by the main cast, who really brought the characters life.

The Good: Jennifer Lawrence played Katniss with aplomb, capturing her conflicting emotions, her coldness and her laserlike focus. Josh Hutcherson grew on me very quickly. He was convincing on many levels, and his likability and chemistry with Katniss will make it hard to root for the other guy when the inevitable love triangle comes into play. Gale didn't get a lot of screen time, but what I did see, I liked.

The scenery and sets are terrific, the costumes are fantastic, the writing sharp and not overexplained. It's an easy movie to watch and like.

The Meh: President Snow as portrayed by Donald Sutherland lacked any real bite. He's supposed to be scary, but he just came off as lukewarm. Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz, did not make much of a splash, and part of that, I figured, was because his assistant stylists who are a constant, chattering presence in the book didn't appear much in the film. Likewise, we didn't see much of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), another key figure. I can only imagine some of his best scenes are on the cutting-room floor.

The Bad: Excessive use of shaky-cam and quick cuts made many of the more horrific sequences easier to film/stomach and kept the film PG-13-friendly, but they got tiresome. Not quite Michael Bay-tiresome, but I was definitely googly-eyed by the end.

Since this franchise is going to be spread across four movies, I felt there needed to be more contrast between the Capitol and Districts. An overreliance on CGI didn't ground me in the excess of the Capitol--things were just a little too blue screened at times, and as colorful and fanciful as the costumes were, the transition between District 12 and the Captiol was too jarring. The costumes, while beautiful, were used almost too much. I really wanted to see the banquet scene from the book.

I also felt they could have gone a lot darker. As has been pointed out on Twitter, it's a strange world in which a movie about kids killing each other in an arena bloodsport gets a PG-13 rating, while a documentary about bullies gets an R for swearing. The horror of the Hunger Games was well done, but they could have gone two shades darker and really hit the nail on the head. I can only hope the sequels will be a little more unflinching in their treatment of violence.

The Conclusion: This may be one instance in which I recommend reading the book before watching the movie, only because it's a great book, and it translates fairly well. I'll go see the sequels, no doubt about it. Hats off to the cast and crew. I look forward to Catching Fire.