The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two


Viewed – 26 March 2016  Blu-ray

(Review updated 02/04/2016)

The previous entry in this popular and heavily hyped saga woke itself up out of the doldrums with a shock twist.  Now stop reading if you’re worried about spoilers for the previous movies as this can’t be helped.  Peeta had been brainwashed by President Snow and sent to kill our hero, the reluctant face of the rebellion, Katnis Everdeen.  Thankfully he didn’t succeed or we’d have no movie.  However this set up the final entry in this series perfectly, even if I mostly came away feeling deflated by a saga that had never quite reached its potential – until now.  This is without a doubt the best entry in the series and is skilfully, confidently directed as the rebels rage war against the capital.  Moving away from some of the more camp aspects of the story and instead focusing on a near-suicidal assault on a totalitarian government, this time around the stakes are higher and the tension cranked up to boiling point.

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Jennifer Lawrence is excellent as Everdeen and this time around her troubled relationship with Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is much more convincing and surprisingly really makes this movie.  You also get the feeling that after the surely expected backlash to the third unnecessarily cash-cow where the final book was predictably split in half, all involved had to finally take their meal ticket seriously for fear it being laughed at like Twilight.  Almost everyone here looks like they really mean it (but Luke Hemsworth remains bland).  Donald Sutherland who had previously been a rather limp villain, actually gets to do some acting.  Add to this some excellently realised action (with a claustrophobic, Aliens-esque sewer sequence) and gorgeous cinematography of often war-Mockinjay snowtorn vistas aided by superb effects – and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this, considering my expectations had been dialled back considerably.  Julianne Moore gets a much more meaty roll this time around, but I’d have liked a bit more from Woody Harrelson, even if Philip Seymour Hoffman’s subdued appearance is understandable (he died during filming).

It suffers a little predictability, and that final scene is a bit too saccharine sweet.  Yet The Hunger Games as a saga always held promise, although each movie seemed to lack that something special.  With well-timed twists, strong performances, quality action and a perfectly judged epic tone – this finally proves the series (almost) worthy of such massive hype.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One


Viewed – 21 March 2015  Blu-ray

So we reach the third entry in the heavily hyped franchise adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular novels.  Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has defied the capital and angered President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and has had to go into hiding along with a group of rebels in the hope of gathering the population of Pan Am against it’s totalitarian government.  An uprising of monstrous proportions is on the horizon.  And so ended the last movie, Catching Fire, in the hope that now things were really going to kick off.

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Well, that’s not quite the case here in the first part of the final book, as Katnis is given the task of becoming the Mocking Jay, the iconic face of the rebellion. This of course means she is an enemy of the capital and anyone who joins her cause are immediate targets.  What you get is over an hour of propaganda creating interviews, visiting districts, doing publicity videos, and not much action … until the final act that is.  It suffers the same slow, drawn-out build up of the last movie but without the exhilarating pay-off of an actual Hunger Games this time around to get all worked up about.  And don’t get me started about how many people die for no good reason in this movie (i.e. the hospital being bombed…).

Sound design and production values are both top notch but this doesn’t make up for such lacklustre plotting.  Lawrence does her best in a role that gives her very little to do other than look earnestly at destroyed landscapes and well, act a bit out of her depth.  Supporting turns from Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman don’t add a great deal to proceedings, and Woody Harrelson is woefully under-used.  Donald Sutherland is ok but again doesn’t get much time to really chew the scenery – the script clearly too interested in dragging out every little moment for as long as possible, just so there’s enough material left to make another movie.

A serious example of cash-in over quality this time, sadly.

Verdict:  2 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

christoph waltz

Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has died


I just read the very tragic news that gifted actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was this morning found dead in his hotel room with a hypodermic needle in his arm.  He was one of my absolute favourite actors and I always thought I should seek out more of his movies.  I am both shocked and shaken by the news and really think the world has lost one of the greats.

R.I.P.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

1967 – 2014

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He was best known for roles in Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski and The Master and nabbed an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote.  A very sad loss and my thoughts goes out to his friends, family and his many fans.

The Master


Viewed – 11 May 2013  Blu-ray

For some time I have been an admirer of the acting skills of Philip Seymour Hoffman, even though I haven’t seen that many of his movies.  He was a great villain in Mission Impossible 3 and also very good in movies like the 25th Hour and Boogie Nights, which brings me nicely to this latest  Oscar nominated offering from the same director as Nights, Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who has gained no small amount of acclaim for movies like There Will Be Blood and Magnolia.

The Master

Unmistakably inspired by the early days of Scientology, Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a man who leads a gathering of people and teaches a philosophy on life, that some would call a cult.  After a chance encounter with a damaged, alcoholic drifter and former World War II navel officer (Joaquin Phoenix), Lancaster promises to turn this man’s life around, if he agrees to follow his teachings.  Co-starring Amy Adams as Lancaster’s straight talking wife and with a world-weary performance from an increasingly unhinged-looking Phoenix this was at first hard to get into, not helped by Phoenix’s muffled dialogue.  However once Hoffman turns up this became a lot more interesting.  I have always wondered about the background of Scientology, and although this isn’t based on fact, it certainly opened my mind to an alternative to religion and could see how it might appeal to people.  However the movie does show that such beliefs can be attacked or questioned, and each time this happens, Hoffman or Phoenix’s reaction is either abusive or violent, threatening to reveal the real danger behind such so-called cult followings.

Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted an intriguing, if lightweight story with classy direction and some eye-catching visuals, showing off the period attractively.  Performances are decent, especially Hoffman, manipulative and charming as Lancaster Dodd, although moments of explicit dialogue and nudity seemed out of place.  Considering the subject matter, I found the lack of depth disappointing, but despite this I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3 /5