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

Update


I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  Work has been hectic but now glad to be off for a few days and recharge.  There are a few movies on the agenda as well as games, and I will be watching The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One over the weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for my review.  I have mixed feelings about this franchise but like it as well, and well, Jennifer Lawrence is very good in them.  Other than that I will be finally watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up Escape Plan during the week, so you’ll get my thoughts on that one also.  There is a possibility of a cinema visit towards the end of the week too, but unsure what I’ll be seeing.

I’ve been playing and enjoying The Order 1886 on PS4 and it has to be said, it’s a really nice looking game – they’ve captured Victorian(?) London beautifully and the story and characters seem quite good also.  The gameplay is nothing special but fairly well done – it’s mostly a cover based shooter like Gears Of War. Even the controversy of the game’s reliance on quick-time events hasn’t ruined the experience for me.

Also I’m thinking of doing more videos on YouTube, but unsure what that will be right now.  Keep an eye on my YouTube channel.

That’s all from me for now. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Viewed – 22 March 2014  Blu-ray

I enjoyed the first movie in this hyped adaption of the popular novels by Suzanne Collins.  Although inspired clearly by Japanese thriller Battle Royal, it retained it’s own personality and proved a star making turn for Jennifer Lawrence.  We catch up with her character, Katniss Everdeen following her victory at the last Hunger Games, and due to embark on a tour of the various impoverished districts.  Yet the threat of civil unrest has got the capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) nervous following Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta’s defiance of the game’s rules.

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Clearly on a bigger budget than the last movie, this is an attractive experience, and is shot in a very eye-catching manner throughout.  Lawrence again is perfect as Katniss and the emotional, moral centre of the story.  The plot is more fleshed out this time also and with better turns from Donald Sutherland and various supporting characters (even the constipated-looking Josh Hutcherson).  The movie takes quite a bit of time to get going however with far too much exposition following the fallout from the last games and Katniss’ troubles hiding the fact she’s not really in love with Peeta.  Although her actual boyfriend is poorly represented and basically pointless.  I was happy to see the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman make an effective appearance, and once the action presented itself … this was quite exciting.  Yet like the last movie it’s also a story that struggles to involve a viewer who hasn’t already got an encyclopedic knowledge of the books (with vague referrences to characters and events), and beyond Lawrence delivering such a well-rounded performance, this could almost be straight–to-dvd forgettable.

As the first movie on my new sound system, this was impressive to say the least.  A fully immersive sound stage with very clear dialogue and great use of all speakers, with some fun effects like announcers and animals in the rears.  Overall it greatly enhanced what was still a fun, if over-hyped (and over-long) entry in this continually interesting franchise.  Looking forward to the next instalment.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Hunger Games


Viewed – 12 September 2012  Blu-ray

One of the most talked about movies of the year … but let’s get this out-of-the-way first – Hunger Games is a complete rip-off of cult Japanese movie (and books) Battle Royale.  Ah, now we can carry on.  16 year old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes embroiled in the annual Hunger Games when she volunteers in place of her younger sister, and soon a number of children and teenagers are transported to an island with the soul intention of killing one another, with the one remaining survivor crowned champion and bestowed riches.  Now, apparently the whole reason behind this barbaric ‘game show’ is to keep order amongst the twelve districts who are forced to offer up two ‘pledges’ each year as a sacrifice, following an uprising years previously that caused a brutal and bloody war.

For me the futuristic setting was somewhat ‘meh’, with the rich dressed in strange, pantomime clothing and with sneering personalities, and the poor kept in districts like peasants (how original).  I also couldn’t really believe it would be allowed, by a governing law for kids to kill each other for entertainment, which felt more of cruder, medieval times than a civilized futuristic society.  Thankfully director Gary Ross (Pleasantville) has put together a very stylish movie packed with drama, slightly over-edited action and a star-making turn from Jennifer Lawrence whose performance is both hugely emotional and likable, making for a very human and intriguing lead.  Supporting cast including a camp Stanley Tucci and an enjoyable Woody Harrelson are interesting set dressing (less said about a sleepy Donald Sutherland, the better), but the star here remains Lawrence and the overall disturbing concept, which although not quite packing the punch of Battle Royale, still has moments of real power – especially towards the end.

It’s a tad over-hyped for what it is, and probably distasteful when all is said and done – but regardless, I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3.5 /5