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Josh Reviews The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 picks up the story mere moments after Part 1 left off.  Peeta has been rescued but he has been brainwashed to hate Katniss.  The rebels are escalating the fight against the tyrannical President Snow, beginning to strike hard at his military installations and close in on the capitol.  Katniss Everdeen has become the symbol of the rebellion, and she finds herself caught between her role as a figurehead (and therefore the rebellions’ leaders’ desires to keep her safe and use her only in a P.R. role to rally the people) and her hatred of Snow and desire to hunt him down and kill him.


I have never read any of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins.  I went to see the first film mostly because my wife, who had read the books, really wanted to see it.  I found the film to be OK, not terrible but not great.  I was far more impressed with the second film, Catching Fire.  I was surprised how much I dug that film.  Unfortunately, looking back, that was the high point of the film series for me.  I was underwhelmed by Mockingjay Part 1.  And while my wife and I felt we wanted to see Part 2 to see how it all wrapped up, neither of us was all that desperate to see it.  As a result, we waited weeks, until the movie was almost gone from theatres, before checking it out.

Whereas Katniss Everdeen was a hero in the first film, strong and moral and courageous, I was surprised by how stuck-in-a-rut the character has been ever since then.  One of the things I liked most about Catching Fire was that it explored the ramifications of Katniss’ surving that first Hunger Games.  She wasn’t able to just walk away from those horrific events — she was deeply scarred.  That worked in Catching Fire.  But three films later, Katniss’ indecision and inaction has proven very boring for me.  I like the heroes in these sorts of films to feel human — not like unbeatable, impervious super-humans — but I’m surprised by how stuck in the mud Katniss has proven to be.  It’s a weird choice.

I don’t want to spoil the film’s ending, but the last thirty minutes are the strongest part of the movie, and clearly the whole reason for telling this story.  I didn’t care one whit about which boy Katniss was going to wind up with, but I loved the developments in that last thirty minutes about the results of the rebellion and the future of Panem.  Those were some neat ideas.

But here’s the thing: for the film’s subversion … [continued]

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Josh Reviews The Hunger Games

I came into the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ hit novel The Hunger Games without having read any of the novels.  So my comments on the film will not contain any reflections on the film’s successes or failures as an adaptation of the source material.  My review will simply address whether the movie stands or falls on its own, as a film.

In that respect, I found Gary Ross’ film The Hunger Games to be a very entertaining, if rather unremarkable, adventure tale.

For a film adapted from an apparently family-friendly young-adult novel, I was pleasantly surprised by how intense and grim the film was.  While the film keeps the gore almost entirely off-camera, there is still quite a lot of violence, and I found the fights to be very energetic and engaging.  The final bit of hand-to-hand combat atop a ship was especially gripping.  Now, I’ve read Battle Royale, the Japanese manga published from 2000-2005 that tells a far more graphic, violent version of a similar story (schoolchildren forced to fight to the death).  So, compared to that, The Hunger Games is hopelessly tame.  But, that being said, I was impressed by the adult approach taken to the material.  I didn’t feel things were softened in order to appeal to a four-quadrant demographic.

That adult approach taken by Gary Ross and his team was clear throughout the film, and was the most appealing aspect of the movie for me.  This is an A-level adaptation, one in which a lot of care has clearly been taken to bring the world to life, and a lot of money spent to make it all look great.  The cast is spectacular across the board.  I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (click here for my review), and I thought she was also great in X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) and in Like Crazy (click here for my review).  After seeing her gripping performance in Winter’s Bone, playing Katniss Everdeen seems like a walk in the park for Ms. Lawrence, but that’s not to short-change her abilities.  She’s in almost every scene of the film (and, indeed, the few scenes that shift from Katniss’ perspective all seemed extraneous to me) and she absolutely anchors the story, giving the audience a character to invest in and root for.

Woody Harrelson is marvelous as Haymitch, the drunk survivor of a previous Hunger Games competition who is assigned to mentor Katniss.  Mr. Harrelson brings a world of pain and backstory to his performance — you can see it in his eyes, in the way he holds Katniss and her fellow “tribute” Peeta at arms length — that made … [continued]

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News Around the Net

If you’ve ever watched an enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you must read this short blog post by Wil Wheaton about his e-mail exchange with a former Next Gen castmate.  So funny!!

Speaking of Wil Wheaton, this behind-the-scenes pic from Stand By Me is wonderful.  Makes me want to go re-watch that spectacular film right now.

I am counting the minutes until The Avengers opens.  For all the Marvel Zombies out there, this interview with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is full of intriguing hints at the next few years of the Marvel movie universe.  It’s a good read.  Also a good read:  this Q & A with Joss Whedon on reddit.

So, they’re really making a sequel to the 1988 film Twins? And Eddie Murphy will play the newly-discovered third sibling to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito?  This is a joke, right?  That can’t possibly be real, right??

The Dude abides.

I had quite a lot to say about Disney’s adaptation of John Carter.  (Click here for my review.)  I enjoyed the film far more than the horrible reviews and terrible box-office performance would suggest, but the film had some serious problems.  I cited the senseless withholding of the tragedy in John Carter’s past until late in the film as an example.  It would have FAR strengthened the story and the character had the audience UNDERSTOOD the reasons for John Carter’s behavior right from the beginning.  Well, FILM CRITIC HULK over on badassdigest.com had a similar reaction, and he wrote a magnificent (albeit LENGTHY) dissection of John Carter’s story problems that focuses on precisely that example.  It’s a great piece about film screen-writing and narrative, and is well worth a look.

My buddy Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a great review of The Hunger Games film, which you can check out here.  My review will be posted on Friday!

Does Mel Gibson want to Kill Machete?  The Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For, is finally actually happening??  Please don’t let me down, Robert Rodriguez!!

I really dug the “Franchise Me” (from CHUD.com) look back at the four Lethal Weapon films that just wrapped up.  These articles are fantastic.  Boy, I loved those Lethal Weapon films as a kid, but I haven’t seen them in years.  I just haven’t had any real interest in re-watching them.  Mel Gibson’s recent shenanigans haven’t helped.  But reading those articles makes me wonder whether I’d still like those films if I watched them today…

A remake of Total Recall? Really?  This trailer actually looks surprisingly OK, but it’s hard for me to imagine this is going to wind up being … [continued]