Tag Archives: the hunger games

‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ Best Hunger Games Yet

MockingjayPart1Poster3They say the third time’s the charm. While that is usually not the case with movie franchises (give me one third film that eclipsed the first two which is not named “Return of the King”), the saying does ring true with “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”, which is the best film in the series.

Picking up right where “Catching Fire” left off, Katniss (fan-favorite Jennifer Lawrence) is now in District 13 and has become the symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol, led by the love-to-hate-him President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Liam Hemsworth and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman return as Julianne Moore joins the cast. Francis Lawrence returns in the director’s chair.

The first two Hunger Games films both served their purpose, but I never felt any real connection to the characters, even Katniss. I’ve honestly always found her extremely unlikable and hard to root for, a claim she herself has pointed out on numerous occasions so it isn’t exactly like I’m grasping at straws. However “Mockingjay – Part 1” replaces the PG-13 shakycam action with well-acted scenes involving propaganda and the sparks of a revolution and that is why it is the best entry in the Hunger Games series to date.

The direction in the film is what makes it so good; without director Francis Lawrence, the film would not work. He utilizes fantastic production value and impressive CGI to immerse us in a world that is dark, both in tone and visuals. Whether it is the remains of a bombed district or a secret underground bunker, he knows exactly how and where to place the camera to get the most from every shot. There is also one incredibly impressively executed raid scene inside the Capitol that is as entertaining as it is nerve-wrecking.

Hoffman yet again shows why he was truly a rare talent, and we lost one of the all-time greats. Playing a master of political propaganda, Hoffman has some moments of humor and makes a few fantastic points about society, and he plays well off of the stubborn Katniss. Woody Harrelson once again is the comic relief, and at times stands as the voice of reason for the audience. Southerland is the best he’s been so far as the sinister Snow, and one monologue gave me chills just by the pure evil in his eyes.

Now “Mockingjay – Part 1” isn’t for everyone. There are no kids-killing-kids this time around, and Katniss only shoots her trademark bow and arrow once. It is certainly the slowly burning wick at the start of the exploding powder keg, so there is lots of talking and almost no action. But what that does is make the action scenes that do take place hold even more purpose and weight, and make you even more excited for the epic finale that awaits.

If you open a history book, the American and French Revolutions are some of the most interesting and exciting time periods you can read about. This holds true for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1”, as it is tense, emotional and leading to something grand. Does it warrant the final book being broken up into two separate movies? Probably not, but time will tell. Who woulda thunk that the best film in the Hunger Games franchise would be the one that doesn’t even feature the Hunger Games at all?

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Catching Fire’ Is Flawed Fun



            It is a rare feat when the sequel to a worldwide blockbuster film is better than the original film. “The Dark Knight” was able to overtake “Batman Begins” (in some people’s eyes), while “The Hangover: Part II” was not as good as the first movie (once again, it’s in eye of the beholder). “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” follows an entertaining but flawed first film, and for the most part it succeeds in being better, but it is not without stumbling along the way.

Jennifer Lawrence, fresh off her first Oscar, once again plays Katniss Everdeen, the heroine who, alongside Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson), won the most recent Hunger Games. If somehow you don’t know the franchise’s basic story arch, the Hunger Games are a yearly event where 24 teenagers fight to the death for the entertainment (and symbol of power) of the tyrannical government. The Katniss and Peeta’s victory has sparked a rebellion among the oppressed citizens, making the Capitol target the two and send them back into the Games. Francis Lawrence takes over direction duties from Gary Ross.

The first Hunger Games film was just alright. It was entertaining and somewhat fresh, even if the shaky cam and PG-13 violence held it back a bit. On this second go around the direction is much more fluid (my hat goes off to Francis Lawrence) and we get a little bit more bloodshed, mainly because all the fighters in the Hunger Games have won the event before, so they are 20 and older, not young kids who we can’t show actually get killed.

The film has its share of intense and exciting moments, most of which come from the dedication of Jennifer Lawrence. She throws herself into the role of Katniss, and it is her cunning wit and humanity that makes us follow her on her journey. However I can’t say I was always Katniss’ biggest fan.

The idea of the film (and book) is that Katniss is unlikable and has no real relationships, which is supposed to make her status as the Districts’ beacon of hope more meaningful; that a nobody can be the leader of great change. However when your main character is unlikable, then who are we as an audience supposed to root for? Where is our symbol of hope? There are points Katniss gets upset at people for reasons that are out of their control, and it really just annoyed me when she would break down crying because of what happened to her in the first film. We get it, she witnessed death. We all saw the first film; we don’t have to be reminded of what happened a dozen times.

Some of the pacing leading up to the Games is also a bit awkward and the running time is unnecessary (clocks in at near two and a half hours). And of course they try and force a love triangle because God forbid a film aimed at teenagers doesn’t feature the main character having to decide between two beefcakes.

Gripes about Katniss and the pacing aside, “Catching Fire” is an enjoyable film. The ending that may leave some people uneasy, but it is all to try and build the hype up for part three (well to be technical, part 3a). This sequel is more impressive and more fun than the first film, while at the same time adding layers of drama. The stage is set for an epic finale(s), even if the road to the climax wasn’t always smooth.

Critics Rating: 7/10