*NEW* THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART TWO REVIEW *NEW*

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The relentless bestselling blockbuster franchise comes to a close. Did it fly high or flop like a turkey?

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

And now it comes to an end. A billion dollar franchise that spawned more bestselling adaptations than I could take and launched the career of one of Hollywood’s top leading actresses. Was it all worth it? After four films with one being split into two parts, did it conclude to my liking?

To an extent, it did. A mixed bag would be the best phrase to sum up my thoughts. A little disappointing after all that promise and build up. Now, I will admit straight off the bat. Like I normally do. I have never read the books BUT speaking with fans, they have generally been impressed with the adaptations.

I have enjoyed the movies. The first installment reminded me of a Twilight take on Battle Royale which worked a lot better than I expected with a stellar turn from that girl from Winter’s Bone. The pace was always a killer for me. BUT there was always something that made me want to see the next one. A twist, a revelation. And now here I am. Desperately seeking the finale to a franchise I never expected to enjoy.

Now, hardly a shocker BUT Part Two follows straight on from Part One with Katniss recovering from a vicious attack from Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The opening was dreadfully slow but did just enough to keep me subdued as Everdeen watches from the sidelines. The war on the Districts pushing for more aggressive action.

Things did take a slightly more interesting turn as Katniss began to question the agenda of the movement and Coin’s motives (Julianne Moore). Forcing her to make a drastic decision. To go it alone and seek out Snow.

Once the decision was made and the hour marker hit, the film took things up a notch. It was fast paced, tense and gripping. Everything I expected from a finale. The sewer chase was exhilarating stuff as the gang battled demented white zombie creatures. BUT of course, Katniss was not alone.

Who on Earth in their right mind would bring along a brainwashed Peeta? Hutcherson did a great job as the traumatized fighter. His failure to grasp reality and continuous questioning was interesting to start with. BUT the endless “Real/Not Real” quid pro quo with Katniss soon dragged and annoyed the hell out of me.

But then there wouldn’t be any drama, would there? With a more infuriating love triangle than Lost, things come to an ugly head as Katniss is torn between the loyal Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the volatile Peeta. It was good to see Hemsworth have a chance to step up after being in the background for the majority of the films.

My main issue with Mockingjay Part Two was that it seemed to suffer from the same problems that the final Harry Potters did. It skimmed past too many characters’ back stories and then quickly threw said characters back into the mix for one last hurrah. Jena Malone and Sam Claflin finally reappeared and made more of an impression this time around. To be honest, I had almost forgot about them after Catching Fire.

Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci were virtually absent in this one. Tucci was merely a passing cameo and Banks only reappeared to say farewell. Not even Haymitch’s advice was that memorable or entertaining. Merely regurgitating what we already knew. He literally just disappeared into the background. Shame.

The media or PR team led by Natalie Dormer added absolutely nothing to it at all. If anything, it made me question the relevance of them altogether by the end.

However, it wasn’t all bad. Jennifer Lawrence was superb yet again. The film took a much darker turn than I expected and there were a few shockers in the closing half hour. BUT what didn’t help matters was that we didn’t see half of them. It was merely implied or reported back to us by some extra. Infuriating after all the build up that things were happening off screen.

It killed off a good portion of the tension. There were still some touching moments BUT it came off a little flat and disjointed. I wish there was more of a showdown between Snow and Katniss. I really loved their fractious relationship and their final confrontation was certainly not to be missed BUT somehow despite some revelations, it just didn’t quite satisfy me as much as I thought.

It was also quite sad to see someone else taking a final bow. It may have been some time since his passing but it was a fine performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch. I’m not sure how much of his performance was altered to complete the movie BUT it didn’t spoil the character one bit.

I really do think it will come down to how much of a Hunger Games fan you are. As the credits rolled, a majority of the audience applauded. Guess what part of the audience, I was in. It was certainly watchable and there were some tense and brilliantly acted moments. It is tough to please everyone when wrapping up a series BUT for all the build up and insufferable Part 1 and Part 2, I was a little disappointed and left wanting.

Close BUT no cigar.

3/5

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HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 REVIEW

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Are you . . .? Are you . . .? Are you going to be seeing Hunger Games? It’s actually not that bad. For something that is essentially build up.

So here we are. The first part of the final film. A reluctant film gimmick that is starting to overstay its welcome. First Harry Potter, Twilight, the extended Hobbit trilogy and now The Hunger Games. It was only a matter of time.

I never read the books. BUT these films certainly got me wanting to. So I can’t make comparisons or comments on the adaptation BUT friends have told me it’s done a pretty good job . . . SO FAR. My main bugbear with the HG franchise is the slumbering pace. The cast cannot be faltered and if you were looking for a strong female lead, you could look no further than J-Law. The role was made for her. The satire and drama was very good but the two hour or so running time left me fidgeting.

The first half an hour of HG: MJ P1 was a little too slow (again) and disorienting for me. A confused Katniss is given a quick recap after destroying the games. Helpful for those not-so-die hard fans. (I know. Preposterous). I can’t believe it had been a year since Catching Fire was first released. How time flies!. The somewhat sombre opening had to introduce a new set of characters as well as explain what happened to the existing ones. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

A little patience was required. But once the plot was set up, Katniss caught up to speed and introduced to the full chaos and destruction surrounding the impending rebellion, the film hit its stride.

I was quite surprised at how dark this installment was. I always felt with these teen blockbusters that there was that hesitance to push it a little further. I mean, obviously it’s aiming at 12 and up. The desolate landscape of District 12 was subtly done. A harrowing sight with skulls and bodies making up the majority of the pavement. The silence as Katniss can only look in horror. Brilliantly captured.

The Capitol continue to enforce their dictatorship. Publicly shooting protesters in the main district squares and sentencing anyone seen wearing a Mockingjay symbol with treason. Yikes! While poor old Peeta (PEETA! Every time I hear J-Law warble that name, I think Lois from Family Guy) is being used as a PR tool for the Capitol. His condition, both mentally and physically, weakening by the minute.

Julianne Moore delivered a solid performance. President Coin’s stern demeanour made her a little flat and unlikeable to begin with BUT her encounters with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) helped bring out her out of her shell a little bit. It is a shame knowing that this will be one of Hoffman’s last films. He was brilliant as Plutarch. A clever PR tactician. His presence will be sorely missed. The fact he can make a small supporting role so memorable just shows how talented the man was.

The green screen sequence allowed for some clever satire and some humour between him and J-Law. Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch Abernathy. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. Arriving exactly where he’s needed. Dispensing his Yoda-esque wisdom while adjusting to being “dried out”.

It’s great to see Jeffrey Wright getting more big screen appearances after his fantastic turn as Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He plays the wheelchair bound Q or gadget geek Beetee well; providing Katniss with a whole new artillery. Explosive stuff. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Donald Sutherland was deliciously sinister as President Snow. BUT shamefully reduced to video speeches and evil orders. Even in the smallest scene, he is able to bust out that shark toothed grin and deliver his lines with sleaze.

Elizabeth Banks was in scene stealing form as Effie Trinket. Her expressions and one liners brought the odd chuckle. I felt that Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) Finnick Odair didn’t really do much. Merely left to mope and deliver one authoritative speech which was nothing more than a distraction tactic.

The same can be said for Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones). Flailing about with a handheld camera. The camera crew was an interesting angle (What?) as they follow Katniss around to make the perfect PR piece to spur revolution among the districts. The editing and tweaking of certain video clips was an all too familiar trait with the current news affairs, let alone future ones.

Stanley Tucci was tragically reduced to nothing more than a boring BBC journalist role, asking an incarcerated Peeta what he would say to Katniss. No chance to shine or camp it up.

The action set pieces were good. The CGI and special effects were spot on. A scene involving Katniss, an arrow and a jet was awesome.

I was surprised at how good J-Law’s singing was. As if I couldn’t find any more reasons to fall for her. (What?) The girl can sing. The Hanging Tree is a broody, haunting but catchy song. Brilliantly composed by James Newton Howard. Different. A lot of people must have agreed as it managed to crack the UK Top 40 Music chart. To think, J-Law didn’t want to do it and tried to fob it off to Lorde.

The closing 20 minutes took the film up a notch. It was suspenseful, tense and promising. Something I want in a build up (Steady now) with some surprising revelations along the way.

I am a little anxious that the final part may be stretched. Something that let down the finale of Harry Potter for me. A book fan. BUT if this was just the build up, I cannot wait to see how it all ends. The closing minutes were unexpected, tense and irritating. Merely because I wanted it to carry on. Something I always expect from ongoing franchises that churn out endless sequels.

Some people may be left a little disappointed as this really is build up to the big finale.

BUT is Hunger Games worth checking out? In the words of Stan’s Dad from South Park, Hunger Games! YA, YA, YA!

3.5/5

If you’re thinking WHAT? Here is the clip in which it is revealed that Stan’s dad is Lorde!

A MOST WANTED MAN REVIEW

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Philip Seymour Hoffman was definitely a most wanted man for this drab moody political thriller. A showcase and a reminder of the loss of a talented actor. The film will certainly not soil’s Hoffman’s prestigious reputation. But Anton Corbijn on the other hand . . . not so much.

A drawn out and needlessly complicated thriller that proves to be oh so simple and tedious that the 127 minute length just doesn’t justify itself or keep you engaged. It was always going to be tough to do a spy film these days, especially after nine series of Spooks, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Homeland.

The opening score and the subtle title sequence was nostalgic of the 70s political thrillers. A good sign. The moody overtone captured perfectly against the Hamburg backdrop by the cinematography of Benoit Delhomme. The story was typical John le Carre. Spies lurking in the shadows. The inevitable waiting game as a mystery man washes up on the banks of Hamburg after evading capture from Russia. Is he a terrorist? A man sneaking refuge from a torturous nation? Or a distraction for a bigger play?

The inevitable chess game as each agency fishes information out one another waiting to see who makes the first blunder or bluff revealing their intentions. Each move carefully analysed and discussed. Cryptic references and stories that are saying something without saying something. Grigoriy Dobrygin plays the mysterious Issa very well and will certainly be one to watch. However, the main scene stealer was (and was always going to be) Mr Hoffman. The opening half hour was PSH chain smoking and walking a lot of steps. It was a waiting game and believe me you felt like you were.

Hoffman is a fantastic presence along with a flawless accent. He doesn’t break out of his German twang once. The same cannot be said for Rachel McAdams who certainly gives it a punt but dips in and out. Not everybody can do it. Willem Dafoe was surprisingly good but his character was wasted as the film churned along.

The mystery soon borders on pretentious and just plain dull. Maybe Andrew Bovell and Anton Corbijn should have taken some lessons from The Lives of Others. Slow burning but tense, intriguing, hypnotic with a nail biting finale. This was just slow. Corbijn had impressed with his previous efforts: Control and, more importantly, The American. Suspenseful, tense and brilliantly shot. I understand it was adapted from Le Carre. But even some of his weaker and less renowned works still had some intrigue. The hour marker allowed Hoffman to shine and show what we will miss from him and that is his acting prowess. Delivering lines with tenacity and conviction. Pumping some life into this lead balloon.

The sense of paranoia and fear against the post 9/11 backdrop certainly provided a suitable catalyst. Robin Wright playing the American envoy who gate crashes the party was good. Sweet and supportive in one second, cruel and commanding the next. Typical. Some will smile. The fractious tension between the Americans and Germans is set up perfectly in the relationship between her and Hoffman. The film finally appears to be getting somewhere, setting things up for a tense finale, only for it . . .  to fizzle away abysmally, becoming a lazy statement that is all so predictable. Commentary that has been made time and time again.

A look into the inner working of politics between the agencies was interesting if void of suspense. PSH didn’t look particularly well. He looked rough. I mean he never was the epitome of physical health but it certainly puts an air of darkness around the film, especially knowing that this was his last film to grace the silver screen. Daniel Bruhl was completely wasted in the role. A nothingy supporting role, a mere cameo that didn’t do him any justice, especially after the prolific year he has had appearing in Rush and The Fifth Estate. Anyone could have played him.

It is a good a send off as we will get for the man. The problem with these slow burning poker games, I’ve seen them done so much better. I have patience for pace if the characters are interesting enough to keep me peaked. We were watching one man as Hoffman spurned cryptic babble to a number of agencies trying to enforce their own method of politics in the veil of “counter terrorism”. Homeland proved that watching one man could be interesting but here’s the thing the man actually did something. Not hang around in a bedsit praying, whining and trying to pull a Mean Girl. (Okay, Homeland did do that too).

Dull, drawn out and desperate. For every little move, a nightclub chase here, it was crushed with one chess piece, being endless dialogue and conversation that went no where. It certainly captured the look and had a prolific star that will certainly be missed but had to little in terms of suspense and intrigue for me.

2.5/5