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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

After three books and four movies we are finally coming to the end of The Hunger Games series. But does Katniss and co get a fitting end?

Struggling after seeing a tortured and brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) decides to take the fight to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and kill him herself. However she is not prepared for the dangers in the Capitol or the scheming behind the scenes of District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore).

Full disclosure-this is probably my least favourite out of all The Hunger Games movies. Unlike the other movies I actually felt the running time dragged, some of the deaths didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting and it has more false endings then Return of the King.

Having said all that it’s still a terrific movie. Lawrence’s perfromance has been a highlight across all the series and as expected she’s excellent in her final outing as Katniss. Katniss has been a fantastic character, flawed, three-dimensional, inspirational and The Hunger Games success has shown Hollywood that female-led films and franchises can bring in the audience. It’s also nice to see the wonderful supporting cast once more, even if for some of them it’s very fleeting. It’s also bittersweet to see Phillip Seymore Hoffman in his last performance.

The film also delivers on something that Mockingjay Part One lacked which is action. While it takes it’s time building up, when Katniss and her ‘Star Squad’ bring the fight to Snow the pace quickens dramatically as Snow uses the Captiol as his own personal Hunger Games with various traps being used against the heroes. Whether out in the open or traveling underground Katniss and co are being hunted and dispatched before they can complete their mission and it’s exciting stuff.

The Hunger Games series has always had a dark edge and Mockingjay Part 2 is no different. The stakes are high and much loved charcaters get killed. The film doesn’t hesistate to comment on how war changes people and encourages criticism of leaders and the tatcis used to win said wars. It’s great that a popular and commerical movie deals with these major themes and doesn’t alienate fans.

It’s sad to see The Hunger Games come to an end, but it ends on a good note that stays faithful to themes and characters of the books.

Rating 4/5 – a final and fitting farewell to the Mockingjay and Panem

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The end is near for The Hunger Games movies. But like all franchises these days the concluding book has to be split across two films. But is there enough material to spread over two movies?

Katniss is now in District 13 but she is still suffering from her experiences in the Hunger Games and her guilt over Peeta being left behind and under the Capitol’s control. But with District 12 having been destroyed and the other Districts looking to riot against the Capitol, Katniss is needed to become the symbol of the rebellion so they can win the war against President Snow. But is Katniss up to the task?

Splitting the final Hunger Games books could be seen as a purely cynical move, and while the obvious motivation is clearly all about the money, that doesn’t mean its a terrible idea. When I heard that Mockingjay was to become two movies I actually liked that idea (and I’m normally not a fan of such thing – I’m looking at you The Hobbit movies). This way I get to see more of the characters I like and it allows all the subplots to get fully developed.

So the main themes around Part 1 is about propaganda and perception. To win a war you don’t just need to fight in battles but you need to win the hearts of the people, or in the case of the villainous Snow frighten them into submission. I liked that the film showed how both sides use the media to get the public’s support and both are not afraid of using teenagers to their own ends. Katniss and Peeta are both being used  as puppets of the two Presidents, although they both aren’t as easy to control as they’d hope.

It’s almost redundant at this point to go on about how great Jennifer Lawrence is as Katniss but I’m going to anyway. Everyone’s favourite moody teenager is back (not that she doesn’t have reason to be sullen), and while she may not be in the arena anymore, the games are still being played, even if they are more political in nature they are still as dangerous. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Katniss is only about 17 and yet so much expectation is on her shoulder. Lawrence perfectly captures the trauma that Katniss has been through due to her experiences and how that is affecting her behaviour and decisions. She is trying to do right by everyone-Peeta, Penam, President Coil- however she doesn’t know what the consequences of her actions will be or how others will retaliate.

So there’s a lot of heavy scenes and political manipulation. Thank god for Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to bring some much-needed light relief. But they are not just there for comedy as they provide Katniss with support and reassurance that she so desperately needs, and they actually do care about her wellbeing too. Out of the new characters Natalie Dormer is striking as Cressida the director of Katniss’ propaganda films, and  Julianne Moore’s gives District 13’s President Coin makes the cold and calculating more interesting than she could have been. With so much going on that does mean some characters are neglected a bit such as Finnick but at least  Sam Clafin makes the most of the few scenes he’s in and he has much better chemistry with Katniss than she does with either of her supposed live interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

Being the first of two movies does of course have its drawbacks, including a lack of a proper ending to the movie. Also without the tension of the arena there’s not as much action in this movie compared to the previous instalments. At least after the build up during this movie, Mockingjay part 2 should give us the more than enough action when the Capitol is finally stormed by Katniss and co.

Rating 4.5/5 -while it’s not as action-packed as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire it’s still as gripping and smart as ever with Jennifer Lawrence once again on spectacular form

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s fair to say I’m a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise and it’s star Jennifer Lawrence, therefore my expectations were through the roof. But now I’ve seen it have I been brought crashing down to Earth?

A year on from the Hunger Games, and it’s winner Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is struggling with the memories of the killings during the games and the complicated love triangle she has with fellow hunter Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and her joint winner of the games Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). All this is pushed to the side once President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decided to get rid of Katniss -and any potential threats of uprising- by announcing the next Hunger Games will throw previous Victors back into the game.

There’s no point pretending otherwise. I LOVED THIS FILM!

I was worried that previous director Gary Ross’ departure would leave the franchise in trouble, however Francis Lawrence has shown a great understanding of the characters and the wider world of the hunger games. I enjoyed seeing the meetings of Snow and his collaborators behind the hunger games and revealing their motivations behind certain events. Its a nice development from the book which was limited in showing the wider world of Panem due to its first person narration. The games are just as brutal as ever with poisonious fogs and rain of blood, while Katniss is again left wondering who she can trust and just who the real enemy really is. 

The whole thing is brilliantly cast. It is hard to pick stand outs from the supporting actors otherwise I’d might as well list the entire cast but particular mention has to go to Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, one of my favourite characters from the book –he fights against the regime using fashion!-and Kravitz plays him brilliantly. His relationship with Katniss is a joy to watch and really pulls at the heart strings. I had initial reservations about the castings of Sam Clafin and Jena Malone as previous victors Finnick and Johanna  but now I’ve seen them in the roles they perfectly encapture their characters from the books and are welcome new additions to the film.

Above all this though there is one star of this film and that is Jennifer Lawrence. She manages to make a character who may otherwise come across as sullen and moody become likeable, strong and inspiring. Its not surprising that Katniss Everdeen has become something of an iconic character, and the main part of this is Lawrence’s portrayal of her. She can go from emotional and devastated, to enraged and rebellious in an instant.

The only downside for me is that I would have liked to have seen Haymarch’s (the excellent Woody Harrelson) backstory in the film. His experience in his Game was an important part of the book and made Peeta and Katniss understand why their mentor has turned out the way he has. That aside this was a tremendous experience to watch.

Rating 5/5-Leaving us on one hell of a cliffhanger I can’t wait for the next installment

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Epic

This year has already given us one great animated film in the hugely enjoyable The Croods, and we still have  Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 out this summer. So can new movie Epic compete at this level?

Epic introduces us to M.K (Amanda Seyfried) a teenage girl who is forced to move back in with her scientist dad Professor Bomba after her mum dies. Her relationship with her father is strained, not least because of the fact he believes there’s an advance civilisation of tiny people living in the nearby forest. However a series of events make M.K shrink in size and find her father isn’t so crazy after all. Now she has to help the Leafmen protect a pod and save the forest from the evil Boggans.

Epic has an admirable pro environment message and the animation is lovely but the story and design lacks that memorable punch to keep you interested in the film. Compared to The Croods which had dazzling colours and designs in its creatures and plants, Epic lacks something as spectacular in its visuals to make it as memorable.

As for the characters M.K is an agreeable enough protagonist. However the Leafmen, while they may be very noble and all are so dull. Colin Farrell as  leader of the Leafmen Ronin and Josh Hutcherson as rookie Leafman and M.K’s love interest Nod, try their best but the characters fail to register interest. They are also stuck with delivering lines such as “Many leaves but one tree”. The baddies the Boggans are initially intriguing, covered in the carcass of dead animals but unfortunately that’s about as interesting as they get.

The best thing about this film is the double act of Mub (Aziz Ansari)a slug whose in love with M.K and Grub (Chris O’Dowd), a snail who wants to become a leafman instead of looking after pods. They provide most of the jokes and are welcome comic relief from the boredom of the mission. But my favourite character is Ozzie,  Bomba’s three-legged dog who runs around in circles and gives slobbery kisses to everyone. Unfortunately he is not in it enough.

Rating 2/5- It tries hard but in the end Epic fails to live up to its title

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