AEOS Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014)

What’s interesting about Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014) is the criticism its received for being a movie adaptation of half a book more than being critiqued for the movie it is. That’s not to say I’m hating on my fellow critics and movie fans as much as I’m saying that the film got a bad rap before it even screened.

Of course, there’s nothing the movie could do to repair itself from its already negative standing among critics. To offer up only a first half of a story and leave the audience hanging for a year is a cruel move. But I think punishing the film for this is like pointing the finger at the victim rather than the wrong-doer. Historically speaking, Twilight and Harry Potter started the trend of YA book series being adapted into films, and then slicing the epic finale into two films. The short version we understand this as? A cash grab.

The cash grab has become the center of discussion revolving around Mockingjay Pt 1, thus painting it black and predicting its future location on FYE clearance shelves next to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (2011) for years to come.

David Yates let me read only the first half of the Deathly Hallows before shooting this pointless film . . .

Personally, I walked into the theater expecting what everyone predicted: a cash grab that left me bored, disappointed, and unimpressed. But I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now bunkered in District 13, where she’s demanding for the rescue of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), walking around angry and confused, and desperately hoping she can finally be left alone after suffering and surviving two Hunger Games.

As fellow readers and fans of the book series, we all know that Katniss will still be put on display in the third book. But instead of fighting to the death for public entertainment, instead she’ll become the official symbol of hope, representing the good in this battle against the evil Capitol, run by dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

And it’s “moves and countermoves,” as Mr. Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reminds viewers. It’s all about how Katniss is perceived. She’s to be an ally for District 13, a glimmer of hope for fighting districts, a threat to the Capitol, a demand to come home for Peeta, and perhaps a pillar of strength both for herself and Finnick (Sam Claflin), as they seek strength in knowing they’re loved ones are suffering at the hands of Snow.

RIP, Mr. Hoffman.

Seeing Mockingjay Pt 1 has really made me want to reread the book upon which its based. I wasn’t expecting the action, the blanks to be filled in, and the perspectives outside of Katniss’s to entertain me the way writers Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and book author Suzanne Collins presented them in this third film installment.

This new dark chunk in the dystopian cake seemed to present a new layer of young adult film adaptations to movie viewers. For me, the message was sent that for being a film based off a popular young adult series, that Mockingjay Pt 1 wasn’t required to sit in a box labeled “YA adaptations.” Mockingjay Pt 1 played to its strengths and took risks, not just because studios required the book to be split into two films, but because both the writers and director Francis Lawrence actually seemed to want to make a good movie.

While the previous movies showed Katniss’s struggle to deal with the hypocrisy of the Capitol and ultimately survive in the hunger games, Mockingjay focused its time on how Heavensbee, President Coin (Julianne Moore), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) along with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and an entire camera team presenting Katniss to the public, which proved to be a greater struggle than fighting in the games for Katniss. In the games, Katniss could be her true self among strangers, because she understood she needed to survive, and she felt comfortable with a bow and arrow. But force her in front of a camera and ask her to rally the districts while she was still suffering PTSD and desiring to recover Peeta wasn’t working. So they took her to the ruins of District 12 and a makeshift hospital of other districts’s survivors.

It seems like more and more seasoned actors and actresses join The Hunger Games (2012) universe with each movie, and they support the foundation of an already solid script and coherent direction. While Jennifer Lawrence plays the star, it is the supporting cast that ultimately sells the film, from Woody Harrelson to Stanley Tucci, to newcomer Julianne Moore.

I actually pull off the gray hair rather well, yes?

James Newton Howard scores this third film, playing off the original themes he created in the first Hunger Games film. The special effects are even amped up, including explosions and some exciting action scenes. One particular scene had me especially fascinated and on edge, as we got to see some District 13 soldiers go on a rescue mission inside the Capitol while Katniss kept Snow on the line to “distract” him. The additions the movie offers that readers missed out on seem to work well for movie audiences, filling in the holes instead of confusing viewers who haven’t read the books.

Mockingjay Pt 1 did include a few things that bothered me, such as the wigs Jennifer Lawrence donned. It was obvious it wasn’t her real hair, and I found it distracting throughout the film. I also felt like Gale (Liam Hemsworth) wasn’t given enough to do, so he seemed to just be walking around, hoping to add to the film with his good Aussie looks since he rarely got any lines.

Despite those issues, I left the theater much more impressed than I expected to be when I walked in. I think if viewers and critics alike can overlook the obvious cash grab ordeal that has hovered over the film, I think many people can agree that Mockingjay Pt 1 is a solid installment in Collins’s epic book-to-screen adaptations. While the odds were certainly not in the film’s favor to succeed with critics, I give Mockingjay Pt 1

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Mockingjay Part 1? Do you think it deserves a place beside the first two films? Sound off in the comments below.

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All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3 + Month in Review: October

Hey all! I have VERY much enjoyed a week off from blogging to catch up on other projects. Of course, I’ve watched a few movies and TV shows this week too. Since I’m a little behind in my blogging, I decided to combine two of my newer series, All Eyes on Bloggers, which will feature some of my favorite posts I’ve read over the month of October, as well as Month in Review for the previous month, into one post.


 All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 3

There were so many great posts that made it around this month with the premiere of Gone Girl (2014) and Halloween, that I had a difficult time narrowing down which posts to highlight. One post in particular was written by a friend and previous coworker who is a graphic artist in the Chicago area. Doug reviews the movie Fury (2014) from a unique point of view that I would certainly encourage other friends to read on his site, Point of Exquisite Suspension.

I recently started a new TV review series called All Eyes on the Small Screen, featuring currently aired episodes from season 5 of The Walking Dead (2010 – ). One of my favorite sites to follow these days is Girl Meets Cinema, featuring the fantastic writing of Katy Rochelle. Katy recently wrote one of the most interesting posts on the character Beth from the TWD that had me nodding in agreement the whole time!

And while I know the focus ought to be on the October, November seems to be the month of blogathons since I’ve joined two to participate in later this month. Fritzi Kramer is hosting the Fairy Tale Blogathon at Movies Silently, where I’m excited to review Sabrina (1995), a movie with a Cinderella twist. Get the details here, and if there are any movies left, join in on the fun: the blogathon is held November 9-11!

The second blogathon I’m excited to take part in is hosted by Caz at Let’s Go to the Movies. Unlike any other blogathon I’ve participated in previously, Caz’s blogathon allows each participant to write about movies that take place in their hometown, thus naming the series My Hometown Blogathon, taking place November 22 and 23. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, I am incredibly excited to write about some awesome films and famous people associated with the Windy City. This blogathon is a great one to join if you’re interested as there’s still a few weeks left.

There’s some exciting news for those who follow Tyson over at Head in a Vice. He’s recently started a new site that focuses solely on the horror genre, aptly titled Talking Horror. With a slew of slick writers and new ideas, Tyson’s site is sure to attract anyone who particularly or casually enjoys a horror flick or show.

Speaking of horror, there were many posts published on scarier movies in honor of Halloween. Since I just saw The Shining (1980) for the first time a few days ago, I was more drawn to posts that mentioned the film over the week. Ms. Coolsville of Coolsville reviews ten horror movies, one of which is The Shining; one of my favorite movie blogger writers and friends, Tom of Digital Shortbread, reviews The Shining as part of his Throwback Thursday series on the site; and Laura at Film Nerd Blog included a character from The Shining in her post 10 Films that Prove Kids Are Scary.

And that about wraps up All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3! Now to recap the month . . .


Month in Review: October

Here’s the breakdown for the month of October on All Eyes On Screen:

Blogathons

  • One of the most unique blogathons I’ve participated in thus far was a recast-athon that was hosted at Andrew’s site, A Fistful of Films. I recasted Oscar-winning female lead roles in the films Up in the Air (2009), Black Swan (2010), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
  • The other blogathon I was a part of was hosted at Tyson’s previous site, Head in a Vice. Titled “Recommended by,” I watched a movie that I was recommended by a fellow movie blogger, and then reviewed it myself on his site. The great part about the blogathon is that it introduced me to the “Before” series by Richard Linklater.

Shame List, From Page to Screen,
and AEOS Reviews

  • A little over a month ago, I came up with my own Shame List that includes 31 must-see-movies-for-any-movie-buff. The first one I was able to cross off my list was Roman Holiday (1953), one of the few movies I awarded a FOUR EYES ON SCREEN review.
  • The second film I was happy to cross off my Shame List was Annie Hall (1977), a film that while I didn’t quite dig, I still enjoyed and did not regret watching.
  • One of the most time-consuming posts I enjoy writing are my From Page to Screen reviews, where I review both the book and film adaptation of a story, and then compare and contrast the two. My heavily debated review certainly raised some eyebrows, but I stand by my thoughts on David Fincher’s film, Gone Girl (2014).
  • An unexpected gem that I will not be revisiting any time in the near future is The Skeleton Twins (2014), a depressing dramadey that stars SNL alumns Kristen Wiig and the wonderful Bill Hader.
  • One of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year starred none other than Keanu Reeves. John Wick (2014) was my must-see film for the month of October.

Lists/Miscellaneous Posts

All Eyes on the SMALL Screen Recaps

  • My newest series for the site is All Eyes on the SMALL Screen, which features detailed recaps for the current season of The Walking Dead. The premiere is killer (pun-intended) and a must-watch for fans of the show.
  • I combined my recaps for episodes 2 and 3 in this nifty post here. Stay tuned for Episode 4’s recap coming soon.

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

John Wick

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the theater as often as I would have liked this month. That being said, John Wick was one of the most solid, unexpectedly awesome thrillers I’ve seen so far this year. From beginning to end, it was a fast-paced ride that showcased some great cinematography as well as complemented Keanu Reeves’s growing filmography.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

Gone Girl

Let it be known that I saw far fewer films in theaters that I was hoping to for the month. Gone Girl was an exceptionally good movie from David Fincher, although I wouldn’t consider it among his top five best films. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Gone Girl, and it makes this spot only for the lack of films I saw in theaters during the month of October.

Looking Forward to November

After looking at my previous month in review, I’m disappointed to say that I saw only half the movies on the list that I was highly anticipating. Some of the films never even made it into a wide enough release to be shown in theaters near me, while other movies received negative enough reviews that I didn’t bother spending the money to see them in theaters. Looking beyond last month, here are the major movies I’m anticipating for the month of November.

Interstellar (11/7)

The movie that makes it highest on my list for Most Anticipated Movie of the Year goes to Interstellar, the latest film Christopher Nolan has made. I’m very excited to see it over the weekend, despite the somewhat mediocre reviews I’ve glimpsed so far.

Big Hero 6 (11/7)

Big Hero 6 is a movie I know relatively little about. In spite of that wrinkle, I’ll be participating in a podcast later next week that’s all about the movie, so stay tuned!

Theory of Everything (11/7)

The big pull for me to see Theory of Everything has everything to do with Eddie Redmayne. Of course, the story seems intriguing as well, but it seems very Oscar-baitish. I’m hoping my instinct is wrong and that it will deliver, but then again, I was rooting for The Judge too, and look how that turned out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (11/21)

Of course this list would not be complete without the next Hunger Games (2012) movie making the list. Mockingjay Part 1 certainly appears to have potential, aside from the fact that it’s adapting only half a book and making us wait an entire year for the conclusion. Having read the books already, I know what will be happening, but watching it unfold on screen is an entirely other experience. I was a big fan of the first two installments, particularly Catching Fire (2013), so my expectations are high.

The Imitation Game (11/21)

Yet another movie that appears full of Oscar bait, yet appears to deliver having already established itself with some solid reviews from critics. No doubt one of my favorite actors, (who is also recently engaged) Benedict Cumberbatch, will offer one of his best performances yet (or so I hope). I think this movie will be making a hit at February’s Academy Awards, but maybe I shouldn’t be that hopeful this soon.

It’s your turn now. What were the best movies you saw this month? What movies are you anticipating most next month? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Trailer Break: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Happy Thursday, all! The latest trailer to make a splash on the Internet is for the next Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), its U.S. premiere only two months away! We’ve seen multiple teasers, but we’re finally getting a a little more footage in this latest trailer.

While I’m excited for this next HG movie, I can’t help but be a bit skeptical about this film just because it’s dividing one book into two movies. As we’ve all seen before, usually the Part 1 movie is dull because it’s lacks the excitement, action, and climax of the story. Part 1 films exist as the “calm before the storm,” so to say. Regardless of what may be the stereotype, the latest trailer boasts an action-packed movie filled with excitement.

Check it out and decide for yourself:

 

“Miss Everdeen, it’s the things we love most that destroy us.”

Definitely get chills when I hear that line! I’m glad to see they’re adding some action to this movie. I’m expecting more drama from this film, because the major action scenes come primarily in the second half of the book.

In addition to a new trailer, there are some great official posters floating around recently. You can find the rest of them at Rotten Tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images found via Google Images.

It’s your turn. What do you think of the latest trailer of Mockingjay Part 1? Are you planning to see it in theaters come November? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.