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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The Ten Best Actors of All Time: Relay Race

All week, I have been MIA from all things AEOS and blogging due to unexpected circumstances, mostly just being incredibly busy. I was planning to really get back into the groove of things this week, having several posts planned for, but this week didn’t turn out how I expected. I promise that starting next week, I will be back. I have major catch-up to play on visiting everyone else’s sites! Apologies for being gone all week.

Today is Good Friday, but it is also my deadline to post for the best actors relay race that Ruth over at Flixchatter handed the baton to me almost a week ago!

Taking a page out of Ruth’s book, here is where the race originated and has moved since it started:

Nostra at My Filmviews started the race.

Nostra handed the baton to Terrence at The Focused Filmographer.

Terrence handed the baton over to Scott at Front Room Cinema.

Scott handed the baton over to my buddy Pete at I Love That Film.

Pete handed the baton over to my friend Ruth at Flixchatter,

Who handed the baton over to me!

Now, for the rules of the race, according to the race’s originator, Nostra:

“So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors”

I will be forthcoming and admit that due to my limited film viewing, that I haven’t seen many of the films which have made so many of these wonderful, celebrated actors the household names they are today. I have seen some here and there, but I’m definitely a little bit limited. So instead of repeating what those in the race have done before me, I will not be mentioning all of the films that made each actor famous.

This is an incredible list, and I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to decide who to add and who to take away. It wasn’t an easy decision on my end, but I still feel satisfied with my selection. Check out the photos below to see who is currently on the list.

Robert De Niro

Daniel Day-Lewis

Charlie Chaplan

Gary Oldman

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Marlon Brando

Robert Duvall

Christian Bale

Gregory Peck

My Choice: Tom Hanks

Those who have seen one of my more recent posts listing off my top five favorite actors will not be surprised to see that I’m adding Tom Hanks to this list. Choosing Hanks was an easy thing–he’s won two Oscars for his roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Aside from Spencer Tracy, Hanks is the only actor to have ever won two consecutive Oscars for Best Actor. He’s been nominated three other times for his roles in BigSaving Private Ryan, and Cast Away. And if you take all his critical acclaim away, you still get this versatile actor who, in my opinion, has always had that star quality that enabled him to take on roles from Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 to the animated character Woody in the Toy Story series. Hanks is known as much for his roles in Road to Perdition and The Green Mile as he is for his light roles in classic rom coms such as You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. Hanks is full of charm and charisma, and it’s apparent wherever he goes or in whatever role he plays. Although Hanks hasn’t filled the shoes of any titular character in more recent years, he’s still earned the right to be considered an acting legend in my book.

Who I Replaced: Edward Norton

This was such a difficult decision! Right now, I can imagine my sister, a big fan of Norton, shaking me and telling me I made the wrong choice. However, given the list, it was far more difficult to shed an actor than add one. I absolutely love Norton and think he was especially mind-blowing in Fight Club. I also appreciate that Norton so effortlessly crosses the line between villain and hero roles in films. He plays both sides so well. The main reason Norton is the one I replaced is that what many of the other actors on the list have that Norton doesn’t have is opportunity. At age 42, he was actually the youngest actor on the list with the exception of Christian Bale. With a few more lead roles under his belt, I think Norton has all the potential in the world to be one of the greatest actors of our time.

Following suite with Ruth, I will also be passing the baton onto another girl: Jaina at Time Well Spent. Excited to see who you add (and take away), Jaina!