02 December 2014

MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (2014) + CATCHING FIRE (2013) + THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

THE HUNGER GAMES:
MOCKINGJAY PART 1

German Title:
Die Tribute von Panem - Mockingjay Teil 1

USA, 2014
Director: Francis Lawrence

7/10







The first part of the "Mockingjay" double feature isn't as great as its predecessors "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire" (see below), and IMO it's also not as great as other Young Adult films I've seen earlier this year ("The Maze Runner" and "Divergent"), mainly because of the unnecessary two-part split-up (money-grubbing Hollywood bastards...), but it's still another great entry in this fabulous franchise, packed with powerful, breathtaking and gobsmacking moments.


It's hard to review half a movie, or - like Imdb user prospectus_capricornium said - "a 2-hour-preview of what to expect in the final movie", but... well, I'll try my best. "Mockingjay Part 1" has its fair share of flaws: it's weirdly paced, at times a bit too slow, at times just bumpy. There are at least 3 or 4 scenes that are completely unnecessary, a few scenes that seem to be a tad too long, and a cliffhanger that is just... I dunno. Odd? Strange? Unrewarding?
Or just frustrating? Hmm...

Nevertheless, aside from all the underwhelming stuff, there's still enough awesome stuff that gave me a great time at the cinema. Emotional speeches by Katniss, an even more emotional "District 12 sign"-scene in District 8, some shocking Capitol-induced genocide, Katniss' goosebumpy song of "The Hanging Tree", some explosive action, some gripping suspense and an incredible high amount of grim, gloomy and slightly depressing atmosphere.


J-Law delivers another top-notch performance (aside from one dream-sequence where her mimics somehow look unintentionally ridiculous), more great acting by Hunger Games regulars Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Plus: new additions Natalie Dormer as sexy anti-Capitol rebel Vressida and Julianne Moore who looks incredible and gives a fantastic performance as president of District 13. Lawrence's direction is good, but not as good as in the previous installment, same for the screenplay which was helmed by Peter Craig ("The Town") and Danny Strong ("The Butler"). Cinematography, music and special effects are great as always.

Fingers crossed that Part 2 will be a whole lot better...




THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

German Title:
Die Tribute von Panem - Catching Fire

USA, 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence

8/10








(Review from November 2013)
As you can see below, I'm a massive fan of "The Hunger Games" which completely took me by surprise last year, eventually became one of my favorite movies in 2012, and transformed me into some kinda Panem-fanboy (or should I say fangirl?) who became slightly obsessed with every single "Catching Fire" news tidbit that was announced over 2013.

Well, the hype was big and the expectations were even bigger - yet, to my surprise, "Catching Fire" turns out to be almost as great as the first part. Even though director Gary Ross was replaced with Francis Lawrence (the man behind rubbish like "Constantine" or "I Am Legend"), and even though Ross and Suzanne Collins (writer of the Hunger Games novels) weren't involved in the script, the movie fully succeeds in giving you a gripping, stirring and action-packed
survival thrill-ride.


Lawrence has progressed as a director and handles the screenplay - which was written by Simon Beaufoy ("127 Hours") and Michael DeBruyn ("Oblivion") - with bravura and passion. There are a few moments where it gets a bit too over-the-top, at least in terms of pathos and emotionalism, but these moments are tolerable since it's all so well-paced and well-executed. Even though it's more than 140 minutes long, it absolutely never gets boring.

The cast is once again excellent with Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland giving spot-on performances. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are far better than in the first part, while Stanley Tucci tries too hard by over-egging the pudding and coming off as slightly annoying. New and very awesome cast additions: the wonderful Jena Malone and a fabulously charismatic Philip Seymour Hoffman.


Highlights: the creepy poison-fog, the bird attack, the 'monkey business' scene, all the brutal scenes in District 11 & 12 which could be described as "Third Reich of Panem", all the shocking twists and turns, the stunning CGI effects, shitloads of terrific visuals, and the excellent score by James Newton Howard
("The Sixth Sense").

I'm hungry for more. Mockingjay, come soon!




THE HUNGER GAMES

German Titles:
Die Tribute von Panem - The Hunger Games / Die Tribute von Panem - Tödliche Spiele

USA, 2012
Director: Gary Ross

9/10







(Review from March 2012)
Yes, you CAN believe the hype: "The Hunger Games", Gary Ross' ("Seabiscuit") adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel of the same name (which I haven't read), is an absolutely amazing blockbuster of a movie - an intense, gripping and very intelligent survival-action-drama, almost as great as similar-themed movies like
"Battle Royale" or "Running Man".


Fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining, but also pretty emotional and empathic, thanks to Ross' strong direction and a fabulously written script, but also visually stunning due to many gorgeous, colorful settings, eye-catching costumes, top notch CGI and fantastic camera work (many cool close-ups, terrific shaky-cam).

The cast is impressive: leading lady Jennifer Lawrence, a beautiful and incredibly talented actress, delivers a powerful and barnstorming performance. Stanley Tucci is hilarious as freaky TV-host, Woody Harrelson is highly amusing as alcoholic ex-winner, Elizabeth Banks looks damn funny as bubble-gum pink escort, Wes Bentley strongly reminded me of Tom Cruise, Donald Sutherland is wonderfully grumpy and Lenny Kravitz is just cool.


It could have been more brutal and less romantic in the last act, but aside from that, "The Hunger Games" is a very well made and deeply satisfying,
in terms of intelligence and craftsmanship comparable to last year's "Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes".
I'm already excited for the follow-ups!

23 comments:

  1. I can't wait to see this and am glad it lived up to the hype in your opinion. :)

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  2. Yay! Another great review for this one. I'm watching it on Wednesday, and I literally can't wait. This week, I'm also watching Tarsem's Mirror, Mirror, which premiers here a week earlier than in the US.

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  3. @Mel:
    I'm 100% sure you'll love it. It's an excellent movie.

    @George:
    Very excited about your review. I bet you'll enjoy it a lot!

    Not interested in Mirror, Mirror - yet, for whatever reason I'm highly interested in Snow White & The Huntsman. Saw the trailer yesterday for the very first time and it kinda impressed me.

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  4. So far everyone has thought it was awesome. Good to know reading the book isn't required.

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  5. For a variety of reasons - this one is not for me. Although I'm somewhat surprised to see such positive reviews from nearly everyone - but I'm not here to bash so I'll refrain from going on. Glad you enjoyed it, MM!

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  6. me and my sis' re planning to watch it! Now I'm equally hyped!

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  7. I haven't read the books either but I really want to see this film. I'm getting the first book in a few weeks time for my birthday so now all I have to do is convince my boyfriend to take me. Hope it's as good as everyones saying. I've already been disappointed before, ~looks at sparkly vampire book Twilight~ grrrr.

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  8. @Alex:
    Nope, reading the book is definitely not required.

    @Craig:
    Pity, you don't know what you're missing :)

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  9. @Kai:
    Excited for your review!

    @Cherry:
    Believe me, it IS as good as everyone says and I'm sure you'll love it.

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  10. I was bored throughout the movie. :/ It wasn't terrible but it wasn't as intense as I was expecting.

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  11. Really? Strange. IMO it was way more intense than I expected.

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  12. Watched it the other day, and even though I liked it for what it was, it wasn't the spectacle I expected it to be. My friends were quite disappointed and I wasn't in awe either. Solid film, nothing exceptional.

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  13. Really? Hm, I really thought you would love it about as much as I did.

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  14. Finally, somthing different at the movies besides "found footage" films!!! I'll also give it a 9-10 only because I hated the pack of dogs segment. It looked rushed to me, alsong with Kato there. But, over the top characters and fine
    creativity!!

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  15. I wasn't particularly excited for The Hunger Games but I really enjoyed it!

    It was a bit slow to begin and I agree with you on the more brutal/less romance final act but all in all it was very much worth a look

    K :-)

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  16. @Anon:
    Exactly. It's an original, creative and highly entertaining blockbuster. We need movies like this!

    I admit the dogs segment felt a bit strange, but still quite fun.

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  17. @Karina:
    Wasn't that excited either, but I'm veeery glad that I decided to watch it.

    Yeah, the final act could have been more kick-ass, but aside from that, I just loved this movie.

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  18. I enjoyed this a lot. The book is pretty good too. Nicely reviewed.

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  19. Thanx Joel!
    Haven't the read books but I plan on reading them soon.

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  20. I have to tell you, this series took me entirely by surprise as well. Didn't expect much during the first film and was thoroughly impressed. 2nd one was a step up for me, leaving me looking forward for the finale 2 films.

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    Replies
    1. Same here. I can't wait for Mockingjay. This franchise made me a massive fangirl so far :)

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    2. 2nd one holds the spot as my favorite as of yet but can't really decide on the MJ part 1 because it feels incomplete...

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  21. I love your reviews on The Hunger Games series Maynard. I do agree with you that hopefully Mockingjay part 2 will be better than part 1 because part 1 relied heavily more on intense performances combined with outstanding dialogue along with its themes and tones, Mockingjay part 1 is dragging also because most young adult novels when the last one is in development they have to split it into two parts because there are many important parts from the book that needs to be in the films and hopefully part 2 will focus more on action and suspense than what part 1 did. I'm glad you liked the Hunger Games series my friend. Me too I love The Hunger Games also especially after I read the first book. You should read the novels also Maynard the first book is so amazing man. Also from the films Catching Fire is in my opinion a huge improvement over the first film due to its fresh style and execution. Also I heard Philip Seymour Hoffman's character will be digitalized for one major scene and most of his dialogue will be used by other characters since he died when he was filming a few scenes for Mockingjay part 2 after he completed part 1.

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