Lit-to-Flick: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in action as Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne

Yes, I am one of those people who HAS to go watch the movie on the day it comes out in theatres. So of course, I wasted no time in rushing to book tickets for the latest instalment of The Hunger Games.

Let’s recap slightly, in the last movie Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was sent back in the arena to fight a battle to the death. However, this time her opponents weren’t innocent children, but calculated, skilled killers, victors from the previous games. Unknown to Katniss and her fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) , a select number of victors were plotting to get her out of the arena in order to use her as a symbol of the revolution. This in turn would unite the Districts as one against the Capitol. Whilst Katniss was saved , Peeta was taken hostage by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). In this instalment, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, while attempting to understand how and why Snow is using Peeta. Meanwhile, the unrest that had been brewing in the other Districts has turned to all out war.

As always, I’m going to sing the praises of such a stellar cast. Lawrence as Katniss continues to shine in the lead role  and manages to perfectly balance vulnerability and tenacity needed. Hutcherson has always been typecast as the “good guy”, yet he managed to step out of his comfort zone and show off his versatility as he portrayed Peeta as a tragically broken and erratic character. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who this movie is dedicated to also reminds us of what a great talent the film industry has lost.  But it’s the addition of Julianne Moore as Alma Coin, President of  District 13, that truly made me appreciate her talent as she added depth and gravity to a character that was merely a sketch on a page.

It’s a relief knowing Francis Lawrence has returned to direct this movie and the next as special effects and cinematography were consistent throughout. Lawrence also makes the audience much more aware of Panem and the districts of a whole this time; In previous movies,  we only got glimpses into other districts from Katniss’ perspective, yet this time there appears to be more of the geography of the nation as a whole, to demonstrate the extent of the war and the tragic consequences it holds.

Ultimately, this IS a war movie, and clearly demonstrates how people suffer in war, how they fight in it and how they survive it. One of the most attractive elements of The Hunger Games’ series is it’s political undertones and at times, this dystopian YA movie cleverly comments on the effects the media plays in our everyday lives. In the movie, both the rebels and the Capitol use media coverage and propaganda videos (or propo’s) to influence the outcome of the war. In one particularly poignant scene Katniss is filmed singing a song called “The Hanging Tree” which begins as her singing alone and builds up as people from the districts begin to sing along. Soon her voice becomes lost within the voices of the rebels.  This incredibly effective scene ties together two key themes; rebellion within the society, and what, ironically, unifies those that rebel .

Having said all that, where this movie does fail is in the pacing. Whilst the first two instalments were filled to the brim with adrenaline pumping moments, this seemed to be lacking in this movie.  Considering this is a war movie, you would’ve thought there would be more action. However, when there is action it is packed with both energy and raw emotion that make them particularly effective and convey the damages of war such as loss of life. There are also many scenes that have been added that go beyond Katniss’ perspective. Some of which work and some of which don’t and disrupt the flow of the actual plot.

Harry Potter, The Twilight Series and The Hobbit have all undergone the split in two movies treatment (or three in The Hobbit’s case). In each of these instances, I never truly believed that the split was a decision made for creative reasons and was just merely a scheme for Hollywood executives to pocket more money. However, this is one instance where I DO believe the decision was made to allow more time and development of the plot of the movie and perhaps this will be evident in the second part. However, this has affected the story of the first part because that’s exactly what it feels like; a PART. It does not feel like it is a whole film; as a result it lacks plot and character development.

All in all, I can’t quiet say that this movie was entirely satisfying or fulfilling. But that perhaps is the intention; To keep us thirsty until the final instalment next year…

The Bug’s Verdict: 8/10

Based on: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Screenplay by: Danny Strong and Peter Craig

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and more!

Most Anticipated Moments of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

It’s now less than two weeks away from the highly anticipated, third and penultimate instalment of the Hunger Games series with <i>Mockingjay Part 1 </i>being released on November 20th here in the UK. If you remember in the previous movie, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) were once again thrust in an arena, forced to fight to the death until one victor was left standing. All the while, rebellion brewed in the districts. In this episode of the saga, we see that the rebellion has turned into a full out war. Like last year I thought I would share my most anticipated scenes to see translated onto the big screen.

***WARNING. HERE BE SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the book and do not want to know what happens DO NOT read any further***

District 12 Destroyed

If you remember the last movie that ended on a gut-wrenching cliffhanger when Gale ominously tells Katniss “District 12 is gone”. In what I presume will be the opening scene of this movie, Katniss will actually get to see her home destroyed. This is sure to be an emotional scene as miserable and drab District 12 was, this was where Katniss had cultivated a system of survival for her family alongside Gale(Liam Hemsworth). It’ll also be interesting to see if the movie will show the District being bombed via flashbacks or perhaps it will be explained to us what happened in the devastating attack.

Katniss in the Ruins of District 12

There’s been next to no rain to disturb the piles of ash left by the attack. They shift here and therein reaction to my footsteps. No breeze to scatter them. I keep my eyes on what I fremember as the road, because when I landed in the Meadow, I wasn’t careful and I walked right into a rock. Only it wasn’t a rock-it was someone’s skull

District 13

In contrast to the ruins of District 12, is District 13. This district hasn’t been mentioned too much in the movies so hopefully they’ll get around explaining just how District 13 was able to remain hidden saftely away from the Capitol for all these years. It’ll be interesting to see how this futuristic community which has thrived will be presented in contrast to the grimness of the other districts and the novelty of the Capitol. Not only that, but it’ll be interesting to see the introduction of one of the key characters, President Coin played by Julianne Moore who is sure to cause a storm in the events of the war.

District 13 and Coin Mockingjay

[In District 13] there were more than enough clean, white living apartments, plenty of clothing and three meals a day.

Peeta as the Capitol’s Puppet

In the same way Katniss is the symbol of the Mockingjay for the rebel cause, Peeta is also being used as a puppet by the Capitol. By manipulating, torturing him through the use of “tracker-jacker” venom they alter his memories and psychology, using him as a mouthpiece to spout their dogma, the consequences of which are irreversible. And let’s face it, up until now, Peeta had been a fairly boring character, so it’ll be fun seeing Josh Hutcherson really use those acting skills he’s acquired over the years for a meatier role.

Peeta is tortured mockingjay

Peeta’s physical transformation shocks me. The healthy clear-eyed boy […] has lost at least fifteen pound and developed a nervous tremor in his hands. They’ve still got him groomed.

Katniss Agrees to be the Mockingjay

After seeing how Peeta has been manipulated and knowing he is even alive, Katniss finally agrees to actively become a rebel leader by becoming the Mockinjay symbol, with a few conditions. What’s so great about this scene is that up until this point, Katniss had been largely uninvolved with actively contributing to the war effort. Her conditions that she demands from President Coin also remind us how strong and influential Katniss can actually be.

Katniss is the Mockingjay

My arms rise slightly-as if recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me-then come to rest at my sides.

“I’m going to be the Mockingjay”

Katniss and Gale

In the last movie instalments, Gale took a back seat and Hemsworth barely even had any screen time. However, this is sure to change in this movie as Gale becomes integrated within the war effort and we see him interact more with Katniss. Whilst we’ve only had hints at their (complicated) romantic situation, this time, we will hopefully get more of a sense of where that relationship is heading and how they’ve had to redefine in light of their recent circumstances.

Katniss and Gale in Mockingjay

I reached forward and press my lips against his. We taste of heat, ashes and misery. It’s a surprising flavour for such a gentle kiss.

Finnick Odair

Whilst in the last instalment Finnick (Sam Claflin) was portrayed as a sex symbol yet also a great warrior, this time we see a completely different side. We’ll probably see Finnick dealing with the consequences of re-entering the arena and being not only physically unstable, but emotionally after hearing the love of his life, Annie Cresta has been taken hostage by the Capitol. What’s so great about Katniss’ relationship with Finnick is that she can finally find someone to confide in who has experienced exactly what she is going through. This then develops in a deep rooted friendship, something that Gale cannot even comprehend.

Katniss and Finnick in Mockingjay

I had to forgive Finnick for his role in the conspiracy that landed me here. He, at least has some idea of what I’m going through. And it takes too much energy to stay angry with someone who cries so much.

Katniss and Gale fight in District 8

As she finally accepts her position as the face of the rebellion, Katniss also becomes more involved with the war and the action that is going on in the districts. This scene will be great as we finally see what it is truly like for other districts to fight. Not only that, but when a surprise attack occurs during Katniss’ visit to District 8, it forces her and Gale to use their hunting to skills to fend off the Capitol soldiers. As they fight together and are able to anticipate each other’s moves, we see how genuinely compatible they are for each other. This is sure to be a thrilling, action-packed scene.

Katniss and Gale Fight Mockingjay

This time it’s Gale who throws himself over me to provide one more layer of protection from the bombing.

“If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Right after one of her battles with the Capitol, Katniss is so infuriated by what she has just witnessed, she screams at the camera’s delivering a passionate message to Snow. This act of defiance ends up being sparking propaganda videos that help win the war but also reminds us of Katniss’s power and how instrumental she is in sparking hope in the war against a corrupted system.

Katniss Fire is Catching

“Fire is catching!” I am shouting now, determined that he will not miss a word “And if we burn, you burn with us!”

Ending?

Obviously, one of the moments I’m looking forward to seeing is how Mockingjay will end as the book has been split in half. But where exactly will it end and will it end on a cliff-hanger like its predecessor. Perhaps just after Peeta’s rescue? Or Finnick’s and Annie’s wedding? I guess, we’ll just have to wait and see…

So there are my top moments I’m looking forward to.  There were SO many to choose from. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Katniss and Haymitch interacting, Julianne Morre in action and of course the late Phillip-Seymore Hoffman in one of his final roles. What are you most looking forward to about Mockingjay when it comes to theatres?

 

Lit-To-Flick: The Maze Runner (2014) Movie Review

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner Cast

I finally went to the cinema to see The Maze Runner! Better late than never, I guess. I thought it only appropriate to dedicate my time watching this movie as I wrote a review on the novel only a couple of months ago which you can read HERE.

Based on James Dashner’s novel or the same name, the plot follows Thomas as he wakes up disorientated, remembering nothing but his name. He wakens to find himself surrounded by other boys who ominously call themselves “The Gladers” and are trapped by huge walls which are actually the outskirts of a gigantic maze. For the past three years, the boys have dedicated themselves in creating a mini society and attempting to solve the maze in a bid to escape with little success. That is until the arrival, of Thomas (Dylan O’brien) who uses his intuition to help the boys escape.

If you have read my book review, you’ll know that one of my major issues with the book is that there is little balance between the pacing of action and drama. This is where the screenplay suffers too; At times there’s a little too much EXPLAINING rather than showing. Explaining how the boys got in the maze, explaining who people are and this made the movie feel slow and a tiny bit tedious. However, when the action was there, it was brilliant, gripping and thrilling. There were moments where the film felt a little like a horror which was refreshing for a young adult movie.

O’brien, who plays lead role Thomas, was average at best. However it was Kaya Scodelario and Aml Ameen who play the supporting Teresa and Alby respectively who really caught my eye in the small time they were on screen. Scodelario brought that ferocity she brings to every role and Ameen brought a surprising amount of depth that hadn’t been shown by any of the other characters. Unfortunately, the movie is often let down by the appearance of “grievers” who are monster, robotic hybrids that threaten to destroy the safe haven the boys have created by killing every single one of them. The visual effects of these creatures could have been improved and a little more creative rather than imitating monsters from movies like The War of the Worlds or Super 8. Another of the few things I do have to whine about though is the ending; unfortunately, in a similar fashion to Divergent and The Hunger Games movies, the ending of this movie offers no closure , merely wanting the audience to return to the theatres to buy tickets for the next instalment.  In a sense, this ruins any sort of emotional or character development.

All in all however, I’m surprised at how well this novel has been translated onto the screen. Despite the fact that the movie created more questions than answering them, I’ll be excited to see the next instalments which will hopefully contain more thrills and action sequences.

My verdict: 7.0/10

Based on: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Screenplay by: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myer, T.S. Nowlin

Directed by: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poutler and Patricia Clarkson4

 

What We Learnt From The Mockingjay Part I Trailer 

Yes, the Mockingjay Part I Trailer hit the web earlier this week! A meagre 63 seconds to feast our eyes on. So what did we learn in such a brief clip? Well, quite a lot actually. Here are the top moments

1. The Rebellion has well and truly begun. Not only has it begun, but it is now a full on war.

Mockingjay War

2. Now they’re trying to recruit Katniss as a soldier as an injured young fighter ominously asks her “Will you fight with us Katniss?”

Mockingjay Katniss Our Leader

3. Is Katniss really as leader or merely a pawn? We get an insight into the masterminds behind the war through the enigmatic Plutarch Heavensbee and the dangerous leader of District 13, President Snow, played by Julianne Moore.

Mockingjay President Coin

4. President Snow has now banned the Mockingjay symbol. But isn’t making something taboo only going to fuel the fire? Come on President Snow, surely you should know being a political mastermind and all

Mockingjay President Snow

5. Katniss has some serious ammunition. Just look at those arrows! We know in the book, Bettee creates special arrows for Katniss so it will be exciting to see them in action!

Mockingjay Katniss Arrows

What did you find the most interesting in the trailer? Let me know in the comments below

B

XX

 

Lit-to-Flick: Divergent (2014) Movie Review 

DIVERGENT

Shailene Woodley as Tris in Divergent

I’m shocked. Honestly, I’m so shocked. This is a YA adaptation I actually liked! What I’m more shocked about, however, is the terrible reviews this movie is getting. As some of you may know, I only read this novel very recently and had some conflicting feelings towards it (you can read my book review here). Yet, I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.

Based on the best-selling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in a dystopian world in which society is divided into five factions; Erudite for the intelligent, Candor for the honest, Amity for the peaceful, Abnegation for the selfless and Dauntless for the brave. When inhabitants of this society turn sixteen they must choose a faction they wish to belong to, leaving their families forever. However, not everyone belongs to just one faction; there are those like our protagonist, Tris (Shailene Woodley) who has more than one of these traits, making her a threat to the supposedly idyllic society she lives in.

What’s so brilliant about this adaptation is the focus on the character development of Tris and Woodley does a sound job in portraying both her strengths and vulnerabilities. I’m even more impressed by Theo James who portrays the aggressive but sensitive romantic interest, Four. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that he’s incredibly beautiful and has lots of muscle (well…maybe a little), but more that he doesn’t make Four brooding, but retains the strength and fearful aspects the character in the books has. The chemistry between Woodley and James is palpable and it was nice to watch their characters and relationship blossom on screen. Kate Winslet, an excellent addition to the cast, takes on the role of antagonist Jeanine and manages to perfectly capture the intelligence and despicable nature of the villain.

The movie doesn’t have a problem with pace at all, managing to balance action packed scenes with more emotional ones. One thing that I think contributed to it was the great soundtrack which at time, made me feel like being reckless and running with the dauntless.

However, the movie isn’t without its faults. One of the main flaws is the development of secondary characters, or lack of, I might say. The other initiates that Tris works with are barely in the movie and are sometimes glossed over. Whilst I love the charm and humour that Miles Teller brings to all of his other characters (you’ll know what I mean If you’ve seen The Spectacular Now), it would have been nice if he could have maintained this charm whilst also portraying Peter in a more sinister light and depicted as a real threat to Tris.
This movie does a great job of setting up the world that Roth has created as we understand the politics and the friction between communities. However, this movie is very self-conscious that it is merely the first instalment in a future franchise. “What movie isn’t a sequel or the set up for a new franchise these days?” you might ask. Yet for some reason, the open ending left me incredibly frustrated and felt like I had been used to invest in something I hadn’t yet bought.

With all that in mind, I have to say that this is one of the more recent adaptations I really enjoyed. Clearly, studio execs are hoping that this “franchise” will garner a similar reception or fanbase as the Twilight series and The Hunger Games . Whether it will be that successful we will just have to wait and see.

Based on: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Screenplay by: Evan Daugherty , Vanessa Taylor

Directed by: Neil Burger

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Zoe Kravtiz, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd

My Verdict: 8/10

Lit-to-Flick : Romeo and Juliet (2013) Movie Review 

romeo-and-juliet-carlo-carlei-directed-film-2013-cover-romeo-1024x601

Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as Romeo and Juliet

A couple of months ago I wrote a post on my excitement of seeing the newly adapted movie Romeo and Juliet (which if you are interested, can be viewed here). Rushing out of a two hour seminar at university that focused on Hamlet to get to the theatre, I was already on an adrenaline high, all Shakespeare’d , pumped and ready. Unfortunately, I was completely let down.

It would be pointless reiterating the synopsis of the movie, as it is of course one of the most legendary and famous stories in the world. Julian Fellowes, writer of Downton Abbey, decided to adapt Shakespeare’s masterpiece, combining Shakespeare’s poetic verse with watered-down modern speech, creating an unacceptably clunky interpretation of Shakespeare.

Effeminate looking Douglas Booth and Oscar nominated Hailee Seinfeld play the titular, lead star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. I was convinced that after her stunning debut performance in True Grit, Stienfeld would be able to aptly portray Juliet in a mature fashion. Unfortunately, her dialogue feels rushed, as though she had merely memorised the script and needed to spit it out before she forgot it. Booth is a little better, as though he had a slight understanding of the words he was speaking. Their chemistry feels forced, awkward and hardly genuine, leading to an uncharismatic and less than inspiring performance from both actors. They were clearly hired to merely look pretty. It is the veteran actors such as Paul Giamatti as an impatient and cowardly Friar Lawrence (Cinderella Man) and Damian Lewis (Homeland) as Capulet who stand out a little more, particularly Lewis who managed, switching from jubilant, to abusive and comical in almost an instant.

One of the things that make Shakespeare so unique is his ability to weave such a complex narrative with poetic language, creating fascinating and intricate characters, yet Fellowes’ feels the need to completely massacre Shakespeare’s original manuscript. Mr Fellowes, seriously, what have you done?! Some of the most memorable and poignant scenes are cut out. For example, Romeo’s “ O loving hate,” speech is edited out and is essential in portraying Romeo as a hopeless and fickle romantic. There seems to be a hybridity to the dialogue with a sliver of Shakespeare’s original mingled with modern, 21st century vernacular. In one scene the nurse exclaims “My back is killing me”, a phrase I am certain was not spoken in the 16th century. Fellowes hit headlines earlier this week as he stated he had a better understanding of Shakespeare because he attended Cambridge, a claim that has sparked outrage from Shakespeare lovers everywhere. This elitist attitude is evident in his script as he seemingly waters-down the Shakespearian language with modern speech for those of us who haven’t had the privilege of such a seemingly wonderful and expensive education. These alterations mask the true value of Shakespeare’s original text. Romeo and Juliet was marketed as what appeared to be true to the original text and I felt oddly deceived at not receiving that language. Carlos Carlei ‘s strategy appeared to be to utilise as much selling piano score in order to convey emotions the actors couldn’t competently complete, a tactic that failed miserably and led to a melodramatic and cheesy mess.

The costumes were near enough satisfactory, particularly Juliet’s wardrobe as Steinfeld donned traditional renaissance dresses. The aspect that really stopped me from walking out of the theatre was the sets. The advantages of shooting in Verona have certainly paid as the sets were stunning and added a slight authenticity to the confusing and clumsy chaos of a script.

Fellowes succeeds in completely desecrating Shakespeare’s genius, poetic language. Whilst it attempts to replicate the charm of Zeffreli’s adaptation and compete with the modernity of Luhrmann’s, this lifeless, dull and exaggerated adaptation is not in league with either versions and offers nothing original. I would recommend this to anyone to demonstrate how NOT to adapt a Shakespeare play.

Based on: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Screenplay by: Julian Fellowes

Directed by: Carlos Carlei

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Ed Westwick, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Stellan Skarsgard

My Verdict: 2/10