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!

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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

 

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

Most Anticipated Scenes of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

So, it’s less than two weeks away from release of the highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in which Katniss must deal with the consequences of her decisions from the 74th Hunger Games. Having read the books years ago, just when they were released, I am incredibly excited to see this, particularly as Catching Fire is my favourite out of the entire trilogy. So, I thought I’d 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***

The Arena and the Force Field

For me, one of the most exciting moments of Catching Fire is when Katniss first enters the Arena, realising it is everything out of her comfort zone. In the first Hunger Games, Katniss was in her element, in the forest and able to fend for herself. The Arena in the 75th Hunger Games really represents everything Katniss is unfamiliar with, in terms of both the physical environment and the fact that she is constantly conflicted over making allies with other victors and whether to kill them. It’ll also be wonderful to see how the arena is aesthetically presented, particularly with the “clock” setting and the force field, which is ultimately the catapult for the events in Mockingjay          

The Arena

I feel the plate begin to rise. […] I squint down at my feet and see that my metal plate is surrounded by blue waves that lap up over my boots. Slowly I raise my eyes and take in the water spreading out in every direction.

I can only form one clear thought.

This is no place for a girl on fire. 

Finnick Odair

One of the most complex and loveable characters of the trilogy is introduced. Sugar cubes? It could only be Finnick Odair. Although easy on the eyes, Finnick goes through an absolutely brutal journey after winning the 64th Hunger Games. It will definitely be interesting to see his relationship with the other victors, including Katniss who develops a strong friendship with him, despite being wary of him initially. I can’t wait for Sam Claflin to embody Finnick’s mask of confidence and warrior as opposed to his psychological damage that he’s suffered throughout the course of his life.

Finnick

Finnick Odair is something of a living legend in Panem. […] Tall, athletic, with golden skin and bronze hair and those incredible eyes

The Wedding Dress

The wedding dress that Cinna creates is also highly anticipated. Whilst the many of the districts of Panem are on the verge of rebellion, the majority of the Capitol remains ignorant of the civil war brewing in the horizon. Cinna’s creation perfectly sets fuel to the war by fully embodying Katniss as the Mockingjay, the symbol of a revolution, which has disastrous consequences for him.

The mockingjay dress

I’m in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it’s the colour of coal and made of tiny feathers. Wonderingly, I lift my long, flowing sleeves into the air, and that’s when I see myself on the television screen. Clothed in black except fir white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say my wings.

Because Cinna has turned me into a mockinjay

Gale’s Whipping

This will probably be one of the most intense scenes in the movie, in same way it was the most intense to read in the book. What’s so important about this scene is that Katniss realises that even her home, Disrtict 12 is no longer safe. It’s also the moment that Katniss chooses Gale and realises she does in fact love him when she feels the need to protect him.

Gale's Whipping

Gale’s wrists are bound to the wooden post […[ he slumps unconscious on his knees, held up only by the ropes at his wrists. What used to be his back is a raw,bloody slab of meat.

The Beginning of The Rebellion

Whilst Katniss experiences a few moments of the rebellion in Catching Fire and then the whole war exploding in the last book of the series, Mockingjay, it appears from the trailers, a lot more of the rebellion will be shown in the movie. It will be great to see Katniss fully understand the effect that her moment with the berries has had on the entire country and what cost this simple moment has brought up. I think it will be great to show the rebellion in this movie as much as Mockingjay as Katniss and the audience understand the extent of the consequences of her actions.

rebellion

The square’s packed   with screaming people, their faces hidden with rags and home-made masks, throwing bricks. Buildings burn. Peacekeepers shoot into the crowd[…] This is what President Snow calls and uprising.

Katniss and Peeta On The Beach

In contrast to Katniss’ passionate relationship with Gale is her relationship with Peeta which develops on the beach in the arena of the 75th Hunger Games. Their conversation is reminiscent of the cave scenes in the first book. This is truly a touching moment as their relationship develops, with Katniss realises that she does actually have feeling for Peeta and is one of the few “real” moments during the Games.

Katniss and peeta beach

I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me

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 the other victors and a lot more of Peeta and Katniss. What are you most looking forward to about Catching Fire when it comes to theatres?

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

Lit-to-Flick: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) Movie Review

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Lily Collins as Clary Fray

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Mortal Instruments, it is a YA book series that was at first a trilogy and then extended to a series of six. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the movie adaptation of the first novel, City of Bones. I previously wrote a book review of the novel which you can read HERE

The story follows Clary Fray (Lily Collins) who in the search for her kidnapped mother, discovers she is descended from demon hunters also known as Shadowhunters and she is one herself with powers she never even realised she had. After her mother goes missing, Clary enlists the help of her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) and meets fellow Shadowhunters, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabel (Jemima West) to find her, all the while attempting to keep the mortal cup, a holy grail like item, that when drunk from has the ability to turn anyone into a Shadowhunter, out of the grasp of rogue Shadowhunter Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)

Valentine's Weird Hair Thingy

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the movie’s villain, Valentine and his hair :/

Although the movie is far from perfect, I found myself really enjoying it. The acting is good. Good, not bad, but not exactly award winning either. The cast is filled with those usually in supporting roles, including Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, Clary’s love interest. I was surprised by how Collins’ brought Clary to life and she did a fantastic job of portraying a young girl who is put in a difficult situation. I have been a massive fan of Robert Sheehan since his hilarious portrayal of Nathan in Misfits. His injection of humour prevents the movie from becoming too serious and over-the-top. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the crazed antagonist of the movie, his wide eyed, icy glare made him truly terrifying and really brought to life how deluded Valentine was. What was going on with his hair though?

The main aspect of the movie that I enjoyed is the visuals. I am amazed at how advanced and realistic they look. I feel that they really complement the tone of the movie, surprisingly, considering the small budget of it. I also really enjoyed the action, stunts and the fighting. There’s a lot more of it than there is in the book and the action translates beautifully to the screen.

The movie is also very fast-paced, maybe a little too much at times. It appears to be very plot driven, rather than focusing on developing characters other than Clary and Jace. There’s no time to really mull it over and think about it until the quieter scenes with Jace and Clary which felt a little forced and awkward. The backstory felt rushed and would be confusing for non-book readers, that ultimately ended up being a little convoluted and confusing. In fact, the plot is that rushed, I don’t even know what Valentine’s whole agenda is. Something about purifying bloodlines, raising demons? Sound familiar? Ahem, Lord Voldemort, cough Harry Potter. There are also a lot of loose ends that are left untied, perhaps making way for the sequel yet they just add to the confusion of the plot.

At times, the movie definitely rips off elements from other successful teen franchises. Some part of the storyline and the institute, the set of the home of the Shadowhunters felt it was attempting to replicate the awe and grandeur of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. The “forbidden romance” borrowed from Twilight, the actual stunts and fighting felt like they were copying choreography from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, therefore it does not add anything original to an already overflowing genre of YA fantasy book to movie adaptations.

For those worrying, that it isn’t faithful to the book, it is. Pretty much all the dialogue is word for word. There are a couple of alterations, and Simon’s character was added to a few more scenes, though that’s not something I would complain about as I’ve already mentioned that I welcomed Sheehan’s performance.

This is a movie that is tailored to an already established fan base, so if you enjoyed the book you’ll definitely love the movie. However, it didn’t live up to its potential and welcome new audiences to the series. I feel like there’s something of a stigma attached to the YA genre now, particularly because of the colossal damage that Twilight has left behind. Now, everyone expects them to be terrible. Whilst this movie was short of innovative, it did a hell of a better job of transforming than its predecessors this year which included the terrible Beautiful Creatures and The Host. This is still probably one of the better book-to-movie adaptations this year, for non-book fans however, I doubt this is anyway as exciting or brilliant as it potentially could have been.

Based on: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Screenplay by: Jessica Postigo Paquette

Directed By: Harald Zwart

Starring: Lilly Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Jemima West, Kevin Zegers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lena Heady

Rating: 7/10