Movie Reviews: The Hunger Games- Mockingjay Part 1

Since Harry Potter was put out to grass, The Hunger Games franchise has assumed a massive new significance for Hollywood. The series of films adapted from Suzanne Collins’ novels have made Jennifer Lawrence into a global star and have transformed their producer Lionsgate into as big a player as the the traditional old studios.

Teenagers clamour to see each new episode while box office analysts, after shaky recent times in the global film business, look to the films to provide a major end of year boost. That is why there were such feverish expectations in advance of last night’s world premiere of Mockingjay Part 1.

The film doesn’t exactly disappoint but nor does it satisfy. There is a half a sandwich feel to the latest instalment – a sense that the film makers have denied us a full experience by splitting the movie into two. The film lasts for two hours

The film, based on the final book in the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, lasts for two hours but only takes us some of the way toward the conclusion of the story. (For the real finale, we ill have to wait until this time next year, when Part 2 of Mockingjay is released in cinemas.)


This is an even darker drama than its predecessors. That is partly because so much of it is set in the murky, subterranean world of District 13 where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been taken by the rebels.

They want her to be the poster girl for the revolution they are busy fomenting against the Capitol’s purring, white bearded dictator President Snow (Donald Sutherland.) The colours are desaturated.

Characters dress simply, in boiler suits.  We see very little daylight. Even the vain and flighty Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has to adapt to the austerity of her environment and forego her wigs and make-up.

Lawrence is again tremendous as Katniss. She gives her character an emotional depth that you don’t expect in a franchise movie, conveying her vulnerability and doubt as well as well as her fiery determination and Barbarella-like sex appeal.



Katniss is pining for Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow Hunger Games survivor who has fallen into Snow’s clutches and has seemingly been brainwashed or tortured into becoming a spokesperson for the Capitol.

District 13’s steely president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is fighting back against Snow, with Katniss as her chief propaganda weapon.

The brilliant and much lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman (who plays Plutarch Heavensbee) died earlier this year before production was complete on Mockingjay Part 2. Digital technology was being used to “complete” his performance but the joints barely show here. This isn’t one of his major roles but he gines a typically assured and witty performance as President Coin’s sly but kind-hearted chief advisor.


THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1, from left: Patina Miller, Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali,


Along with casting Lawrence, one of the filmmakers’ best decisions at the outset of Hunger Games was to fill the series with redoubtable character actors like Hoffman, Moore, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci.

They bring a gravitas and wit to the project that counters the callow performances of some of the younger actors. The “Hunger Games” themselves (the vicious, reality TV style games contested by selected youngsters) aren’t being contested and these old-timers are therefore far more prominent in this episode.

Director Francis Lawrence isn’t afraid to include grim imagery of war. There are scenes here of blasted cityscapes full of skeletons and of wounded characters crammed together in makeshift hospitals.

What the series has never been able to resolve is how to combine its darker, dystopian elements with the demands of the teen action movie. Mockingjay – Part 1 is full of very jarring juxtapositions.

One moment, we’ll be confronted with scenery of death and devastation – and the next, there will be some cutesy slapstick involving Primrose Everdeen’s pet cat Buttercup. Stylistically, the film veers between gritty realism and Star Wars-like escapism.

Not a great deal happens here plot-wise. Most of the story is taken up with the rebel propaganda comapaign orchestrated by Plutarch, filmed on the battle line by the punkish-looking Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and fronted by Katniss. The rebels blow up a dam and make a raid on the Capitol. That’s about it. The film ends abruptly. You can’t help but wonder if it would have made more sense to release Mockingjay as a single feature rather than split it into two. Part 1 matches its predecessors in terms of performance and production values but still feels like half a movie.

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games:Catching Fire

Julian Cannon is back with another movie review. And sorry I was late with this one, I was really busy the whole week. Also follow me on twitter @julianexcalibur and check out my show on Where I talk about wwe topics, top 10’s, video game reviews and movie reviews. I have done over 20 episodes on Facebook and I got very positive feedback so now I have 6 episodes on that channel so expect more on the way every week. Now let’s get to the review of The Hunger Games : Catching Fire


RELEASED: November 21, 2013

DIRECTOR:Francis Lawrence
WRITER:Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt
CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

Gore is upped a notch – or 12 – but the message is as dark and dystopian as The Hunger Games.

After The Hunger Games burned a Mockingjay-shaped mark on filmgoers, the pressure was on for I Am Legend director, Francis Lawrence, who took over from Gary Ross.

Fortunately, Catching Fire is bigger and grittier, slaying us in all manner of malicious ways – poisonous fog and man-eating monkeys included.

But first we begin in a near-identical setup to the first, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) back in District 12 and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) plotting something sinister.

He isn’t happy with the District 12 lovebirds and the currant coloured mess they left following the last games. Leaving the Capitol comforts to pay ‘The Girl on Fire’ a visit, Snow informs Katniss that their rule-bending win caused a stir in some of the districts. Rebellion is in the air, and he leaves her with a sinister threat of the district’s destruction that weighs heavy on her shoulders as she leaves for the Victory Tour in an attempt to convince Panem of her ‘love’ for Peeta.

The performances from the main three have stepped up a gear in the interim, with Lawrence and Hutcherson convincingly portraying the struggles of returning to life after participating in a public bloodbath, as well as the mental and physical preparation needed to gear up for round two.


Liam Hemsworth as Gale is granted a touch more screen time in the build up to what should be a lead role in the next instalment, and newbie tributes, particularly Johanna (Jena Malone), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), manage to make a deep impression in spite of the non-stop action. Another noteworthy addition is Philip Seymour Hoffman as new Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee. The Oscar-winner brings gravitas to the role and steals scenes from Sutherland’s increasingly one-note Snow.


Bigger, better and more garish than ever, the Capitol scenes are breathtaking, its grandeur made obvious due to sweeping exposition shots, brilliantly juxtaposed against shaky and guerrilla techniques used within district-based scenes. But where Capitol colours have brightened, the overall tone has darkened, sticking firmly to the page when it comes to blunt hierarchical messaging.

Public lashings provoke a very real reaction, and when the Quarter Quell commences, the knife-throwing and axe-wielding is more brutal than first time round, though it’s still hampered by it 12A classification.

Inevitably, Catching Fire feels rushed in parts (the book is 400 pages-long), but choices regarding what to ditch, including the novel’s heavy wedding focus, were probably the right ones. A little more time could have been dedicated to the tributes, but with so many strong leads already fighting for screen time, it’s probably best audiences aren’t persuaded to bond too much; we know what happens to those entering the arena.

Author Suzanne Collins’ vision for the clock-shaped battleground, with its 12 sinister segments, has been brought to the big screen brilliantly by Lawrence; the game itself keeping you gripped right up until the moment Katniss fires that fateful arrow. This new tropical setting and its dangers are much more arresting than the forest, and the tension is so palpable that you’ll need a shoulder rub after to relieve it.

The cliffhanger conclusion will undoubtedly split opinion, leaving novel novices dangling in frustration, while fans of the book will appreciate the almost identical finale, right down to Gale’s final revelation, which we’ll keep quiet for the sake of those now running off to power through the trilogy’s pages.

I give this movie a 9/10