Sci-Fi Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 (dir by Francis Lawrence)


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It’s finally over!

It probably sounds like I’m really excited that the final Hunger Games adaptation has been released.  It may sound like I’m happy that the saga of Katniss Everdeen and her life in Panem has finally come to an end.  And, to a certain extent, I am.  After everything that Katniss has been through, she deserves some peace and, fortunately, the series has ended before Jennifer Lawrence got bored with playing the role.  (To see what happens when actor gets bored with an iconic role, check out Daniel Craig in Spectre.)  Even though I think it can be argued that Mockingjay Part Two is the weakest of all the Hunger Games films, it still allows both Katniss and the actress who brought her to life to go out on a high note.

There’s a part of me that cringes a little when I think about all of the films that were released as a direct result of the success of The Hunger Games.  The Giver, The Maze Runner, Divergent, Tomorrowland, the list goes on and on.  I’ve reached the point where I can now say that I am officially sick of sitting through adaptations of Young Adult dystopian fiction.  And yet, I was still excited to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two (even if that title is way too long and unwieldy).  Regardless of the number of mediocre films that it may have inspired, The Hunger Games franchise has always remained compelling.

So, how was Mockingjay Part Two?  Obviously, it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film.  The pacing is totally off, characters appear and disappear almost at random, and it’s all rather confusing.  If you haven’t seen the film that came before Mockingjay Part Two, I imagine that you would be totally confused by this film.  But, when viewed as the fourth part of one gigantic epic story, the whole thing is rather brilliant.

When the film opens, Katniss is still being used a prop in Alma Coin’s (Julianne Moore) revolution.  The majority of the film deals with her journey into and through the capital.  She wants to track down and assassinate President Snow (the wonderfully evil Donald Sutherland) whereas Coin just wants to use her as a symbol to solidify her authority.  As Katniss quickly realizes, there’s not much difference between Snow and Coin.  However, it takes one great tragedy for Katniss to truly understand the truth about the Alma Coin and her revolution.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll already know about and be prepared for that tragedy but it’s still a heart-breaking moment.

It’s also the most important moment in the franchise, one that reminds us that The Hunger Games has always been far more politically sophisticated (and thematically darker) than all of the films, books, and fan fic that has been inspired by it.  This is a seriously dark and, some would say, cynical movie and, as a student of history, I appreciated that.  I appreciated that Mockingjay didn’t try to force a happy ending on us and I also appreciated the fact that Mockingjay didn’t buy into the simplistic Manichaen worldview that is currently ruining worlds both real and cinematic.  The film’s final scene may be hopeful but it’s never naive.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Mockingjay had to be split into two separate films.  Mockingjay Part Two is full of exciting moments but there’s also a lot of scenes that feel like filler.  You get the feeling they were included to make sure that Mockingjay Part Two’s running team was equal to the other films in the franchise.  This is a film that features a lot of genuinely exciting action and some truly emotional moments.  It’s also a film that features a lot of speeches.  If only both parts of Mockingjay could have been released as one six hour film.  I would have watched it!

The film also features the final performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the rule of Plutarch.  Hoffman is not in many scenes and reportedly, he died before filming two of his biggest scenes.  Those scenes were rewritten and his dialogue given to other actors.  At one point, Woody Harrelson starts to read a letter that was written by Plutarch and it’s a sad scene because you’re aware that, originally, Hoffman was meant to deliver those lines in his trademark style.  As it is, Hoffman only appears in a few minutes of Mockingjay Part Two and he doesn’t do much.  But, when the film briefly features his bemused smile, you’re reminded of what a great actor the world lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died.

Of course, the entire Hunger Games franchise has been full of great actors.  Jennifer Lawrence brought Katniss to wonderful and empowering life and one of the joys of Mockingjay Part Two is getting to see her bring the character’s story to a close.  But even beyond Jennifer Lawrence’s rightly acclaimed work, the entire cast of the franchise deserves a lot of credit.  I’ve always loved Donald Sutherland’s interpretation of President Snow and he’s at his best here.

For that matter, if there ever is another Hunger Games film or a Hunger Games spin-off, why not make it about Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason?  The way that Malone delivered her angry and frequently sarcastic dialogue was definitely one of the film’s highlights.

Regardless of whether there are any future films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two is a worthy conclusion to a great story.

(By the way, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, December is science fiction month here at the Shattered Lens!  We hope you enjoy it!)

Previous Hunger Games Reviews:

  1. Quick Review: The Hunger Games (dir by Gary Ross)
  2. Review: The Hunger Games
  3. 44 Days of Paranoia: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. For Your Consideration: Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part One

Spotlight and Paul Dano Win At the Gothams


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The Gotham Awards were held last night!  Spotlight was the big winner though Paul Dano picked up the supporting actor award for his performance in Love & Mercy.

Best Screenplay
“Carol,” Phyllis Nagy
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Marielle Heller
“Love & Mercy,” Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – WINNER
“While We’re Young,” Noah Baumbach

Breakthrough Actor
Rory Culkin in “Gabriel”
Arielle Holmes in “Heaven Knows What”
Lola Kirke in “Mistress America”
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in “Tangerine”
Mya Taylor in “Tangerine” – WINNER

Breakthrough Series – Long Form
“Jane the Virgin,” Jennie Snyder Urman, Creator (The CW)
“Mr. Robot,” Sam Esmail, Creator (USA Network) – WINNER
“Transparent,” Jill Soloway, Creator (Amazon)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Creators (Netflix)
“UnREAL,” Marti Noxon, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Creators (Lifetime)

Best Feature
“Carol”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“Heaven Knows What”
“Spotlight” – WINNER
“Tangerine”

Best Documentary
“Approaching the Elephant”
“Cartel Land”
“Heart of a Dog”
“Listen to Me Marlon”
“The Look of Silence” – WINNER

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director
Desiree Akhavan for “Appropriate Behavior”
Jonas Carpigano for “Mediterranea” – WINNER
Marielle Heller for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
John Magary for “The Mend”
Josh Mond for “James White”

Best Actor
Christopher Abbott in “James White”
Kevin Corrigan in “Results”
Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy” – WINNER
Peter Sarsgaard in “Experimenter”
Michael Shannon in “99 Homes”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett in “Carol”
Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You in My Dreams”
Brie Larson in “Room”
Bel Powley in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” – WINNER
Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”
Kristen Wiig in “Welcome to Me”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Brian D’Arcy James for their ensemble work in “Spotlight”

Breakthrough Series – Short Form
“Bee and PuppyCat,” Natasha Alllegri, Creator (Cartoon Hangover)
“The Impossibilities,” Anna Kerrigan, Creator (seriesofimpossibilities.com)
“Qraftish, Christal,” Creator (Blackgirldangerous.com)
“Shugs and Fats,” Nadia Manzoor and Radhka Vaz, Creator (ShugsandFats.TV)
“You’re So Talented,” Sam Bailey, Creator (Open TV)

Paul Dano

Inside Out and Anomalisa Get Some Love From Annie!


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The nominations for the Annie Awards were announced today!  The Annie Awards honor the best in animation.  Looking over the list of nominees, my initial thought is, “Wow, that’s a really long list!”  So, I’m just going to post the nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Achievement For Voice Acting In A Feature Film.  You can view the complete list over at my favorite site for Oscar news, Awards Circuit!

(FYI: I love Awards Watch as well.  For those of you still clinging onto Awards Daily, it’s time to jump ship.)

Anyway, here are (some of) the Annie nominations!

Best Animated Feature 

Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

  • Anomalisa – Paramount Pictures – Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh Character: Lisa Hesselman
  • Inside Out – Pixar Animation Studios – Cast: Amy Poehler Character: Joy
  • Inside Out – Pixar Animation Studios – Cast: Phyllis Smith Character: Sadness
  • Minions – Illumination Entertainment – Cast: Pierre Coffin Character: The Minions
  • Minions – Illumination Entertainment – Cast: Jon Hamm Character: Herb Overkill
  • The Peanuts Movie – Blue Sky Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Animation – Linus: Alex Garfin Character: Linus
  • The Peanuts Movie – Blue Sky Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Animation – Lucy: Hadley Belle Miller Character: Lucy
  • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – Paramount Animation – Cast: Tom Kenny Character: SpongeBob

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Here’s the 15 Films That Made The Best Documentary Shortlist!


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Today, that Academy announced the 15 semi-finalists for the Best Documentary Feature award.  I’m sad to say that I haven’t seen as many of these as I should have.  However, I am happy to see that both Amy and Going Clear made the shortlist.

(I’m actually a bit surprised to see Going Clear made the cut, considering it’s subject matter.  If Going Clear is nominated, will there be a mass boycott of the Awards by Hollywood Scientologists?  Will this be an Oscar ceremony without Tom Cruise?)

Five of these films will be nominated for Best Documentary in January.

Amy,” On the Corner Films and Universal Music

Best of Enemies,” Sandbar

Cartel Land,” Our Time Projects and The Documentary Group

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” Jigsaw Productions

He Named Me Malala,” Parkes-MacDonald and Little Room

Heart of a Dog,” Canal Street Communications

The Hunting Ground,” Chain Camera Pictures

Listen to Me Marlon,” Passion Pictures

The Look of Silence,” Final Cut for Real

Meru,” Little Monster Films

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets,” The Filmmaker Fund, Motto Pictures, Lakehouse Films, Actual Films, JustFilms, MacArthur Foundation and Bertha BRITDOC

We Come as Friends,” Adelante Films

What Happened, Miss Simone?,” RadicalMedia and Moxie Firecracker

Where to Invade Next,” Dog Eat Dog Productions

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” Pray for Ukraine Productions

What a Lovely Day! The National Board of Review Honors Mad Max: Fury Road!


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OH MY GOD!

So, like a lot of people, I was expecting the National Board of Review to name Spotlight as best picture of the year.  I haven’t seen Spotlight yet but I have to admit that I’m already kind of bored of hearing about how it’s the Oscar front-runner.  I mean, for all I know, Spotlight could be the best film ever made but I like it when my awards season is interesting.  It’s boring when one film — like The Social Network a few years ago — keeps winning every single award.

So, with all that in mind, I was really happy to hear that the National Board of Review picked Mad Max: Fury Road for best picture.  I was happy because not only is Fury Road a really great movie that deserves the love but also because it was just so unexpected!  Way to go, NBR!

(The only thing that would have made things better would have been if the Guitar Guy had won Best Supporting Actor.)

Now, I’d caution anyone about getting too excited.  Just because a film wins one of the precursor awards, that does not mean that it’s going to be nominated come Oscar time.  Last year, for instance, the NBR picked A Most Violent Year for best picture.  However, at the same time, it can be argued that the momentum that led to Her being nominated in 2014 began with its victory at the NBR.

So, who knows?

Anyway, here are the NBR winners!

Best Film:  Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Director:  Ridley Scott – The Martian

Best Actor:  Matt Damon – The Martian

Best Actress: Brie Larson – Room

Best Supporting Actor:  Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Supporting Actress:  Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight

Best Original Screenplay:  Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Drew Goddard – The Martian

Best Animated Feature:  Inside Out
Breakthrough Performance:  Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation & Jacob Tremblay – Room

Best Directorial Debut:  Jonas Carpignano – Mediterranea

Best Foreign Language Film:  Son of Saul

Best Documentary:  Amy

William K. Everson Film History Award:  Cecilia De Mille Presley

Best Ensemble:  The Big Short

Spotlight Award: Sicario for Outstanding Collaborative Vision

NBR Freedom of Expression Award:  Beasts of No Nation & Mustang

Top Films

Top 5 Foreign Language Films

  • Goodnight Mommy
  • Mediterranea
  • Phoenix
  • The Second Mother
  • The Tribe

Top 5 Documentaries

  • Best of Enemies
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
  • The Diplomat
  • Listen to Me Marlon
  • The Look of Silence

Top 10 Independent Films