The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

mockingjay

  • Directed by: Francis Lawrence
  • With: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
  • 123 Minutes

Warning: This review contains SPOILERS.

“Am I the only one who likes a lot the Hunger Games whistle?”

We all know that Francis Lawrence did a pretty damn great job with Catching Fire and that the Hunger Games is probably one of the best young-adult franchises in the history thanks to him. Lawrence gave enough reasons to the audience to believe in the strength of this amazing dystopian trilogy and now it’s just a matter of time before the epic conclusion of the whole story. But, as one of this year’s most anticipated movies, Mockingjay – Part 1 has to prove its strength so that it doesn’t fall under everyone’s expectations. So after attending a special screening, here I am delivering you my thoughts on the new Hunger Games installment.

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After escaping the Arena in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss sees herself inside District 13, lost, confused and without any idea of what happened since Plutarch rescued her. The district everyone thought it was destroyed was in fact a huge military district hidden underground and was preparing to seize the moment to begin a rebellion to take down once and for all the abusive power of the Capitol. At first, it is interesting to see how Katniss manages to deal with her first thoughts… After leaving Peeta and the rest of the victors behind she felt guilty and she was tremendously afraid of what could happen to them which in a way prevented her from accepting President’s Alma Coin request to become the leader of the revolution, the Mockingjay. But when she sees what Snow did to District 12… All the deaths and destruction… She decides that it is time to stand up against the Capitol and she decides to become the Mockingjay, with the condition of rescuing Peeta and the others. Since I’ve read the book, I had a clear picture of what the movie was going to be but Jennifer Lawrence’s attitude in the movie was a bit disappointing. After an amazing second installment, the saga falls again into the Peeta/Gale/Katniss love triangle and even though is not that depressing it ends up being the worst point of the movie. I understand that Katniss is in love with Peeta and that she fears for his life but that’s not a valid reason to suddenly stop fighting against the enemy. But even though Lawrence’s performance is not that great, THG: Mockingjay-Part 1 gives a major part of the attention to the rebellion.

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One thing that was actually funny was how fake Katniss’ acting looked when she was recording propos to reveal that she was alive and ready to fight against the Capitol. This awkward situation is thankfully saved by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), who warns the everyone about how bad Katniss works under pressure and how better it was to put her in real situations. Yes, Woody Harrelson is back… but only for brief moments (sad face). So Katniss is set to “danger” and she visits a hospital in District 8 where several injured men, women and children are recovering from a massive attack by Snow’s forces. There, Katniss is finally able to prove why she is the face of this revolution, by contributing a bit to the cause and by display the right emotions. So yes, Katniss is not constantly thinking about Peeta… She sometimes thinks about her family and her personal vengeance against President Snow. After recording the necessary footage, Alma Coin has everything she needs to begin the rebellion. With all the districts united for the same cause, the Capitol loses some of its influence and not even fear is capable of preventing people from fighting for the causes they believe in. From this moment on, the movie stops focusing on Katniss and transforms into a war movie with tactics, attacks and maneuvers that are thrilling as hell and that reminded me of how amazing Catching Fire was. From this moment on, my favorite version of Katniss was back and it was clear that the Mockingjay was alive.

Francis Lawrence gives a clear image of how bad are the torture methods that the Capitol uses to inflict fear and that worked really well to explain how evil and dark the whole situation was. Donald Sutherland fits perfectly into President Snow’s way of behaving and acting and his performance was suitable for a villain. Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman on the screen was also something I appreciated a lot, not only for his great talent but because his character, Plutarch represents the more creative side of the rebellion that is needed to surprise Snow. Beetee also plays a major role on the rebellion by providing the weapons, the technology and the knowledge needed to attack the Captiol. Sam Claflin, Finnick, also plays an interesting role in the story by being the other victor that alongside with Katniss has escaped the games. Gale is now a more grown-up character that wishes to fight the Capitol in the frontlines and that is for most of the time the best sign of bravery in the whole movie but still when compared with the importance of some of the other characters his presence is sometimes forgotten. Since Peeta is at the hands of President Snow it’s amazing to see the natural look on his face when he defends that the rebels should stop what they were doing even though he believed in the rebellion… A clear sign of how Snow manages to manipulate our fears and a great way to show some of his evilness. At last but not the least, we have Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin, who plays a strong and confident woman that will only reveal herself in the second part of the Hunger Games conclusion. Moore is always able to make satisfying performances when it comes to strong female characters and, this time, as leader of District 13 she plays one of the movie’s major roles.

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So even though there is the downside of Katniss drama (the love triangle subplot), when there are so many enthusiastic and thrilling things happening, one must praise them and in this specific cases, these scenes ended up making the whole movie good as Catching Fire. It’s like a teenage war movie with several interesting topics and a great will to amaze the viewers. Is it perfect and amazing? Certainly not but, from the point of view of a guy who read the book, Francis Lawrence did a great work in this adaptation and was able to show all the things that actually mattered. The soundtrack is once again a strong point in this Hunger Games installment and it’s incorporated in a great way with the movie’s intense action sequences. Overall, this is not probably the movie everyone was expecting but it’s a strong installment and it’s exciting as hell. With great characters, a great start for the rebellion and amazing sequences, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is Francis Lawrence’s way of proving that after Catching Fire, our Mockingjay still has the strength and the will to fight against the enemy of the people.

See it in: IMAX | Dolby ATMOS | 3D Theaters | 2D Theaters | Rental

★★★★

Serena (2014)

serena

  • Directed by: Susanne Bier
  • With: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Toby Jones
  • 109 Minutes

“After two great hits, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper team up as a couple in a promising new movie that… Oh wait it wasn’t directed by David O. Russell. Well, I don’t know what to expect so I will give it a shot…”

A couple of hours before watching Serena my thoughts were mixed… I didn’t know what to expect because of several reasons… In the two previous times I saw Jennifer Lawrence alongside with Bradley Cooper I enjoyed a lot their chemistry and I still think they are a great power couple and I usually tend to enjoy historical romances which gave me hope for what I was about to see but then I saw the initial reviews and they didn’t look good at all and when it comes to movies like this one in particular bad reviews usually mean terrible things. Either way I give it a shot and after watching the movie I want to start this review by saying how sad I am for seeing my worst thoughts becoming true…

In the middle of North Carolina’s mountains during the 1920s, a love story between George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) and a young and good looking woman named Serena (Jennifer Lawrence) begins. As a baron in the wood business, George has all the reasons to believe that Serena is the love of his life since she has some background on the business and doesn’t see any issues with moving from the city to the country. Serena’s presence is at first seen with some mistrust among the hard-working man but as soon as she displays her strength and her leadership skills everything changes and the company starts growing while George fights against the Government to keep his lands instead of selling them to the National Parks. But when Serena has a sudden abortion and after knowing that she can’t have another kid, the love story turns into a tragedy and there’s nothing George can do to avoid Serena from committing something crazy.

Like most love stories, Serena has drama, emotion, predestined love and tragedy with some historical background that I actually found to be quite interesting but even when there’s some tension in the story I remained indifferent towards the events. The love story is too predictable and it’s really hard to find anything interesting in it since most of the plot is basically arguments between the couple, sex scenes, business scenes and some repetitions of the traditional “I love you.” dialogue. When they see things going the way they expected they have sex with each other and when things aren’t going that well they try to comfort each other by saying “I love you” many times and remaining silent the rest of the time. So even if the couple as chemistry the probability of success is not that big. I am a big fan of Cooper/Lawrence charismatic couple and I think that David O. Russell saw in them a mini golden egg chicken but this time, no matter how hard they tried, there was nothing they could do to prevent the story from going into a bad direction.

Jennifer Lawrence is a fine lady who is a victim of the quickest proposal I’ve ever seen (It was like proposal at first sight) and she never shows innocence and emotional weakness. Most of the times she appears to be a strong woman that every man would ever want to meet but when things go wrong she becomes into some sort of sociopath. This transformation was probably one of the few things  I enjoyed the most about the movie because Serena displays her love in a very twisted way near the end and suddenly the amount of “I love you” speeches I’ve heard before didn’t matter one single bit. She is powerful, strong, and ruthless and a great character when compared with the static George who is guilty of making the worst proposal I’ve seen in a movie (love at first sight got a new meaning in my mind after watching this movie). He is a strong man but sometimes his bad decisions and the way he dealt with his problems kind of annoyed me. Besides these two we have a wicked sheriff who wants to take control of George’s lands and a gunslinger who senses things and who had been in jail for killing a man.

So we have interesting characters and a weak plot that gave me no reasons to feel attached to the story. While Lawrence and Cooper maintain some of their reputation because they didn’t had any fault in all of this, I saw my worst thoughts coming true with a story that lacks interesting elements to keep up. The historical aspects are not bad at all but the drama and the tension of this love story is too boring and painful to watch. For those of you who don’t know, Susanne Bier is mostly known for romances and was the woman chosen to direct the movie after changing the initial plan of picking Darren Aronofsky as the director.

Overall, the soundtrack is well placed between those beautiful mountains in North Carolina and the historical aspects of the 1920’s captured some of my attention but when it comes to the main plot there were some serious flaws. The story is predictable… I felt a lack of empathy during the movie and I think that the movie’s pace is a bit irregular with more attention given to arguments than to the really interesting details. Thanks to dynamic duo, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, Serena ends up being not impressive at all. Again moviegoers have a chance to see this two great actors shining together on the screen, just like they did before, but with a story far from being good.

See it in: IMAX | Dolby ATMOS | 3D Theaters | 2D Theaters | Rental

★½

Adam Lester.

Giving both the right and wrong answer.

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