The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

SS_D8-3371.dngRoze-Rating: 3 / 5

The penultimate chapter within The Hunger Games franchise brings us to District 13, home of the rebellion. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is not in the best of shapes following the chaos of her quarter-quell Hunger Games and still grieving the capture of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). She is reluctantly roped into becoming the face of the rebel forces with the hopes of saving Peeta as motivation. In order to defeat the Capitol, Katniss must embody the Mockingjay and lead the revolution towards victory.

I absolutely loved Catching Fire, so much so that it ended up being in my top ten films of 2013. It was everything that I wanted the first Hunger Games to be. It was grittier, action packed and free from unnecessary shaky cam! Which is why I was totally excited to be watching Mockingjay – Part 1 especially knowing Francis Lawrence was returning to direct it. Having ended on such a massive and intense cliffhanger, I was ready to see Katniss kick some ass and give the Capitol a taste of their own medicine. Of course you can guess that I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this film. My initial reaction leaving the theater was of annoyance having spent money on a film that didn’t really deliver on what I wanted to see but having also endured the smell of sweaty prepubescent teenagers for nothing (I can’t talk). On a business stand point I totally understand why splitting the last book into two films is smart and inevitable in today’s film industry, but I really did not see the ‘need’ for it cinematically. I think if the film was marketed as what it really is which is more of a darker character drama rather than an action packed film about revolution, then I probably wouldn’t be too bummed out about it.That being said, having reflected on the film and let it sit with me for a day, I respect what the film does and maybe after seeing Mockingjay – Part 2, it could end up being the perfect sibling to the ultimate finale. It doesn’t help that we have to wait another year to see it, which is why ultimately it just feels like an extended cliffhanger of Catching Fire.

I really wanted to like this film, and I did up until about halfway through where things started to feel a bit dragged on, overdeveloped and quite frankly slow. Stuff happens but really in the full scope of the franchise, not much really does, which is why the ending didn’t have an impact on me at all. I wasn’t shocked. It ended and I hadn’t learnt or felt any differently towards President Snow or the Capitol; I still hated them the same as I did in the last two films. It was just underwhelming and I could feel it within the theater, the energy was relatively low and people left without a commotion. I remember seeing Catching Fire and after that ending I was just blown away with excitement. I wanted that reaction.

That being said I don’t think the film is completely unnecessary, it’s a part of the story that needed to be told and is actually quite interesting. For a teen franchise, some of the themes are mature and compelling. I really liked the way they represented the rebellion and fleshed out how impactful propaganda can be on a revolution to push an agenda. It was also interesting to see how Katniss coped with being the face of the revolution and dealing with the pressures of being looked up to for inspiration. At points during the story I felt like I should be resenting Julianne Moore’s character and the nature of the rebellion based on how they were treating Katniss. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to represent revolution as a negative force although essential for change. Although these were interesting themes, it eventually became a bit tiresome as the narrative was stretched as far as it could go. The story never develops and in all honesty nor does Katniss. I was waiting for her to truly ’embody’ the Mockingjay and relish the position, but she never really does. Another reason for why Mockingjay – Part 1 ultimately feels incomplete.

Despite the film being shot gorgeously and the dystopian set pieces being well realized, I felt some of the scenes were edited frustratingly. Two scenes stick out to me at the end. Both having to edit in and out of simultaneous events. (Spoiler) The rescue scene was incredibly frustrating to watch for me. Even though I liked the Zero Dark Thirty feel about it, they completely milked that scene for everything it was worth. It went on for what felt like 10 minutes while Katniss and Snow faced off in a less than thrilling battle of wits, and by the end of what was supposed to be a suspenseful moment just didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I loved how it was shot, the tinges of red, the way the camera followed them and the stealth. And how many speeches did we get in that film? It felt like too many.

Despite all the disappointment I could not help but admire Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, who is only growing from strength to strength as her career goes on. Nevertheless I really started to miss the no nonsense Katniss we grew so fond of from the previous films as her infatuation with Peeta increased. I can’t tell if she’s truly in love with him or if she feels guilty for the situation he’s in. Either way it’s an interesting relationship and somewhat a larger focus of this film.

Mockingjay – Part 1 isn’t necessarily a bad film, it has strong performances, interesting narrative elements and brilliant shots. Nevertheless I don’t think it merited its own film and could have easily been condensed into 45 minutes. I could understand fans loving this film as it more or less stays true to the book, but I’d much rather watch a 3 hour Hunger Games film that sticks with me forever than a 2 hour film that I’m most likely going to forget. But I doubt the studios care, because they know people like me will still buy a ticket for next years Mockingjay – Part 2!

Paul Walker: The Binge

Paul Walker

Paul Walker (1973 – 2013)

“I live by ‘Go big or go home.’ That’s with everything. It’s like either commit and go for it or don’t do it at all. I apply that to everything. I apply that to relationships, I apply that to like sports, I apply that to everything. That’s what I live by. That’s how I like it.”

The last thing I expected to see on the news on a Sunday afternoon was the death of Fast & Furious star Paul Walker. I’m not usually a guy to get emotional about celebrity deaths but this was different. Getting news that the star of a film franchise, that I’ve watched countless times, died got to me a little as I sat back in silence for a few minutes. He intrigued me as an actor but I’ve put back watching his movies for quite a while now. There’s no lying that he may not have been the best actor during his earlier years but as the Fast & Furious movies progressed he seemed to grow drastically and matured into a solid actor. As a tribute to his career and the famous film franchise he has left behind, I shall finally watch his films!

Scared (Roze-Rating: 4 / 5)

And I thought Fast 6 was relentless. In this gangster flick we see Paul Walker caught in the middle of a series of fuck ups. It may not attempt to do anything emotionally substantial but what it does do is provide us with almost two hours of cussing, blood and commotion. It may not sound appealing but to anyone who likes the combination of gratuitous violence and gangster warfare then this may be the perfect film to curl up with your girlfriend to, providing she’s into that. Paul Walker puts it all out there with probably his best performance in film, he shouts “fuck” numerous times, lays in his own blood and even drives his car recklessly (for any fast and furious fans), the whole package right there. What this film does do in substance is show us that the world is a messed up place filled with sick people, for every good deed could lead to a bad one, who can we trust really? Its style may annoy you as the editing is fast paced but it may just intrigue you as it did me, hitting home that chaotic tone you get from start till finish. You may not remember it for long but when someone asks you “do you know any fucked up films which will make me cynical of the world but make me laugh at it at the same time?” then Running Scared will come to mind.

Eight Below – (Roze-Rating: 4 / 5)

When we see a movie associated with Disney we already know a few things about the film, it’s going to be inspiring, emotional and cute. Those assumptions were true for this film. It wasn’t cute in a sickly way; I mean would you look at those dogs. Paul Walker is a guide for a base located in Antarctica which involves taking care of eight sled dogs who ultimately become stars of the film as well. What I like about this film is that it’s as much of a survival story of eight dogs as it is a sad story of loss and loyalty for Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker). This film proves that dogs surprisingly can act, they may not be aware of it but as a group they illustrated many human emotions. Their survival story is just as good as any as they show loyalty to each other and grief when tragedy hits. At the end of the day there wasn’t much to the rescue not like the first third of the film where we’re exposed to the extreme conditions of Antarctica and just how unforgiving the barren land is. It’s the fact that Shepard is determined to attempt a rescue because he feels he owes that to the dogs. Even animals can create that bond with humans. It’s quite a heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and persistence for both man and his best friend.

Takers – (Roze-Rating: 2.5 / 5)

Walker stars alongside an ensemble cast in this cops and robbers thriller. With the likes of Paul Walker, Idris Elba, T.I., Chris Brown, Hayden Christensen and Michael Eely as the robbers and Matt Dillon as your over working cop, it sure is a star studded cast for the audience to enjoy. Takers is a completely by the books film as they take the most clichéd formula from the heist genre. It had so much promise at the start but fizzled out into a film with no heart. The problem is that it’s too ambitious for its own good but too scared to take risks, as we see reused idea’s from other films living up to its name “Takers”. We have an Ocean’s 11 team (who have the same taste in personal vehicles as the modern Italian job crew), a divorced cop (hasn’t taken the memo and still works too hard), a matrix dive and a Mexican standoff; hardly original. What this film says to me is that they had a concept then wrote a script as fast as they could because what started off so well ended up being so bad. The opening scenes are brilliant as we are taken through what seems like a standard heist for this crew, they’re smart about their entrance, collected during their robbery and slick with their exit; more of that please. Then we get to learn more about the characters, we see them draped in the best suits money can buy obviously addicted to their materialism which is probably what got them into the heist game in the first place. when Dillon gets close to the team’s next heist, that’s where things get interesting, the goose chase is engaging but its final act isn’t. We’re hit with slow mo sequences dubbed with dramatic music, what’s meant to be emotional isn’t. There’s no good reason for what’s happening therefore nothing comes of it. At least it holds a few positives like the opening heist and Brown’s on foot chase, filmed terribly mind you but it was exciting none the less. Unfortunately films aren’t viewed for its potential but for the execution and sadly it wasn’t executed well enough.

Fast Five – (Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5)

It definitely takes a different angle of the franchise, remolding it into a full on heist film. Fast Five is a lot louder, thrilling and action packed compared to its predecessors making it possibly the best of the series;  just as it was about to become boring. Despite the relentless action, I felt it became too much in the end. Ultimately all I can remember is loads of music and not much dialogue. Sometimes it’s good, but in this case, whenever there was dialogue it was incredibly cheesy and cliché, which didn’t give the action justice. Even though it was let down in that aspect of the film, the cast were still solid as usual exuding badassery. Seeing members from previous films teaming up was awesome to see, definitely a lot of fun.

Into The Blue – (Roze-Rating: 3 / 5)

Into The Blue takes us into the unknown where mistakes are unforgiving but if treated with respect can be hugely rewarding. With a large interest in marine biology, Walker tackles another one of his passion projects on the big screen. Filled with under water sequences and breathtaking scenery it’s definitely not an ugly movie especially when Jessica Alba is in the shot. It may not be your typical treasure hunter film as it doesn’t capture adventure like your classic Indiana Jones films but it does take you to the bottom of the sea where most of us have never been and that alone is engaging enough. If you’re like me and have a fear of sharks and think drowning is the worst possible way to die then you’ll be holding your breathe involuntary throughout this film as the underwater scenes immerse you into their world. That alone makes this a film worth watching for a Saturday night at home. It has a decent plot, decent cast and decent antagonists, it’s not the best film but it’s not the worst. We’re given likeable characters to root for which is enough as the script is quite thin, I guess what it misses is more excitement when their out of the water but then again hunting for treasure is repetitive and in reality isn’t as exciting as it may seem.

Varsity Blues – (Roze-Rating: 4 / 5)

If you want a slice of America then you can definitely find it here. This film screams USA! USA! USA!, because nothing is more American than football! Varsity Blues is clichéd, cheesy and tastefully rude as we’re given an insight to your average football town and their team the West Canaan Coyotes. It may not have the most original characters but it doesn’t fail to pump you up when intended and I don’t even know anything about American football, I’ll be honest I don’t even like it, but what I do respect is that it sure can make a nail biting film. This film is like a combination of Dazed & Confused and The Longest Yard (only other American Football film I’ve seen) as it captures both the antics on and off the field. In Varsity Blues case the antics off the field are a hell of a lot more enjoyable than being abused by their old school coach on it. What I like about the film is that the football players aren’t your stereotypical jocks, they get over the top treatment but they aren’t complete jackass’s, in fact they’re extremely likeable and worth rooting for. It’s a film about the pressure put on varsity players, their treated as kings and put on a pedestal. They end up becoming misguided and when football is taken away from them, they don’t know what’s next. I’ve always been aware of the sporting culture in America and I think it’s great but at high school level, a kids gotta’ have fun and this film captures a bit of that message. Only to schools with shitty coaches that is. Paul Walker doesn’t have the main role but it’s a film he can be proud of playing the eventually injured quarter back star.