Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" On Fire

By Darlene Donloe

“Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us.” ---Katniss Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen is back in action in one the year’s most anticipated films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

The first Hunger Games film generated nearly $700 million at the worldwide box office. The second film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was the #1 domestic film of 2013 and the 10th highest-grossing North American release of all time, grossing over $860 million around the world and bringing the combined global box office of the first two films to over $1.5 billion.

In the last Hunger Games installment, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) literally shattered the games forever.  In the latest film she is back in District 13.

Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation, which continues to hold her in high esteem.  Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) is Coin’s key strategist.

Part of the strategy is for Katniss to become to face of the revolution by making a series of PSAs. The sequences showing Katniss in the process of making the public service announcements bring some levity to the dark drama.

The story begins again as Katniss has just been rescued from the destruction of the Quarter Quell. She awakens in a shocking world she didn’t even know existed: the dark underground of a supposed annihilated District 13.  Unfortunately she soon learns that District 12 has been destroyed and that Peeta is being held, manipulated and brainwashed by President Snow in The Capitol.

This time around there are no actual games. There is still some action. There are moments of bang, bang, shoot ‘em up, but nothing the caliber of the first two installments.
That means this film has to rely on the story and the performances.  There are moments that drag, but the film is still full of energy. 

Strong performances buoy the film. The ending, of course, is designed to make the audience drool in anticipation.

Whether or not it was a good decision to split the final chapter in two will not be known until the next installment.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, directed by Francis Lawrence with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 gets an O (oh, yeah).

Running time: 123 minutes; Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

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