Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mockingjay: Part One

WARNING: There might be some slight spoilers in this review. They'll definitely be MAJOR spoilers if you haven't already seen Catching Fire.

Going into this movie, I was extremely nervous. Having read all three books, Mockingjay was my least favorite. Thankfully the movie version (so far) was amazing.

Mockingjay takes place just days after the events of Catching Fire. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and company find themselves in the (long thought to be destroyed) District 13 after the Capitol wiped out District 12 in response to her actions in the 75th Hunger Games. She meets the President of District 13- Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who wants Katniss to become the symbol of the revolution... the Mockingjay. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Director Francis Lawrence is back and once again I must thank him for not using shaky cam. Here, he really improves upon the book. The books are entirely told from Katniss's point of view which is fine but doesn't exactly translate well to the screen. So what he's done with the Mockingjay movie is show you, in addition to what's going on with Katniss, the events in the Capitol with President Snow as well as the rebellion in the Districts. You really feel like you're there going through these horrific events along with the rest of the citizens. I also loved the whole look of District 13. It was pretty much exactly how I pictured it while reading the book. If I had anything "negative" to say about the movie it would be that at times it was filmed way too dark. I understand what the director was doing (a majority of the movie takes place in District 13, an underground community) but in certain scenes it was hard to tell what was going on.

The cast has always been incredible and they seem to be getting better with each passing film. Jennifer Lawrence has quickly become one of my favorite actresses. I can't imagine anyone else playing Katniss. You believe her in this as someone suffering from major PTSD who reluctantly becomes the face of the rebellion.

Josh Hutcherson really isn't in the movie all that much- his character Peeta was captured by the Capitol at the end of Catching Fire and is now being tortured and used as a weapon in order to demoralize Katniss. But when he is in a scene it's absolutely heartbreaking to watch him deteriorate both physically and mentally.

Gale (Liam Hemsworth) now has a significantly larger role than he did in the first two movies. Liam was very good. However, there were just a few moments where I felt his dialog was a little cringe worthy.

I also loved seeing Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) again. They're two of my favorite characters in the series. Haymitch provides some much needed humor. Not that there's a whole lot of that here.

I'm sure some of you are curious as to what changes they made from the book. It's been a while since I've read it, but from what I remember, Francis Lawrence has done a very good job being as faithful to the book as he possibly can. Of course, there are a few differences which I've already mentioned. There's also some other changes that I felt were a welcome addition. Sorry, I won't spoil those for you.

James Newton Howard is back as the composer and once again he provides us with a beautiful, haunting score featuring slightly different versions of music we've heard in the previous movies as well as new material. If I can ever get iTunes to work for me again I'll definitely be adding this score to my iPod.

I think some people (especially ones who have only seen the movies) will be put off by the fact that this is a VERY different movie than the first two. There's no Hunger Games. There's a few action sequences but it's mostly political talk, getting glimpses of the revolution, and setting things up for part two. Even though I'm not crazy about the trend (with the exception of the last Harry Potter), I can see why they split Mockingjay into two movies. Could it have been done in one? Sure. But I'm glad they're taking their time and not rushing through it.

So how does Mockingjay: Part One compare to the first two movies? Well... I liked it better than Hunger Games, but not quite as much as Catching Fire. Still, it was a great movie and I'm really looking forward to part two.

My Rating: 9/10

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Interstellar (IMAX)

I've been looking forward to this movie ever since it first came out. Christopher Nolan is one of my all time favorite directors. I've seen just about every one of his movies. Interstellar is, by far, his most ambitious movie to date. I'm happy to say that, overall, he succeeded.

The movie takes place some time in the not so distant future. Earth is dying and looks like one big dust bowl. They never really tell you how it got that way which I was okay with. I don't need everything spelled out for me. It tells the story of former NASA pilot Cooper/Coop (Matthew McConaughey) who's now a widowed father working as a farmer. He's recruited to pilot a ship called Endurance in order to, along with explorers Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), and Romilly (David Gyasi), find another planet that can sustain life.

Interstellar is a movie that is meant to be seen on an IMAX screen. The cinematography and visual effects are beautiful and jaw dropping. Seeing it in IMAX really made me feel like I was on the Endurance and exploring all these new planets.

It's a big, epic science fiction movie, but at the heart of it Christopher Nolan has told an intimate story about the relationship between a father and daughter. That was definitely my favorite thing about this. Matthew McConaughey is amazing in his role. You really feel the pain, determination, and anguish that his character is going through. It helps that he's also a father in real life. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm so happy that his career is finally going in the right direction. He is truly an incredible actor.

However, as much as I wanted this movie to be perfect, it does have a few flaws. I felt like the editing could've been a little tighter in spots. That being said, even though the movie is almost three hours long, I was never bored.

The other thing was, and this really isn't a big complaint, the last 20-30 minutes had me thinking, "Okay Nolan, I have no problem suspending my disbelief but you're really pushing it here." I wish I could elaborate further but then I would be spoiling too much.

Interstellar is one of those movies that people are either going to love or hate with very few in between. I really hope you all give it a chance. It's an incredible experience that you rarely get at a movie theater these days. I can't wait to see what Christopher Nolan does next.

My Rating: 9/10