Hunger Games: Mockingjay – part 2 review

There’s an anecdote Elijah Wood tells about how Jack Nicholson walked out of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King because he thought it had ended – and that there were too many endings. In some ways it feels like Mockingjay – Part 2 has taken a leaf out of LOTR’s playbook, either in terms of stretching something into two when it really should have remained as one, or by attempting to milk the ending of Part 2 for all it’s worth. Either way, I didn’t buy it.

That’s not to say the actors didn’t sell it. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss remains as watchable as ever (I’ve been a huge fan since Winter’s Bone days), it’s just, structurally, it didn’t grab me. Is this a case of sticking too slavishly to the books? (I can’t say as I haven’t read them.) Or is it a case – as is the way with a lot of Hollywood blockbusters – in that you have a great idea and characters, you set them up nicely then have no idea how to finish it in a satisfying way?

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That’s the hard part. Endings.

Beginnings are easy, that’s like a honeymoon, an affair, or even a steamy fling. It’s all lusty and shiny and new and exciting. But once you’ve had a chance to live with these characters a bit and get to know them, do you then stick around? Do you care enough to want to stick around?

The other issue is, if you build up a big franchise with global appeal (as Hunger Games has done) you set yourself a huge benchmark. People expect big, dramatic, heartbreaking things. If you don’t give them that they feel short-changed. And it’s not overly critical to say Mockingjay – Part 2 does pinch on pennies in certain places when it comes to evoking our emotions.

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Let’s take the general plot. Leader of the rebels President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants Katniss to hang back during the final battle with President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to wheel her out for a victory lap and as you’d expect, she doesn’t follow orders. Her team – complete with Finnick (Sam Claflin), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) – infiltrate Snow’s district in a sort of drawn out surgical strike. To hold them back Snow gets the gamemakers to set traps, turning the Capitol into its own Hunger Games.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Turning the Capitol into a booby-trapped minefield sounds great on paper. Plenty of ways for the characters to interact with the cityscape, perhaps with Snow taunting them on monitors and screens and finding ever more inventive ways for the rebels to wish him dead. Instead, what we get is a rather lethargic series of set pieces (with the exception of a sequence underground) where Katniss and the gang evade the traps and sleep quite a lot (honestly, count the number of naps they take, it kills the film’s pace).

Perhaps it’s the difficult (and uneccessary) second album syndrome kicking in? Here’s an idea, take all the best bits of Mockingjay parts 1 and 2 and put them into a tight final story and it probably would have had a lot of emotional impact and been a roller-coaster of a finish to the franchise. But here it feels more a case of characters fading away than burning out.

And when Coin finally does seize power from Snow, even the most wooden-headed viewer can tell what’s going to happen to her. Then, coming full circle, there’s the end. Seriously, how many times do you need to end a film? It probably should have finished on an emotionally harrowing note (let’s face it, the franchise has gotten more serious and po-faced as it’s gone on) but instead director Francis Lawrence opts for lashings of cheese come the finish. Which really wasn’t needed. And, if anything, further served to put me off.

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So as a result, for me, if I take the franchise as a whole, it started well enough but petered out as it went on, which is a shame to have to say. And whilst I’m not saying one man could have saved it, I think it suffered a lot from the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – an actor who could do more with a wry smile and a nod than most of the rest of the cast put together.

There’s talk of the studio doing a prequel. I hope they don’t bother with the young cast and instead just focus of President Snow: The Early Years. His rise to power could be something. And who doesn’t love a bad guy with snowy white beard and a little chuckle? Perhaps he started life good and slowly became corrupted by the world around him? I’d watch that.

Still Alice… Still sad, sorrowful Julianne Moore

I haven’t seen Still Alice yet but I appreciate Julianne Moore’s performance is meant to be quietly brilliant. It’s won her a Best Actress Oscar, so it should be.

And you have to hand it to her, no one does sad, sorrowful and full to the brim with pain and anguish quite like Julianne Moore. The film poster for Still Alice is masterful in its simplicity and use of vibrant colours to contrast Moore’s expression.

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Looking at her filmography, she took supporting parts for years across a number of different genres. Maybe she has now, in recent years, found her niche?

This may sound like a rant, of sorts. But it’s really not. I’m a fan. But now she’s got the Oscar for sad, why not mix it up? I’d love to see happy, feisty, aggressive, bitchy and bad ass Julianne Moore. I’m sure she’s got those qualities in her locker.

So how about it Julianne, fancy embracing a new career direction?

Oscars 2015: As the dust settles

So that’s the Oscars done for another year. Were they everything you expected? Did the actors and films you’d hope get recognition actually get it? And, more importantly, does it all even matter?

In answer to the last question, probably not, but industry acclaim is often (but not always) indicative of a job well done. And who wouldn’t want a big shiny award for their efforts?

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This year it seems Grand Budapest Hotel cleaned up (production design, best score, costume design, makeup and hair). As did Birdman (picture, director, original screenplay, cinematography) and Whiplash (supporting actor, film editing, sound mixing).

Eddie Redmayne took Best Actor for The Theory of Everything and Julianne Moore Best Actress for Still Alice.

So, were these all worthy winners? Were any overlooked or snubbed?

Yes, yes and yes.

There’s always going to be unhappy people come awards season, but I think Birdman perhaps did a little too well – although it does seem typical Oscar material. Last year my film of the year was Nightcrawler, which got barely a look-in, although it got a nomination for Original Screenplay and it would have been nice to see it beat Birdman, but this was a tough category and all entries there were outstanding ones.

Talking of tough categories, Best Actress was apparently a shoo-in for Julianne Moore for Still Alice. I’ve not seen the film yet but it sounds very ‘Oscar worthy’ in terms of the material and her performance. Literally all of the other nominees could have won in my book, they all were fantastic (Rosumund Pike – Gone Girl, Reese Witherspoon – Wild, Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night).

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I’m pleased Redmayne took Best Actor. His performance was truly astonishing and a thoroughly affecting one as Stephen Hawking, edging out Keaton’s washed up actor trying to reinvent his career in Birdman. And out of a category with five nominated, two were Brits (the other being Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game) which was pleasing to see.

Given the experimental nature of Boyhood or the electric performances in Whiplash it would have been nice to see either take Best Picture, but losing out to Birdman is something I can grudgingly accept with a ‘well played, sir’.

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Best Supporting Actress went to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. Now I haven’t seen the film but I’d have really liked to see Kiera Knightley take this category for her underrated performance in The Imitation Game, or perhaps Laura Dern for her tender one in Wild.

I could go on and on, but let’s stop there. To sum up, not a bad list of winners. Not too many surprises or upsets. There’s some I would have preferred to win over others, but I’m not too cut up about it all.

What was your reaction to this year’s winners and losers?

Oh, and a final note, The Lego Movie should have won for Best Original Song. In that respect, everything is not awesome.

Until next year.

An ode to redheads

“All the action adventure girls have red hair,” he said. “Whenever it is an independent girl, not a sidekick person, when she has her own mind or does as good as the guys, she has red hair.” ― Marion Roach, Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair

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Ah… the elusive redhead. What started this love affair?

They draw me in like a moth to a flame. It’s not just me either. Do a quick online search and you’ll find loads of forums and articles discussing the appeal of these exotic beauties.

Perhaps it’s the fact that red hair, genuine red hair, is vary rare. In fact it only occurs in 1-2% of the world’s population (4% in Europe and 13% of the Scottish population, those lucky devils).

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There’s also the common belief that redheads are fiery, exotic and passionate: a study was even done in the 19th century which concluded that red hair was linked to ‘crimes of lust’. And speaking of lust, onto my list of ladies I consider to be flying the flag for the flame-haired minority.

With this list, some are genuine redheads – god bless ’em – and others have adopted the look on pretty much a permanent basis; perhaps for a character which put them on the map or simply to further their careers.

Amy Adams
I first saw this lady in Catch Me If You Can  as nurse Brenda Strong, opposite DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. Since that point her career has skyrocketed, with about 2-3 films a year for the last few years, including playing Lois Lane in Man Of Steel and, most recently, teasing and seducing Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper’s characters in American Hustle.


Jessica Chastain
Take Shelter in 2011 launched Chastain’s career onto the A-list. That year she also turned up in The Help, The Tree Of Life and Coriolanus. Not bad. Then followed this in 2012 with the role she’s best known for, Maya, in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. This led film critic Richard Roeper to describe her as ‘one of the finest actors of her generation.’


Christina Hendricks
We all know her as Joan Harris from Mad Men (2007-2014). She’d had a few years knocking around in TV until that point, but this put her emphatically on the map. If Jessica Rabbit were real, she’d be Joan. Each day thousands of men must curse and cheer the fact that Joan doesn’t stalk around their office. Let’s face it, you’d get no work done at all, would you?


Deborah Ann Woll
Sweet little Jessica Hamby. At least, she was when she started out in True Blood (2008-2014), then slowly became more vamp-y with each season, yet retained the best qualities from her human life: compassion, empathy, vulnerability, love. She just added seduction, sex appeal, lust and animalistic hunger to the mix. One of my favourite characters from the show.


Julianne Moore
Nominated for four academy awards and with an impressive filmography, Moore is the thinking man’s redhead. That’s not to say she’s not sexy as hell too (see Chloe). With a career that started in 1984 it’s fair to say she’s had ups and downs. The ups, though, have been worth it; Boogie Nights, The End Of The Affair, Magnolia, Far From Heaven, The Hours, Children Of Men, A Single Man, The Kids Are All Right, Crazy Stupid Love… and many more.