Book to Screen: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Is Better than the Book

by     Posted 24 days ago

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If you’ve read the third book of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, you’re well aware that Mockingjay has problems and is undoubtedly the most difficult book of the series to bring to screen.  Whereas The Hunger Games and Catching Fire had the benefit of following the clear-cut chain of events involved in the Hunger Games, Mockingjay is more of a free-for-all.  Katniss is holed up in District 13, the Hunger Games are a thing of the past and now it’s just about the rebels trying to figure out how to get an edge on President Snow and the Capitol.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that narrative, but for folks who’ve enjoyed the spectacle and structure of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay could be a serious adjustment.

The same is true of the first half of Francis Lawrence’s big screen rendition, but it’s an adjustment worth making.  Minus the familiar faces and settings, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 bears little resemblance to its predecessors, but Lawrence and co. made a number of changes that make the film version far more accessible than the book.  [Please Note: This article contains spoilers for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, but there is no discussion of what’s to come in Part 2.]

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 – What Did You Think?

by     Posted 28 days ago

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The time has come.  What’s bound to be the highest earner of 2014 is now in theaters.  As someone who’s very familiar with Suzanne Collins’ source material and has read Mockingjay quite a few times, I’ve been well aware that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was going to be the biggest challenge of the film franchise.  Yes, the book has problems, but even if the scribes behind the Mockingjay movies fix them – and I think they did fix quite a few – the fact that Mockingjay – Part 1 is such a departure from the original two films could still be a problem for many.

You can catch Matt’s full review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 right here, but we’d also like to know what you think about the movie, too.  Did you like the change of tone and pace?  Did it leave you eager to see Mockingjay – Part 2?  Sound off in the comments after the jump.

Director Francis Lawrence Talks THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – Part 1, Deleted Scenes, the Lack of IMAX, the Batman vs. Superman Logo in I AM LEGEND, and More

by     Posted 29 days ago

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Opening this weekend is director Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.  In the next installment, we find Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) at the forefront of the rebellion in District 13 while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) are held captive in the Capitol.  Unlike the last two films which focused on surviving the games, Mockingjay – Part 1 is about the rebellion spreading throughout Panem and the way both sides play the media to gain the upper hand.  It’s an extremely well done movie and fans of the franchise will not be disappointed.  Joining the cast are Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Pollux (Elden Henson), Messalla (Evan Ross), and Castor (Wes Chatham) alongside Liam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth BanksSam Claflin, and Donald Sutherland.

A few days ago in New York City I landed a great video interview with Francis Lawrence.  During our extended conversation he talked about editing Mockingjay – Part 1, deciding the right place to end the film, deleted scenes, the possibility of linking up Part 1 and 2 for a marathon-style fan screening, why he didn’t use IMAX on Mockingjay, the status of Mockingjay – Part 2, and so much more.  In addition, Lawrence talked about the Batman vs. Superman Easter egg in I Am Legend and how the logo is very close to what WB is using for Batman v Superman, if he has has any interest in doing another comic book movie, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Review

by     Posted 29 days ago

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Although Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is ostensibly the heroine of the Hunger Games saga, the story has developed to where she’s no longer in the mold of a traditional protagonist.  She began that way in the first movie, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire started to push her to the background as she became part of a much larger conflict rather than its leader.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 continues this shift to the point where it barely resembles the first two pictures as the true story of the latest installment isn’t Katniss’ journey, but the revolution that’s consumed her and the rest of Panem.  She’s still an integral part and the focus of the narrative, but director Francis Lawrence has expanded the social commentary far beyond the first film, and put it squarely on how media can be used to control or inspire in the true battle for hearts and minds.  Although the movie is eventually weighted down by the business requirement of splitting the final book into two movies, and Katniss still becomes a puddle of tears when the melodramatic love story surfaces, Mockingjay remains a fascinating and dark development in this unique franchise.

Watch THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 NYC Press Conference with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Dormer, and More

by     Posted 33 days ago

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Yesterday in New York City, I got to attend The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 press conference with Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Julianne Moore (President Coin), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair), Mahershala Ali(Boggs), Natalie Dormer (Cressida), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), director Francis Lawrence, and producer Nina Jacobson.  While I typically find press conferences with this many people less than an ideal way to ask questions about a movie, I’ll admit the event turned out great.  That’s mostly because of Jennifer Lawrence.  While Lawrence’s massive success could have transformed her easy going persona into someone difficult to work with, as you watch the press conference you’ll see someone who is still amazed and thankful for her success, and she always has a fun answer.

During the press conference everyone is asked and answers questions about the making of the movie, challenging scenes, how they wish they were more like their characters, what it’s like losing their anonymity, and so much more.  If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games, you’ll definitely want to watch this.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens next weekend.  Look for some exclusive interviews on the site later this week.

Final THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Trailer Promises Massive Scope, Dire Consequences

by     Posted 51 days ago

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Lionsgate has released the final The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer for the upcoming event film.  Directed by Catching Fire helmer Francis Lawrence, the film finds Panem’s Capitol fighting an all-out revolution, as Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss prepares for battle in District 13 following the destruction of her home, District 12.  The scope of this thing looks absolutely massive, and while it should be fun to see what Francis Lawrence does with a larger canvas, I do hope that the film maintains the strong character-centric focus that made Catching Fire so satisfying.  Catastrophe and “trailer shots” are neat, but we see countless quantities of them year-round; what the Hunger Games franchise excels at is showcasing Jennifer Lawrence’s powerful lead performance and the camaraderie that surrounds her.  Fingers crossed that continues with Mockingjay.

Watch the final The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer after the jump.  The film also stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour HoffmanElizabeth Banks, Sam ClaflinJena Malone, and Donald Sutherland.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens on November 21st.

Director Francis Lawrence Ponders THE HUNGER GAMES Past MOCKINGJAY – PART 2; Reveals How They Handled Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Remaining Scenes

by     Posted 52 days ago

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It’s hard to let a good franchise perish.  Thankfully, the Harry Potter saga has come to a close but we’re going to continue into the Wizarding World with a completely separate story, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be a trilogy starting in 2016.  However, J.K. Rowling drew out a whole world with her books while The Hunger Games is really about a group of revolutionaries, and you certainly wouldn’t want to trudge around a totalitarian setting with no prospect for change.  And if you set it after Mockingjay – Part 2, then Katniss continues to loom over everything as opposed to Fantastic Beasts, which is set in America 70 years before Harry Potter.

So how would someone continue The Hunger Games series past Mockingjay – Part 2, which is due out next year?  Director Francis Lawrence pondered that question, and didn’t have a clear-cut answer.  Hit the jump for what he had to say, and also to learn how they handled the scenes they had yet to shoot when Philip Seymour Hoffman died.

New HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Image; Director Francis Lawrence Talks Changes from the Book and Adding “New Elements”

by     Posted 123 days ago

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One of the best surprises of last year, for me at least, was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  I wasn’t particularly high on the fact that Francis Lawrence was taking over as the director of the franchise, and I assumed the films would now take on a more commercialized, standard-studio-fare sheen.  It turns I was very, very wrong, as Catching Fire actually opened up the themes of the series, deepened the characters, and delivered one of most exciting cliffhanger endings a franchise film has seen in some time.  Lionsgate has now released a new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 image featuring star Jennifer Lawrence from the first half of the conclusion to this series, and along with the image come some interesting comments from Francis Lawrence about how the franchise will be wrapping up.

Lawrence says that while Mockingjay – Part 1 has a tonal shift from the previous films, there won’t be any major book changes.  Instead, Lawrence and his creative team have actually come up with a number of “new elements” to add to the film.  Hit the jump to check out the new image and to see what Lawrence has to say about alterations made to Mockingjay – Part 1 and how he approached splitting the final book into two films.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Teaser Trailer Hints at the Battle to Come

by     Posted 145 days ago

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Lionsgate has released the first teaser trailer for the first half of the conclusion to the Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, directed by Francis Lawrence.  Since the teaser trailer is only a minute, Lionsgate has wisely chosen to let the visuals and minimal dialogue set the stage at the battle to come.  I especially enjoyed seeing Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) discussing Katniss’ purpose in the rebellion.  Plutarch insists, “Listen to me.  No one else can do this, but her.”  Coin disagrees.  “She won’t be able to handle it.  The games destroyed her.”  Shortly after their scene we get a glimpse of Natalie Dormer as Cressida with her half shaved head as well as Liam Hemsworth looking serious as Gale.   Hit the jump to check it out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 also stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright,, and Donald Sutherland, and opens in theaters November 21st.  Watch the first The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer after the break.

New THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Teaser Trailer: President Snow’s “Unity” is Interrupted

by     Posted 163 days ago

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Lionsgate has released another The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 teaser trailer for director Francis Lawrence‘s penultimate chapter in the Hunger Games franchise.  The film finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) leading a revolution through the districts to resuce Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and bring down President Snow (Donald Sutherland) once and for all.

Hit the jump to watch the new teaser trailer.  The film also stars Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone, and Julianne MooreThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 271 days ago

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It’s hard not to be impressed by blockbusters right now.  2013’s top three films were The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Iron Man 3 and Frozen.  All good to great movies.  Catching Fire proved the most successful of the lot, grossing well over $400 million, and even outperformed the first film.  Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, who is forced to compete in a battle royale yet again in the savage Quarter Quell with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) at her side, and with her love Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) watching from a distance.  My The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Blu-ray review follows after the jump. 

TOP 5: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, OUT OF THE FURNACE Set Visit, Nolan Straps an IMAX Camera to a Learjet, DELIVERY MAN, NYMPHOMANIAC Trailer

by     Posted 1 year, 26 days ago

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Like many others I presume, I can reduce my yesterday down to one common denominator: waiting. Waiting for my Xbox One to arrive in the mail, waiting for the “Day One” update to wrap-up, waiting for Call of Duty: Ghosts to install to my hard drive, waiting for Ghosts‘ mandatory 1Gb update to complete. All told, it was about a two and a half hour process from the time my console arrived at my door until I was able to fire my first virtual shot. Although I’d be lying if I said the delays weren’t tedious, at the end of the day it was absolutely worth it. Microsoft’s next-gen console isn’t perfect, but its ambition and by-and-large its initial execution are pretty damn impressive. Controlling the console via voice commands with Kinect is way smoother than I expected it to be. Directing my satellite television via the console is a feature that I believe, when mastered, I’ll wonder how I ever lived without. And that seems to be the general idea of the Xbox One: to make you reconsider what a video game console can and should do. Even if all of the pieces aren’t in place yet to make it a “must have” (I expect a steady barrage of software updates in the coming days, weeks, months, etc.), I’m having too much fun with it right now to care.

My initial Xbox One impressions aside, this week’s Top 5 includes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire interviews with Jennifer Lawrence and more, Dave’s Out of the Furnace set visit recap, Christopher Nolan strapping an IMAX camera to a Learjet for Interstellar, Delivery Man interviews with Vince Vaughn and more, and a new trailer for Lars Von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac that you’ll likely only feel halfway guilty for watching. Per the drill, a brief recap and link to each of the above rests after the jump.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Review

by     Posted 1 year, 28 days ago

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Early in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland) reminds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) that the Hunger Games were just a game.  Her real fear should be a war that will rain down hell on all of the districts if she continues to be a symbol to the downtrodden.  To both its credit and its detriment, Francis Lawrence‘s sequel shares those values.  The fear and excitement has left the arena and spread to the streets, and returning to a different arena almost feels safe by comparison.  The adaptation is a slight improvement on the book (mostly by avoiding author Suzanne Collins‘ poor prose and stilted dialogue), but also has the same structural weakness of taking the characters to familiar confines albeit with different players and hazards.  Nevertheless, the central core of the story remains strong and skillfully eschews the traditional heroine in favor of a scared puppet who can only summon her strength in certain situations.  It’s a confined character that can’t take full advantage of its actress’ immense talent, but as the movie reminds us, sometimes sacrifice is necessary for the greater good.

Director Francis Lawrence Talks THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, Inheriting the Cast, Deleted Scenes, MOCKINGJAY Parts 1 and 2, and More

by     Posted 1 year, 30 days ago

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Opening this weekend in traditional theaters and IMAX is the sequel to The Hunger GamesCatching Fire.  Directed by Francis Lawrence, the film centers on President Snow (Donald Sutherland) trying to crush a budding rebellion that was ignited by Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) actions in the previous film, as the 75th Hunger Games (aka Quarter Quell) finds past victors competing against each other.  The sequel also stars Liam HemsworthJosh HutchersonJena MaloneSam Claflin, Elizabeth BanksWoody Harrelson, Philip Seymour HoffmanStanley TucciJeffrey Wright, and Amanda Plummer.

At the recent Los Angeles press day, I got to speak with Lawrence. He talked about inheriting the cast that Gary Ross assembled, whether he was nervous about making Catching Fire, the length of his assembly cut, deleted scenes, and the shooting schedule for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 (he reveals they’ve already shot five weeks on the sequels).  Hit the jump to watch.

Director Francis Lawrence Says THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Will Ditch Shaky Cam and Focus More on the Love Triangle

by     Posted 1 year, 72 days ago

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When the YA adaptation The Hunger Games opened in theaters last March to record-breaking box office, Lionsgate understandably was ready to movie quickly on feature film adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ two book sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  Director Gary Ross deserves a sizable amount of the credit for the first film’s success, but he wasn’t keen on rushing right into the next film without ample time to work on the script.  As such, Ross opted not to return as director, and Lionsgate quickly started the search for a replacement.  The studio subsequently settled on Water for Elephants and I Am Legend filmmaker Francis Lawrence, who signed on and got to work prepping The Hunger Games: Catching Fire straight away.

Not only is Lawrence currently gearing up for next month’s release of Catching Fire, but he’s already in production on the two-film finale The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.  Many have wondered what changes Lawrence may have made to the series with Catching Fire, and now the filmmaker has spoken up to address some of the issues he had with Ross’ first film.  Hit the jump to read on.

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