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

by     Posted 26 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.]

A MOST WANTED MAN Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 27 days ago

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A Checkan Muslim named Grigoriy Dobrygin (Issa Karpov) illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where we learn from an opening card was once the home of several 9/11 masterminds.  The city has become especially vigilant since its worldwide embarrassment at having been seemingly unaware that a handful of the most dangerous terrorists alive were operating in its own backyard.  Dobrygin gets the attention of Gunther Bachmann (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who runs an anti-terrorist unit in Germany (think of him as an out-of-shape Jack Bauer who doesn’t run, fight or torture people).  What follows is a psychological cat-and-mouse game wrapped in political red-tape to find out if Dobrigyin has ties to larger terrorist organizations.  Hit the jump for my Blu-ray review of A Most Wanted Man.

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

by     Posted 30 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.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Review

by     Posted 31 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.

Peeta Sends a Message in the Latest THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 TV Spot

by     Posted 51 days ago

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President Snow (Donald Sutherland) snatched Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) out of the arena at the end of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire for a reason.  He’s got big plans for the Boy with the Bread and thanks to this latest TV spot, we’re getting an extended look at them.  While Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are busy prepping Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) to lead the rebellion, Snow is using Peeta to destroy it.

Hit the jump to catch Peeta’s message to his co-74th Hunger Games victor and everyone else defying The Capitol in the latest The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 TV spot.  The film is due in theaters on November 21st and also stars Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin and Jena Malone.

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

by     Posted 54 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.

Steve Coogan to Replace Philip Seymour Hoffman in Showtime Comedy Series HAPPYISH

by     Posted 60 days ago

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Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s death left a gaping void in the acting world, and there are so many more roles it would have been wonderful to see him tackle.  Among his planned projects was Happyish, a 10-episode half-hour comedy series for Showtime created, written, and executive produced by This American Life contributor Shalom Auslander (who also wrote the terrific book Foreskin’s Lament).  The series is described as “a soul-searching examination of our pursuit of happiness, a pursuit that might just be the very thing causing our unhappiness in the first place.”

The project was in stasis following Hoffman’s death, but Showtime has decided to move forward by casting Steve Coogan in the lead role of “Thom Payne, a 44 year-old man whose world is thrown into disarray when his 25 year-old “wunderkind” boss arrives, saying things like ‘digital,’ ‘social’ and ‘viral.’” The series was also set to star Kathryn Hahn and Rhys Ifans, but there’s no mention of them in the press release, so it’s possible that their roles—Thom’s wife and his mentor—are being re-cast.  Hit the jump for the press release.  The half-hour pilot will be shot in New York in December.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 TV Spot Contains New Footage of Katniss Refusing to Give up the Fight

by     Posted 61 days ago

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Lionsgate has released a new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 TV spot, which contains fresh footage from the upcoming blockbuster.  The film finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) at the forefront of the rebellion in Panem while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) are held captive in the Capitol.  We’ve had some huge hits this year, but I’m still putting my money on The Girl on Fire for winning the 2014 box office race, especially since this looks like the biggest Hunger Games movie yet.

Hit the jump to check out the new TV spot.  The film also stars Liam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour HoffmanElizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and Donald SutherlandThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens on November 21st.

The Rebellion Continues with 19 New Images from THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1

by     Posted 66 days ago

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Last night, we got a new teaser trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, and now we have more images from the upcoming film.  The film finds 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.  These new images give us a look not only at our main heroes, but also new supporting characters Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Pollux (Elden Henson), Messalla (Evan Ross), and Castor (Wes Chatham).

Hit the jump to check out the new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 images.  The film also stars Liam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour HoffmanElizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and Donald SutherlandThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens on November 21st.

The Rebellion Takes Flight in Full-Length THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Trailer

by     Posted 97 days ago

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Lionsgate has released the full-length The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer for the first half of director Francis Lawrence’s conclusion to the Hunger Games franchise.  The film finds 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.  Francis Lawrence surprised the hell out of me with Catching Fire, which I thought was hands-down the best “tentpole” film of last year, and so I have high hopes for his adaptation of Mockingjay (the weakest book of the trilogy).  What strikes me most about this trailer is that the film appears to be in the vein of an action pic, whereas Catching Fire was more of a thriller and the first film was essentially a survival movie.  District 13 isn’t exactly a cinematic location and there’s a lot of bunker-set scenes in the book, so I’m very curious to see what changes have been made in the feature film adaptation.  The pic looks rather epic in scope, and I imagine Mockingjay – Part 1 will be the most intense and largest scale entry in the franchise yet.  Hold on to your butts.

Hit the jump to watch the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 trailer.  The film also stars Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, and Donald SutherlandThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st.

New THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Posters Focus on the Revolutionaries of District 13

by     Posted 135 days ago

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Lionsgate has released new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 posters focusing on key members of the resistance in their home base, District 13: President Coin (Julianne Moore), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Effie (Elizabeth Banks), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson).  I like these character posters because while these are the members of the resistance, they’re also behind cold, grey walls.  It’s a signal that while the resistance has a headquarters, they don’t have a sanctuary.

Hit the jump to check out the hi-res The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 posters.  The film opens November 21st, and also stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland.

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

by     Posted 147 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.

Weekend Box Office: LUCY Shines with $44 Million; HERCULES Takes Second with $29 Million

by     Posted 147 days ago

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2014’s summer box office got a rare ray of sunshine this weekend thanks to Lucy.  The sci-fi/action pic easily claimed first place with an estimated $44 million from 3,173 locations – the highest debut for star Scarlett Johansson outside of her Marvel Universe appearances.   Hercules had to settle for a second place, though the action/adventure’s estimated $29 million from 3,595 locations also beat expectations.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  Lucy $44,025,000 $44
2.  Hercules $29,000,000 $29
3.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes $16,400,000 $172
4.  The Purge: Anarchy $9,896,000 $51.2
5.  Planes: Fire & Rescue $9,303,000 $35.1
6.  Sex Tape $5,975,000 $26.8
7.  Transformers: Age of Extinction $4,600,000 $236.3
8.  And So It Goes $4,552,000 $4.5
9.  Tammy $3,400,000 $78.1
10.  A Most Wanted Man $2,717,000 $2.7

 

Full story after the jump.

A MOST WANTED MAN Review

by     Posted 149 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my A Most Wanted Man review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The film opens in limited release this weekend.]

The spy thriller genre—like all genres—has its fair share of tropes and clichés.  The best entries are ones that take the foundation of the genre and expand upon it or put a new spin on the material.  Director Anton Corbijn’s latest film, A Most Wanted Man, is a solid and sharply smart entry into the spy genre that manages to explore dark characters and difficult topics while foregoing the typical action-heavy formula, sidestepping audience expectations in the process.  This is not a film that takes shortcuts just to make its audience happy, and though the final results may not delve as deep into some of its themes as one would expect, A Most Wanted Man still manages to be an involving, tense, and slow-burn thriller.  Read my full review after the jump.

First Images from THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 Featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and Woody Harrelson, Plus a Motion Poster

by     Posted 220 days ago

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Lionsgate has released the first images from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 along with a motion poster for the film.  All the media comes courtesy of their new website, which will give fans access to the making of the movie, including first-look images, behind-the-scenes looks, and an interactive sneak peek at a page from the film’s script.  In addition to the first images and a new motion poster, we’ve also shared the first look at Julianne Moore’s President Alma Coin and a video commentary from Moore about all things Mockingjay.

Hit the jump for the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 images and motion poster.  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland star in the sequel directed by Francis Lawrence.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opens November 21.

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