Archive for Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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The finale to the Hunger Games trilogy is, as has become the norm for huge franchises, the fourth film in this particular series of movies based on books. It picks up right after the end of Mockingjay Part 1, which lends the last two films to being watched back-to-back. This leads some to wonder, why not just release one film? It’ll work, there’ll be less bagginess. But money wins every time in Hollywood.

The film itself is serviceable, it does exactly what you expect it to, but it is based on the most difficult to visualise book in the series. It has been an interesting series; the first film is comparable to Battle Royale, the second and third are a bit more like Running Man or Rollerball. This fourth film is more like a Vietnam movie.

We’re back in the world of the downtrodden districts and the opulent Capitol that rules them. Only this time the districts are rallying together because of the actions of the Mockingjay, Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, whose actions have proven that people power can overcome tyranny

This is the big showdown that Katniss has wanted with Donald Sutherland’s President Snow since the opening of the first movie. But she doesn’t get it all her own way, the president of the district housing her and the rebels, Coin (Julianne Moore) doesn’t want Katniss to be on the front lines as she doesn’t play by the rules. But Katniss stows away  to the Capitol anyway because she wants the pleasure of killing Snow herself.

What follows involves some urban warfare action scenes mixed with the terrifying traps of the Hunger Games, including flamethrowers, machine guns and a tidal wave of an oil-like water that kills anything it touches. There is one great scene in the sewers where a hoard of mutant lizard-people are hunting the rebels which is as tense as it could possibly get for a 12A certified film. In fact, it was a bit of a rip off of Alien, in that there are a team of people with flame-throwing weapons being hunted by a monster through claustrophobic corridors.

The big emotional surprise in the book is almost glossed over, but then, maybe that’s because I knew it was coming. It just didn’t have the impact it did on the page.

The end of the film suffered from Lord of the Rings syndrome in that it had about three endings, luckily it didn’t drag on for half an hour but the final scene was syrupy sweet and felt at odds with the tone of the entire series, especially as I’m pretty sure the book didn’t end that way. It left a slightly bitter taste at the end of this set of films that has, until the last couple of minutes been so strong.

The film itself, as stated at the beginning of this review, is fine. It does what it needed to do in a way that made sense of the strangest book of the series. The feeling of mistrust of everyone was realised effectively, everyone did a fine job of acting and there were some really effective scenes. It just sagged in a few places, where it could have done with steam-rolling on. And there wasn’t enough Stanley Tucci.

The tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman was noticeable from the last part of the film, especially as he is replaced by a letter in what would have been his last scene, though it was poignant. Perhaps so much so that it pulls you out of what’s happening on-screen… just as it did to see him in his first scene right at the beginning of the movie.

Had it ended five minutes before it did, it would have been fine. As it is, being shorter – possibly even parts 1 and 2 could have been one film – and more consistent would have made it better, but it feels like it would still have been an anti-climax.

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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Hunger games fever hit the nation again as the latest instalment of the juggernaut franchise hit cinemas for the third time. Mockingjay – Part 1 is, obviously, the first part of the final book, which is roundly regarded as the weakest of the trilogy. However, the book warrants being split into two parts as it feels like two different novels smashed together.

Part 1 revolves around the build up of the revolution. As such, it is a very different film from either of the first two films. For a start, there is no Hunger Games, as it carries on directly from the end of the second film and the fallout from the actions of the contestants and the revelation that district 13 is alive and well and ready to launch a war against the Capitol.

The first Hunger Games film was a reflection on reality TV and how far it could go, much in the same way Battle Royale did in the 1990s, the second film expanded on this theme while also fleshing out the world in which the film was set. Mockingjay – Part 1 doesn’t really have to deal with too much of that, apart from giving you an insight into how the citizens of District 13 have survived and are thriving underground after being – seemingly – obliterated by the Captiol years ago.

The look of the subterranean bunker they live and work in is very utilitarian, grey and concrete and this is also extended to the uniforms everyone wears. Something Elizabeth Banks’ character, Effie Trinket (Katniss’ stylist who was ‘liberated’ from the Capitol), is  utterly bereft about, though she makes do with changing the style of her head scarf  which gets increasingly bizarre in every scene.

The tone of the movie is equally grey. It is a slow burner with a few scenes of action, rather than an out-and-out actioner like the previous films. Mockingjay – Part 1 focusses on the art of producing propaganda and how both the rebels and the Capitol use their films to attempt to win the hearts and moods of the citizens of the other districts. The rebels are, obviously, using Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) as their figurehead and it’s a struggle trying to get her to act or follow a script… or to even be likable. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), of the Capitol, uses Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to appeal to Katniss to stand down. Really, this film is a satire on how news media presents its bias to the public in an effort to sway their decisions – both for good and bad.

As stated, it is a slow burner with some big set pieces, but I wonder if its slower pace may turn off those who haven’t read the books and who are used to the fast-paced tension of the previous instalments. This is the muted calm before the storm that Mockingjay – Part 2 will inevitably be and, if you’ve not read the books, there are some real shocks coming up in the second part.

Mockingjay – Part 1 does what it needs to to get us through to the finale and has a brilliant central performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Liam Hemsworth has slightly more to do this time round and more is seen of the late and dearly missed Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Julianne Moore is introduced as President Coin, but doesn’t give a notable performance and there’s not a lot for Donald Sutherland to do, though it’s clear he’s relishing playing the pantomime villain. Equally, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are marginalised and there’s no showing for Toby Jones this time, which is a shame. But the film is called Mockingjay, so it really is Jennifer Lawrence’s film.

The film could have ended a few minutes earlier and the impact of the cliff-hanger ending would have been greater. However, those who have not read the book probably needed the explanation for the actions of the character involved.

This is a serviceable film and it’s hard to know what could have been added to make it more engaging, but it does feel as though it’s lacking something. However, Part 1 will make a great contrast to Part 2 – not to mention a breather between the second and fourth films when watched in sequence. It makes you wonder if they could have cut some out of both parts to make one film that has everything. Time will tell.

This is a lukewarm review because this film genuinely feels like nothing but an intro, which it is. It’s likely this will be better when you can watch both parts one after the other.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 55 – Listeners’ News Hour… and Twenny

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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This week’s podcast is another news heavy episode as Ant and Tom clear up a lot of news stories people have sent in over the last month. These include a Mexican man surviving in a raft for a year and a half while drifting all the way to the Marshall Islands in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean living off turtles, fish and birds that he had to catch with his bare hands!

Less inspiring news from Denmark where a zoo has put down a two-year old giraffe for fears over in-breeding and bad genes after many other zoos claim they could look after it. A German construction worker was killed and two badly injured when a digger struck an unexploded World War Two bomb. The untimely death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also discussed as well as why his career hasn’t been celebrated widely by the press.

The guys also talk about the flooding and storms that have ravaged the UK in the last few weeks, including places very close to where they live, but also the huge amounts of destruction being inflicted on the South West of the country.

Ant talks about scientists reconstructing the way a dinosaur would walk by sticking a fake tail onto chickens bottoms! Tom talks about a Saudi man sentences to 3 months in jail, 80 lashes and a fine for libelling a pop star with no proof.

Lots and lots to take in this week, but we’re up to date now so back to a proper structure from now on, yay!!!

A couple of times during the recording the equipment stopped recording for no apparent reason. These problems have been fixed to the best of our ability, please don’t hold it against us!

As ever, if you want to see our ugly mugs, just watch the episode down below. Please remember to subscribe on iTunes or whichever podcast provider you use, rate and review too!