Ranking the Hunger Games movies

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Soars to $16M Thursday Night.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, the final installment in the franchise, premiered Thursday evening and brought in an estimated $16 million at the box office. It’s a strong and promising number — Jurassic World took home $18.5 million in its opening night — but one that trails behind all of the three previous Hunger Games films.

There are gripping action sequences and cringe-inducing monsters for the beleaguered heroine and her allies to slay—but, the franchise has lost much of its death-defying urgency and grit, with a perfunctory wrapup that feels trite and anticlimactic. While I am thankful to director Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”) for banishing the nauseating shaky-cam stylings and eye-gouging, murky 3-D of Gary Ross (“The Hunger Games”), there is not much anyone can do about how boring, derivative and relentlessly juvenile this material is. According to the Guardian, Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen shooting her bow has been replaced with a mockingjay in some cities, including Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. “We discovered that public posters with the image of a female are often torn down in Jerusalem, while Bnei Brak does not allow posters with female images,” a rep for the movie’s Israeli PR firm told Ynet. That said, director Francis Lawrence’s political allegory has thematic aces up its sleeve that keep Suzanne Collins’ dystopian young adult saga viewable—not the least of which is Katniss’ memorable scene with her beloved sister’s purring kitty, limned to thespic perfection by J Law’s Oscar-winning chops.

Picking up where “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” left off, which was in the middle of nowhere, the tale reunites Katniss with Peeta Mellark (a wounded-looking Josh Hutcherson) and the Katniss-loving big hunk Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Israeli website Haaretz said the city of Bnei Brak’s rules concerning female images is based on the idea they “might incite the feelings of the city’s residents.”

For Katniss, it’s no longer just about saving her sister Prim: She embraces the role of the Mockingjay to give the residents of the 13 districts who rally behind her a fighting chance against a lifetime of oppression! Thanks to evil President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland, providing the film with its sole witticism), tyrant leader of embattled Panem, Peeta has been brainwashed, a technique that has left him with a nice blond rinse as well, and he now believes Katniss is the devil incarnate and can’t stop himself from trying to kill her. The Capitol Couture line featured adaptations of designs that appeared in the movie including a laser-cut leather dress for $995 U.S. inspired by Katniss Everdeen’s chariot outfit.

Nevertheless, he is taken along in shackles when she and a band of brothers and sisters, including characters I dubbed “Man Bun” and “Slick Haircut,” go on a mission to help Katniss assassinate Snow single-handedly. In the fourth and final installment of the science-fiction franchise, Katniss faces an unexpected dilemma: a game-changing twist involving ambiguous resistance leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), while everything—and everyone—she holds dear hangs in the balance.

To the tune of Robert Newton Howard’s pounding militaristic score, Katniss and her cohorts try to avoid the “pods” (high-tech IEDs) and zombie-like computer-generated “mutts” sent to destroy them. Relief from the turgid plot, which alternates cheesy-looking CG action and boring speeches, comes in the form of Jena Malone’s damaged Goth Johanna Mason, her head shaved and muttering irreverent and subversive comments under her breath. Suffice it to say that the stakes are higher—and we’re not just talking about the difficult choice Katniss has to make between Gale and the brainwashed Peeta, even after his Tracker Jacker-induced attempt to kill the woman he professes to love!

Katniss’ swan song wouldn’t be complete without fleeting parting shots from the unusually sober Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), Plutarch Heavensby (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Hunger Games’ commentator Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and the lovably loopy Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who’s back to make sure that Katniss is at her loveliest when she faces new foes in Coin’s “symbolic” Hunger Games—ironically intended to signify the end of tyranny! Catching Fire helmer Francis Lawrence returns to direct, and the film also stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Angelina Jolie’s intimate drama, “By the Sea,” operates on an interesting premise: Three years after a string of miscarriages, the marital woes of washed-up writer Roland Bertrand (Brad Pitt) and his emotionally volatile wife, former dancer Vanessa (Jolie), come to a head when the New York couple travels to a rustic seaside town in France and meets the young newlyweds next door, Francois (Melvil Poupaud) and Lea (Melanie Laurent). Wearing a daily uniform doesn’t have to be stifling, as many creatives and innovators have discovered (see: Sofia Coppola, Karl Lagerfeld, Steve Jobs). Daring to open opposite Mockingjay 2 are Jonathan Levine’s holiday comedy The Night Before, starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, and The Secret in Their Eyes, starring Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman.

As if following the adventures of Katniss didn’t come with enough ups and downs, fans will soon be able to take a real-life roller-coaster ride inspired by her train trip to the Capitol, and a simulated hovercraft tour of the Panem nation. A recreation of District 12 complete with costumed characters is in the works for the complex in Dubai, but here’s what we would add to the mix: A Harry Potter-themed bar called The Lockhart recently opened in Toronto, featuring “potions & elixirs” that allude to characters and a decor that pulls from inscriptions in the book. In a rare moment of respite from war, the rebels stage a post-apocalyptic square dance, and by the downy beard of club-wielding Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), it hit me: “The Hunger Games” is the “Hee-Haw” of the future.

With its brooding atmosphere and a storytelling style that is mannered and agonizingly slow, it spends too much time telling what is actually a simple story. As a filmmaker, Jolie tells compelling but often incohesive tales (“In the Land of Blood and Honey,” “Unbroken”), compromised further by yarn-spinning skills that lack punch and focus.

Local city bylaws prevent weaponry from being in such close proximity to alcohol, so instead of a crossbow range on the patio we would settle on a dartboard where the bull’s-eye would be President Snow’s face. Consider The Flux Capacitors, a SoCal ensemble that bills itself as “the only official Back to the Future-themed ’80s band.” The group performs ’80s hits decked out as Marty, Doc, Biff and the like, and even brings a DeLorean replica to shows.

Panemonium is an obvious choice if we’re going in a punk direction, but we also like The Jabberjays for a hip-hop crew, or Peeta Burnt the Bread for the shoegazing crowd. There’s no shortage of songs about stickin’ it to the man to choose from: “Fight the Power,” “Killing in the Name” (natch), “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Any encore would have to include a haunting rendition of “The Hanging Tree,” followed by the anti-establishment anthem “Tubthumping.” Those Panem rebels, they get knocked down, but they get up again.

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