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Movie Breakdown: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

November 18, 2015

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The Impression:

Superstar Jennifer Lawrence is once again Katniss Everdeen.  The first entry in the two-part closer was a bore and a total cash-grab, so I’m guessing/hoping that Mockingjay – Part 2 is going to be wildly entertaining.  Regardless, I’m 100% prepared for the end of The Hunger Games series (even though the poster says I can’t be).

The Reality:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a tough one for me to review.  I haven’t read the books and therefore I have no idea about what may or may not have been different in the film.  Not to mention there’s also a ton of things I can’t comment on because if I do I’ll spoil the whole damn movie.  So, I’m going to keep this pretty broad, as I’m sure those of you who are book-readers will pull it apart on your own later, and if you’re like me and haven’t turned a single page, you probably just want to know if it’s a fitting conclusion to the story.  And it is, for the most part.

The film starts really strong.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence in stoic but vulnerable mode) is as eager as ever to take down President Snow, and her journey to just even possibly have a shot at him gets going quickly and is consistently thrilling.  This quest of hers makes up the first two-thirds of the film, and for that chunk I was completely hooked.  Near the third act though is where the movie starts to stumble.  Certain subplots get kind of glossed over and forgotten, some of the terrible things that happen aren’t particularly impactful, and the story concludes in a tame, predictable manner instead of in epic fashion.  There’s also some flat, tacked-on-feeling false endings that come along to further muddle up the last portion of the film.  In other words, Mockingjay – Part 2 starts out as though it’s going to finish super strong, but it actually ends up limping across the finish line.

Overall, I liked Mockingjay – Part 2, and it’s a film that I have no issue recommending.  I just can’t tag it with a note that says it’s an EPIC CONCLUSION or something similar, because in all honesty it’s more of a pretty alright wrap up film.

The Lesson:

We can all just move on from the whole YA thing now, right?  Seems to me that The Hunger Games quadrilogy is as good as the genre is going to get.

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Movie Breakdown: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

November 19, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

“If we burn, you burn with us.”  Katniss has had enough of President Snow’s shit and is ready to take him down do just enough to setup next year’s Mockingjay – Part 2, the sure-to-be-amazing conclusion to the Hunger Games series.  Womp womp womp?

The Reality:

Let me start by saying this, Mockingjay – Part 1 does what it’s supposed to do, which is get folks ready for Mockingjay – Part 2, and as a Hunger Games fan I enjoyed it.  The film is a bit clunky and doesn’t really get moving until the last half hour or so, but my adoration for the overall story kept me from feeling restless or bored.  Also, there’s Jennifer Lawrence.  Goddamn she’s good.  Lawrence seems to revel in the pressure of having such an enormous franchise rest solely on her shoulders, and her Katniss is electrifying and an absolute joy to watch.

With all of that being said, it’s not possible to deny the unsettling taste that Mockingjay – Part 1 left in my mouth.  Frankly speaking, the film is a total cash grab.  There’s nothing in its two hour runtime that couldn’t have been trimmed down to be the first act of a single final entry into the series, and I found its plodding, setup-oriented approach to be disappointing.  In fact, the movie is so much of a non-standalone effort that I doubt I’ll ever willingly watch it again just on its own – I’ll just wait for the inevitable ultimate edition that will undoubtedly carry some ridiculous name like Mockingjay: The Complete Rise Of Katniss Everdeen.  I realize this isn’t the first time a franchise has been inserted into the maximum money machine (hey there, Hobbit Trilogy), but it’s always a disappointing when it’s as blatantly done as Mockingjay – Part 1.

See the movie because you know you want to, but know going in that anything of real importance in the series is still a year away.

The Lesson:

Setup movies are kind of a bummer.

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Movie Breakdown: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 19, 2013

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Katniss, Peeta and the rest of the gang are back waving three fingers in the air like they just don’t care.

The Reality:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the follow-up that all of you want.  Everything from the drama to the action is bigger and better, and you will spend much of the movie so engaged with what’s happening that nothing else in the world will matter to you.  With that being said, I do think it’s important to note that Catching Fire is less of an all out, adrenaline-fueled adventure and more of a well-balanced, patiently-paced film that gives you a lot of story throughout its runtime of 146 minutes.  This was a legit surprise for me, and I really have to give it up to director Francis Lawrence.  He could have easily made something that was all show and no substance, but instead he put in the effort to deliver a great story.  I honestly can’t wait to see the film again.

The Lesson:

Good sequels make the world a better place.

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Stream This

November 15, 2013

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The SOTO inbox is always full of cool stuff that never gets to see the light of day on the actual site, and I’d like to change that.  So, every Friday I’ll be posting the best album streams and videos that were sent my way during the week.  Take a scroll and find something worth remembering.

FULL ALBUM STREAMS

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Soundtrack
Ejecta – Dominae
Ghost B.C. – If You Have Ghost EP
Daytona – Self Titled
LA Font – Diving Man
Magik Markers – Surrender To The Fantasy
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain

VIDEOS

Mirror Travel recently put out Mexico via Modern Outsider.

Mono released For My Parents last year.

M.I.A. recently released Matangi.

Keep Shelly In Athens released At Home recently via Cascine.

Austra’s Olympia is out now on Domino.

Shearwater’s Fellow Travelers is due out November 26 via Sub Pop.

Beachwood Sparks will release Desert Skies on November 26 via Naturalsound Records.

Hebronix and The Howling Hex teamed up for this track.  The Heb-Hex 7″ is due out November 25 via ATP.

Wild Ones’ Keep It Safe is out now on Party Damage Records.

Julianna Barwick put out Nepenthe earlier this year on Dead Oceans.  She plays the Parish on December 5.

Obits’ Bed & Bugs is out now on Sub Pop.

Big Scary just put out the Twin Rivers EP on Barsuk.

Cool Ghouls have an album out now on Empty Cellar.

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Top 10 Films Of 2012

January 11, 2013

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2012 was a good year for film.  I ended up seeing 126 releases, and I have to admit that the majority of them were far from terrible.  This, of course, made crafting a Top 10 fairly difficult, but I gave it my best shot.  Just a heads up, below the main section of this article you’ll find some mini-lists.  Read on!

10) The Avengers

I feel like some people are afraid to put this movie on their year-end list.  It’s like the 1.5 billion dollars it made worldwide is now suddenly shameful.  I, however, still think of The Avengers as an amazing achievement.  The movie is an outright great time, and I have a feeling that it will be influencing comic book adaptations for years to come.  Way to be, Joss Whedon.

09) Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Much has been made of this little effort that plays big, and the hype is certainly warranted.  Quvenzhane Wallis, who is now the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, is so good that you walk away from the movie wishing you could spend more time with her.

08) Life Of Pi

If I didn’t already think that Ang Lee was a talented director, his work on Life Of Pi would have quickly remedied that particular train of thought.  He really did craft a beautiful, inspiring film out a book that seemed nearly impossible to adapt.  I can’t wait to own it.

07) Silver Linings Playbook

David O. Russell should win an award just for landing Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  The manic chemistry between their characters made for one of the more fascinating things I saw in a theater in 2012.

06) Lincoln

I was not at all interested in seeing Lincoln.  I thought the trailers were boring, and despite my fondness for Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, I just couldn’t get excited about the film.  And then, I saw it, and what I found was that it’s actually a superbly crafted effort.  To be honest, I’m still buzzing about it.

05) Argo

The best decision Ben Affleck ever made was to start directing films.  The guy is so very good at it, and with Argo, which is certainly his best effort to date, I think it’s time to consider him to be one of the best directors working.  This movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

04) Seven Psychopaths

I love In Bruges so much that I went into Martin McDonagh’s follow-up with expectations so high that I was sure I’d be disappointed.  But I wasn’t.  Seven Psychopaths is so very clever and hilarious, and I’m anxious to have it in my library for viewing whenever i please.  Side note, if Colin Farrell would exclusively work with McDonagh, the world would be a better place.

03) Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is the most entertaining bastard on the face of this planet, and Django Unchained is proof of that.  The damn thing is just insanely fun.  When I wasn’t laughing, I was cheering, and when I was doing either of those things, it meant the credits were on and I wanted the movie to immediately start over.

02) Cabin In The Woods

Some would say that The Avengers is the nerd film of the year, but I think it’s actually Cabin In The Woods.  There are so many clever references to catch, and then there’s the fact that it’s filled with a slew of moments so gloriously geeky that you can’t help but loudly celebrate throughout the entire movie.

01) Zero Dark Thirty

I was blown away by Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to The Hurt Locker.  The movie is just a mammoth effort that’s so very heavy and intense, but yet there isn’t a single moment where you want to bow out.  Like the driven CIA operative that Jessica Chastain plays, you feel determined (and maybe even obligated) to see how the hunt for Osama bin Laden ends.  And speaking of the end.  The way Zero Dark Thirty comes to a close will stick with me until the day I’m gone.  Just an all around brilliant film.

5 Honorable Mentions
Skyfall
Bernie
Looper
Holy Motors
The Grey

5 Solid Films That Were Almost Spectacular
The Dark Knight Rises
Prometheus
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Hunger Games

5 Smaller Films You Need To Seek Out
Sleepwalk With Me
The Sessions
Goon
Fat Kid Rules The World
Safety Not Guaranteed

5 Worst Films Of 2012
Not Fade Away
Snow White And The Huntsman
The Comedy
Wrong
Battleship

Unfairly Shit On Movie Of 2012
John Carter

Biggest Surprise Of 2012
21 Jump Street

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