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The Man from Earth (reviewed by Ben)

You’ve probably noticed that most of the movies we review on this page are successful, or at least well-known. So you might be surprised th...

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hunger Games Mockingjay: Part II (Reviewed by Ben)

On most occasions, any book-to-movie adaptation is not as good as the original book. Often, it’s a letdown for fans. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part Two, is a rare exception to this rule. Fans of the books were already miffed about the earlier films in the series, which were at best mediocre.  The fact that the final movie had been split into two parts was also a tactic unappreciated by fans of Twilight: Breaking Dawn and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Despite all that Mockingjay: Part Two is not at all a bad movie.

This is the conclusion to the dystopian story that puts kids in an arena as they fight to the death, and follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), both talented with a bow and one of the few good people left in the country. She becomes a celebrity and a tool for both the twisted government and the rebellion rising to fight them. Her seemingly simple world becomes over-complicated as she gets involved in a crazy love triangle, the twists and turns of being a celebrity, and countless near death encounters.

The movie picks up as Katniss has accepted her role as the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion, after her romantic interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is hijacked by the government and unconsciously attempts to kill her. She and her friends are forced before the camera as an all-out war begins between the Capitol and the rebellion is underway. Her morals are put at jeopardy, and she is faced with difficult decisions that change who she is as a person.

The first three installments of the Hungers Games movie franchise were a bit of a letdown for the people who loved the books. The movies seem sadly misguided and spend way too much time on action which left less time for the deeper storyline. For whatever reason, the producers of this final film got their footing, and put together a moving, truthful story where several young adults come to terms with their beliefs despite living in a very brutal world. The film seemed to do this in an even more intriguing way than the book. The Hunger Games, Mockingjay: Part Two is an impressive movie, not just in comparison to it’s predecessors.

The movie is full of great performances, another factor that made it shine over the other films in the franchise. Jennifer Lawrence has become a convincing Katniss. Donald Sutherland brought character to the role of the creepy, sociopathic President of Panem. Even pretty-boy Josh Hutcherson pulled himself together and convinced the audience of a struggling Peeta, coming to terms with his own fate. This brave picture is full of incredible chemistry between actors, well thought out characters and, of course, countless deaths designed to pull at our heartstrings.

Unfortunately, Mockingjay: Part Two was recognized in an undeserved category: teen films, so the expectations of viewers for the last one were fairly low. I was  impressed, however, how this film finally lived up to the potential of the series.   It is a shame that the clever writing as well as great acting did not show up in the first movies, but I was glad it did in the finale.

Dad Replies: I think Ben pretty much hit it on the head.  I read the books after the kids did, and saw all four films, but Mockingjay Part II was the first time I felt like I was either reading or watching something with a heart.  The books (and thus the movies, which were pretty faithful to the original material) never seemed to get going until the heroes found themselves playing the sadistic games of the arena (either real ones in the first two stories, or the Capital turned arena in the third).  Which is why Mockingjay: Part II felt like the first time character-driven drama found a home within the franchise.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

And we’re back…

A fair number of years back, we took a crack at blogging about the movies the family watched together on a weekly basis.

Originally, the idea was that writing responsibility would switch between family members but, like many things kid related, family attention moved onto other things.  So while the older boy traveled through 4H, Boy Scouts, Frisbee, clarinet and – now college visits, the younger one has become a serious film buff and pretty terrific writer, ready to share his opinions with fellow film lovers.  And so, Movie Night Review is back in action with weekly (fingers crossed) reviews of films old and new.

The format will involve one of us (kid or Dad) kicking off a review with the other (Dad or kid) responding.   We’re all a bit older now, so movies we’ll talk about will not just stop at PG but will include anything we’ve watched worth talking about. 

And with that as a lead-in, welcome to the all-new Movie Night Review!