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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 continues Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) journey towards a takeover of Panem. At first, she was unsure of her role in the Panem war, but her traumatic experiences in The Hunger Games and the great losses she’s experienced since then appear to have strengthened her resolve.  After recovering from a nearly fatal encounter with Peeta, Katniss sees red and decides that she must sneak into enemy territory to assassinate the crap out of President Snow.

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Coming up for air after watching MJ: Part One.


Firstly, I must shout out Jennifer Lawrence and her incredible ability to breathe life into a character that inhabits a franchise I have long since given up on. I’m not even a big fan of J-Law, but she commits to Katniss, giving her a depth on screen that shows more visually than it does on script.  Her dialogue isn’t impressive, but it’s the delivery and execution that keep me watching.  It reminds me of the movie Tropic Thunder, when Kirk Lazarus (played by the masterful Robert Downey Jr.) upstages Ben Stiller’s character, Tugg Speedman, by unnecessarily crying on cue.  Speedman’s agent advises him to, “Cry Harder!,” if Lazarus tries it again. And in Mockingjay Part 2, J-Law definitely cries harder, and it’s impressive.  She sells this character and sells her hard.  I was bored for much of this movie, but I reluctantly bought it – the whole package – mainly because of J-Law’s acting.
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My fiance convincing me Part 2 will be better.


Also, I’d like to mention how The Hungers Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was, by far, the weakest film of the franchise. It was all yap yap-yap yap, and much less a Kidz Bop Running Man (and even more less a Battle Royale).  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is much better, in terms of action.  The action scenes were pretty good, and there were some chase scenes also that made me rub my eyes and get off my seat.  However, the on-screen violence wasn’t as bloody as Catching Fire, but they were impressive as a testament to the horrors of modern warfare.  There must’ve been a message there too, but it currently escapes me (and that’s a political discussion outside of this review).
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Katniss, remember, we’re here for overbearingly depressing dialogue. Not blockbustery action.


Despite the improvements, I’d have to say that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 still put me in metaphorical sleeper hold.  The action scenes were good, yes, but it’s between those set pieces that this movie suffers.  Nothing about this film is really interesting.  Like Mockingjay Part 1, this film felt stretched out and entirely unnecessary.  Many franchises are now doing this, splitting a finale into two parts at the cost of sacrificing a good story.  One could say that, in the case of The Hobbit, which was split into three movies, things seemed to have worked out.  That’s true. But The Hobbit has a world I would love to be in – like, for real.
At this point in the story, the world of the The Hunger Games isn’t a fascinating one. It’s a dystopian future where young people are sacrificed for the amusement of the rich and the suppression of the enslaved.  What part about that sounds worth visiting?  I’m here for Katniss and her story, and her story was practically over after Catching Fire.  I didn’t read the books, but I know a good story when I see it. This wasn’t it.
If I were a fan of this series, I’d probably had been let down by the third film, and more than likely, would have skipped Part 2 – which is what I’m suggesting viewers do in this case. The movie is well-made, it has Jennifer Lawrence, an incredible supporting cast and some cool action scenes, but doesn’t earn my hard earned dollars. It isn’t a must-see. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 isn’t catching fire. In my opinion, it’s smoldering without enough tinder to spark anew.
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 photos courtesy of: www.facebook.com/thehungergamesmovie

Mockingjay: Part 1 Review

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the-hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-final-posterThe majority of critics were all in agreement about one thing concerning the highly anticipated Mockingjay: Part 1; and that is that “not very much happens” (IBN Live).  Following in the footsteps of moneymaker series such as Harry Potter and Twilight, the studio stretched the final book into two separate movies. While filmmakers of the “HP” series started this trend for logical reasons (like including many important details and back story), it’s hard to imagine that the producers of the Hunger Games trilogy saw it as anything more than an opportunity to put more cash in the bank. Not cool, Lionsgate, not cool!

Though the sadistic Hunger Games arena is absent this time around, there is no shortage of violence in this third installment to the series—though perhaps not in the amount you’ve come to expect from these films. While there is very little action throughout the film, producers did a fantastic job of relaying the overall destruction caused by the civil war in Panem. Wide screen shots of ruined cities and charred remains of fallen victims definitely highlight the large-scale ramifications of war.

Fans of the bestselling novels will agree that District 13 was one of the environments we were most looking forward to seeing on the big screen. Lionsgate delivered on that aspect of the film, and the underground “honeycomb” bunker city was spot on with the book’s description, a dark location which complemented the somber mood of the entire film.hunger_games_mockingjay__part_one_ver9

As always, Jennifer Lawrence gives us a brilliant performance playing the reluctant hero, Katniss Everdeen. Once again she tries to resist playing a part in political propaganda, but knowing she must put aside her feelings in order to save her loved ones, the ever-conflicted Everdeen becomes the raw, empathetic and honest protagonist we have come to know and love. Similarly, Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta Mellark is just as palpable. Fans want to save “the boy with the bread” just as badly as Katniss does, even in spite of his complete character change.

In conclusion, Lawrence and Hutcherson steal the show, as usual, with their intense performances. The elaborate dystopian sceneries are also to be admired, but what the movie lacks is the franchise’s usual fast-paced action – due largely in part to the story being split into a two-part film.

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 Mockingjay: Part 1 Review: Photographs courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment

Our Inner Primrose: An Interview with Willow Shields from Catching Fire

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65_5221There are currently many, many girls who would gladly trade places with Willow Shields, at least for a day. This is because the 13-year-old, better known as Primrose Everdeen, will be seen alongside Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth this Friday in the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. Below, I chat with Shields about an average day on the set of Catching Fire, her favorite thing about the franchise, and what it’s like working with some of the most desired (and beautiful) actors in Hollywood.
 
Cliché: What got you interested in acting? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Willow Shields: Pretty much ever since I can remember. My older brother was auditioning for movies and it just seemed fascinating to me, so I wanted to try, too. I remember telling my parents, “I want to be an actress. I want to walk the red carpet one day.” I think I was about seven.
Describe an average day on the set of Catching Fire.
Usually, I have to get up kind of early. They pick you up and take you to set… sometimes it’s still dark out. Then, I will usually go to hair and makeup. Prim doesn’t really need makeup, so mostly it’s hair. Then, I usually shoot scenes and in between do my schoolwork. I have a teacher on set and I usually work in my trailer. More shooting… Lunch… more school… more shooting. Once the day is done, I usually crash in bed pretty early.
What drew you to this role?
I got an audition to play Prim from my agent. I was reading The Hunger Games when I got the audition. When I saw what character I was auditioning for, I was excited. You hardly ever get an audition where you actually know the character like this! Anyway, I auditioned by tape first and then flew to LA to audition with Gary Ross. Once I got the part, I just kept reading and finished all three books.
Do you think you are like Primrose at all? What do you love most about her?
Prim and I both love animals. We both have sisters that are the most important person in the world to us. I have a twin and related so much to Katniss and Prim’s relationship in these stories. I am NOT like Prim in her medical abilities. Even the fake needles on set were kind of gross to me! Prim is caring and strong and I think that is what I love about her most.
What do you love most about the story in general?
I love books and movies about the future and I read tons of Science Fiction. Suzanne Collins created this amazing world and that is what I love the most.
What was it like working with Jennifer Lawrence and all those handsome boys (Josh, Liam, etc)? Any crushes?
I think most people know already that the cast is super sweet and fun to work with. Jennifer is the best and working with her is probably the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. One scene we were shooting together, a kind of serious one, she is supposed to leave the room and I’m watching her as she goes. Every time she would leave, she would turn and make a goofy face to me. It was hard to keep serious. Josh and Liam are sweet, but seriously I am thirteen and I think they are a little too old for me!
Favorite scene to shoot for Catching Fire? Hardest scene to shoot?
I think my favorite scenes to shoot in Catching Fire were just the personal conversations between Katniss and Prim. They have a lot of emotion and show how Prim is growing up. The hardest scene? We did shoot one scene, after Gale has been whipped. It was kind of hard in a funny way just because there were so many people in this room, and stuff was being flung around. I kept bumping into everyone and even smashed my fingers in the chaos.
What other kinds of roles do you want to the future? Do you have any dream roles?
No dream roles, where I’m like, I want to play so-and-so. I just want to keep growing as an actress and keep having the chance to be a part of films. It’s what I love.
Do you have any role models you aspire to be/use as inspiration in your acting?
Jennifer for one! I get to work with one of the best actresses around and that is something I would never have dreamed of happening. I wish I could be like her someday. I also admire Angelina Jolie a lot—not just for her acting, but for all the charity work she does.
 
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits theaters worldwide this Friday, November 22.
BY MEGAN PORTORREAL
Photographed by Keith Cotton

Fire on the Scene: An Interview with Stephanie Leigh Schlund

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Stephanie Leigh Schlund is a fierce competitor, both on and off-screen. Her dedication to her art is palpable as she tells us not only where she started, but where she is right now and where she is going. So it comes as no surprise that she was cast as one of the most ferocious female contenders of the annual Hunger Games in the upcoming film, Catching Fire. And this girl definitely doesn’t lack fire. With her undeniable beauty, unstoppable passion and unmatched energy, Schlund is the complete package among young Hollywood. This total knock-out is on the rise and we’re happy to have caught her on the way up.

 

Cliché: First of all congratulations on landing the role of Cashmere in Catching Fire.
Stephanie Leigh Schlund: Thank you!

The Hunger Games franchise has a huge following. Did you celebrate after getting the part?
Yes, I celebrated with a grilled chicken breast and broccoli!  I was in Mexico when I booked the role. My family was there celebrating my dad’s birthday. I went back to the room because I had a feeling like I needed to check my phone. It’s been off all week long. I turned it on, and I sat there and checked my voicemails and text messages that had piled up—nothing new or exciting. So I thought, “Okay you’re losing you mind here.” When I attempted to turn my phone off, it rang. It was my agent telling me that I had booked the role of Cashmere. I immediately went back to the beach, and I told my family, “Guys! Guess what? I just booked the role of Cashmere!” My sister replied with, “Yeah, and I’m Katniss.” They didn’t believe me! They thought I was just playing with them! I was like, “No guys, I’m really serious.”IMG_5140

I had been tipped off from my agent previously that, if I were to book this role, it would definitely entail a lot of physical training. I was a ballerina and figure skater growing up, so I’ve always had a very lean physique, but I’ve never been one with big muscles. I knew I’d have to bulk up for the role. So the day that I found out that I booked it, I immediately started eating high protein and low carbs. That’s how I celebrated.

Oh man! No nonsense!
No! I kept the secret of being cast for a month before they announced me. Before we started training, I had about three or four months to get into perfect shape for the role. So there was no time for nonsense; it was game time!

And what was the audition process like?
I auditioned and then I got a call back. In the call back you sit and meet with the director. I knew what I would have to do, to a certain extent, but the rest of it is up to the director’s discretion. He can pull anything out of that hat and ask you to do it. You have to think on your feet. So I went in and I did what I had prepared. Then he pulled one on me and told me to come up with something that I totally wasn’t expecting. I did it, I gave it everything I had and I walked out the room knowing that I either booked it or he thought I was completely crazy.

Right before I walked into the room there was a girl obviously going out for the same role as I. She walked in the room, was in there for about a minute and she walked out hysterically crying. I just sat in the corner and was like, “Oh God! What’s going on in that room?” And then someone opens the door and says, “Stephanie Leigh, you’re up next!” I was like, “Oh great, here we go!”

For readers who aren’t familiar with the series, tell us a little bit about your character.
She is a former victor from District One, and she and her brother Gloss reenter the 75th Quarter Quell. She is not necessarily a girl’s best friend. She’s very good at mass manipulation 101 and she uses that in her interview to try and win over the crowd. She’s also been trained from birth to compete in the games, so she is a hardcore killer. She and her brother take a lot of pleasure in that. She’s not one to mess with.
For the full interview, check out our Oct/Nov 2013 issue!
Feature image courtesy of Joe Deangelis.

Two for the Show

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Everyone loves a good sequel. When done properly, a sequel can reignite a fan’s passion for the franchise, its characTHGters and its storyline. As the colder months begin to make their way here, the big screen is just getting hotter and hotter. Here are three of 2013’s most highly anticipated sequels. Be sure to save the date!

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22nd, 2013) – After their defiant act at the 74th Hunger Games which forced the Capitol to declare them both winners, Peeta and Katniss are on thin ice. Their own lives as well as those of their families depend on their cooperation with President Snow, as the districts are on the brink of rebellion. Catching Fire will give us a glimpse into the harsh realities of Panem’s residents. As the pair travel from district to district on their Victory Tour, new secrets will be uncovered that shake the victors to the core. When the Capitol announces that the 75th Hunger Games will include 24 victors from previous years in an event known as the Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta realize that they will be returning to the deadly arena. Needless to say, the secondHOBBIT installment of The Hunger Games series will be a true nail-biter that’ll keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13th, 2013) – Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves are back and more fired up than ever, quite literally. After narrowly escaping the Misty Mountains and acquiring the ring, the team recharges in order to get their gold back from Smaug, the lethal dragon. Of course, Smaug will just be one of many vicious enemies that they encounter on their quest. While there is sure to be many surprises along the way, there is one thing that the audience can definitely expect from this action/adventure film: the always present and undeniably beautiful scenery that the franchise is known for. The Desolation of Smaug is destined to be as epic as its predecessor.ANCHORMAN

3. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (December 20th, 2013) – While little is known about this upcoming sequel (the teaser leaves much to be desired), Anchorman 2 has gathered plenty of buzz. What we do know is that Will Ferrell’s beloved character, Ron Burgundy, is back at the top of his game. Previously San Diego’s top rated newsman, the arrogant and hilarious Burgundy has somehow managed to land a new gig at New York’s first 24 hour news channel. With an even bigger all-star cast than the original, Anchorman 2 is, as Burgundy would say, “kind of a big deal.”
 
Photos and feature image courtesy  of www.IMDb.com

New Coldplay song “Atlas” leaks

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After two (long) years since Mylo Xyloto’s release, Coldplay has recorded a new single, this time for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. This marks the first time ever that the Grammy-winning British rock band has recorded an original song for a motion picture.
The new track, “Atlas,” was first introduced when Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin posted the handwritten lyrics on Twitter. The track was then pushed back from its original August 26th release and leaked earlier today.
Many fans already claim that “Atlas” is more reminiscent of Coldplay’s earlier albums than their latest album Mylo Xyloto. The track is a very melodic and mysterious piano ballad, and hits a climax when Chris sings (romantically, as always) “Carry your world / I’ll carry your world” in the chorus.
The track will officially be available for purchase via iTunes on Friday, September 6 (except for the UK, which is set for a Sunday, September 8 release).
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will release worldwide on November 22.
BY MEGAN PORTORREAL