Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

First, read my review on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire! 

Mockingjay – Novel by Suzanne Collins

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

After flying through both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, my brain could not WAIT to absorb Mockingjay.  Catching Fire ended on such a major cliffhanger and I was intrigued, anxious, and excited to see what was going to happen in Panem.  The concept behind Mockingjay is awesome, and it had the opportunity to be the best of the three.  A rebel army hiding beneath the surface of the long gone District 13?  An emerging new leader, ready to take on the Capitol?  A deranged and depressed protagonist who needs to become the face of a rebellion?  Collins’ third installment really spoke to the idea of a revolution.

Executionally, Mockingjay could have been a lot better.  The first half of the book really dragged on and I was desperate for Katniss to come out of her slump and be the heroine we all expected her to be.  While it is extremely believable that Katniss would have some very serious mental debilitations following her second round of games, it just didn’t work for me.  The first part of the book seemed very repetitive and while I understood the direction Collins was taking the story in, and I didn’t really believe Katniss was depressed.

About a third into the book is when Mockingjay really picks up speed.  Katniss finally comes alive and it begins to feel like the story I wanted it to be.  Of course, Collins does a fascinating job of surprising the readers.  The reunion of Katniss and Peeta is devastating and I think I gasped out loud when I first read it.  Halfway through this novel I was desperate to finish reading, clutching onto Mockingjay in my bed into the late hours of the night, fighting off sleep so I can just read another chapter.

And then… it’s over.  I have to say I was REALLY disappointed with the ending of Mockingjay.  Towards the end of the book, Mockingjay gets so intense, so action packed, so heart wrenching and dramatic, with an intensity that spans through many chapters.  But it ends abruptly and with a quick summary of what happens to our characters and Panem.  I put down Mockingjay wanting more, and not in a good way.

Needless to say, Mockingjay was my least favorite of the books.  I struggle a lot with the way the final story is told and really didn’t find it as good as the others.  It starts too slow and then picks up just in time to fall flat again.  Also, there were times towards the end where the action scenes were too complex that I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  That said, I do believe Mockingjay will be a GREAT movie – not necessarily better than the first two films, but definitely a better movie than book.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the novel I wanted this story to end on.

 

“Mockingjay – Part 1” – Directed by Francis Lawrence

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

As mentioned above, I expected “Mockingjay – Part 1” to be a better movie than novel.  There are a lot of things going for the storyline of Mockingjay that suits itself for film – the actors are superb and can pull off the complexity of emotion necessary and the action scenes in the book can be taken to a whole other level on screen.  However,  “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a tough act to follow.  There is a lot to live up to, as I felt “Catching Fire” exceeded my expectations and was much more successful than “The Hunger Games.”

With this film, I was not disappointed.  Jennifer Lawrence is really just a force to be reckoned with and she pulls off the damaged version of Katniss so well.  I did feel like “Mockingjay – Part 1” jumped a little too quickly into the action.  I would have liked a few more scenes with Katniss struggling to adapt to life in 13, but I understand it was necessary to get right into it for the sake of time.  Once the action starts going, “Mockingjay – Part 1” takes off without a hitch.  Parts of this movie were so moving; for example, when Katniss arrives in District 8 and walks through the hospital and is barely able to keep herself together, I had chills.  And Julianne Moore, as the stone cold Alma Coin, is absolutely perfect.  She has just the slight touch of evil that makes you really dislike her – and you can tell Katniss does too.

I had a slight issue with Peeta’s appearance.  I thought the CGI of the final two scenes of him in the Capitol’s videos were not believable and looked really fake, although I thought the acting was great.  Since Mockingjay was split up into two feature films, I had speculated (as many have) that it would end on the reunion of Katniss and Peeta.  I was right.  And it was intense.  It was one of the best scenes in all three of the movies and everyone in the audience felt pain watching the scene.  It was a great moment to close on and really left you wanting the next, and final, installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise.

While I did enjoy the movie so much more than the book, it didn’t quite make it to the success of “Catching Fire” …but that is ok.  In some ways, “Mockingjay – Part 1” did just feel like a set up for the second movie and it definitely can’t stand alone on it’s own.  But it was successful in what it set out to prove and really showed the audience that there are no more games – this a real war.  A Rebellion.  And it is just getting started.  I definitely am anxious to see what “Mockingjay – Part 2” will bring and if it will have a greater impact than the book did.  Here’s to waiting another year for the close of this great series!

Mook Rating  ★1/2

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Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Click here to read my review of The Hunger Games!

Catching Fire – Novel by Suzanne Collins

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Let it be known, Catching Fire is my favorite installment of the trilogy.  Where The Hunger Games wows us with this sick dystopian world, the contrived Capitol, and the defiant emergence of Katniss, Catching Fire really ups the stakes for the story and we begin to see the severity of Katniss’ survival in the Games and what it means for the other district citizens.

Catching Fire is so successful in what it sets out to do.  With most trilogies, the middle installment naturally acts as a bridge between two major plot points, but often they are either dull and just filling a gap between two pieces of information or completely overloaded with material that you get kind of lost.  What I love about Catching Fire is that it IS a bridge between two major plot points,  but can still stand alone on its own.  It introduces very important new characters and themes, reveals more depth to existing characters, and reinforces and reiterates what is important about this story without constantly repeating itself.

If I could, I would read Catching Fire again and again and again.  It is an exiting piece of work and it really begins to construct the rebellion brewing in Panem, which leads seamlessly into Mockingjay.  The rapid events at the ending of the story happen quite quickly, and was something I had to reread in order to truly understand, but if done well could transition onto screen perfectly.  Catching Fire is definitely the strongest of the three books; an opinion I know I share with most fans of the series.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – Directed by Francis Lawrence

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of “Catching Fire” makes “The Hunger Games” seem like childs play.  As a huge fan of the first movie (you can read my review here), I was interested and skeptical in how this film would pan out with a new director.  “Catching Fire” hits us over the head with brilliance and does the book incredible justice.

Just like the Third Quarter Quell, everything about “Catching Fire” is bigger and better.  The actors have developed stronger skills, the costumes are avantgarde and absolutely brilliant, and the special effects blow the previous movie out of the water.  The Tribute Parade and CGI animals in the arena were the most notable differences for me.  In “The Hunger Games” the Tribute Parade is almost embarrassing.  The special effects were sub par and it was really the only part of the movie I truly didn’t like.  Similarly, the “mutts” in “The Hunger Games” were very fake looking and, while scary in thought, weren’t realistic.  The current films Tribute Parade is as if we are transported to a dystopian ancient Greece, and Katniss and Peeta’s costumes are astonishingly executed without the cheesy flames of the first film.  And the baboons in the arena?  Absolutely terrifying.

Most importantly, the journey we, as viewers, go on with our beloved characters is emotional and real.  In a moment of purity, Effie breaks down in her disappointment with what has happened with Katniss and Peeta and expresses her loyalty to them as a team.  It is touching and moving, and I found myself getting choked up at most points throughout the film.  Newcomers like Finnick and Johanna elevate the storyline and bring realness to what is happening; like Katniss and Peeta, they are victors and they have also been betrayed by the Capitol.

All biases aside, something needs to be said about Jennifer Lawrence’s role as Katniss.  The final scene is astounding, her facial expressions flawless, and it is as if you are completely inside Katniss’ head without her saying a word at all.  The last few minutes of the film has me clenching the side of my seat and ended with a cliff hanger of astronomical proportions, leaving me beyond anxious for “Mockingjay Part One.”  Catching Fire is absolutely brilliant and I personally felt it was as near flawless of an adaptation as they come.

Mook Rating  

The Nominees Are In! Mooks Take Over the 85th Academy Awards

via GetGlue.com

via GetGlue.com

The nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards were released this morning and (to no one’s surprise) an astounding 11 book adaptations were nominated for an Oscar this year.  Particularly impressive in the Best Picture division, 5 out of 9 nominees were book adaptations including “Argo,” “Les Miserables,” “The Silver Linings Playbook,” “Life of Pi,” and “Lincoln” which were also all nominated in a variety of other categories.  Predictably the biggest winners out of this bunch will be “Lincoln” and “The Silver Linings Playbook” which is the only mook of the bunch to receive The Big Five (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.)

The Academy Awards will debut live on ABC Sunday, February 24th at 7PM EST hosted by Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone.  You can read the full list of nominees here.  Who do you predict will be the big winners?

Mook Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook – Novel by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick, Books, Movies, Pat Peoples

via BN.com

Matthew Quick’s debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, is genuine, fantastic, and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.  The story is about the mentally at-risk Pat Peoples and his return home to live with his parents after losing his home, his wife, and his life as he knew it.  This was one of those books I just couldn’t put down and recommended to (literally) everyone.  In my experience, I find it hard to find a light hearted story about a depressing topic that is as true to life as can be while still entertaining the reader.  The Silver Linings Playbook did this, which is why I enjoyed it so much.

Pat Peoples is the poster child of mentally at-risk adults – the ones who don’t fully recognize their disease.  Pat was troubled his whole life, which makes him relatable, as throughout this book he is trying to better himself and find his own silver lining.  His relationships with everyone throughout the novel are what truly move the story.  Tiffany, Dr. Patel, his Dad, his brother Jake, etc. all are pivotal forces in Pats life and help him grow and become who he needs to be.

The way in which his relationship with Tiffany played out was somewhat predictable and I wasn’t sure if I was fully satisfied with the ending.  I think it was clear that Pat developed deep and real feelings for Tiffany but I wanted him to come to that realization and let go of Nikki on his own, which he didn’t.  However, I don’t think this ruined the integrity of the book in any way; if anything it made it more realistic and without a silver lining.

“The Silver Linings Playbook”  Directed by David O. Russell

via IMDB.com

via IMDB.com

The one thing that I have truly learned throughout my experience with this blog is that once an author sells the rights to their work it no longer remains their story (unless, of course, the novelist is integrally involved in the writing of the screen play).  Although unfortunate, it seems that the brilliant minds that develop the characters and storylines we come to love on screen are sometimes thrown under the bus, and their artistic vision does not become the one that matters.  But, this is Hollywood.  Sometimes, you have to do what it takes to create a fantastic movie, one that viewers will love and understand.  And, lets face it, the average American wants to see their happy ending, the results they expect, and their own silver lining.  Unfortunately, I think Matthew Quick’s vision was not fully respected in this adaptation… However, David O. Russell created a fantastic movie, one that I truly loved and was able to accept regardless of it’s mis-telling of Quick’s storry.

Let me first state that the casting in this movie was spot-on.  It was perfect.  The actors embodied their characters so fluidly they almost seem like real people.  My hat goes off to Bradley Cooper who I truly felt was the break out here; up until this point, I had only seen him play the roles he had been stereotyped into but here he was vulnerable, heartfelt, and funny.  Another thing about this movie that was just spectacular… it was funny yet sad.  It was honest, it was real.  It is the kind of movie I will buy the moment it comes out on DVD/Blu Ray combo pack and fall asleep watching every night for at least 6 months.  It was so good.  I wanted to stay in the theater and watch it a second time – and I am not even sure why.

Like I mentioned above, this film was much different from the book it developed from but I just don’t care.  I don’t even want to mention it.  I guess the only thing that bothered me (and this usually does) is that they changed Pat’s last name from Peoples to Solitano.  I understand that Peoples is an unbelievable type of name, but at least replace it with something generic.  Solitano is a name that represents a specific nationality, which is something I just didn’t understand.  Change a book’s story all you want but whats the purpose in changing a name?

If you are looking for a movie to go see, see “The Silver Linings Playbook.”  I am not a romantic-comedy girl, I actually despise them, but this movie doesn’t even fall into one specific category.  It was awesome and I would hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

Mook Rating  ★★

The Hunger Games: “Catching Fire” Updates, Casting, and More!

Readers, I need to sincerely apologize for being M.I.A. these past few weeks!  A lot has been going on, giving me barely any time to read (let alone blog!) but do not fret; your good friend Mookology has some awesome news for you regarding no other topic than our beloved “The Hunger Games” trilogy.

The Hunger Games DVD Blu Ray Jennifer Lawrence Josh Hutcherson Lionsgate Katniss Everdeen Peeta Mellark Suzanne Collins

via Amazon.com

First off, if you didn’t already know, the official DVD/Blu-Ray release of “The Hunger Games” is just over a week away, August 18th.  You can pick it up at any digital entertainment store or you can pre-order it off Amazon and have it safely delivered to your doorstep upon release day.

The dual disc pack includes both a Blu-Ray and Ultra Violet digital copy of the film, as well as a second disc including tons of behind the scenes goodies.  Some bonus features include a “Making Of” video, interviews with Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross, as well as the Propaganda films used by the Capitol and played throughout Panem.  Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and relive the awesomeness of this movie.

The “Catching Fire” movie is set to begin filming at the end of this month and the rumor mill has been running its course deeply and quickly.  Replacing Gary Ross as the role of director will be Francis Lawrence, famed director of Will Smith’s zombie apocalypse flick “I Am Legend.”  Shooting for the sequel will take place in Atlanta, GA, and Wilmington, NC, where several casting agencies are looking for extras, as well as on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  If you’re in these areas, definitely keep your eyes peeled over the next few months for your favorite Hunger Games stars!

Several well-known actors have been confirmed for the coveted roles in the sequel: Jena Malone as Johanna Mason,  Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Amanda Plummer as Wiress, Meta Golding as Enobaria, and Lynn Cohen as Mags.  However, there are still some major unconfirmed additions to the Catching Fire team, particularly the roles of Finnick Odair and Beetee.  Although it has not been officially announced by Lionsgate, Sam Clafin has been named on IMDB.com as the actor filling Finnick’s role as well as Tony Shalhoub for Beetee.  Patrick St. Esprit is also rumored to be the aggressive Peacekeeper of District 12, Romulus Thread.

As of the moment, “Catching Fire” is set to be released November 22, 2013 but is, of course, subject to change.  Be sure to grab a copy of “The Hunger Games” when it hits stores next week.  I sure will be!

**UPDATES**

8/8: It has officially been announced that Bruno Gunn will be playing the role of Brutus, a District 2 tribute.

8/9: Alan Ritchson has been given the role of District 1 tribute, Gloss.

8/10:  The District 11 tribute Chaff will be played be E. Roger Mitchell!

8/17:  Congratulations to Liam Hemsworth’s “The Last Song” Co-star Stephanie Leigh Schlund on landing the role of Cashmere, a District 1 tribute and brother of Gloss.

“The Silver Linings Playbook” First Official Trailer Released

Jennifer Lawrence, the queen of mooks, and her “Serena” co-star Bradley Cooper are hitting theaters this November with another book adaptation “The Silver Linings Playbook.”  Based off the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, the story follows a mentally compromised man named Pat, who has lost virtually everything, as he moves back home with his parents and tries to reconnect with his wife.  During this process, he meets Tiffany, a disturbed woman with her own set of baggage and problems.

Having not read the novel, this brand new trailer does have me eager to pursue it.  I am not a fan of romantic comedies or any sappy love stories in general, but something about “The Silver Linings Playbook” seems utterly quirky and wonderful.  It also doesn’t hurt that the film features exceptional actors; Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence are the movies main stars.  Check out the trailer below and enjoy.  “The Silver Linings Playbook” is scheduled to be released November 21, 2012.

“Catching Fire” to be Released November 22, 2013!

Catching Fire Book Cover, Catching Fire, Suzanne collins, Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence, Peeta Mellark, Josh Hutcherson

via Wikipedia.org

Don’t fret faithful fans! Lionsgate has officially announced the theatrical release date of “Catching Fire.”  The second installment to the wildly popular HG franchise will be in theaters November 22, 2013 which is also being filmed for IMAX digital release.  “Catching Fire” will begin it’s filming the fall of this year, three weeks of which will be spent on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Rumors have been circulating like crazy about casting for new characters.  In talks are Armie Hammer and Garrett Hedlund for Finnick Odair, while Kristen Bell has openly expressed interest in taking the role of Johanna Mason.  Reportedly, the role of Plutarch Heavensbee has been offered to Philip Seymour Hoffman, a move that would greatly contribute to the franchise’s already stellar cast.  If you missed out on “The Hunger Games” be sure to catch it on DVD/Blu-Ray when it is released this fall.

Jennifer Lawrence to Star in ANOTHER Mook!

Jennifer Lawrence, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses, has reached ridiculous amounts of fame after starring as lead character Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games” this Spring.  The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is a beloved text to its die-hard fans, putting severe pressure on Lawrence’s shoulders to do the book justice.  While The Hunger Games trilogy is no stranger to the best seller list, this was not the first time Lawrence has appeared in an adaptation of a highly-acclaimed book and, with “Serena” to debut in 2013, it certainly was not the last.

Lawrence’s 2010 performance in Sundance Film Festival favorite “Winter’s Bone” scored the young actress much praise and an Oscar nomination for “Best Actress.”  The film, based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell (which I reviewed back in February), was an incredibly successful adaptation, and provided enough detail and depth to make for a phenomenally directed film.

Serena, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Susanne Bier, Ron Rash

via wordandfilm.com

The young actress will take on the lead character Serena, alongside Bradley Cooper, in the film of the same name.  Serena, the novel by Ron Rash, is described by the NY Times as “Stark, fierce, dramatic, and gripping from its unforgettable opening paragraph.” Set in 1930’s Great Depression, a young North Carolina couple struggle in more ways than one.  The novel was considered a New York Times notable book of the year and currently hold close to a 5-star rating on BarnesandNoble.com.  With an endless number of rave reviews, my guess is that Serena will climb the charts as the movie approaches, just as The Hunger Games did.

Jennifer Lawrence has a raw and ruthlessly emotional edge to her acting and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Serena” becomes a chart-topping film.  “Serena” is set to be released sometime in 2013.

Mook Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games – Written by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen

via BN.com

Many literary snobs turn up their nose at Young Adult fiction. I am definitely not one of those people. I love the recent surge in Young Adult fiction, particularly fantasy, and their development into highly successful mooks. These novels fly off the shelves and become box-office hits instantly… so what is there not to like? I do recognize the many failed YA adaptations, but when given an amazing text to work with it seems natural to want a big-screen translation. A prime example of this is The Hunger Games.

I was first introduced to The Hunger Games by my 8-12 year old dance students. They would not stop talking about the despised “Capitol” and their beloved characters Katniss and Peeta. They begged me to read the book but I had brushed off the novel as being way too immature for me to read (the 10+ age gap between myself and my students was a red flag.) I soon began to realize that everywhere I went, someone was reading or talking about this book. I finally gave in and picked up The Hunger Games this past November. I literally could not put down the trilogy for the following 7 days.

Suzanne Collins is a specialist in children’s writing, and it shows in The Hunger Games. This novel is in no way a difficult read. The language is concise, the metaphors clear, and the plot lines are straight to the point. It is not a “literary masterpiece” but it is divine in its own right. Katniss Everdeen is an amazing female character and heroine. She is a strong-willed fighter who will do anything to survive and, in my opinion, is a fantastic role model for young readers. The novel is told from Katniss’ perspective so we are limited in what we know, but from the start it is clear that Gale Hawthorne plays a major role in Katniss’ life. However, once the games begin, he is discarded and becomes a very minor character. The same is for Katniss’ sister, Primrose. Katniss is constantly talking about how much Prim means to her but we barely know anything about her. This is a serious problem I had with The Hunger Games and felt myself feeling empty towards the minor characters.

Undoubtedly, this novel is a page turner and the casual attitude towards the violence in Panem is eerie. Collins keeps us in the dark about information surrounding the Capitol, the games, and the districts (one of the reasons why the following two novels are so thrilling.) I found myself trying to scrape up any bit of information I could find and trying to piece it all together. Although this is considered a Young Adult book and the main characters are all children themselves, there is nothing childish about Collins’ dystopia and its transgression to the screen should be nothing short of incredible. I anticipate it to be a box office smash.

“The Hunger Games” – Directed by Gary Ross

The Hunger Games Movie, Lionsgate, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Gary Ross, Mookology Review, Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, The Capitol

via IMDB.com

First, I would like to thank my good friend Matt (@mattw6789) for taking me to an advanced screening of “The Hunger Games” yesterday afternoon! If you are one of my twitter followers (@Mookology), you may have seen my tweets of HG-themed cocktails and countdown posters. It was amazing! Now, onto the movie.

For all you fans of the book series, be prepared to see some changes. These are minor changes, mostly, with a few added elements. However, these things needed to be done in order to present the Capitol, the Districts, and the Games with proper detail. In the book, we are inside Katniss head and she guides us with information on the world she lives in and how the Games work. What we miss in the film without Katniss’ narration is made up for with added scenes and explanations.

One of my favorite things about the movie, for example, was that we are able to see the Gamemaker Headquarters (which is AWESOME!) which gives Seneca Crane a much larger role. Everything about the Capitol is quite intense, super glamorous and a stark alternative to the lives in the Districts. The movie is able to put the Capitol on display in the way the book cannot. Gary Ross does a great job of directing in the sense that each aspect of the films’ settings are different and capture the mood of the scene.

The casting was phenomenal. I am a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan and it was no surprise that she was fantastic, but everyone else was equally as powerful. Elizabeth Banks as Effie was hilarious in all the right ways and probably one of my favorite portrayals in the film. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, who I was nervous would not impress me at all, was PERFECT and he completely reinforced my “Team Peeta” mentality. Lastly, Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman is flat out flawless and becomes the face of the Capitol in the most strange and corrupt way. Ceasar Flickerman narrates the Games as if it were the Superbowl, which brings to the surface how twisted the Capitol is and how far removed it’s citizens are from the sanctity of their tributes’ lives.

The only problem with being such a huge fan of the novels is that “The Hunger Games” film feels rushed, even at 2 and 1/2 hours. Katniss and Rue’s friendship is so short lived and, while powerful, you just want a little bit more. The same goes for Katniss and Peeta’s romance. But these small issues in no way harmed the integrity of this film.

“The Hunger Games” is a gem in an era of franchise movies and I hope everyone who sees it feels the same. It’s impossible not to! I had super high expectations and this film met most of them with flying colors and has me eagerly anticipating its sequel, “Catching Fire.”

Mook Rating ★★★★1/2