Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

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Ever since Katniss shot that arrow in the arena, the world of Panem and the districts was changed. No longer will people tolerate the mass injustice of the government, nor will they accept the rule of a man who is a heartless and ruthless deceiver. A rebellion has sparked, and it needs fuel to bring it to full blaze.

The Mockingjay, is that fuel. Who better to be the Mockingjay than our very own Katniss? While the ideal object for propaganda amongst the rebellion and against the capitol, Miss Everdeen herself is not as open to the idea. She hates the leaders of the rebellion for not keeping their promise made to her before the quarter quell, and before she agrees to anything, she has some terms of her own.

Agreements are made, propaganda is released, and people all over the districts begin to rally to the cause of liberation. The games are over.

War, has begun.

Things I liked

This film is full of people seeming to grow up in the face of absolute necessity. Katniss remains petty about Peeta due to her obsession (dare I call it Love?) with protecting him, but when push comes to shove, will do anything to save those she deems worth protecting. This is especially true of her friends, family, and civilians caught up in this rebellion. Her loyalty and faith in Peeta is undying, though everyone else has said he is lost. Katniss is not a hero in any way. She is a person caught in a war she doesn’t want, and just wants to get out of it alive and well with those she loves.

Other characters come to the plate and hit home runs of their own. Prime learns about her vanity and selfishness, then strives to overcome it. Gale surprises all by putting his life on the line for people whom he doesn’t even like. Finnick painfully reveals truths to the world about what the capitol did to him that are humiliating, ditching the arrogant persona about him. Even Peeta, residing in the capitol, makes an effort to protect the rebels.

The theme of hope continues in this film moving from Katniss, to the rebels. The hope and believe in something more. To be free from unjust and merciless rule. This hope turns common folk into self-sacrificing soldiers who stop at nothing, even death at gunpoint, to further the ideal of freedom they all seek.

The power of propaganda shines through Katniss and the films the rebels shoot for public broadcast. We are shown the way media has the strength to shape the opinions and minds of the people viewing these messages. A warning to some and opportunity to others is most applicable in the current society in which we live today.

There is no profanity or crude language in the movie at all. Even a war movie too. Props to the script writers for keeping it clean, yet keeping the dialogue powerful without such unnecessary coarse language.

Things I didn’t like

With Civil war, comes death, destruction, and pain. We see all of this shown in a personal way through the eyes of people, rather than a documentary type feel. Men and women are gunned down by the Peacekeepers many times. Bombers level buildings with people inside. The rebels eventually retaliate with bombs and explosions of their own crude making. Perhaps the most gut wrenching scene is when we are shown a roadway bombed to bits, with hundreds of charred bodies in various forms of death, all who were clearly fleeing the city which was destroyed. Blood is kept to a minium.

Gale and Katniss kiss, again. Finnick kisses Annie as well. It is implied that Finnick’s body was “sold” to ladies in the capitol to do with as they please. This greatly affected Finnick and we see that come to light when he begins to tell his story.

Closing Thoughts

Remember Katniss, the things you love most, will destroy you. Remember it was I who told you that.
~President Snow~ 

Mockingjay (Part 1) begins the final chapter of the hunger games saga. With one last film left to go, the end of this deadly drama is near. We started in an arena where kids are made to kill each other by the government. In this vile place we learned that this government is indeed worth rebelling against, and that point has been further emphasized as the plot has progressed. In the Second film, we are show through Katniss’ actions that Panem is not only vile, but corrupt in not even keeping its own law. Here at the end, we learn a final thing about this government which is being rebelled against. That it is is not only unjust, but also merciless.

With this true Panem revealed, we watch Katniss begin to work with the rebels as a propagandist symbol. That is, only after her immature and selfish terms are met. This symbol, the Mockingjay, inspires people throughout all the districts to no longer stand for the injustice and cruelty they have endured. They rise up, and Panem begins to try to quell the rebellion the only way they know how- brute force.

This reveals some ponderous themes in a film which I was told, “only gets worse as you go on“. Over and over Hope and sacrifice is shown to be one of the strongest of virtues. Katniss disregards her orders to “stay safe” and risks her life without thinking to try and save civilians. We see common workers, motivated by something more that just survival, act in ways that sacrifices themselves, but strikes at the heart of the capitol.

If you follow this series because you like Katniss, I’ll admit, you are going to be disappointed in her. She acts immature 90% of the time and things only of herself and Peeta. Widen your gaze though, and start to look at the uprising occurring against murder, corruption, injustice, and the lot. You’ll begin to see a new light breaking in between the cracks of the districts into something truly great.

President Snow told Katniss the thing you love most is what will ultimately destroy you. This is perhaps the most poignant quote of the movie. It is also, quite true for anyone. Anywhere. What we love is what we will suffer for. What we will sacrifice for. What we will die for. Misplace that love, and you misplace your life. Ultimately we see in this film people living according to their loves. Whether it is an ideal, a person, or power. What will be interesting in the last, is to see what Love the author has chosen as right to pursue, and how that is adapted into film.

Mockingjay Part 1 continues the positive slope of these films, and whether it continues or not in the last, demonstrates beautifully the terror of civil war, the power of hope, and the destruction (good or bad) love brings to one’s life. I eagerly await the finale, hopeful myself, it does not destroy itself.

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My Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2013

2013 Brought some excellent films, as well as some less than desirable ones. I watched many of these 2013 releases, so thought I would share with you some of my favorites, and tell you why.

#10 The Croods

Perhaps out of all the films of 2013, this one surprised me the most.  The commercials advertised this movie as one with a lack of any real value- focusing on prevalent nonsensical humor rather than a greater goal. Instead of finding this, we find this movie is packed with strong family values, great themes of hope and faith, and quite bit of good humor as well. Definitely one of the better animated features of 2013.

#9 Turbo

This movie is anything but sluggish. A rather weird idea of a snail traveling faster than a race car results in a optimistically fun adventure full of never giving up, never settling for status quo, and the  learning the value of brotherhood. If you can get past the sheer impossibility of the snails in the movie, you’ll find it an excellent choice to grab and enjoy as a family.

#8 Hunger Games: Catching fire

The second movie in the Hunger Games trilogy. Through peril, sacrifice, and political rebellion we watch this movie redeem itself from the first. While the end is not yet seen, Catching fire offers some excellent messages regarding hope and just rebellion against government. Be warned, it ends with a rather bad teaser. ;) 

#7 Frozen

Frozen has some very positive and powerful themes, conveyed through stellar animation we’ve come to expect from Disney. Well written, albeit a bit predictable… Watch it with a sharp mind, because it is the subtleties you want to watch out for. If you have a active mind though, you can enjoy the true love shown while disregarding the extra junk mail that comes along with it.

#6 After Earth

Another rather unexpected favorite this year, After Earth tells the story between a father and son learning about each other in the face of death on a post apocalyptic earth. Very similar to Thor in terms of content and themes, we are shown through exciting events and adventures just what it means to face and conquer fear, and how to grow up in that process.

#5 Thor: The Dark World

Thor and his friends return to defend against an ancient Darkness, which is darkness itself. Full of beautiful symbolism of Light vs Dark (i.e. good vs evil) we are shown evil truly is terrible and strong, but can never stand against light. Well written, acted in good humor, and with some surprising plot twists, this movie easily made it into my favorites.

#4 Star Trek: Into Darkness

Dark titles seems to be a trend this year in Hollywood. Another much anticipated sequel, we find Captain Kirk at odds with a man named “John Harrison”. A ruthless vagabond and war criminal, Harrison seeks to destroy star command from the inside out. We watch young Kirk learn what it means to be a true leader (not a boss) through failures and successes. With impressive cinematography and first class acting, watching the story unfold is a real treat.

#3 Monster’s University

Everybody loves the underdog. In Monster’s University, we see Mike start as that underdog and strive to become something more. A true Pixar masterpiece, we are plunged into the monster world and seriously and humorously taught about excellence in all things, honest teamwork, humility, and much more. It is in my opinion the best animated film of the year, and definitely one to enjoy for years to come.

#2 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Part Two of the Hobbit films being created by Peter Jackson, This movie brings to life Tolkien’s classic tale, with a considerable amount of PJ story telling added in. Purists I am sure will despise the series, but in some ways, I feel Mr. Jackson has made it more real. Pulling from threads all over Tolkien’s world (including books like the Silmarillion) we are drawn into a world where a Hobbit confronts a Dragon- and lives.

The astounding brilliant stupendousness of the creation of Smaug and middle earth in the video world, the dozens of themes which seem to have been pulled straight out of scripture, and the brilliant acting by Martin Freeman as Bilbo lends this to be an easy #2 best film of the year in my book.

#1 Man of Steel

Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, Man of Steel stuck, and still sticks with me the most. The story of Superman has always been an amazing one to me. A man who can do anything, serves people weaker than himself. His body may be like steel, but his heart is one of love. Every action he makes, he makes out of love for someone else, and never for himself. All of this, guided by his parents.

A true servant and literary “Christ Figure“, we see through Man of Steel a man who is super not because of what he can do with his body, but because of the character of his heart. It is by far the favorite of mine of the year, and has made it into my favorite movies of all time as well.

So those are my favorites, what were some films that you enjoyed this past year?

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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With the victory of the Hunger Games a year behind them, Katniss and Peeta continue to live a double life for the state. For the camera, they are a lovestruck couple, smiling and grateful to the state for the gifts they have been given. When the lights go down however, they are torn and tired of the play acting.

Then, when president Snow visits Katniss and tells her that she has become a beacon of hope to the rebellion, he threatens the death of her entire district. She has to convince him that the love between her and Peeta is real. Or else suffer the consequences. But the dual victory set in motion events which cannot be stopped by mere acting. Rebellions and outbreaks are becoming more and more common. To distract from this, the President declares for the 75th hunger games, all living victors of games past much be selected as part of the reaping.

So again, Katniss finds herself in the arena. Not with inexperienced kids, but adult trained killers. Allies are the key to her physical survival, but her death means success to the state. The game isn’t just inside the arena now, it is in real life. A political, manipulative, and deceptive game which will result in one victor. Moves and countermoves, are the key to one ideologies’ success.

Things I Liked

Katniss has grown a lot since the last games. She still lives in fear, but no longer lets that consume here. Rather, we see her decide to make a stand. This is first evidenced when see gives a speech in honor of her lost friend- Rue. She is consumed by the heartbreaking loss she experienced in the death of her friend, and she defies the state in a compelling way. This results however, in civilians showing rebellion, and many being punished for that.

If anything, Katniss does not want to hurt anyone deemed “innocent” in her eyes. This was shown in the first film in part, which caused immense moral ambiguity which I had problems with. Now, we are shown that if one is for the state, and actively pursues punishment of acts of rebellion, then Katniss has no desire to protect them. We see her transform from a girl trying to survive into a cunning solider of the rebellion.

Peeta remains the compassionate and caring person we found him to be in the first film. He is there to comfort Katniss in times of nightmares, and to be “just a friend” to get through the difficult times. When a tribute is dying a painful death, he directs their gaze to the sunrise, and provides them a peaceful passing while viewing the beauty of the new morning.

Haymitch, Cinna, and Effie all subtly rebel against the state in ways to promote the expansion of the rebellion. In fact, almost all the protagonists do so, knowing that it could cost them their lives. Katniss’ family tells her she can’t live in fear of losing them- because the rebellion is “Bigger than any one person”. Gale stands up against peacekeepers raiding district 12. Cinna designs a dress which embraces the symbol of hope all have come to believe in. We see over and over people placing the good of the people over their own personal interests. Even in the games, some tributes sacrifice themselves so Katniss may live.

Which brings me to the antagonist side. The state. It is shown that the government, controlled by the president, is in no way concerned or worried about the interest of the citizens. Rather, it delights in reigning through fear and oppression. It lives in gluttony as well, living like the greeks and drinking elixirs which makes them throw up so they can eat more. Perhaps most despicable though is the forcing of the citizens each year to murder each other in the games many delight in. It has no law, save for what the president decrees. The reign of terror reminded me of the way jews were treated in the holocaust. People have no rights, no protection, and no due process. They have no freedom, and are commanded to sin against each other. That is a just reason to rebel.

Things I Didn’t Like

Katniss kisses Gail and Peeta many times. The love triangle continues… *groan*  A female veteran Tribute provocatively undresses in front of Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch due to mental instability. We see only her face and back, and the reactions from Peeta (awkward discomfort) and Haymitch (enjoys it).

The violence in Catching Fire is scaled down immensely compared to the first film, but that doesn’t mean it is without blood on its hands. The most disturbing images are brought in as rebellion begins. A man is shot in the head for a simple gesture. Masses are burned and gunned down for whistling the cry of a mocking jay. Several men who stand against the peacekeepers are brutally beaten with lashes or punched to death.

In the Victor’s Game in the arena. The initial start up results in us seeing a few tributes shot by arrow and killed via axe. After this, a preference is given to hearing a cannon go off, rather than watching each of the 24 tributes die. The ones we do see die, are killed by the environment, rather than the other tributes. Once is gored by a rabid monkey, another is consumed by a poisonous mist.

There is a twice bleeped out F- word on a TV show when a person speaks out against the state. Once used are the S-, D, and B- words. God’s name is used in vain about six times.

Closing Thoughts

You don’t win the games, you merely survive. There are no winners.
~Haymitch~

The second film in the “Hunger Games” series, I went into this movie quite skeptical to be honest. In fact, I was not going to see this one, but because of the overwhelming requests to review it, I decided to do so. I will say, I was in some ways pleasantly surprised, yet in others saw what I expected.

We find all the established characters grow into developed roles and figures. Katniss, the symbol of hope, Peeta, the symbol of compassion, and many others. These people finally determine the state is in no way to be supported, then commit wholeheartedly to that position. The result is powerful examples of courage, sacrifice, and strength. The leadership by example passes to other tributes, and to the common people as well.

In the course of these events however, much loss is to be heard of and seen. These are tragic to witness and listen to. We see peacekeepers take out any unarmed citizen who displays a glimmer of rebellion. This was violence I was not prepared for, and it hurt deeply to watch the brutality shown against a defenseless folk.

Perhaps the strongest theme shown, is hope. We see how powerful the gift of hope can be. It was touched on in the first film, and the thread continues to be woven in this one. We are told hope is greater than fear and finally begin to see the positive effects of that hope, and less focus on the results of living fear.

So while The Hunger Games is still a disgusting film full of child murders and selfish violence all around… Catching Fire provides the purpose (and attempts to justify it) to the first movie. It shifts focus from brutal murders, to the cause of these murders- which is from the state. We are shown a brave small group of people who decide to rebel against these scheduled killings and immorality.

It is not without faults, but what started out as a complete dismissal of the benefit of The Hunger Games Series, there is building a glimmer of hope, that maybe, just maybe, there is something worth value of discussion with others after all.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the books for this movie, so all interpretations, observations, and notations are based off the film. 

In the future.

74 years ago, the Hunger Games were established. Before that time, the people of this Nation grew sick and poor. They gave the government power to distribute and care for the people.
After a time, the people grew stronger, and the famine gone. But the Government would not relinquish this control.
Civil War ensued. And the Government emerged victorious.
To Ensure such uprising would never happen again, the Nation was divided into 12 districts and forced to live in extreme poverty. Hunting? Not allowed. Weapons? Banned.
In addition, each year every district must pay tribute to the government by giving one boy and girl, ages 12-19, in the “Hunger Games” A battle to the death, and the winner giving immense riches and food for the rest of their and family’s lives.

24 participants

12 Districts

1 Victor

Let the Hunger Games Begin.

Before I go into the actual content, I wanted to say a little something about the motivations behind seeing this movie.
I am not a culture bandwagon jumper, Twilight… Harry potter… The latest music… I don’t really follow that stuff.
This movie however, sparked my attention, because of the story behind it, the story of a government in absolue power, and people willing to stand up against it. I knew there would be a lot of stuff presented, especially on death, and wanted to see an audience up with the current “Fads” reacted to various moral scenarios.
To say I was surprised… would be an understatement. It was incredibly amusing, perplexing, and baffling to see double standards, edging on relationships… and cheering and yelling out at various… male characters. (in previews… the Movie begins with T)
So, I will get more into that in a moment… but was very telling to me, to see what our culture is like in terms of entertainment and standards.

Alright, onto the movie content. :)

Things I liked

One of the biggest themes throughout this movie, is sacrifice. The main character (from District 12), Katniss volunteers herself during the “reaping” to save her little sister. She puts her life in danger many times to save other combatants in the games. Peeta (the guy from District 12) also, is willing to give his life for another. We see this throughout the movie, that Katniss values other people above herself, this is one of the bible’s strongest commandments, second only to to “Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and Mind”.

Another theme in the movie is to stand up against what is wrong. Katniss sees the wrong in these hunger games, and is determined not to stoop to that level. It does come with a cost however, as refusing to kill someone makes things… difficult to survive. In standing up for what is right, against the gladiator style game, she inspires the people watching throughout the Nation, not to be entertained by violence, but to reject it.

There is a strong focus on compassion and mercy, coming from many combatants in the game. Granted they are occasional occurrences, but present nonetheless. A guy spares one girl, merely for the fact she is helpless and not able to defend herself. Another instance includes Katniss befriending a 13 year old girl who is a possible liability to herself. Protecting the weak and helpless, in an inhumane environment, was good to see.

Things I didn’t like

The violence in the Hunger Games is some of the most unappetizing I have seen in a long time… There are so many levels of violence too. So, I will attempt to break it down in the conclusion…
The style of violence here, is one I hadn’t seen before. It was hand camera, so you would see a strike, the a the last moment spin away, so you just saw blood. Very rarely do we ever see a full hit. One girl warming herself by the fire, is surrounded by a group. We see her face, the it cuts away and we hear her dying scream. After a tribute is killed, often they would give a 5-10 second cut of the dead body. Shots included slit throats… snapped necks… bludgeoned to death…
Cato is a 19 year old boy from District 1, there, they train for all of their life, then volunteer for the games. They almost always win. Cato is the epiphany of ruthless, vile, and tyrannical fighting. We watch him break the neck of young boy, slay thirteen year old girls, and ally with those as strong as himself. If you are weaker, you die, and ultimately he cares only for himself, others are just tools to be used.
Katniss also is not without blood on her hands. she drops a swarm of killer wasps on the allied group, and one person dies from the stings. We later see their face, swollen, disfigured, and discolored while Katniss pries a bow out of their death grip. She shoots a guy in the chest to protect herself and the girl she is with, but she kills him nonetheless. She also commits a “Mercy” killing, as a guy is getting torn and eaten to death by wild dogs… she decides to end his suffering with a shot of a bow.
Other deaths include a boy being beaten to death with a brick, we see a girl who died of eating poisonous food. One rather large guy snatches a girl up by the neck, and pounds her against a wall until we hear (and see) her neck snap, and she falls to the ground. We see a girl gored in the stomach with a spear, and she numbly pulls it out.

There is a relationship between Katniss and Petta in the games, used to increase the odds/excitement/etc. It initially starts as a show for entertainment, but quickly develops from there. Back home though, there is another guy who is ready to marry Katniss.
Stupid love triangles.
These are made solely for the drama and entertainment of some girls watching this movie (no offense girls). After Peeta is injured, they wind up kissing a short time later. It is never shown what actually happens after they get back home, whether they stay together, not, etc. It wasn’t needed to build the story, and distracted from the overall goal. In my opinion anyway.

Cussing is in the movie, D—, H—, and God’s name is used in vain several times.

The mentor for Katniss and Peeta is drunk all the way to the city. He also tells an uptight city lady to loosen her corset and have a drink.

Closing Thoughts

After watching this movie, my brain was churning. So many ideas, themes, and moral scenarios presented… It still has me reeling four hours later.

Let’s starts with the violence aspect.
It is very interesting to see what a double standard our society has in terms to life and who deserves it. I remember, when the bad guy died (you know he was going to… ;) ) there was cheering.
Did you read that?
Cheering.
Over the death of a person.
Several times.
Death, is never something we should rejoice in, unless it is one of a person going to meet Christ in heaven.
It sickened me to my core. Moresoe than anything else, actually hearing the audience cheer for a brutal death, because that person was “Bad”.
Ironic actually, as it seemed the hunger games was made to warn against a society reveling in, rejoicing in, and being entertained by death and violence. It warns against the perils of a society that takes delight in seeing people killed. Katniss kills a girl who is sleeping, with killer wasps… and that is OK? She shoots a person who is dying to relieve suffering… Euthanasia anyone? One person kills to save another. Why is the person they saved more valuable? These are just some questions that arise when watching the arena battle.

Outside the arena, as they are preparing for combat, more items arise…
“May the odds Ever be in your favor”
This is the slogan of the Government. Funny though, as the government controls those odds, since they own and control the arena.
If there is anything to be learned from this movie, it is that Thomas Jefferson was absolutely correct in saying “A government big enough to give you anything you want, is also big enough to take away everything you have.”
In one scene, the president is talking to his advisor about how he should manipulate the games this year. He says “…These games provide the people with one thing. Hope. The only thing more powerful than fear, is Hope. Be careful with this…

I found it very interesting that throughout the whole movie, what happens after death is never mentioned. Not once does someone ask about what happens after, nor God (or someone like Him) brought up. Leaving it up to the person to ponder, if they cared enough, the question. Clearly, this movie supports humanity and value of life… but the question never answered is Why? Because it feels right? Because one is entitled to live? Because one is a good person? No ultimate standard results in the double standard we see in this film, one where, a person can be killed if they aren’t “nice” or stronger than others…

There are many biblical and honorable traits portrayed in the 2 hour and 20 minute “Hunger Games”, and it also provides some very good stuff to chew on.
But given the brutal teen violence and lack of moral resolution…. I’m going to have to pass on seconds.