Movie Review

VV’s Spoiler-Free The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

We saw Mockingjay Part 2 last night and we want to scream all the details with absolute elation from the rooftops. But we won’t, because it’s only Thursday and we’re not terrible people who want to spoil it all for the masses. So we’re going to give a general, spoiler-free review.

12043070_10153658258916810_107667881438186217_nReally, this is all about THE FEELS. There are a lot of them. I went to the Mockingjay Double Feature and I started to tear up during Mockingjay Part 1, which is something I didn’t even do the first time I saw it, just from the sheer momentum of what was to come. It’s the end of an era, but if it’s gotta end.. Damn, at least it went out with a bang!

We’ve read the books more than once and talked about them at length here, so like many of you, we knew what was coming. Know this: Being aware of what will happen and watching it unfold in a visual medium are two very different things. There were several situations throughout the movie in which waiting for the other shoe to drop amped up either the tension or the excitement for me– sometimes both. It’s a testament to the way Francis Lawrence and his team purposefully crafted the film to squeeze every possible emotion from the tale.

297A9B5D00000578-3117094-image-m-29_1433866860839Likewise, the action is pulse-pounding and sharp. The film deftly portrays the horror of violence and war without glorifying it, exactly as its source material sets out to do. With the details covered pretty thoroughly in Part 1, this film wastes no time jumping into the action. The pacing isn’t too breakneck, but you don’t have much downtime until the last few scenes.

More than being utterly gripping, this film is the franchise’s best tribute to Suzanne Collins’ work. The film follows the book more closely than any movie before it without losing its cinematic glow. The popular scenes and quotes that you’re waiting for are there, perhaps delivered in a way you didn’t always expect but powerful nonetheless. That’s not to say there aren’t any changes, but they were pretty minor and didn’t affect the overall viewing experience for us. We were hit hard by one scene change in particular, knowing it was due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely passing.

19291497-20776541-thumbnailThe acting has always been superb in the franchise, but I genuinely think they give their best performances to date. Liam Hemsworth transforms Gale’s broody nature into something more fierce and palpable and Jennifer Lawrence just is Katniss Everdeen, but this is especially true for Josh Hutcherson, who truly rose to the occasion and portrayed Peeta’s compromised mental state with a zinging undercurrent of desperation and earnest. Of course, the supporting cast was also wonderful as always, particularly Julianne Moore as Alma Coin and the members of Squad 451, who really got to sink their teeth into this script.

new-effie-stillWhile I ultimately loved the film and its sweet ending, we do imagine that– as is the case with most epilogues– it will become a source of debate in years to come. It’s more about your perception of the characters and their lives in the aftermath than the actual content.. aaaand that’s all we shall say about that for now.

Urgh. We love this film. We love this franchise. We are clearly biased as all hell, but if you’re here, we think you will too. If you’re a Hunger Games fan, this final movie has so much to offer you and you will not be disappointed!

We’ll Do The Crazy Spoiler Edition Soon,
The Girl With The Pearl

REVIEW: Mockingjay Part 1 Is The Ultimate Game Changer

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** THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE!**

The Hunger Games Franchise: Come for the action. Stay for the bigger, more important message.

KATNISSIf you’ve been following reviews for Mockingjay Part 1 so far, you’ve probably noticed some media outlets griping about the change of pace or fewer action sequences or the lack of the games. But The Hunger Games has always been about more than just the games. The first two films did an excellent job conveying the danger and inequality in Panem through the games, but the story cannot simply be the games, otherwise the whole message Suzanne Collins intended for her audience is lost. The franchise is about the tragedies of war but also the need to question society’s parameters and to fight against injustice, even if it comes at a personal cost. That’s right, folks– We’re moving past the “Whoa, all these people are in a bubble trying to kill each other!” pull and into legitimate political thriller territory.

Mockingjay Part 1 is a tantalizing slow burn. Its pacing, emotion, and action are different from the other films, but in the best way possible. It starts out dark, ends pitch black, and finds moments of levity, anger, sadness, and just about everything else in between. As Katniss attempts to adjust to life in District 13 and reluctantly accepts her role as the voice of the rebellion, a new story element unfolds into something much deeper. Katniss and District 13 go back and forth in the ultimate game of cat and mouse with President Snow, one in which everyone they know is a pawn. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone supporting her in District 13 is really truly on her side, either. The result is a harrowing journey to incite a revolution, one that featured fewer action sequences but kept us more emotionally invested than any Hunger Games movie before it.

Mockingjay-Part-1-Phillip-Seymour-Hoffman-and-Julianne-MooreThere’s a stunning tension created throughout the film by the entire cast. Jennifer Lawrence proved herself as our Katniss long ago, but earns new respect as she handles Katniss’ fragile emotional state with realism and care. Donald Sutherland is an absolute maniacal genius now that he has a chance to flex those baddie muscles. Julianne Moore is a smart, welcome addition as President Coin, who plays beautifully off the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee. The decision to keep Effie in the story was a stellar one and Elizabeth Banks is more perfectly Effie than ever before. Liam Hemsworth plays Gale with much more vulnerability and depth than recent promos have suggested– the rage scene is definitely there, but many others prior to that make it easy to see just how truly torn he is. However, if there’s a “Stepping Up To The Plate” award for this movie, it goes to Josh Hutcherson. Peeta’s transformation is gut-wrenching and visceral, the stuff that makes your breath catch in your throat every time he comes on screen because the¬†agony and instability feels so real. It’s the first time in the series Josh has really been asked to be something beyond the caring, careful version of Peeta we all know so well and he exceeds expectations.

There is still action in this film but it isn’t scene-to-scene as it was when Katniss fought off danger after danger in the arenas. However, please don’t confuse less action with a plodding pace. This movie’s action sticks in your brain and feels much more warranted than in previous films. It is not, as the games were, for anyone’s entertainment. Even in the scenes without explosions and hovercrafts and arrows flying, there’s still plenty of things happening and for us, the entire film felt like it moved very quickly, faster than its actual run time.

mockingjay-part-1-peeta-beatenBecause this movie is a Part 1, you’re not going to get instant gratification around every turn (another sticking point for critics, it seems). But ask yourself– Did you really with The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, either? Francis Lawrence, Danny Strong, and Peter Craig used the opportunity to get more in depth with the story very wisely. Rather than being thrust into District 13, there’s a world-building that you don’t always get in film. President Snow and Plutarch in particular benefit from the books expansion into two parts, in terms of both screen time and character development. Boggs, Cressida, and the film crew are also rewarded a richer understanding than we’d expected. Random gushing: Elden Henson as Pollux was easily our favorite part of the film crew without saying a word, though everyone else played their part very well too.

For all the guessing in the world at the ending, we will only tell you this: You know the ending, but you don’t. You’ll leave the theater feeling charged up and overwhelmed, already eager for the final film.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the film is perfect. We have a few gripes but realize that in the grand scheme of things, they’re pretty minor. We’ll nitpick at a later date because to do so would be to spoil everyone. Even so, we know that Lawrence Squared and the rest of the team have delivered us a stellar film that is sharp and thought-provoking.

We can’t wait to discuss it with all of you!

REACTION POST! The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Now that we’ve all reveled in THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE several times, it’s time for Victor’s Village’s infamous reaction post!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our reaction posts, our three admins in a chat get together and say anything and everything we feel about the topic at hand… and it gets pretty damn hilarious, if we do say so ourselves!

This post is also long, mostly hidden under the READ MORE cut, and contains ALL THE SPOILERS. Beware!

THE FIVE WORD CHALLENGE

The Girl With The Pearl: Since we made our readers answer this: Give an overall review in FIVE WORDS or less!
Them There Eyes: Not the Hunger Games, bitches. Sorry, was channeling Spike from Buffy.
Twiffidy: Oh no this is hard.
TGWTP: Mine is turning out to just be “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!” That could be taken several different ways.
Twiffidy: Spectacular with all the feels.

DRUNK HAYMITCH AND EFFIE’S ALIEN BABIES

AMAZING character development we totally forgot to discuss!

AMAZING character development we totally forgot to discuss!

TGWTP: And said feelings start with some MAJOR character development? Whose was your favorite?
Them There Eyes: I think everyone got an ample amount of character development, even Buttercup. But, I think I’m going to have to go with Effie!
Twiffidy: Effie for sure. I mean, they did finally say her name!
TGWTP: Buttercup was so very… orange! T’was lovely.
TGWTP: I agree Effie takes the cake. We finally get to see the pure Capitol in her that was downplayed before AND a more sensitive side!
Twiffidy: When it comes to Effie, I was relieved to see her humanized.
Them There Eyes: Effie crying was like watching an alien have a baby, and then you cry… because it had a baby.
TGWTP: Somehow, that description works. LOL
Them There Eyes: Okay, now we have to talk about how the joke could finally be made! “Go home Haymitch, you’re drunk.”
TGWTP: YES. He was ACTUALLY DRUNK.
Them There Eyes: Really drunk! I’ve never been so glad to see a man drunk before in my life!
Twiffidy: That entire scene like a slice out of my imagination when I read the books
Them There Eyes: I know! Right down to the bread, and the “burrrr!”
Twiffidy: He was the right amount of drunk from how the books describes without being too comical.
TGWTP: For sure! It’s a hard line to walk, but Woody knows what he’s doing.

99 bottles of booze on the table! 99 bottles of booze!

99 bottles of booze on the table! 99 bottles of booze!

Them There Eyes: Still made me wish for Drunk!Haymitch from THG, falling off the stage at the Reaping. I hope non book fans aren’t too surprised by his sudden change from social drinker to rubbing alcohol pilferer.
TGWTP: And you know what? Peeta was manned up! And it wasn’t some massive dissolution of his character like people made it out to be. Quelle surprise!
Them There Eyes: I know, just seemed like a boy grew up after he saw some pretty horrible things, and… also had his heart broken.
Twiffidy: Yes, it’s understated but that’s how it appeared to me. I’m a big fan of Peeta’s journey through this movie.
Them There Eyes: I loved Peeta, I had Peeta feels for days after seeing it… also sleep deprivation. People change, Peeta’s one of those people.
TGWTP: Peeta Mellark is the ninja-silent emo badass of Panem, though for good reason.
Twiffidy: It’s important to realize that this is the Peeta that Katniss will miss in Mockingjay.

HAD TO.

HAD TO.

TGWTP: URGH MOCKINGJAY. MY HEART IS NOT READY.
Them There Eyes: My body is.
Twiffidy: I almost involuntarily squeak out “No!” at that final look at Peeta as Katniss leaves with the wire. Every. Time.
TGWTP: I understand. It’s “Don’t do it, idiot! I know what happens and you don’t want that shit!”
Twiffidy: I’VE SEEN YOUR FUTURE AND IT IS BLEAK.

(more…)

Proof That We’ll Watch Liam Hemsworth in Anything…

Tuesday night. Half price movie night at the local theater. Between a rainstorm, strawberry margaritas at Chili’s, and a fiance who loves cheesy action films, things got crazy.

That’s right… we have seen The Expendables 2!

***Just a note that THIS IS CHOCK FULL OF EXPENDABLES 2 SPOILERS and if you have any interest in discovering this movie on your own terms, don’t read it!***

Of course, The Expendables 2 is THE stereotype of a “man movie”, but it’s kind of fabulous in the sense that it is completely aware of itself. Everyone involved in the making of this movie knows it’s a cheesy action film. Therefore, they spread on the cheese extra thick.

Liam Hemsworth Expendables 2 Billy the Kid Timmons

Also punking Liam: The wardrobe manager

And thus… poor little Liam! He is pretty much the only non-action hero in the bunch, therefore he doesn’t get to take part in the shenanigans! He’s the guy who gets to play everything straight while everyone around him is ridiculous. He may also be there for that 4% of the audience that needs something pretty to look at, because Sly and Bruce just ain’t cuttin’ it these days.

In fact, we imagine that the writers were specifically trying to punk him in certain scenarios, like this:

Writer #1: Okay, we’re trying to explain why this young gun left the military. I’ve written in the justifiably traumatic experience, but it’s not enough!
Writer #2: Let’s make Liam talk about how the military shot his dog as if that’s more important than the scars of battle. That will make people take him seriously!

Liam plays the promising young’un of the group in the film filled with middle-aged men… which of course means he dies 15 minutes into the movie. If I were him, I’d be a bit peeved at this point. First, they edited his character out of the first movie, then they bring him back just to have someone to kill. Better have been a damn good paycheck, because it’s not doing much for his filmography!

But damn.. Liam’s first on-screen death is a MAN DEATH. If you’re going to get killed off by a bad guy in an action movie, a Double Shadow knife roundhouse kicked into your heart is the way to do it!

I don’t really need to rate this movie, because we all know exactly what it is: A semi-amusing clusterfuck of older action stars killing bad guys and making fun of their own careers (Chuck Norris tells a Chuck Norris joke and it. is. glorious), without much Liam Hemsworth in the mix. But since many of you will not watch it yourself… NOW YOU KNOW.

Maybe I SHOULDN’T be so willing to watch every movie featuring Hunger Games stars…
The Girl With The Pearl

Reviewing Our Favorite Movie Some Of Us Have Finally Seen!

The world premiere of The Hunger Games was almost a week ago exactly, and I was one of the lucky few, um — probably thousand who got to attend. No bragging happening here, because the object of this article is this — to review the film, or at least I’m going to attempt to. Maybe you should know something about me before I get into all this though, I’m a former film studies major, so I’m not just a casual movie watcher — I’m a freakin’ shark, or at least I like to think I am. Any who! The movie, like OMG the movie, better yet — let’s call it what it is, a freakin’ film, yo!

Yep, brothers and sisters, children and not children — The Hunger Games is not a movie, it’s earned the right to call its self by the uppity term, film. Why? Because it’s not something that you can just go into thinking, “oh, I’m gonna have the best time ever, tee hee!” No, you go into this film thinking, “oh dear god, I hope I don’t pee my pants, or ugly cry all over my seat mate!” By the way my seatmates were Adam Spunberg and Savanna New — and as far as I know, no ugly crying was happening, yay us! Okay, okay… the nitty gritty, this is probably one of the best book to film adaptations I have ever seen — and I’ve seen a lot of book to film adaptations and been passionate about the novels they were adapted from, and like a handful of what I consider the best, this one has one of the same things in common with them, the screenplay (ex. Atonement, The Cider House Rules). From the very first few seconds of this film Suzanne Collins’ hands are all over it, because it opens with a cold open, a short history in written from of the country we’ve all come to know, loath, love, and cherish. It was perfect, because dead first the audience it sucked into the world she’s created, it’s not “hey, look at all the big fancy movie stars that are in this movie, flashy letters are cool!” No, it’s straight up, “hey, um guys, this world is not your world — welcome to hell!”

We’ve all seen the trailers, the clips, the stills, some of us have even bought the companion book — but it’s just got to be said, those snip-its do not prepare you for how easily this film draws you in, and keeps you there for the duration. For loyal fans there will be few things to nit pick about, and if you are going to nit pick it — I want you to think long and hard about what you’re ripping apart, and ask your self these questions: 1. Does it change the motivation of any of the characters? 2. Does it change the plot of the story and/or series? 3. Does it change the personality of any characters? I guarantee you, if you ask yourself these questions before starting to needle away at the fact that, oh — um Buttercup isn’t orange, or mangy yellow, or whatever color he was in the book — it’s a cat, people, jeeze! Or, oh yeah… Peeta doesn’t say certain lines. There, those questions will make sure you live a long and healthy life free of Hunger Games nit-pick-itis.

I guess I haven’t gotten to the nitty-gritty as much as I thought, so anyway! The acting is amazing. I think I spent about 3 hours after seeing this film, and the next day muttering “Peeta, oh, Peeta…” to myself in a forlorn voice, and this is all a testament to Josh Hutcherson’s performance. I mean, I already knew the guy could act, but actually seeing him up there for 2 + hours being Peeta to the nth degree, it was visceral, and I think my mouth was hanging open almost the whole time. You know how Josh has been saying for months now that he is Peeta, well — he’s right, no ifs and or buts about it, Josh Hutcherson is Peeta, and he will never not be. Jennifer Lawrence, just — Jennifer Lawrence, she proved herself in Winter’s Bone, but as Katniss Everdeen she’s like Ripley from Alien only much younger and less weird-looking, and she makes you cry within the first 10 minutes of the film, because you want her to be your big sister so bad.

All right, here’s what you probably really want to know, or need to know. A. You will not be disappointed by this movie, unless there’s perhaps something clinically wrong with you, and you’re never satisfied by anything, not even a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. B. The acting in this film is top-notch, and that includes even the background supporting artists. I’m not even kidding when I say that, seriously — watch the people in the Reaping scene, they’re bloody fantastic. Tucci is hilarious. President Snow is a creepy Santa, and you should fear him. Wes Bentley, gotta be said, we’re so glad he’s back at the party, and we never want him to leave! Woody, he’s Haymitch, guys. Lenny, he’s so warm and generous, I want him to pick out my next formal outfit. C. The so-called love triangle is not played up. I’d even go so far as to say that if you didn’t know that there is supposedly a love triangle, you won’t notice it — because it’s only subtly touched on in Gale’s reactions — much like how many of us imagined him to react anyway. D. It does not feel like a Hollywood film at all, it’s more like an independent, it’s quick, it’s downright frenetic at times, so in other words it plays out how most of us read the book. Honestly, it feels like 30 minutes, but you’ve been sitting there for 2 + hours, that is the true mark of a good film. E. The costume and set design is some of the best I’ve ever seen. F. As soon as Arcade Fire’s song starts blasting through the sound system, and the credits roll, you itch for Catching Fire to be at your finger tips, just like when you finished reading the book.

G. Excuse me, I need to go write a love letter to Gary Ross!

Them There Eyes