Jennifer Lawrence

Rallying Behind The Hanging Tree

(Small spoilers for the Hanging Tree sequence in the film)

The Mockingjay score is available to buy today, and after hearing it during the movie, I bought it first thing this morning and it’s been my musical buddy all day. The score, and in particular, The Hanging Tree, is the talk of the fandom, and we couldn’t be happier. With fan-created hastags like #BuyTheHangingTreeOniTunes flying everywhere, the song is rising on the digital download charts. It’s nice to see fans take hold of something from the movie they love and rally behind it. So why ALL THE LOVE?

It’s a great sequence in the MOVIE

From the earliest reviews, this was the scene that everyone was talking about. In a hugely positive way. Even the grumpy reviewers who couldn’t get over the fact that this movie was a Part 1 seemed to like the Hanging Tree scene, which is ironic, because this scene would very likely have never been filmed, much less make a final cut, in a one-movie-only Mockingjay. The way the song moves from Katniss’s thoughtful, quiet singing to a rebel anthem fits so well in the film. We like music that actually fits the film!

And it made a beloved scene in the book EVEN BETTER

It’s the best of both worlds when you can translate a tricky book scene like this so well in the film. This scene was a major call-out of what fans wanted to see in the movie. There’s a lot of ways this could have gone very terribly wrong. But somehow Francis & Co found a way to do it in a way that made it even more moving than it was in the book.

Jennifer Lawrence is singing, y’all

We’ve heard Jennifer Lawrence repeatedly insist that she’s an awful singer, but we all know that’s just some overly modest insecurity talking. She may not have the professionally trained chops of a Broadway singer, but that works for the song. Her bluesy tone and style feels real and honest and just right for that scene. Anything more polished would feel fake and too much like the choreographed propaganda that failed. There’s a definite novelty to hearing Jen sing, yes, but it’s not just because it’s Jennifer Lawrence, the big movie star signing it that we’re so enraptured. It’s the way she sings it – and the arrangement of the piece by the Lumineers and James Newton Howard.

And now we’ve got a tv spot with the song too.

We’re hoping Lionsgate pushes this song for awards contention. Even with all the lack of awards love this franchise gets, we think this song has a shot.

It’s going to be running through our heads for quite a while, but that’s just fine.

JJ

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Mockingjay Has Been Split into Two Movies. Get Over It or GTFO.

This post will be about the fact that Mockingjay was split into two movies, but there will be no mention of where the split happens or spoilers about the film.

If you’ve read any negative reviews of Mockingjay Part 1, you can be sure that a major gripe with the reviewer is that Mockingjay is continuing the trend of making the final book of a series into multiple movies. These people want the trend to DIE because they don’t want Hollywood to make more money on blockbuster movies at the expense of the sanctity of cinema. It’s a cash grab that offends them on behalf of the moviegoers that actually have to pay to see movies. Meanwhile the publication they write for probably has articles every other week about how Hollywood isn’t growing box office receipts enough. Negativity begets web traffic which begets more ad dollars which keeps that person in a job.

Katniss CoinWhen Lionsgate made the decision to split Mockingjay into two movies, I think the decision was purely financial. They weren’t thinking it would make the fans happy, they were thinking that the audience who had miraculously made The Hunger Games into a monster hit would be willing to stick around, so it would be fiscally irresponsible NOT TO make an additional film. If you’re a studio executive, you don’t leave money like that on the table if you want to keep your job for long.

I don’t own any Lionsgate stock, so I don’t have any stake in their financial success. However, I would be pissed if they decided to keep the budget low and make two cheap films to squeeze even more dollars out of the franchise. But they didn’t. They bankrolled talented people to make these movies and gave it a large enough budget to look great. If they give me two movies I enjoy, I will happily pay to see each one.

D8-Hospital1-620x413And you know what, I’ve seen Mockingjay Part 1 twice now, and I love it. I’m glad I get two films to go more into detail of a book that means so much to me. If they had made just one movie, it would have been rushed, and long, and left too much out.  Yes, at the end, I really wanted the movie to keep going, but that’s the point. It’s not going to end in a neat little bow. I was prepared for that, so I’m a satisfied movie-goer.

So let’s break it down, who is going to be unhappy about Mockingjay being two movies?

  • People who don’t really like the book.
  • People blinded by the “YA” heritage of this series to see the universal relevance of the story.
  • People who haven’t read the book but just show up for THE HUNGER GAMES killin’ action movie or because Jennifer Lawrence is hot, without any self-awareness or care of how “Capitol” that sentiment is.

At the end of the day, if Mockingjay had been one movie, I don’t think it would have won over those people anyway. The book is a huge departure from the first two in the series. It’s darker and more introspective and not for everyone. But I’m ready to see Mockingjay Part 1 yet again, and will enjoy the ride up to the finale next year.

Happy Mockingjay PART 1 weekend,

JJ

 

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!

Mockingay Part 1 Premiere Day Fan Frenzy

It’s another milestone day. The LA premiere! Reddit AMA, Twitter Chat, Facebook Fan Events! So much goodness all at once, it’s hard to pick just one.

mj la premiere starsWe were very excited to see the Facebook Fan event, because we saw previews of it from when it occurred on Saturday. It did start, how should we say, fashionably late so we haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, because it was PREMIERE TIME.

But while we waited for the Facebook event and the Premiere Livestream to start, we noticed something interesting. Music that seemed very much to be the Mockingjay Part 1 Score started playing. And then that theory was cemented when a female voice started singing The Hanging Tree. At first it was confusing. Who is that singing?

OMG THIS IS JEN SINGING THE HANGING TREE.

Yes, I kept listening because it was on and IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. So beautiful. I can’t wait to see it on film. The score beyond that sounds great, with tones from the previous films.

More bts stories!

More bts stories please!

But onto the Premiere! The WHITE carpet looked super cool and everyone was there. New faces like Patina Miller, who wanted to keep her Commander Paylor boots because it helped her immediately get into character. Mahershala Ali told us that Francis Lawrence made blooper reel that documented how things were so wacky off camera and then would immediately become serious at the word “action.” WE MUST SEE THIS. THIS MUST BE A DVD EXTRA PLEASE.

The livestream hosts kept asking about pranks. It seemed to be their go to question. So we learned that Jeffrey Wright had a close call when Jennifer tried to push him in Beetee’s wheelchair. Liam shared that he tries to be zen when around the Jen and Josh craziness. Jen’s favorite costume was her tribute parade costume in Catching Fire and Josh wanted to keep Finnick’s trident from Catching Fire. A lot of soundbites given. A lot of pictures taken. But the best thing about today is that we can now say this is the week the movie opens!

It’s almost movie time!

JJ

Mockingjay Cast Late Night Antics

The time of interviews and MORE interviews is here, and the leading cast has been making the late night talk show rounds in New York (and the morning show talk show rounds, these guys are busy). The “late night” shows are actually taped in the afternoon/early evening and are just aired later at night, but anyway, the cast is everywhere and bringing the funny.

Jennifer stopped by Letterman and she had 4 segments of the show (which really really rarely happens) where she shared some funny stories about meeting her friend Lauren for the first time and trying to get a (platonic) couples colonic with Josh. If only Letterman didn’t phone it in so hard and gave her a little more to work with. But ah well, he’s heading towards retirement, and to get Jen ready for the next CBS late night host, she also visited Steven Colbert at The Colbert Report. He had no problem understanding that Mockingjay Part 1 is “the third installment in the rare four part trilogy.” And he has big plans for either leaving it all to fight crime with her. Or have a downward spiral. Let’s scrap those plans for now, eh?

Meanwhile, Josh Hutcherson stopped by Jimmy Fallon to answer Twitter questions. We know Josh doesn’t tweet much, and he admits that he doesn’t do the daily tweet stuff like “Gettin my Starbucks. So sad. #Frappuccino.” Which I’ve been seeing all over twitter all day now in various forms.

He also displays his awesome talent of gibberish and did a repeat of the eerily accurate cricket noise (how?). The guy is talented. Thanks to a cool fan question we also learned about a new Catching Fire easter egg.

Though Josh has lots of talents, he may need to work his at beer hockey skills. But in beer hockey does anyone really lose?

No, I don’t think he was at all unhappy about that.

Now on to the other 39,452 more interviews.

JJ

Human Flesh, Christmas Carols, and Mockingjay Press

Despite the veritable plague that has over taken half of the principle cast, everyone seems to be putting their best foot forward, and in Jennifer’s case Strep Throat diagnosis or not, she’s stepping foot on nearly every stage, carpet, or otherwise, in a stylish black and white ensemble.

Today I was home in the morning, this was an unprecedented occurrence as I’m usually up and out to work by 8am most days. But not today, today I had the morning off, which meant one thing: I was able to catch Josh Hutcherson on Live with Kelly and Michael, AKA the second most irritating couple on morning American TV next to Hoda and Kathy Lee! So, while I figuratively bit my hand so I wouldn’t fling the remote at Michael or Kelly’s giant heads, I was able to watch two sugary sweet segments of Josh being regaled with pat questions about hair conditioning, and then less sugary sweet subjects like his desire to try human flesh if it was ever offered to him. This only made me think one thing, maybe Josh really wants to do a remake of Alive, the 1993 film about the Uruguayan rugby team that survived after a plane crash in the Andes by resorting to eating the bodies of their dead friends, and fellow passengers. And, none of that can be considered a spoiler any longer, because it came out in ’93, twenty or more years in my humble opinion is ample time to know the plot of films like like Alive. Yes, Josh is a weirdo, but he’s our weirdo– which brings me to Jennifer’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

As of when I am writing this article on the west coast of the United States, Letterman has not aired yet. However, a two-minute clip of Jen’s appearance was released well before air-time of the show in its entirety. And this is what we learned from the clip: Jen and Dave still have an unshakable rapport. Jen looks amazing even though she’s probably still sick as a dog. Dave tried to get her to sing, but Jen was Jen– and ended up demonstrating her singing chops with an anecdote involving her father’s merciless teasing, and a guttural rendition of Holly Jolly Christmas. The most important thing to be learned from this clip however, is that apparently Jen’s voice will be the voice we’ll hear when Katniss sings The Hanging Tree in Mockingjay Part 1. So from the horses mouth, or the girl who likes horses mouth, we now know it’s true– Jen’s singing for reals in Mockingjay Part 1.

Have a holly jolly Christmas guys! Oh wait, it’s November!

Them There Eyes

The Big Big Big Mockingjay Part 1 World Premiere

It’s Mockingjay Part 1 World Premiere Day! And the lucky attendees are watching the movie RIGHT NOW. We really want to be those people. A lot. But we’re stuck telling ourselves that it’s ok – once we see the movie, we’re stuck back to waiting 365 more days to Part 2. And that brings its own struggles.

Hello Glamorous People

Hello Glamorous People

The part of the premiere that we COULD see was livestreamed on Yahoo UK, which is a mix of the host repeating herself ad nauseum to kill time while awaiting someone to arrive, watching the stars pose and sign things for the excited fans, and some super-quick interviews. All very shallow and silly sure, BUT WE LOVE IT and wait all year for this craziness.

Some highlights from the livestream:

  • Francis Lawrence teased that yes, there is one remaining scene to film. And Jennifer later said that he had promised her it would involve a horse. We’re not so sure about how that’s going to work, but we’ll let the two of them work that out.
  • Nina has enjoyed interacting with fans on twitter. So continue being nice to her so she keeps tweeting us little teases. She was the saving grace of the long winter of no Mockingjay news in 2014.
  • We want to listen to Jeffrey Wright discuss the books for hours, not just a minute. Let’s make that happen. He can bring anyone else from the cast too.
  • Jena Malone is aware of the fanart and fanfiction. Does she read the fanfiction though? We want to know.
  • The host tried to say that Effie and Katniss were “best friends” and Elizabeth Banks found a way to graciously find a way around that completely wrong comment without making the interviewer aware of how dumb it was.
  • Josh Hutcherson was well enough to attend the premiere, but still not fully recovered. It didn’t seem to scare away any of the screaming fans though (we get it – I GOT JOSH HUTCHERSON GERMS is a fun story to bring home with you. Just maybe stay away from your friends for a while to keep from passing it along).

mockingjay premiere photo call

 

Finally, this cast is gorgeous and appreciates us, even when we scream and shove things at them to sign. We really love them for that.

Can we see the movie yet?

JJ

 

 

 

Mockingjay Press Has Begun!

Over the last several years of covering all things and everything Hunger Games, there are a handful of things that always remain the same. Two of them are that when there’s no news, it’s like a desert wasteland. However, when there is Hunger Games news and/ or press, it’s like a crashing avalanche down a mountain side. I can’t keep track of all the press, and the announcements for press that have come out within the last couple of days! I know that the majority of the cast are in Europe in preparation for the world premiere of Mockingjay Part 1 this coming week in London. So when Liam and Jennifer show up on German television sans Josh, ’cause Josh is ill– I’m not in as much of a clamor as

Perfectly coiffed, and fresh from the ER, that's our Jen!

Perfectly coiffed, and fresh from the ER, that’s our Jen!

I maybe should be, ’cause if I am at level 100 on the excitement scale every single time these people show up on TV over the next few weeks, I think I’ll die of exhaustion, or an aneurism, take your pick. All that being said and done, if anything is like how it was last year during and after the whirlwind press for Catching Fire, the cast are going to be sick as dogs by the time they get to Los Angeles– and in perfect Jennifer Lawrence fashion, she’ll be whisked off to the emergency room with acute abdominal pains, then show up to the premiere looking coiffed, and refined in Chanel.

I suggest you start somewhere though, press coverage wise– because following it all as it unfolds is near impossible unless you spend your life on Twitter, or your phone– or both. Most of the top Hunger Games fan-site are keeping track of everything for us lazy lots though, so if you get lost– go here, and just start clicking! You can’t go wrong with watching a few of the interviews that have come out, or will be coming out, but mix it up a bit, because they are going to start repeating them selves, ’cause journalists have a tendency of asking them same questions over and over again. So if Josh Hutcherson starts to look glazed over, and not just from the fevered illness he’s already infected with, and he starts sounding incredibly robotic, switch to something else! Like perhaps Jennifer Lawrence drawing horses on cakes.

Pace your selves guys! And remember to hydrate. BTW, props to Jen for still doing press while she feels like death warmed over!

Them There Eyes

TOASTBABIES?!?!

Today the lucky subscribers of Empire Magazine got their December edition with the Mockingjay cover story we’ve all been waiting for. We’ll have to wait until Thursday for the edition to go on sale, but I read it and the article is FULL of good stuff. For today I’m going to grab on to one teasy tid-bit and take it all the way down the rabbit hole to crazy speculation land because LAST WEEK’S MOCKINGJAY TV SPOTS HAD SAD, BRUISED PEETA AND WE NEED THIS.

The story says that there is one last scene to complete “possibly featuring [Jennifer Lawrence’s] nephews in roles we won’t spoil.”

Soooo, where did your mind go just then? Are you thinking what we’re thinking?

dandelion

Is one or both (does she have more than 2?) of her nephews going to be playing her children?

Ever since Nina Jacobson hinted via twitter that yes, the Epilogue would be in the movie, we’ve been able to move from worrying about it being included to obsessing about how it would take shape. Would they cast Katniss and Peeta’s children, those precious little toastbabies that give the ending of this story that extra bit of lightness and hope that is needed after this journey of pain?

Now, it’s certainly a leap to go from that story blurb to OMG Jen’s nephews are going to be boy toastbaby in some way. But if you’ve ever seen those adorable children with the blond curls you’d know they could physically play the part just fine. And I’d imagine it would be meaningful thing for her to include family in something that was such a big part of her career. It’s such a sweet idea, so if it happens, we love it.

The questions then come in – if it’s her nephews, then what about the girl toastbaby? Are they going to change it to two boys? Doubtful. They know the fans, and considering all the crap Gary Ross got for having a black and white cat play Buttercup, I doubt the filmmakers want to annoy us in the last shots of the film by changing the sex of any kiddos. It’s just unnecessary. No, my thought would be maybe they’re filming shots of the kids at different moments at time. Younger, then older. And they’ll cast someone else for the girl child. Maybe another cast or crew member’s relative.

Or maybe, they’ll decide to take a risk and add another boy baby to the mix in a surprise after-the-Epilogue-we-had-another-baby-Suzanne-Collins-endorsed twist. That’s the kind of addition I can get behind.

Or maybe they’ll play random District 12 children. That would still be nice, but less fun to speculate about.

JJ

A Powerful Return to District 12

Wednesday was a very emotional day for Hunger Games fans. First we went through the turmoil of being very clearly played with in the game to #UnlockMockingjay and all we could do was joke tweet our way through it. Fortunately though, by the time 7pm ET neared the unlocking % was going up so much quicker than it had the past few hours and then….

THE CLIP. A ONE MINUTE CLIP. LONGER THAN THE TEASER TRAILER IF YOU TAKE OUT THE GREEN BAND TIME.

This clip actually got us much more emotionally engaged than the teaser trailer. Probably because it totally is more engaging. And very devastating as we walk with Katniss through her destroyed district.

Where'd you come from Gale? But you're supposed to be there so we like it.

Where’d you come from Gale? But you’re supposed to be there so we like it.

But first, it starts similarly from the teaser, with voiceovers from Plutarch and Coin as Boggs leads Katniss to a hovercraft. It looks like there’s a cut because Gale seems to magically appear behind her when she’s getting on the hovercraft and then Boggs stays behind.

Then the hovercraft flies through a very green forest back to District 12.

Like Katniss, WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.

Plutarch was right, the impact of seeing what the Capitol did to District 12 is so very powerful.

As Katniss walks through the district, there are visual cues to remind of us of the places we know from Catching Fire. When placed side by side, the effect is appropriately horrific.

cf vs mj preview

 

And THEN you notice the charred bodies. This may be PG-13, but thankfully, Francis Lawrence doesn’t seem to be sanitizing anything he doesn’t have to.

katniss dadBy the time Katniss gets to her house in the Victor’s Village, it’s a relief to see her donning the familiar leather jacket and game bag. The shot of her picking up her father’s picture makes our heart hurt but also glad that she at least can take this back with her. She needs some comfort, some familiarity to get through this awful “walk.”

But all of that is again shattered when she finds the fresh white rose. We’ve seen that scene before, but her expression will always haunt us.

In all of these scenes, Jennifer Lawrence is just nailing it. Reminding us that we are lucky lucky fans to have her playing Katniss. Yes, we are.

I think we’ll buy those tickets on the 29th.

JJ