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Up For the Ride with Passengers

Last week we were raving about Rogue One (and enjoying seeing evidence of the “Everdeen Effect”). Now add Passengers to the list of movies we’re excited for in December. Well, we’ve been psyched for it since the movie was announced. Because Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in a sci-fi space thriller romance movie from the director of The Imitation Game has pretty much everything going for it in our book. Personally, since my favorite movie of all time is Catching Fire and favorite TV show is Parks and Recreation (which starred Pratt), it brings out all my fan hopes and dreams. Which can be a scary thing. So. Much. Pressure.

passengers poster.jpg

But now our excitement level is at the SHOW-US-THAT-TRAILER-NOW-impatient level. Because footage debuted at Cinema-Con last night (warning – link has spoilers that I did not read). The buzz was super-positive.

 

 

 

 

WE CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS. Plus, think of all the fun that’s going to come out of that press tour.

I mean, look at them!

passengers movie

If you’re wondering when a trailer will be available to the public’s eager eyes, bets are on the week that X-Men: Apocalypse comes out at the end of May.

If we can’t have a Hunger Games movie to look forward to this year, this definitely helps.

JJ

 

 

Breaking Down the Mockingjay Part 2 Audio Commentary

We’re enjoying going though all the special features in the Mockingjay Part 2 home media releases. One of our favorite features is always the audio commentary with Francis Lawrence and Nina Jacobson. Let’s go through some of the bits that stood out.

The Last Time

Right at the start there is a super cute moment where Francis mentions this is the last time they get to do an audio commentary… on these movies. This isn’t news – we know they’re planning on adapting The Odyssey together – but that quibble was fun to hear them acknowledge.

These movies start and end with Katniss (well, Francis’s movies)

Francis mentions how he deliberately structured the films this way.

The Nut’s destruction, not close up but through Katniss’s eyes

In a refreshing difference from the popular superhero movies of the day, they decided not to show the spectacle of the Nut’s destruction, but focus on how Katniss experiences it. (Bonus, it also saves them a bunch of cash).

No crying until the end

During the District 2 scene, a tear fell from Jen’s eye due to cold which was digitally removed. Suzanne and Francis felt Katniss should not cry in this movie until the end because she’s so numb from everything she’s experienced.

Francis’s assistant/MJ2’s associate producer was working double time

He’s the one who shoots Katniss in District 2.

jena scalp doubleJena had a scalp double

Francis didn’t have the heart to ask Jena to have her head shaved for a year (for 10 days total of shooting) but he thinks bald caps look fake. The solution – he hired scalp doubles and digitally added them in.

They thought about cutting Finnick and Annie’s wedding (gasp!)

They were concerned about the wedding slowing the pace of the film, but Nina knew the fans wouldn’t stand for this scene not being included (imagine the anger lol). They found a way to incorporate the elements they needed to keep propelling the story forward within the backdrop of the wedding.

Noisy le Grand residents (site of the black oil scene) were suspicious when the team came in to scout locations, and later shoot

The location scouts needed to come back with security after someone threw an egg at them. Then when they shot the scenes people started throwing things as well so they needed more security. They even ended up hiring one of the kids who was throwing things (made him security too) to bring him over to the team Mockingjay side.

Francis was looking forward to shooting the sewer sequences, but then reality set in

Francis was excited to shoot the sewer sequences for a chance to do a scene that was really scary in these movies. Unfortunately it meant about a month of shooting in cold, claustrophobic tunnels to get the footage for these sequences (but thanks for doing it, guys).

The fun of messing with audience’s expectations

Francis had fun subverting audience’s expectations during the sewer sequence. He enjoyed building the suspense, mentioning how he set up certain shots to make you think Pollux was going to get attacked… but then of course that NOT being the moment of attack.

The importance of Finnick’s “Hero Moment”

They spent a lot of time developing Finnick’s fight scenes in order to give him a “samurai’s death,” as Nina put it. Also, Francis loves how the film requires you to keep moving right after Finnick’s death. There is no ability to take a beat and absorb it. The mourning has to happen during the continued chase and they used the music to communicate that.

The difficulty of showing the consequences of war within PG-13

To keep it within the rating, there had to be a minimal amount of blood and some very carefully constructed shots. They had to go back and forth with the MPAA several times nonetheless because of the intensity of the movie. Francis also had to focus more on the emotional consequences.

Scar-free Katniss

I mentioned this in an earlier post how I was disappointed that they did not choose to show Katniss’s burns except momentarily and had the magic Capitol medicine erase them away. Nina explains that, just like not having Peeta lose his leg, they decided to focus more on the emotional, and not the physical damage. I stand by my opinion that this was a mistake that reduced the impact of the story, so I guess we’ll have to disagree on that one. (I also still disagree on their choice to have Peeta keep his leg).

Goodbye, Gale

The ending of this scene originally ended with Katniss telling Gale to “get out,” but when it was screened for Suzanne, she said this was the first time that she didn’t like Katniss. Well, we don’t what THAT, so they revised the dialogue to the ending as we have it now.

kat capitol hgThe Capitol Hunger Games decision

Was Katniss’s decision based on a desire for revenge, or is Katniss saying yes just as a ruse to get rid of Coin? I believe it’s the latter, but they built the scene to allow the audience to decide for themselves.

No animals were harmed in the filming of the cat scene

Were you worried for dear Buttercup’s safely when Katniss threw the cup at that beloved cat? Well, the cup was added in digitally, so nothing was actually thrown. No worries.

Hand holding is all you get, kids

Nina knows there are lots of fans that wanted a more than just some hand holding during the Real or Not Real scene, but doesn’t have much sympathy, saying “too bad” for them. We’ve always been on the side that thought a full on love scene would be waaaaaay out of place for the movie, but we also think the hand holding/general mood of the scene was too subtle to truly give weight to what is going on between these two when they exchange the words. I actually wish they’d said nothing during this scene, rather them have the “real or not real” exchange happen too early.

Did you watch the audio commentary yet? Any other parts you thought were interesting?

Last one, guys😥

JJ

 

 

Does the Allegiant Box Office Performance Make Hunger Games Prequels More Likely – Or Less?

In the wake of the disappointing box office returns for The Divergent Series: Allegiant (down 44% from the last movie), opinions abound about what this means for that movie series, for YA dystopian movies, and YA movies in general.

We’re familiar with this media speculation, having seen all the questions about the Mockingjay movies box office decreases (albeit, not nearly as serious profitability-wise since even though they decreased from the MASSIVE Catching Fire box office, Mockingjay 1 and 2 still both made HUGE amounts of money). We wonder though, how it may affect Lionsgate’s thinking about those rumored Hunger Games prequel plans.  Will the declines make them more nervous to pursue them because they think the public is tired of the YA dystopian trend? Or will the need to beef up their theatrical slate with known properties make them move forward even faster?

MagsVictoryTourPosterIt’s no question that the Hunger Games brand is still strong. Lionsgate is going to want to use it to drive more revenue. But we admit to being very nervous about theatrical prequel movies.  How are we going to respond to a story that doesn’t revolve around Katniss? How are they not going to make prequel stories about past Hunger Games hugely depressing? Granted, these stories could focus more on the political/social aspects of Panem and less on the Games themselves, but if Lionsgate’s initial public statements hold true about the kids’ desire for arenas, call us doubtful that a Hunger Games political thriller-style will happen. (But look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Comic book movie that meets political thriller and SO GOOD. It could work).

It is possible that Lionsgate gets spooked by the “people are tired of dystopian YA” talk. Or at least, decides to put in a bit more time and breathing room for the public to miss the world of Panem before moving ahead with plans.

If any prequels or spin-offs happen, Lionsgate is moving into new, risky territory with this still valuable, known property. Perhaps Lionsgate will wait to see how the Harry Potter prequels perform and use that as a template in moving forward.  If they do, we should point out that a great asset to the Harry Potter prequels is the involvement of JK Rowling. It sounds, at least for now, that Suzanne Collins is done with the Hunger Games universe. So if Lionsgate does want to do spin-offs in the near-ish future, they’d best be politely knocking on her door with some good, non-exploitative ideas.

That could be a tough one.

JJ

Scars (Or Lack Thereof)

As we wait for the Blu-Ray/DVD release of Mockingjay Part 2, there are some more BTS featurette clips to tide us over in the meantime. One of the clips shows the work makeup designer Ve Neill and her team did for the movie.

No doubt Katniss has a rough time in Mockingjay Part 2, and the makeup team did a great job making the neck and chest bruising very believable. And it sounds like the team went to a lot of effort on the burn makeup as well. Only those burns (and the inevitable scars) barely made it on screen, and we think that was a mistake.

Don’t get us wrong. We didn’t WANT to see more damage done to our favorite character really. Our poor girl is strangled, shot, and then the massively burned, and it’s awful that she endures that. But the physical hurt she experiences is a part of the Mockingjay journey, and part of the lesson of Mockingjay. We were disappointed at how Katniss’s injuries were glossed over, because it took weight out of the story’s message.

burned katniss

First of all the fire completely misses her face, in an “amazing” stroke of Hollywood luck. Then there’s the magical Capitol burn medicine that seems to fix everything in a flash (to be fair on that point, we don’t know how long Katniss is in the hospital, but the movie’s quick cuts make the recovery FEEL too quick). Was the burn makeup deemed too intense to be given more than a few seconds of screen time? What was behind the decision to make Katniss look physically well so fast?

Beyond the magic of the complete burn recovery, the moment that really seemed out of place was when she returns back to 12, goes hunting and Katniss’s gorgeous hair is blowing in the wind. She looks beautiful. She looks physically healthy. But accelerating her physical recovery SO MUCH faster than her mental one was a change from the book that felt a little too much like Hollywood being afraid to show a woman with physical imperfections. After 2 hours of trauma, suddenly seeing “shampoo commercial Katniss” took me completely out of the movie.

We love it when Katniss is allowed to look real. No wonder critics and fans alike thought the Buttercup scene was great. Give us the slobbery ugly cry! That looks like a real person in despair, and Jennifer Lawrence OWNS that scene. After all that Katniss physically goes through, no one expects her to look perfect. (And if they do, screw them).

We love you, scars and all, Katniss

JJ

 

 

Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch and the Deleted Scene We’ve Been Waiting Four Years to See

The first deleted scene from the Hunger Games Complete 4 Film Collection was released this weekend via Popsugar, and excuse us for having a mini-meltdown about it, but WE DID. Because it was one of those scenes that we knew existed. There was BTS footage of them filming this scene. WE WANTED TO SEE THIS SCENE SO BADLY.

So here it is – Katniss and Peeta having a little chat in the Tribute Center.

First of all, who didn’t immediately get a little nostalgic for the beginning of the series with this clip? They look SO young here. So much tragedy and angst. Our Everlark hearts are in pain at their pain.

The kicker in the scene that we didn’t know about is the inclusion of Haymitch eavesdropping on them. What is that, Haymitch? Do we see concern, empathy for these kids? (Of course we do). It was a great way to bring something extra to the scene, and build upon the “Haymitch as mastermind of the star-crossed lovers storyline” that ultimately saves them in the first games. And of course we end the scene with Haymitch chugging some booze, something he really didn’t do much of in the first movie, but is a significant part of this character.

haymitch deleted scene

It’s a particularly great way to end the scene because it implies to us regret about giving a damn about these kids, and regret about what he’s going to set in motion to try, however impossibly, to give (at least one of them) a chance to live.

We admit to being very disappointed that the Hunger Games Blu-Ray didn’t have deleted scenes,  but getting these treasures from the past now is pretty exhilarating. Like a really really really belated birthday present.

We’ll take it.

JJ

 

More Hints at the DVD/Blu-Ray Extras!

As we get closer to the home entertainment release of Mockingjay Part 2 and the first 4- film collection, we’re finding out more about what extras are in store for us. HitFix has a new trailer with some details on the 4-film collection, and we’re excited.

12 Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games
• 6 Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Including 1 Never Before Seen
• 9 Deleted Scenes from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
• 2 All-New Featurettes: “Picturing Panem” and “Capitol Cuisine”
• 70 Additional Featurettes (Blu-ray); 69 Additional Special Featurettes (DVD)
• Audio Commentaries, Music Videos and More

The trailer HitFix has up is definitely worth a look, for some glamour shots of the oh-so-pretty art included in the collection, and hints at what some of this new extra content will be. The very quick shot of little Prim running through the forest definitely caught our eye.

prim deleted scenes

Can it be? The mysterious scene of Prim in a tribute costume that we’ve wondered about since seeing some BTS shots from the Hunger Games DVD? Looks like we’ll finally get to see it. (That’s 1 thing to mark off our wish list -woo!).  With 12 never-before-seen deleted scenes from the first movie, we’re really excited about what other surprises are in store. Catching Fire has only one never-before-seen one, so place your guesses on what that is (Morphling painting Peeta’s arm is my bet, though if I can only have one, my heart wants the Katniss & Peeta rooftop scene BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT).

Inevitably, there is going to be repetition with the extras if you’ve owned earlier versions of the movies, but it looks like they’re putting in just enough new stuff to make us NEED this.

Yes, we’d already seen this shot of the last day of filming in earlier home entertainment promo material, but it’s too cute to not post. Ahhhhhhh.

last day

More sneak peeks please, things are too quiet.

JJ

katniss gale smoochies

What’s Up with Those Kissy Clips?

To gear up some excitement for the Digital/HD/Blu-Ray/DVD etc release of Mockingjay Part 2, Lionsgate released a new trailer. Makes perfect sense. They also have released clips from the movie to some media outlets.

These are clips from the movie, so if you’re a fan, you’ve already seen these. The benefit here is that you get to see the moment again while you wait for the home entertainment release. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s another chance to convince skeptics to give the movie a chance.

And if you like kissing scenes, man are you in luck! Well, you’re in luck if you’re a Galeniss or Hayffie type person. All us other people can just chill some more and wait I suppose.

You’ve got the awkward Katniss and Gale “it’s like you’re drunk, it doesn’t count” kiss via teen.com (’cause of course that would be the site).

Then the Hayffie shippers rejoiced at the release of this clip.

Don’t get us wrong, that’s quite a touching scene. We love that “Promise me you’ll find it… The life of a victor” exchange, but we were really rolling our eyes that these 2 clips were the first that hit the web for promotion.  There have been other clips released since then thankfully that relate to other elements of the plot. If not, one MIGHT be tempted to think this film was just some sort of romance-driven soap opera. Many people already wrongly have that impression, let’s not encourage it.

There’s still about 2 months to release, and in the days leading up to that we’ll likely get some sneaks of the new BTS/featurette content. And inevitably Peeta-related content because they know fans go nutzo for that stuff. We’ve been around long enough to have a good idea of the playbook.

I guess these were early Valentine’s Day presents from Lionsgate (though we could have done without that Gale kiss tbh).

JJ

 

Our Blu-Ray Extras Wish List

As we move into February, the release of Mockingjay Part 2 on Digital HD and then Blu-Ray/DVD is inevitably coming soon. Along with the benefit of being able to watch the movie over and over and over again comes the fun of digesting all the extra stuff they add in to entice you to purchase.

We expect the features to be similar to previous Hunger Games movies – audio commentary with Francis and Nina, a few deleted scenes, and lots of behind the scenes featurettes on making the film. The fact that this is the last film makes us a little antsy about what bits they add to this release versus what they choose to add to any ULTIMATE, SUPER-SHINY 4-MOVIE SET that will be coming later in the year, or in 2017, or both. You know they’ve got to hold something back for those later editions. What do they have in that treasure trove to look forward to?

So now we present our not-very-grounded-in-reality wish list of Hunger Games movie (all of ‘em) extras that we’re dying to see at some point:

if_prim_were_a_tribute__by_finsflipper-d5an7iz

Prim, what kind of nightmare sequence was this? Gary, stop holding back.

Those scenes we’ve seen in stills or BTS footage but never the actual footage. Prim in the tribute costume? Gary, what was that about? Katniss and Peeta having a chat in the tribute center. Again Gary, share that with us! Peeta getting his arm painted by the morphling. Francis, please!

Catching Fire Katniss and Peeta rooftop footage. We know something was filmed. We suppose it hit the cutting room floor early because why would you NOT include this footage as a Catching Fire extra? We’ll forgive the quality. Whatever it is, we JUST NEED TO SEE IT.

Revisions to the end of Mockingjay Part 2 after the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. We know about the places where footage from other scenes was added. We know Haymitch reading Plutarch’s letter was a change. But we’re curious what the plan was originally, had tragedy not occurred.

1446776391-jennifer-lawrence-liam-hemsworth-hunger-games-mockingjay-2-cast-group-selfie

Don’t tell us you don’t want a cast audio-commentary. Not possible.

Cast audio-commentary. The Francis and Nina audio-commentaries give us some great insight into the making of the movies. But the fandom would completely lose their shit if Lionsgate were ever able to wrangle Jen, Josh, Liam, Woody, Liz et al into doing audio commentaries for the films.  It’s the dream, people. THE DREAM.

Everlark sex. JUST KIDDING, but with all the messages Francis gets about that from fans, we couldn’t NOT mention it. The thought of that actually being filmed makes us feel really awkward, and the inclusion of a scene of that nature would HAVE NOT fit the end of Mockingjay Part 2. If you want that, there’s a whole wide world of fan fiction to explore. BUT I would be really curious to know about the creative decisions that took place in the execution of the actual, final “real or not real” scene. As much as I hate to say it, as more time passes, I find it disappointing. Or maybe I just need to watch the movie again when it comes out and learn to let it all go.

What other extras should we be pleading for?

JJ

 

Visualizing Panem Post-Movies

Now that the entire Hunger Games series has been adapted to film, I’ve been taking stock in how these movies have impacted how I think about the book series. I’ll come right out with it and say it – while I LOVE SO MUCH about the movies, they will never top the books for me. There are some creative choices in the movies that I will adamantly reject forever and try to forget (mainly some parts of The Hunger Games movie and some scenes from the last 25 minutes of Mockingjay Part 2). Hmm, that sounds like fodder for a post, but for a later date.

On the other hand, there are some parts of these movies where everything fell into place and just was so RIGHT that it’s taken over how I visualize certain characters or scenes when I now re-read the books.

Right from the Start: Snow and Coin

SnowCoin

From first casting announcements of both Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore, I felt really good about how these characters would translate to screen. They look the part and inhabit those roles in a way that fits so well with how I’ve imagined the characters. Donald Sutherland owns Snow so much for me now that I get chills when hearing his voiceover work on orange juice or airline commercials. President Snow wants me to drink orange juice. Yes, sir! I remember being surprised how sympathetic Coin was in Mockingjay Part 1, but it seemed very right for the progression of the character, and how she would have been without the framing of Katniss’s “unreliable narrator” perspective.

Oh. My. Finnick

Finnick cfFor those around the fandom in Catching Fire casting days, you remember what a BIG FREAKING DEAL this was. Lots of names thrown around to play Finnick. Lots of fan favorites. And Sam Claflin, a relative unknown (outside of roles in Snow White & the Huntsman and a Pirates of the Caribbean movie) was chosen. We had time to “get to know him” pre-CF. He was delightful on Twitter. Set photos leaked that were very promising. There was that Capitol Portrait with the pirate look. And then we saw him in the movie and YAY, IT WORKED.  He was Finnick. He is how I see Finnick now. Bravo.

Awesome Surprises From Smaller Roles: Paylor and Jackson

paylor jackson

One of the great, wonderful surprises of the Mockingjay movies was the development of these two characters, who I honestly never paid much attention to, at least during my first reading of the books. So Patina Miller and Michelle Forbes had the benefit of a cleaner slate to build these characters. And build them they did. They project authentic power and leadership so well that you don’t question the news that Paylor will be president, or Jackson’s role in Squad 451 in the slightest. When I re-read Mockingjay, I see those actresses in full costume. They ARE those characters now for me, and it’s enriched the reading experience.

An Interesting Mix: Effie and Haymitch

effie haymitch

The overly bright, colorful world of the Capitol in Suzanne Collins books is intentional. You have to admit though, that the Candy-Land-on-acid-type buildings would have been too distracting to deal with on screen so the “Capitol color” is restricted mostly to the people, not buildings. But with the costume, makeup, and hair styling of Effie, the team really nailed it, and Elizabeth Banks surely took charge of making that character her own. I think the decision to add Effie to District 13 was a good decision for Mockingjay Part 1, but still think Book!Effie follows a more realistic path for that character. I love how Elizabeth Banks gave the character more heart, but I don’t see Effie really changing that dramatically so quickly. In terms of how I visualize the character though, it’s all Elizabeth Banks in her full Capitol glory. Kudos to her and the design team for the creativity and transformation.

Then we come to Haymitch, who I always though of as more “Seam” in looks with darker hair and complexion, more damaged, more dirty, more foul, and much more drunk than we see in the movies. Regrettably, the movies give us a PG-version of Haymitch. Sure, you see him drinking, and his mockery and wit is there, but he’s nowhere near the abrasive drunk he is in the books.  I would have loved to see Woody Harrelson given full reign to make the character more rough. All of that being said, when I read the books, my mind sees Woody Harrelson and that blond wig. Somehow, he’s convinced my brain. He is Haymitch. The mind does what it wants. It’s interesting that this happened, considering this next part.

The Big Three: Love You Guys SO MUCH, but…

What about Katniss, Peeta and Gale? Jennifer Lawrence did a phenomenal job with Katniss. She grabbed hold of that character and owned the performance throughout the four movies. So much so that her voice is very much Katniss’s voice to me. I feel the same way about Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth (well at least 90% for Liam, but he got better as the movies went along). For all the wonderful ways they inhabited these roles, my mind still can’t (or won’t) adapt. The way I perceive these three in my mind’s eye when reading the books is much different. The cast is perhaps too physically beautiful, too Hollywood, and for Katniss and Gale, yes, too much of northwestern European ancestry to cancel out how I’ve always imagined the three. It’s nothing against the actors, because those are things they can’t change and these were movies with certain expectations of super-Hollywood-esque attractiveness from the leads.  Katniss and Peeta especially remain murky visual concepts in my head, and I’m fine with that. It’s probably better that way for the two characters who I love the most.

Movies – they mess with your head in unexpected ways.

JJ

 

The Best “Presents” of the Past Year

‘Tis the season of giving, and it looks like many fans got some nice Hunger Games-related presents from friends and family. Tim Palen’s book has inevitably had a spike in sales thanks to the holiday season, along with the adorable Funko Pops, posters, pins and other merch. It makes us think about all the other Panem “presents” we got this year.  The top one, is obviously the actual Mockingjay Part 2 movie, but there was more.  Yes, there definitely were days where Lionsgate played GOOD Santa. Such beautiful days they were.

The release of the Mockingjay Part 1 Peeta/Snow Deleted Scene

We really wanted to see some of the behind the scenes world of the Capitol in Mockingjay Part 1, but we didn’t get much. Happily, there was this deleted scene between Peeta and Snow that was released on the eve of the Digital HD release.

 

After the Blu-Ray release, Lionsgate-Santa was pretty stingy for a while. There was that “trailer” with the logo animation and voiceover which played with Insurgent, but there wasn’t much in the fandom to cheer about until the summer.

 

Katniss chillin on Snow’s throne.

Suddenly we were psyched for the movie again when we got this amazing poster (my personal fave from the Mockingjay Part 2 campaign).

mockingjay part 2 poster throne

 

A fabulous teaser trailer that reminded us again how much we love these movies.

 

After talking and talking about it for months on end, the Hunger Games Exhibition opened. And it was really cool. You just had to get your butt to New York to see it. (Though next year, San Francisco is the lucky host).

On the heels of the Exhibition opening came those cool character posters.

And the Comic Con Panel.

Yes, June and July were very good months in the fandom. Matched only by the month of November with all those premieres. Lots of premieres. And “special screenings“. So many premieres yet we still wanted more.

We certainly have our meltdown moments when things just make us very unhappy, but there’s been a lot of great stuff too. So in this season of reflection, those were the presents that stood out the most.

Freaking out with all of you as we received these cool presents, yes, that’s the good stuff.

JJ