Films of the Week Vol. 12

I’ve been so lazy at watching films. Then again, I’ve been working 7 days in a row and today is one more. But then I have some time off. And the last time I had time off, I watched some TV, read about it here. But during the last week I saw two films; The Hunger Games (again) and a bit newer stuff, Florence Foster Jenkins. Here’s my thoughts on them.

hungergamesposterTHE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

Directed by Gary Ross

Written by Gary Ross, Billy Ray & Suzanne Collins

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley & Lenny Kravitz

Synopsis (IMDb): “Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death”

Yeah, I know, everyone has seen the films already and bla bla bla but as I’ve reviewed three other parts already (here, here and here), then why not do the first one as well. I’ve already mentioned before I liked it, so there’s not much to add but as I still liked it, after seeing it, I don’t know, probably tenth time, I may as well say something about it.

It was a bit surprising that The Hunger Games still works. It was on TV and I watched it “live” with commercial breaks (I know! So weird.) and it took something like three hours but that time flew by. It is that good film. The pace is perfect, the introduction of situation
hot_jennifer_lawrenceis over quickly and in no time Katniss is on her way to the Capitol where they waste no time in introducing more characters and how our heroine works together with others. We even get couple of nice twists and then it’s game time. Even the emotional pace works nicely. So, well done Gary Ross, that’s the way you direct a film based on a youth novel.

And as said 1001 times, Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss. She’s strong and vulnerable at the same time but she’s also genuine and manipulative. And a spectator can’t be sure of her motives. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is no match to her but I’m still totally Team Peeta. He’s still somewhat endearing. And those youngsters from areas one and two actually feel dangerous.

I also like how the film is set, the production design, make-up, costumes and obviously the music are nice too. The film is a bit one-dimensional and goes on a bit too long and some of the actors are wooden but otherwise; no complaints.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016)

Directed by Stephen Fears

Written by Nicholas Martin

Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg & Rebecca Ferguson

Synopsis: “The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.”

I have no idea how truthfully Florence Foster Jenkins is told but if it is, it is quite amazing which lengths people would go for their loved ones. That’s beautiful and quite moving.

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First of all, Meryl Streep is still amazing actress. I’m quite sure she again will gain an Oscar nomination for this role. She’s fearless and can, apparently, act anything. I also appreciated Simon Helberg’s work here and I’m so glad he gets recognition from somewhere else too than The Big Bang Theory. And it was refreshing to see Hugh Grant playing something else than single douchebag. I’m not sure how much make-up he has here but he’s old and that’s weird.

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Simon Helberg

I liked the way the film looked, it’s very pretty with all those clothes from 1940s and always fabulous New York and its Carnegie Hall. The film is nicely told, the pace is ok and it made me feel good. But that’s about it. I was a little bit bored, there’s not enough of story to be told, I think, and as the film is not too emotional, it’s a bit bland. I really wanted to like it more but it’s one of those films you will forget you even saw. Streep is great but as she is always, it’s nothing exceptional. Oh, there’s some nice music if you like classical music. There’s not much to say about it. I saw it and I’m quite sure I will never watch it again, it is just not interesting enough. I also wanted to give it 2,5 stars but as everything works, it deserved more.

Rating: *** 

The Oscars Reviews: Joy & Creed

Both of these films only got one nomination each but they’re still worth of reviews, I think, so here we go.Joyfilmposter

JOY (2015)

Directed by David O. Russell

Written by David O. Russell & Annie Mumolo

Starring Jennifer Lawrence(, Robert De Niro, Isabella Rosselini, Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Edgar Ramirez & Elisabeth Röhm)

Synopsis (from IMDb): “Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.”

As you guess it, Joy is actually one woman’s show. Jennifer Lawrence is again amazing. If she continues working like that, making these amazing characters so alive and true, she’ll have unbelievable career ahead of her. She’s already doing more than fine and the part of Joy (loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano, the inventor of Miracle Mop) is again bona fide example of her capabilities. She also again was nominated for an Oscar, fourth time in five years. Not bad for someone who’s only 25 years old.

JOY

Other critics have been saying that the story of Joy is not that engaging and there’s not much to tell, that it’s lacking integrity. It also holds only 6.7 GPA in IMDb at the moment. I’m not really sure why. I found Joy totally enjoyable. And I was invested in it in a way that I very much wanted to strangle people in Joy’s life. One can only hope that those kind of characters were not around in real Joy’s life. Joy’s family is portrayed comically, maybe that’s one of the reasons that some are thinking that it’s lacking in genuineness, I don’t know. I found it refreshing take on them and cinematography supports the comic way of telling the story as does the script. I liked it.

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Even though Joy is Lawrence’s show, other actors are again good like always in David O. Russell’s films. They might not be extraordinary like they were in The Fighter or in Silver Linings Playbook but they are still good. I especially was infuriated by Robert De Niro’s Dad and totally frustrated by Virginia Madsen’s Mom. The characters are a bit caricatures but I thought it worked, they made them even more insufferable. I also liked a lot how the film looked, settings and especially costumes and hair-styling. All in all, solid film but David O. Russell has made better ones.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

P.S. I also enjoyed the soundtrack like always do when it comes to Russell’s films.

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CREED (2015)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Written by Ryan Coogler & Aaron Covington

Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone & Tessa Thompson

Synopsis: “The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.”

Creed is also nominated for one Oscar and that’s in supporting actor category for Sylvester Stallone and I don’t know what to think of that. Sure, he’s better than he has been maybe since original Rocky but he’s really not THAT good. But unfortunately it seems at the moment he’ll get the trophy for sentimental reasons. But that is for sure not deserved because of his role in this film. And it’s kind of sad that he’s the only one nominated because both, Michael B. Jordan as Adonis and Tessa Thompson as his downstairs neighbour are both better. I especially appreciated the latter, she did extremely nice job in this one. I predict big things for her in the future, that girl knows her stuff. The best scenes in Creed were between her and Michael B. Jordan and basically quite irrelevant to the story.

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And that brings me to the thing that made me want crawl under my seat in second-hand embarrassment; the screenplay, especially the dialogue. It was SO uneven. So, so uneven that from time to time it was hard to watch and no wonder it was sometimes hard for Jordan to deliver those lines genuinely as they were so cheesy. Ugh. The story also dragged too long, I was bored before the final show-down. Good things about it, it was somewhat true to the original and in this case it was a good thing and it had small moments of honesty and few nice jokes. But in general, no.

Sylvester-StalloneBetter things in Creed: like said, Jordan and especially Thompson were good. I liked the music but it was the same like in all movies like this. And the last fight worked for me but there was nothing special in it.

Maybe I should just give up and admit myself that movies about boxing are not for me. It’s ridiculous sport with all this machismo that I find so amusing and embarrassing. And it’s OK if Stallone wins, he’s kind of sympathetic but it should go to Rylance from Bridge of Spies or Bale from The Big Short.

Rating: **½ (out of 5)

Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 2. Review

mockinjay_posterHUNGER GAMES: MOCKINJAY – PART 2

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Written by Peter Craig, Danny Strong & Suzanne Collins

Starring Jennifer Lawrence

Synopsis: “As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.” (IMDb)

Spoiler-warning for those who’ve read the books.

I liked original Hunger Games. I’ve seen it now about 4-5 times or so and it is still very good. I liked Catching Fire as a movie even more, it had this nice energy and Katniss as heroine was developing nicely. I also liked the first two books a lot. I didn’t like that much the last book of the trilogy except maybe the very ending that was kind of soothing. And I didn’t like the first part of Mockinjay films that much. And sadly, and I really mean it, it is sad, I find the last installment the weakest of the whole bunch.

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Basically everything is there. There’s action, there’s emotion, all of the characters that are still alive are there (albeit most of their screen-time is in minimum level) and there is even some nice dialogue. But then again, Mockinjay Part 2 is also lacking in everything. It’s quite blah. I wasn’t totally bored but I was hardly excited and that seemed to be overall opinion yesterday evening in the sold-out screening where I saw the film. You could feel the audience being bored and wanting to leave already. Especially towards the ending that seemed to go on and on. It’s not exactly director’s fault as he is quite loyal to original material. It’s probably because the original material is not very strong.

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My friend said to me that I should take tissues with me as I’m usually the cry-baby of my peers as she cried her eyes out while watching. I have no idea why. I wasn’t really moved by the film. A tiny bit, yes, but not as nearly as much as I hoped I would be. And in this kind of “last of the bunch, let’s hit it hard” -film you should really feel it. Return of the King -like. Really feel it. But again, it is the same in the final book. It kind of settles. Problem was that in the film it feels false when in book, like I said, it kind of carried the message that life goes on and is soothing. I think that was the point of the film as well but it just felt over-reached and pointless. Especially the last scene made me feel nauseous with its settings and colours. Ugh.

What I missed the most was a little bit more humour and fun writing; there were some but not enough. Then again, it is said again and again, that “we’re in war” and it’s not funny business. At all. I also missed a lot some of the characters, like Effie and Haymitch (played by always-great Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson); they are there but the parts are so small that it’s almost waste of time to have them there at all. Most of the cast suffers the same faith.  Then again what I liked is that Mockinjay Part 2 is as relevant as the first part. What can we justice for our own beliefs? A question that everyone should think.

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And finally what makes this film worth of your time? Katniss Everdeen aka Jennifer Lawrence. She’s the star and again she reminds us why. There are few points where I felt like she was struggling with director’s instructions and couldn’t really settle in the scene and I kind of want to blame the writing, those scenes are stupid (again, the last one…). But in bigger picture, this is Katniss’ show and Lawrence is her. Someone somewhere already wrote that there’s a part of Lawrence in Katniss and I tend to believe that’s true. It looks effortless for Lawrence, like Katniss is her second skin. She’s such a great actress.

Rating: *** (out of 5) (I almost gave ½ star less but compared to other films that I gave 2,5 this one is not that bad.)

The Hunger Games: Mockinjay – Part 1 Review

mockinjay_poster_jennifer_lawrenceTHE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINJAY – PART 1 (2014)

Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins (from her novel)
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelsson & Donald Sutherland

Again we here in Finland had a chance to see The Hunger Games: Mockinjay – Part 1 a tiny bit earlier than rest of the world. And again it was solid entertainment. BUT it is obviously part 1. The plot almost stays still. This movie felt like its main purpose is setting up things for the last installment. But don’t get me wrong, it was still good.

Lately I’ve been a bit fed up with all JLaw hype and her goofiness and it felt so good to be reminded why the world fell in love with her in the first place. She’s very good at what she is doing for her living. And that’s acting, folks. She is again Katniss, the great, real, feeling yet practical Katniss that we’ve gotten to know. She kicks ass. And what is the best thing in the film compared to the novel, she does not whine. Well, maybe a little but for those who’ve read the books, the amount of whimpering is almost non-existent. Thankfully. I love that girl.

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And when it comes to other players in the field, some of them get much more screentime than before like for example Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s (RIP) Plutarch. It is such a nice thing to watch him and Julianne Moore’s Alma Coin to change dialogue. They were and are simply such good actors that it always makes you smile. But that’s about all the smiling you’re going to do while watching this film. It’s war, people. And war is scary, nasty business that no one wants to go into. But sometimes you just have to.

The most important thing you get out of Mockinjay 1 is that it is very relevant. You just need to look in to the world and see that, sadly, this movie is very real for many of its habitants. “If we burn, you burn with us.”

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Stars: ***½ (out of 5)

 

Films of the Week Vol. 9

I saw a couple of blockbusters this week. Another one was one of the best in genre, the other… not so much. Here are the reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past and Godzilla. 

x-mendaysoffuturepastX-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

directed by Bryan Singer
written by Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Evan Peters, Shawn Ashmore etc.

I love this film. It has gotten everything right. It’s not perfect, it didn’t bunch me in the face or leave me heartbroken or specially exhilarated. Well, a bit. And a little more. Ok, it did leave me exhilarated. But it’s not perfect.

I know there are people who’ve read the comics and I’ve read that the scriptwriters have taken a quite a lot of liberties with the screenplay but I don’t care. I haven’t read the comics and even though I usually like that films stand on their own, I’m sure the clues in this one will be explained later. I’ve seen all of the previous X-Men movies except Wolverine’s own and I didn’t feel a bit that I was lost at any point. To me it was just good that everything was not explained. There’s a reason to see the previous instalments.

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So, firstly, I really liked the sound of it. It rocked my world. And the chairs of the cinema. And I love it! That is what a proper summer blockbuster should do! Take you out of your world and suck you into its. So good. And the beginning of the film is very intensive, no need for too much explanations, just dive in to the deep side of the pool. Cool. Cool is actually good word for this one. The cinematography and the CGI. They blended perfectly together. I’m not usually a big fan of artificial computer generated images but come on! in this one they just look so pretty. There is one scene involving Jackman, McAvoy, Fassbender and Peters that just blew my mind. Perfection, especially the song. You have to see it, I don’t want to spoil it. I just realised that the cinematographer is Newton Thomas Sigel who was responsible of cinematography of Drive that is by far the best cinematography I’ve seen. I think I mentioned him already in my post of the best cinematographers. 

jackmanfassbendermcavoyThe acting. Oh, the acting. Well, just look at the cast. That’s 15 Bafta nominations. 21 Primetime Emmy nominations with four wins. Or 22 Golden Globes nominations with five wins. And also ten (!) Oscar nominations with four wins. Quite normal amount of awards for a summer blockbuster, huh? Obviously the talent is there. From McKellen and Stewart to younger guys like Hoult or Peters (who by the way is hilarious!). But the show belongs to the trio of Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender. It almost makes me cry right now how good those guys are. The scenes involving those three (and there are plenty) just melts the screen. I can’t describe how good especially the latter two are, or how amazing the scenes involving their dialogue are. Go and see it yourself.

And on the unprofessional side; how good-looking those guys are! Wow! There’s also naked Hugh Jackman, that body is inhuman. Dinklage is so charismatic it’s a bit hard to watch. McAvoy wears his long hair with an ease. And there is a scene of Fassbender walking with the hat on, it just made me squirm (in a good way) in my seat. Hothothot. Obviously there’s also Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.

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P.S. Remember to stay after the credits. It is, after all, a Marvel film.

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)

 

godzilla-posterGodzilla (2014)

directed by Gareth Edwards
written by Max Boremstein & Dave Callaham
starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins & Juliette Binoche

I have to admit, I don’t feel like reviewing this now. Not after X-Men. Then again, I actually saw these two in two days. In this order. So, some of the things I didn’t like in Godzilla might go to the fact that I’ve just seen almost perfect blockbuster that is still, after five days, giving me chills. But in conclusion, Godzilla was not my cup of tea.

Apparently Godzilla bows a lot to the old movies of the subject. I don’t know, I have not seen them. If they do, I don’t want to see them. I’m not big fan of monster movies anyway and I kept comparing Godzilla to Jurassic Park and even though it’s done 20 years later is pales in comparison. Jurassic Park is so much more effective.

Let’s start with the same subject that in last review. The sound. It was bad. How come when there are bombs and huge monsters on the screen, the biggest noise that comes is from tanks? Really? That was just sad. CGI was well done, great monsters, and I did like the cinematography too but I did have a little higher hopes towards it, after all, the cinematographer is Seamus McGarvey, who definitely is one of my favourites of all time. godzilla-2014-2The music sounds like it could be from the older films but then again, I don’t think Desplat does a bad job. I’m very glad that the director, Gareth Edwards, was given this kind of chance, by no means, it’s not crappy job, but it’s not good either. It’s whatever.

The reasons to that it is whatever are the script (well, what can you wait from the guy who scripted all Expendables movies..?) and the total lack of charisma in the lead actor. And Cranston is not the one in the lead even though it might seem like it. Unfortunately. I just started to like Aaron Taylor-Johnson because he was quite good in Anna Karenina ja well, he is going to be in the next Avengers film. But omg, how totally completely blah that man can be. I kind of wished he would have died after five minutes of screen time… That was the main problem with the film, it didn’t feel catastrophic at all because I just didn’t care. And I’m usually fan of big summer catastrophes. I didn’t feel the danger, it would have been fine by me if the whole world would have stop existing. Whatever. I did yawn a lot.

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Rating: **½ (out of 5) and only because it does look good

American Hustle Review

American Hustle (2013)

Directed by David O. Russell

Written by Eric Warren Singer & David O. Russell

Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence & Jeremy Renner

american-hustle-poster

American Hustle was the last Best Picture nominee that I had yet to see this year’s Oscars. And I got to say, I was a little bit disappointed. I obviously had huge expectations but then again not because I know how Russell makes his films. They are not exactly these stories of great success. They are more about stories of tiny success, that kinda success that gets you through the life. But I was still a bit disappointed. I rolled (that’s what you do when you have the app) my IMDb starring back and forth between eight and seven and ended up giving eight because my parents, after seeing what were the other films that I’ve recently given seven, said: “Come on, it was much better that Little Miss Sunshine.” Guess it was.

The biggest problem in American Hustle is pace. It doesn’t flow. And it should flow especially because it is a con-movie. Con-movies should be as sleek as its characters. The characters sure were cool. Even Christian Bale with his hair-do. And belly (how that good-looking guy can look that repulsive; that’s a talent). Amy Adams did look f***able. And she and Bale were good as always. And it was so nice to see Renner in a good guy’s role for a change. Him and Cooper were good too, like everyone else. And like my mum said jenniferlawrencehustleafter the film: “That Rosalyn was my favourite, she was really good.” Yeah, Lawrence did a bit steal the show. Her character had the best lines and she delivered them. Though not in the Oscar worthy way, so let’s hope Nyong’o get the statue on Sunday (I don’t mind if J-Law gets it though, I still adore her).

It was really refreshing to see a movie with people who don’t watch movies the way I do. My parents, in this case. Another thing that my mum pointed out was that the film happened only in a few locations. If I would be a producer I would give money to Russell. He always delivers and he even though he spends big bucks to actors, his sets are always only few and inexpensive looking. And apparently he shoots his films very quickly (few weeks is what I’ve read). And I would think that these days actors are lining up to perform in his films considering his track record to get the Oscar nominations to his actors (11 nominations in three latest films; that’s A LOT). And his films are always good. Maybe not spectacular but good. So he is definitely worth of every penny that production company puts in. After watching THR’s directors roundtable, I’m a bit more in love with him, he seems very interesting.

american_hustle_lawrence_adams_costumesAmerican Hustle looks good. I loved hair-dos, make-up and especially clothes. I’d love to wear those outfits that Amy Adams’ character is sporting. If I’d had the guts. I don’t. It could win the costume Oscar but then again, The Great Gatsby looks stunning and the other nominees are not bad either. Otherwise I don’t know. I think I’ll go with Lawrence when it comes to the Best Supporting Actress but the script of AH is not good enough to beat the competition and in other categories too there are much better films. I’ll do the final predictions later tonight, we’ll see if I end up predicting American Hustle in any other category. I doubt it.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

catchingfireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Written by Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt and based on the novel by Suzanne Collins

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone & Sam Claflin

I love the first installment of Hunger Games. I went to see it about 1,5 years ago just because of Jennifer Lawrence whom I fell in love when she was on a red carpet at Oscars after being nominated for Winter’s Bone. I adore that girl like the most of the world do. I had bought the first novel but hadn’t read it before seeing the first film. And the first part wasn’t THAT good when I saw it for the first time but it stayed with me and I have seen it now six times. In one and a half years. Even to me, that’s quite a lot. After getting hooked with the film, I read the novels and they were really good! I devoured them, guess it took about a week to read them. And after reading them, I couldn’t wait to see the next part of the films.

And I saw it yesterday! And thankfully, I loved it! And it seemed that so did the most of the audience in the sold-out screening. I thought the second installment is better than the first one. It’s much darker and for the first 45 minutes I felt quite sad. I cried about four times before the first hour was up. And as you might already know, crying at the movies is very important to me. At least if I’m watching a film with, in the end, a heavy subject. Everyone who has read Collins’ books knows that they contain clear society critic and so does the films, especially the second part. After seeing that one, no one should think that killing other people is fun. Even though Catching Fire is dark, it’s not totally miserable. After the first part you get some laughs, thanks to the Capitol people and after that some action. The setting of Arena is not as genuine that it was in the first one but fortunately there is so much more to the story that it doesn’t really matter. I love the way the story is structured; first it’s real and raw, then you get the relief moment and some action that builds up to anger. Very nicely done.

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Liam Hemsworth as Gale gets a bit more screen time but he still doesn’t have that much to do. Harrelson and Banks fill their roles easily as does Stanley Tucci. Sutherland gets more time and uses it wisely, he’s very good but not as good as Philip Seymour Hoffman whom I loved. He can be so subtle yet intriguing. Josh Hutcherson is way better than he was in the first part. In The Hunger Games he was this little whiner but this time there’s man inside. And some nice flirtation. And speaking of which, Sam Claflin is ok. He is not as charming as Finnick is in the books but does his duty. And I liked a lot of Jena Malone’s Johanna. But without Jennifer Lawrence’s (again) perfect interpretation of Katniss Everdeen, the whole movie would be wasted. But thankfully she has amazing range of emotions and she’s able to make you feel them too. After seeing Catching Fire, I adore her even more if possible.

And now I want to see the film again! Just writing about it makes me long for it. To me Catching Fire is the second best film of the year after Nebraska. So far. But then again, I like great adventure films, especially the ones with the message, good writing and great cast. This one has them all. Go see it! Here’s an interview of the cast by Geek Nation TV:

Rating: ****½ (out of *****)