REVIEW: CAPRICA – PART 2

 

Starring

Eric Stoltz (The Butterfly Effect)
Esai Morales (Titans)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Magda Apanowicz (You)
Sasha Roiz (Grimm)
Brian Markinson (Sanctuary)
Polly Walker (Pennyworth)

Caprica (2009)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Andrew Airlie (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Panou (Flash Gordon)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Bridget Hoffman (Darkman)
Scott Porter (Speed Racer)
John Pyper-Ferguson (The Last Ship)
Anita Torrance (Smallville)
Genevieve Buechner (The Final Cut)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Patton Oswalt (Veronica Mars)
Ryan Kennedy (Smallville)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Van Helsing)
Calum Worthy (American Vandal)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Elisabeth Rosen (Cult of Chucky)
Sina Najafi (Stargate SG.1)
Carmen Moore (Flash Gordon)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)

Esai Morales in Caprica (2009)Nothing would’ve made me happier than to deem Syfy’s decision to cancel Caprica a grave and unwarranted one, but that’s something which simply can’t happen. Bear with me now, because there’s a reason for saying this. As a defender of the series when it was on the brink of cancellation, there’s no joy in stating that it’s easy to see why Ron Moore and David Eick’s offshoot from Battlestar Galactica received the axe when it did. Though far from faultless, the first half of the series established a fine foundation for a world rife for exploration: the mechanics of a society that would ultimately create a sentient lifeform, robots which would rebel and eventually annihilate most of the human race. But concept’s only part of the journey, and Caprica saw tonal and storytelling issues that shaped it into a rough, erratic exploration of those ideas, reaching an especially stagnant point at the beginning of this second half. It’s a shame, then, that the writers and producers finally discover their rhythm in the last five-and-a-half episodes, as it truly becomes the series I had hoped it’d become.Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)The story revolves around the polytheistic, technologically-advanced colony of Caprica roughly sixty years before “the downfall”, focusing on the conflict between, and within, two families: The Graystones, and the Adamas. Lawyer Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) lives a somewhat normal life with his wife and two children, Tamara and Billy, attempting to juggle his high-profile stature in the legal realm with his domestic life. He fights a bit with keeping himself as distanced as he can from his unsavory lineage, the Tauron mob Ha’la’tha, though it’s hard since the organization funded his education and requires his services regularly — usually by messages delivered through his brother, Sam (Sasha Roiz). BSG devotees with get a jolt in seeing the blossoming of young “Billy” in this environment early on, watching the growth of the semi-troubled youth that’d transform into the disquieting, powerful Galactica commander Bill Adama.Magda Apanowicz in Caprica (2009)Caprica’s central draw, however, is the Graystones. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) heads a tech development firm working on a mechanized super-soldier that’s just not cutting the mustard, all the while generating profit (60% of net, to be exact) with virtual reality headsets — holobands — that connect to a network of fully-interactive, realistic digital worlds. Graystone’s seemingly safe digital construct quickly broke down into a laissez-faire underground, filled with hacked sections that exploit sex, drug-use, and violence. Daniel’s daughter, a silver-tongued high-school student named Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) who battles with her mother Amanda (Paula Malcomson) over authority, frequents the holoband V-Club with boyfriend Ben (Avan Jogia) and timid best friend Lacy (Magda Apanowicz), yet they’re beyond the carnal satisfaction that the place has to offer. Instead, they’ve found purpose in monotheistic religious belief within an activist organization, the Soldiers of The One (STO), and, in the process, created an exact digital copy of Zoe who will somehow aid the resistance.Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)Caprica utilized a cliffhanger episode at the end of the first half of the season, one that leaves the mortality of several characters up in the air. It’s uncertain whether the depression-driven grief that Amanda’s been going through truly led her to suicide; similarly, we’re unsure if the full-throttle abrasiveness that Zoe was enacting inside the U-87 Cylon body destroyed her at the end. Then, Syfy opted to go on a very lengthy mid-season break (read: they shelved the episodes), leaving curious minds in the dark for roughly seven months and, effectively, knocking the wind out of Caprica. Already, the series wasn’t on the strongest of legs; as mentioned before, it establishes a fine world that explores the emotions coursing through decisions to either reject or embrace digital memories of loved ones, while also giving some deep-rooted glimpses into the underpinnings of Moore and Eick’s Emmy-winning Battlestar Galactica. Yet it wasn’t all gelling together as of yet, only improving as the series went along but ultimately lacking the joie du vivre that pumped its inspiration forward.Eric Stoltz in Caprica (2009)Therefore, when Caprica’s second half starts off sluggish and overbearingly dour, it’s almost like a death toll. Let’s be perfectly honest here: the first three installments following a seven-month hiatus end up being misfired glut, something the series couldn’t withstand at that point. Starting with a jump-forward in time that echoes the end of Battlestar Galactica’s second season, it throws the story in a pit of depression, despair, and cutthroat politics surrounding Daniel that bloats beyond its boundaries. When the Ha’la’tha use killing one’s mother — someone unassociated with the crime syndicate — as a sign of loyalty, when the STO enact murderous power moves over their religious heads, or when Zoe’s avatar is bludgeoned to near-death for simply looking like the STO terrorist she’s perceived to be, the tone gets molasses-level thick and fairly objectionable. It’s as if Moore and Eick are overcompensating so their audience knows they’re not pulling any punches, while the output they produce leans toward ham-handed and hard-faced discomfort — and extremely awkward in “Things We Lock Away”, a sloppily glued-together hodgepodge of poorly-orchestrated arena brawls in New Cap City and intent Lacy/STO development.Esai Morales in Caprica (2009)None of Caprica’s issues root in the performances, however, or the production design. From the ground up, Moore and Eick continue the shrewdly-cast and stylish thrust of science-fiction with a fine vein of suspense, capturing the city’s expanses with a unique blend of metropolitan polish, futuristic gris-gris, and slick ’50s-esque allure. Locations like the Graystone mansion sport angular windows and a glaring pour of cold light, while the Adama household encapsulates a warm yet dark demeanor. These fitting aesthetic touches cradle some exceptional dramatic performances, including Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales whom have come into their own as tried-and-true denizens of Caprica. The same can be said for Magda Apanowicz as Lacy, who takes the complications surrounding a semi-innocent girl lost in the world of terrorism and runs with them with stalwart momentum. Lacy’s role, which gets sloshed around in the first half of the season, begins to grow more focused as she embeds further into the STO (and learns of her affinity with post-Zoe Cylons). The faces of Caprica are what keep the series afloat, both during the well-executed and bungled stretches in the show.Still from CapricaReally, the issues hinge on a general question: “What’s the driving force behind Caprica?” At first, the series closed in on the machinations of the Cylon origins, as well as exploring monotheism vs. polytheism, the benefits and hindrances of an abandon-free V-World, and the reluctance for people to let go of those whom have died. Upon the second half of Caprica, all that’s somewhat switched out for direct drama involving the robots’ “creator”, as well as concentration on the gangster Adama network and the blossoming of the terrorist organization as idealists — which, by the way, the STO material’s fairly bland and oddly-executed during that stretch. In essence, it starts to go down a fairly generic path of aggressive human drama, leaving the intrigue behind Zoe’s presence somewhat alone for a two-hour burst. It’s pretty clear that the minds behind the show tinkered with some new (and time-weathered) ideas to try and wrangle together a new audience. And it didn’t really pan out as such.Caprica with Eric StoltzFortunately, the creative team seems to have had an inclination towards this. Starting with “False Labor”, Caprica begins to see an awakening, as if they both discover where their weaknesses lie and resurrect the spirit of Battlestar Galactica — which carries over in “Blowback”, marking the first of five episodes that Syfy shelved around the time of cancellation. In this episode, Daniel attempts to recreate Zoe’s “resurrection” software, while in the process using an avatar of Amanda as a basis for comparison. Since he knows all the mannerisms and minutiae of his wife, he’s able to determine exactly how human or inhuman she’s acting, and the content that unfolds as he dissects this digital Amanda can be both penetrating and emotionally stirring. On top of that, Lacy gets her first hearty taste of the STO’s domineering, contentious presence, while meeting other “recruits” similar to her. Moreover, it rediscovers its tonality; difficult drama remains, but the way it’s handled regains the excitement of its inspiration. In short, it gets good. Really, really good.With Syfy cancelling the show and five episodes still left to run, the big question likely will be: “Does it get a proper, strong conclusion?” Piggybacking off the regained proficiency that it rediscovers in “Blowback”, Caprica sprints through the remaining episodes as if it knows that the end’s coming, losing its abandon in a furious, gripping rush that certainly echoes to Battlestar Galactica’s aptitude in 11th-hour intensity. It hits the accelerator and really doesn’t stop until an unquestionably finite conclusion, bringing together Daniel’s hunt for Zoe’s avatar in V-World and the unsavory connections between Graystone Industries and the Tauron mob to a very fine, robust head. Moreover, the content surrounding Lacy’s presence in the STO finally reaches a meaningful point, instead of evoking the sensation that it’s a time-killing subplot like it did at first. But, much like the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica, it also ditches some sensibility in lieu of excitement, breaking some of its own rules and established character mannerisms just to find a definite close. When it all melts together, though, it’ll be worth gritting one’s teeth through a few questionable moments.Those who’ve watched Caprica and cashed in their chips owe it to themselves to check out the tense follow-through, with the knowledge that the tone’s anything but consistent. There’s only a handful of great moments scattered within; however, there are assuredly some really great moments, ones that ensnare the type of essence I’d hoped would resonate in a depiction of the pre-Cylon world. In the middle of that, along with blatant reflection on the current climate of terrorism, it also provokes thought about the extents that some might go to preserve the memories and essence of those they love, and whether the recreation of an individual would push the boundaries of their belief structure. Caprica’s an intelligent show at its core, one with a complex network of emotion buttons that simply never properly learned how and when to push them. What’s a shame is that the show reveals a few glimmers at the end that suggest it might’ve found out how, ones that likely hadn’t even been seen by those that made the decision to power down this tale of the pre-war Cylon race.

REVIEW: CAPRICA – PART 1

Starring

Eric Stoltz (The Butterfly Effect)
Esai Morales (Titans)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Alessandra Torresani (The Big Bang Theory)
Magda Apanowicz (You)
Sasha Roiz (Grimm)
Brian Markinson (Sanctuary)
Polly Walker (Pennyworth)Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

William B. Davis (The X-FIles)
Sina Najafi (Stargate SG.1)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Genevieve Buechner (The Final Cut)
Anna Galvin (Unspeakable)
Karen Elizabeth Austin (The Eye)
Scott Porter (Speed Racer)
Avan Jogia (Shaft)
Françoise Yip (The Predator)
Anita Torrance (Smallville)
James Pizzinato (Godzilla)
Michael Eklund (Bates Motel)
Patton Oswalt (Veronica Mars)
Kendall Cross (X-Men 2)
Peter Wingfield (Highlander: The Series)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Teryl Rothery (Stargate SG.1)
Alex Arsenault (Tucker and Dale vs Evil)
Panou (Flash Gordon)
Eve Harlow (Bitten)
James Marsters (Buffy: TVS)
John Pyper-Ferguson (The Last Ship)
Leah Gibson (Jessica Jones)
Richard Harmon (The 100)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Jill Teed (Battlestar Galactica)
Zak Santiago (Shooter)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Kacey Rohl (Hannibal)

 

Paula Malcomson in Caprica (2009)Creators Ronald Moore and David Eick relied on three key components for their hit SyFy series, Battlestar Galactica, to stay fresh and compelling for as long as it did: complex ideas behind evolved sentient lifeforms, religious parables, and the fondness for the characters’ home worlds — especially that of Caprica. The characters all look back at their previous lives almost as ghosts; Admiral Bill Adama painfully drudges up memories of his ex-wife and lawyer father, while Kara “Starbuck” Thrace carries memories of her small, ramshackle apartment and Samuel Anders yearns for the thrill of a sports stadium. Seems like such a rich mythos created just to be the ruminants of a past life, doesn’t it? The Moore-Eick team also sees this potential, now capitalizing on the gap left by Battlestar Galactica’s end to create the appropriately-titled Caprica. Though it moves slowly at first while constructing an involved narrative framework in its predecessor’s shadow, this mythos-rich offshoot eventually finds the footing needed to fall in-line with the original series’ current of storytelling.Patton Oswalt in Caprica (2009)The story revolves around the polytheistic, technologically-advanced colony of Caprica roughly sixty years before “the downfall”, focusing on the conflict between, and within, two families: The Graystones, and the Adamas Adams. Lawyer Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) lives a somewhat normal life with his wife and two children, Tamara and Billy, attempting to juggle his high-profile stature in the legal realm with his domestic life. He fights a bit with keeping himself as distanced as he can from his unsavory lineage, the Tauron mob Ha’la’tha, though it’s hard since the organization funded his education and requires his services regularly — usually by messages delivered through his brother, Sam (Sasha Roiz). BSG devotees with get a jolt in seeing the blossoming of young “Billy” in this environment early on, watching the growth of the semi-troubled youth that’d transform into the disquieting, powerful Galactica commander Bill Adama.Hiro Kanagawa in Caprica (2009)Caprica’s central draw, however, is the Graystones. Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) heads a tech development firm working on a mechanized super-soldier that’s just not cutting the mustard, all the while generating profit (60% of net, to be exact) with virtual reality headsets — holobands — that connect to a network of fully-interactive, realistic digital worlds. Graystone’s seemingly safe digital construct quickly broke down into a laissez-faire underground, filled with hacked sections that exploit sex, drug-use, and violence. Daniel’s daughter, a silver-tongued high-school student named Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) who battles with her mother Amanda (Paula Malcomson) over authority, frequents the holoband V-Club with boyfriend Ben (Avan Jogia) and timid best friend Lacy (Magda Apanowicz), yet they’re beyond the carnal satisfaction that the place has to offer. Instead, they’ve found purpose in monotheistic religious belief within an activist organization, the Soldiers of The One (STO), and, in the process, created an exact digital copy of Zoe who will somehow aid the resistance.Alessandra Torresani in Caprica (2009)Observant fans will see where Caprica’s going with the duplicate Zoe, coming together in an introductory pilot that realizes the germ of an idea behind the genesis of the Cylon race, but it certainly doesn’t leave newcomers in the cold. Moore and Eick, with this freshness in mind, go in a startling direction with the content surrounding the Cylon conception; a murderous STO-related terrorist attack on a train rattles the city of Caprica, leaving the Graystones without their daughter and Joseph with only his son, Billy. The grief they endure becomes a convincing dramatic catalyst for what’s to come, breaking a floodgate for aggressive decision-making regarding family memories and Daniel’s technological advancement — with the idea of an exact digital replication of both mind and memory, such as the avatar of Zoe that lingers after her death, propelling it forward. It’s a thought-provoking launch that tackles some rather challenging concepts, including that of the human psyche as raw data and the extent that open-minded intellectuals might go to preserve those they’ve lost. And, of course, the narcissistic power behind potential immortality.Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales in Caprica (2009)Upon the second episode, “Rebirth”, one fact becomes very clear: Caprica isn’t cut from the same cloth as its inspiration, instead existing as a compelling new creation with its own hurdles to cross. In retrospect, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica painlessly continued the momentum from its original two-part miniseries, thrusting forward with space warfare and political components into the dazzling episode “33”. With Caprica, a shrewd character-driven thriller with complexity surrounding terrorism and family grief, the carry-over isn’t as easy. Thankfully, the Moore-Eick team never shies away, hitting the gas with some rather incisive writing as they drive deeper into Caprica’s unraveling and the Graystone company’s waning success in the wake of the terrorist attack. Along the way, they also grapple with themes of Tauron racism (“dirt eaters”) and religious extremism through the STO and one of its leaders, Zoe’s teacher Sister Clarice (Polly Walker), that correlate to actual issues, while also cleverly using the concept of a digital underground — especially in the anarchistic “New Cap City” game simulation, a mix of World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto — as a way of escape and purpose-finding.Esai Morales and Sasha Roiz in Caprica (2009)Yet as Caprica focuses on these modern analogous ideas while its characters develop into a mixture of morally desolate entities, the first batch of six or so episodes move at a deliberate, slow-burning tempo that shifts between intrigue and sluggishness. The harsh chemistry between Daniel and Joseph as scorned parents electrifies, driven by Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales in two stark, authentic performances, and the pacing focuses on the causal events that unfold around their family-affecting decisions. But focusing on this calculated slow-burn can, at times, temper the series’ manner and cause the multiple plot threads to stray from the course, weaving intuitive dramatic performances around a lot of existential meditation and shots of neo-religious content without the right energy to propel it forward. I still find it compelling; the depth of Daniel’s egotism reaches a genuine depth that’s unexpected, while offering a cluster of explosive moments — such as the board meeting in “There is Another Sky” that actually starts the Cylon race — spliced within the persistent, astute drama.Polly Walker and Magda Apanowicz in Caprica (2009)Then, as Caprica approaches “Ghosts in the Machine” and the mid-season finale “End of Line”, the gradual tension sees a much-needed outburst. These prior episodes extend into what’s essentially a rather lengthy fuse leading to this batch of dynamite, using brewing family turmoil and growing suspicions into an emotionally-taxing, brilliantly-realized culmination point. “Ghosts in the Machine” plays with the intensity of psychological torment in a staggering rush of emotion, while “End of Life” finds the first episode of the series to use the familiar “__ Hours Before” time mechanic frequently used in Battlestar Galactica. Quite simply, the build-up becomes worth the time at this point, igniting the series with the narrative outbreak it desperately lacked to become fully involving. Whether Caprica can maintain this momentum still remains to be seen, but the succession of these explosive developments that derive from subtly-evolving plot points — Amanda’s weakening sanity, Daniel’s obsession with meeting the development deadline, and the presence of the STO as violent radicals — satisfies with evocative, edge-of-your-seat chills at this midpoint, finally achieving that addictive science-fiction adrenaline that hallmarked its predecessor.

 

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 3

Starring

Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Elizabeth Mitchell (V)
Henry Ian Cusick (Hitman)
Dominic Monaghan (Flashforward)
Naveen Andrews (The Brave One)
Michael Emerson (Arrow)
Jorge Garcia (How I Met Your Mother)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Terry O’Quinn (The Rocketeer)
Emilie de Ravin (Operation: Endgame)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Kiele Sanchez (A Perfect Getaway)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Suicide Squad)

Josh Holloway in Lost (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Julie Adams (Code Red)
Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider)
M.C. Gainey (Breakdown)
William Mapother (The Mentalist)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
John Terry (Full Metal Jacket)
Michael Bowen (Kill Bill)
Tania Raymonde (Texas Chainsaw)
Paula Malcomson (The Hunger Games)
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Chris Mulkey (Whiplash)
Justin Chatwin (War of The Worlds)
Kim Dickens (Gone Girl)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Gods & Heroes)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Aisha Hinds (Cult)
François Chau (The Tick)
Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Fredric Lehne (Men In BLack)
Zeljko Ivanek (Heores)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Robin Weigert (Jessica Jones)
Alan Dale (Ugly Betty)
Sonya Walger (Flashforward)
Shishir Kurup (Coneheads)
Fionnula Flanagan (The Others)
Bai Ling (The Crow)
Diana Scarwid (Wonderland)
Cheech Marin (Coco)
Kimberley Joseph (Hercules: TLJ)
Sung Hi Lee (The Girl Next Door)
April Grace (A.I.)
Shaun Toub (Iron Man)
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick (MMPR: The Movie)
Kevin Tighe (My Bloody Valentine)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Patrick J. Adams (Legends of Tomorrow)
Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars)
Daniel Roebuck (Final Destination)
Beth Broderick (Sabrina: TTW)
Andrew Connolly (Heroes)
Marsha Thomason (White Collar)
Jon Gries (Welcome To The Jungle)
Doug Hutchison (Punisher: War Zone)
Samantha Mathis (American Psycho)
Carrie Preston (True Blood)
Sterling Beaumon (The Killing)
Sam Anderson (Angel)
L. Scott Caldwell (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Neil Hopkins (The Net 2.0)
Tracy Middendorf (Scream: The Series)
Lana Parrilla (Once Upon A Time)
Malcolm David Kelley (Detroit)
James Lesure (Las Vegas)
Fisher Stevens (Hackers)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)

This season is easily broken down into two separate parts; the first six episodes that aired before an eight week hiatus and then the rest of the season. Even though the first six are considered part of the third season, they feel much more like a prologue. Very little time is spent with the survivors on the beach and the main focus of the story is Jack (Matthew Fox), Kate (Evangeline Lilly) and Sawyer’s (Josh Holloway) imprisonment by the Others.Evangeline Lilly in Lost (2004)The second half of the season also featured some of the show’s best episodes to date. Including the brilliantly told “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, which is an interesting twist on Lost’s flashback scenario. Other episodes like “The Man from Tallahassee” and “The Brig” answered long asked questions while “The Man Behind the Curtain” and “One of Us” gave us a much needed back-story on both Ben (Michael Emerson) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell).Really, the only weak point of the final sixteen-episode run would be “Stranger in a Strange Land”, an episode that primarily focused on the origins and meaning of Jack’s tattoo. We still don’t really understand the significance and we’re not too sure if the writers do either as they never bring up the subject again for the rest of the season.Terry O'Quinn in Lost (2004)Even “Expos¿”, an episode that featured fan-hated Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro), told an interesting “Twilight Zone” style story and we couldn’t be happier with the conclusion.If you were to suggest that the theme for season one was man vs. the unknown and that season two’s was man vs. machine it would be fair to suggest that the theme for season three is man vs. man, as the main crux of the season deals with the survivors of Flight 815 dealing with the Others. There is a constant power struggle between the two groups and the narrative frequently shifts back and forth from the Others camp to the survivor’s beach. Intertwined throughout, are personal struggles for several of the characters in both camps and we realize as the story pushes forward that even though they are enemies, their survival appears to be dependant on each other.At the core of this struggle is Benjamin Linus, and it would be a sin not to mention Michael Emerson’s fantastic performance as the enigmatic leader of the Others. He never once falters in portraying a creepy and unnerving nemesis for the survivors of Flight 815 and in particular, John Locke.Evangeline Lilly in Lost (2004)Terry O’Quinn puts in an equally inspired performance and every time these two appeared on screen together, you knew something special was about to happen. Everything culminates in what can be described as one of the best season finales in recent memory. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof deliver a brilliantly told story that is full of emotion, suspense and action.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

CAST

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Josh Hutcherson (The Forger)
Liam Hemsworth (Knowing)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Elizabeth Banks (The Lego Movie)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Julianne Moore (Freedomland)
Willow Shields (beyond The Blackboard)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Mahershala Ali (Alphas)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Robert Knepper (Heroes)
April Grace (Lost)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

Katniss Everdeen is recovering after being attacked by Peeta Mellark, who has been brainwashed by the Capitol. The rebels attack and disable the Capitol’s weapons arsenal in District 2. Katniss tries to rally the loyalists against the Capitol, but is shot and injured in the confrontation. Despite Katniss’ desire to kill President Snow personally, Alma Coin refuses to allow her into battle. At Finnick and Annie’s wedding, Johanna Mason suggests Katniss sneak aboard a supply ship leaving for the Capitol, where Commander Paylor is planning an invasion. Unable to bring her back, Coin has her assigned to the “Star Squad”, led by Boggs and includes Gale, Finnick, Cressida, Messalla, Castor, Pollux, Jackson, the Leeg twins, Mitchell, and Homes; they will follow in relative safety behind the actual invasion of the Capitol providing video of their incursion for propaganda purposes. Boggs carries a holographic map (the “Holo”) to help them evade known booby trapped “pods” which line the streets of the Capitol. Coin also sends Peeta to join the squad, even though he has not fully recovered from the Capitol’s conditioning.

As they venture deeper into the Capitol, Boggs triggers a pod which sets off a land mine and mortally wounds him, and transfers command of the Holo to Katniss before dying. The squad triggers another pod, which releases a flood of lethal black tar. Peeta momentarily succumbs to his conditioning and attacks Katniss, pushing Mitchell into the tar and killing him. The group takes shelter in an abandoned building, where Jackson, the second-in-command, attempts to commandeer the Holo, until Katniss convinces them she is under secret orders from Coin to kill Snow. Katniss and most of the group escape just before a squad of Peacekeepers arrive and destroy the building, killing the Leeg twins. The Capitol broadcasts a message announcing Katniss’s death, which is interrupted by Coin, who delivers an impassioned eulogy for her, to rally the rebels.

The team descends into the Capitol’s sewers to avoid further pods, but they are attacked by a horde of genetically engineered creatures called “mutts”. Jackson, Castor, and Homes are killed as the squad flees through the sewers. Finnick is overwhelmed as he fights off the swarm to allow the team to escape, forcing Katniss to set the Holo’s self-destruct, killing him and the remaining mutts. The surviving team members reach the surface but are chased by Peacekeepers, and Messalla is killed by a pod that melts and disintegrates him. The team takes refuge in a shop, where Tigris, a former Hunger Games stylist and rebel sympathizer, hides them in her basement.

As rebel forces gain ground, Snow invites fleeing Capitol citizens into his mansion for protection. Katniss and Gale join the crowd, posing as refugees to gain access to Snow. Rebels arrive and attack, killing many in the crossfire. In the chaos, Katniss pushes forward to Snow’s mansion, where Peacekeepers are herding Capitol children toward the closed gates. A hovercraft flies overhead, and drops small parcels by parachute into the pen of children. The parcels explode, killing them. A team of rebel medics attempt to help the injured, among whom is Katniss’s sister Prim. A second wave of bombs detonate, killing Prim and knocking Katniss unconscious. Upon recovering, Katniss learns the Capitol has been conquered, and Snow captured. When Katniss confronts Snow, he claims that Coin orchestrated the bombing outside his mansion to turn his soldiers against him. Katniss realizes that the incident resembles a trap that Gale had developed earlier. When Gale is unable to assure Katniss that the bombs were not of his design, Katniss cuts all ties with him. Coin invites the remaining Hunger Games victors to vote on a proposal to have another Hunger Games using the children of the Capitol, as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the districts. Katniss swings the vote in favor, in exchange for the right to execute Snow personally.

At the execution, Katniss shoots and kills Coin instead of Snow. The rebels take Katniss into custody, while Snow is tortured and killed by the angry mob. Katniss is eventually pardoned for her crime and returns to District 12, where she is joined by Peeta, who has recovered from his conditioning. Commander Paylor is elected the new President of Panem, and Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch bond over their shared trauma. Years later, Katniss and Peeta play with their two children, as Katniss contemplates the nightmares of her past, and somberly reflects that “there are much worse games to play.”

The special effects are amazing, and the film gripped me throughout. There are some chilling and sad moments and with some twists along the way. Music from previous films is used to powerful effect. Jennifer Lawrence puts in an incredible performance as Katniss, and there are other strong performances from the cast. I was sad to see this end series, but feel everyone involved can be incredibly proud of what has been achieved. An outstanding and thought provoking finale.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Behind Closed Doors)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Jeffrey Wright (Ali)
Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Julianne Moore (Hannibal)
Mahershala Ali (Predators)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones)
Elden Henson (Daredevil)
Sarita Choudhury (Jessica Jones)

After being rescued from the destroyed arena in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, along with fellow Victors Beetee and Finnick Odair, are taken to District 13, an independent district isolated from the rest of Panem that has been spearheading the rebellion, where she is reunited with her mother and sister Prim. While recuperating, she is introduced to President Alma Coin, the rebel leader, and is told that her actions in the arena sparked riots and strikes against the Capitol. Coin asks her if she will become the “Mockingjay”—the symbol of the rebellion—as part of their “hearts and minds” strategy. Katniss flatly declines, angrily reminding her that they left Peeta Mellark, her portrayed lover and fellow District 12 tribute, behind in the arena. At the suggestion of Plutarch Heavensbee, the former Gamemaker, she is taken to see the ruins of District 12, which was completely leveled by a Capitol bombing campaign (with the exception of the houses in the Victor’s Village). After seeing that Peeta is being used by Capitol state television to quell the rebellion, Katniss reluctantly changes her mind and agrees to become Coin’s Mockingjay, on the condition that Peeta and the other victors will be rescued and pardoned at the earliest opportunity, and that her sister, Prim, will be allowed to keep her cat.
After Haymitch notes that Katniss thrives on spontaneity, she is introduced to her film team (led by Capitol escapee Cressida), is dressed up in a specially-designed outfit, and given Effie Trinket as a stylist and close friend Gale as a bodyguard. They go out to District 8 to visit a hospital, but as the visit concludes, a Capitol bombing squadron arrives and bombs the hospital, killing everyone inside. In her rage, Katniss gives a rousing speech to the camera, which is broadcast when Beetee hijacks the Capitol’s news feed. After it is broadcast, strikers in District 7 kill an entire team of Peacekeepers with hidden land mines.
After seeing a weakened Peeta on a TV propo (propaganda shots) the team then go back to District 12, where Gale tells the story of its destruction, and Katniss is filmed singing “The Hanging Tree”. Soon after, hundreds of protestors in District 5, singing the same anthem, launch a suicidal human wave attack against a hydroelectric dam that is the Capitol’s primary source of electricity. The attack succeeds, forcing the Capitol to revert to backup power generators and weakening their ability to broadcast their propaganda.
That night, Katniss watches Peeta being interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, the Games’ former presenter, when, in an apparent defiance of his captors, Peeta suddenly shouts a warning that the Capitol is about to attack District 13. Coin orders a mass evacuation into the underground shelters. While Prim is nearly locked out when she goes back to get her cat, everyone manages to get inside safely, and the facility survives the attack unharmed. Upon emerging, Katniss discovers that the area is littered with white roses, realizes that President Snow has sent them to taunt her, and presumes that he is about to kill Peeta. As Peeta’s warning gave the District an additional eight minutes evacuation time, Coin dispatches an elite special forces team, which includes Gale, to rescue him, along with Johanna Mason, and Annie Cresta, the remaining Victors, from their prison in the Capitol’s Tribute center. The rescue is successful. However, when Katniss goes to greet Peeta, he unexpectedly attacks and strangles her into unconsciousness, before being knocked unconscious himself by Boggs.
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Katniss wakes up in the medical facility, and is informed that Peeta has been “hijacked” — a form of physical/mental torture in which he is brainwashed into wanting to kill Katniss by associating memories of her with the psychological terror created by tracker jacker venom — explaining why the Capitol allowed Gale’s team to escape. Peeta is strapped to a bed and placed in a solitary confinement, while a serum is being developed to undo the effects of the hijacking. Meanwhile, Coin announces the successful rescue of the Victors, and that their next objective is the Capitol’s principal military stronghold in the ravines on District 2.
Excellent performances by actors and a very dramatic, dark mood rather.
An awesome film and a great build-up towards the grandiose finale .

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

 

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CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Behind Closed Doors)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Toby Jones (Your Highness)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March)
Alan Ritchson (Smallville)
Jeffrey Wright (Ali)
Amanda Plummer (Drunks)
Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones)
Jena Malone (Donnie Darko)
Lenny Kravitz (The Butler)
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 After winning the 74th Hunger Games in the previous novel, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12, the poorest sector in the country of Panem. But on the day that Katniss and Peeta are to start a “Victory Tour” of the country, President Snow visits unexpectedly and tells Katniss that he is angry with her for breaking the rules at the end of the last Hunger Games, which permitted both Peeta and Katniss to win. Snow tells Katniss that when she defied the Capitol, she inspired rebellion in the districts.
The first stop on the Victory Tour is District 11, the home of Katniss’ deceased friend and ally in the Hunger Games, Rue. During the ceremony, Katniss delivers a speech thanking the people of District 11 for their participants in the Games. When she finishes, an old man whistles the tune that Rue used in the arena to tell Katniss that she was safe. The song acts as a signal and everyone salutes Katniss, using the same gesture that she used to say farewell to Rue. To the horror of Katniss, the old man and two others are executed. Katniss and Peeta travel to the rest of the twelve districts and the Capitol. Hoping to placate the growing rebellion and settle the dispute between Katniss and President Snow, Peeta proposes to Katniss during an interview. Despite this, Katniss learns that their attempt to avert revolt in the districts has failed.
Shortly after returning to District 12, Katniss discovers on the mayor’s television that District 8 has had an uprising, and she fears that what she has done to placate the crowds is not enough as there may be uprisings in other districts as well. She then meets two runaways from District 8, Bonnie and Twill. They explain their theory which contradicts what the other districts have been led to believe: District 13 was not completely wiped out by the Capitol, and that its residents survive in underground shelters.Later, it is announced that, for the 75th Hunger Games, twenty-four victors from previous years will be forced to compete once again. This is the third occurrence of the “Quarter Quell”: an event that occurs every 25th year of the Games and allows the Capitol to introduce a twist. Knowing that she and Peeta will both be competing in the Games a second time, Katniss decides that she will devote herself to ensuring that Peeta becomes the Quarter Quell’s victor and convinces her mentor to help her. Likewise, Peeta is devoted to protecting her, but both Katniss and her mentor are determined that only Peeta returns home safely.
During the Games, set in a jungle with a saltwater lake, Katniss and Peeta join up with two other previous victors: Finnick Odair, a 24-year-old man who survived the Games at the age of 14, and Mags, Finnick’s 80-year-old mentor, both from District 4. The party encounters poisonous fog in which Peeta comes into contact with the gas and cannot walk. Mags sacrifices herself in order to save Peeta and dies in the poisonous fog. After Mags’s death, Katniss, Peeta and Finnick join forces with Johanna Mason, a sarcastic and often cruel victor from District 7, and Beetee and Wiress, an older couple from District 3 who are said to be “exceptionally smart”. Wiress soon proves her genius by revealing to Katniss that the arena is arranged like a clock, with all of the arena’s disasters occurring on a timed chart. After Wiress is killed in a battle with the Careers (tributes from the first three districts who train all their lives for the Games and are usually the winners), Katniss learns of Beetee’s plan to harness lightning in order to electrocute Brutus and Enobaria, the two remaining Careers Tributes from District 2.
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In the final chapters, Katniss instead directs the lightning at the force field that contains the arena, thereby destroying the arena and resulting in her temporary paralysis. When Katniss wakes up, she is being transported to District 13, joined by Finnick, Beetee, and her mentor, Haymitch Abernathy. She learns that Peeta, Enobaria, and Johanna have been captured by the Capitol, and is informed that there had been a plan among half of the contestants to break out of the arena— Beetee had been attempting to destroy the force field in the same way that she did. The book ends when Katniss’ best friend, Gale, comes to visit her and informs her that, though he got her family out in time, District 12 has been destroyed.
Incredible, memorable film, well worth seeing even if you haven’t the read the books.

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES

CAST
Jennifer Lawrence (Serena)
Josh Hutcherson (Zathrua)
Liam Hemsworth (Triangle)
Elizbath Banks (Zack & Miri)
Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job 2003)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider)
Willow Shields (Beyond The Blackboard)
Paula Malcomson (Caprica)
Toby Jones (Your Highness)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Leven Rambin (Terminator: TSSC)
Lenny Kravitz (The Butler)
Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Minds)
Jack Quaid (The Boys)
Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan)
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As punishment for a past rebellion, each the twelve districts of Panem are forced by the victorious Capitol to annually select by lot two tributes, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. In District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers when her younger sister Primrose is initially chosen. She and the male tribute, Peeta Mellark, are escorted to the Capitol by chaperone Effie Trinket and their mentor Haymitch Abernathy, a past District 12 victor and alcoholic. Haymitch impresses on them the importance of gaining sponsors, as they can provide gifts of food and supplies during the Games. During part of a series of televised interviews, Peeta publicly expresses his love for Katniss, which she initially takes as an attempt to earn sponsor favor, but later learns his love is genuine. While training, Katniss observes the Careers, Marvel, Glimmer, Cato, and Clove, tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who have been training for the Games from a young age.
At the start of the Games, Katniss ignores Haymitch’s advice and grabs supplies from the ground around the Cornucopia, the structure where the contestants start, and narrowly avoids being killed; about a quarter of the tributes are killed in the initial melee, and only eleven survive the first day. Katniss tries to stay as far away from the other competitors as possible, but Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane triggers a forest fire to drive her back towards the others. She runs into the Careers, with whom Peeta has seemingly allied, and flees up a tree. Peeta advises the others to wait her out.
She notices Rue, District 11’s young female tribute, hiding in an adjacent tree. Rue silently draws her attention to a nest of poisonous tracker jackers. Katniss drops it onto the sleeping Careers, killing Glimmer and forcing the others to flee, though she herself is stung and becomes disoriented from the venom. Peeta yells at her to run away. Rue helps Katniss recover from the poison; they become friends. Katniss devises a plan to destroy the cache of supplies that the Careers have been hoarding. After Katniss succeeds, Marvel finds them and kills Rue before Katniss can shoot Marvel with her bow. Katniss comforts Rue; after the girl dies, the grieving Katniss places flowers around her body. The people of District 11 watch and then riot, leading President Snow to warn Crane that these Games are not turning out well.
Haymitch persuades Crane to change the rules to allow two winners if they are from the same district, suggesting that this will quiet the unrest. When this change is announced, Katniss searches for Peeta, finding him wounded after fleeing from the Careers. After she moves him to safety, they hear an announcement that what each survivor needs the most will be provided at the Cornucopia. Despite Peeta’s strong opposition, Katniss leaves to get medicine for him. Clove attacks and pins her down; she then boasts about her part in Rue’s death. Katniss is saved when Thresh, District 11’s male tribute, kills Clove. He spares Katniss’s life — once — for Rue’s sake. The medicine heals Peeta.
Thresh is killed by wild beasts unleashed by Crane; Katniss and Peeta race to the roof of the Cornucopia, just ahead of the animals. There they find Cato. After an intense fight, Peeta manages to throw Cato to the ground, where the beasts attack him. Katniss then ends Cato’s agony by shooting him with an arrow. Katniss and Peeta think they have won, but Crane cancels the rule change: there can be only one victor. Katniss then convinces Peeta to eat poisonous Nightlock with her. Just before they do, they are hastily named co-winners of the 74th Hunger Games.
Afterward, Haymitch warns Katniss that she has made many enemies by her acts of defiance. Snow has Crane locked in a room with Nightlock. As Katniss and Peeta return to District 12, Snow ponders the situation. Katniss encourages Peeta to forget what happened between them in the Games, devastating him.
Jennifer, with her honesty and rebellious attitude has become the fan favorite and our favorite because she is the only contestant that we know. She lacks the killer instinct…until she must. Alliances form and everyone wants to get the fan favorite aka Rambette Jennifer Lawrence, who did an excellent job to give girls a heroine being both a compassionate woman and a huntress. Like all reality TV shows, when the drama starts to fade the program directors add an element to push it in the direction that they want. An excellent film.