The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is more than just a bridge to next year’s finale. Things happen. Characters grow.

Having rebuked President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes an ally of the rebels. Realizing her power, she agrees to be a voice for those opposing Snow. President Coin (Julianne Moore) leads the opposition with key advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Heavensbee drafts Katniss for a series of videos, directed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones). Cressida has a Skrillex haircut and a long vine tattoo on her left side—it’s a distinctive look. (Heavensbee’s guidance reminded me about Hoffman’s role as another crafty political consultant in The Ides of March.)

After scripted attempts at a propaganda clip fall short, Katniss and crew go on location for passionate, ad-libbed speeches that rip the Capitol crew to shreds. There’s also an action segment where Katniss takes down a fighter jet attacking District 8 with a well-directed arrow (with an explosive tip).

All the while, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is ensconced in the Capitol with several other survivors from the most recent Hunger Games. Like Katniss, Peeta is a media tool. Every time he appears on the Capitol’s TV feed, she watches intently.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 brings new versions of certain series characters. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is now sober and not happy about it, thanks to Coin’s prohibition of booze. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has doffed her outrageous wigs and dresses for a do rag and olive drab jumpsuit. Hunky Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is still more like a big brother to Katniss, but there appears to be something stronger between them this time.

Among the questions unanswered in THG: M1… Is Peeta’s call for the rebels to stand down sincere or is he just saying these things to save his skin? Is Snow being overly cocky as he plays mind games with Katniss and the rebels? Do the rebels have necessary firepower to take down the Snow regime? Will Coin turn out to benevolent or will power corrupt? And will Katniss and Peeta ever be a real couple? Stay tuned—Part 2 comes your way in exactly one year!

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Stop

In Non-Stop, Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is an alcoholic federal air marshall who gets into a big mess on a flight from New York to London. He begins getting text messages from someone on the plane, threatening to kill a person on the plane every 20 minutes unless money is transferred to an account. Yes, it’s an implausible, likely impossible, setup for a story that gets stranger by the minute.

The steps you or I might take—such as disabling the plane’s onboard wi-fi—are dismissed. Of course, making such a move would prevent this caper from continuing. The result would be a very short movie.

Sounds like an “edge of the seat” nail-biter, no? Unfortunately, Non-Stop fails to generate the necessary tension to increase the pulse rate. A lengthy sequence of text message trading between Marks and the unseen culprit is downright boring. Non-Stop just isn’t in the same league as numerous well-known airplane tension/suspense flicks.

But as a mystery, Non-Stop has some redeeming qualities. It’s not exactly a “whodunit” but a “who’s doing it.”

As with many airplane crisis movies, the cast of passengers includes a number of possible suspects: a woman (Julianne Moore) who begs a guy to trade seats with her, a guy with a Middle Eastern look, an excitable NYC cop, among others. Even the crew is not above suspicion.

As the flight continues, some passengers develop reasons to believe that Marks himself is the perp.

Your enjoyment and appreciation of Non-Stop is likely to depend on how you feel about Liam Neeson as an action adventure guy. And how willing you are to buy into this film’s hard-to-swallow plot.

Lupita Nyong’o, who will probably win an Oscar Sunday night, has a small role in Non-Stop as a flight attendant. (As one guy tweeted, she’ll probably say more onstage Sunday night than she does in this film.) Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame plays flight attendant Nancy.