‘Mockingjay Part 2’ • All Things Must Pass •
The Night Before
November 19, 2015
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
If there is a complaint to be made in regard to the final installment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, one would have to look not further than the last installment in the beloved series, Mockingjay, Part 1.
For those of you not in the know, it’s worth noting that the third book in the series, Mockingjay, was split into two films for no discernible reason other than to generate bonus revenue streams to the financiers of the franchise. This is a trend that began with the cinematic adaptations of the final Twilight and Harry Potter books and shows no signs of ending. And therein lies the problem. A book that could have easily been adapted into a compelling two and half hour film now clocks in at a whopping four and half hours. This is going under the assumption that you’re going to sit through both films, a feat that is pretty much required in order to keep up with the narrative of the films.
Mockingjay, Part 2 is one of the talkiest franchise films I can recall ever having seen. The cardinal rule of screenwriting that is ‘show, don’t tell’ is broken so many times during the course of the film that I finally lost count.
Jennifer Lawrence in the final Hunger Games
Characters constantly talk (and talk and talk and talk) about things that are going on elsewhere in the film’s universe while the audience sits there waiting for the plot to get underway, which eventually happens after nearly eighty minutes have transpired with nothing of note actually transpiring up until that point.
If you’ll recall at the end of Mockingjay, Part 1 the heroine of the Hunger Games series, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), was nearly choked to death by her on again/off again love interest and comrade in the initial Hunger Games competition, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who had been brainwashed by the organization known as The Colony. Katniss survives to live another day while Coin (Julianne Moore), leader of the resistance, plants the seed of an idea that perhaps Katniss should assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the man responsible for the nefarious Hunger Games and many of the other woes that have befallen this futuristic society. Katniss decides to make that her mission and off she goes on a journey more filled with tedium than excitement. I counted three action sequences during the film’s 136 minute running time, the rest of the film being padded with endless amounts of dialogue.
The final chapter of this franchise is likely to satisfy fans of the fans of these books as I’m told it’s quite faithful to its source material. Unfortunately, that’s about the only people who are going to be pleased with this disappointing wrap up to a film series that initially offered such promise. Even the sight of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his final screen appearance is not enough to recommend it.
Opening Thursday, November 19, in Hickory.
All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (*** 1/2)
Having always been a music fan, in my formative years I longed for the opportunity to patronize one of the Tower Records locations, the majority of which were clustered on the west coast. I secretly harbored wishes that, perhaps, the chain would expand into my neck of the woods so that I might be able to experience what I had only read and heard about, up until that point. In those heady days before music fans had such unfettered access to so many choices, we could only imagine what treasures lay waiting to be discovered at the legendary Tower Records.
They say you can’t miss what you never had but after seeing the new documentary on the famed record store chain, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records, I can’t help but feel a certain amount of wistfulness and nostalgia for a time that’s come and gone. Record stores like Tower Records and its kind simply don’t exist anymore and it’s a shame. Those places were more than record stores. They were also invaluable sources for connecting with other like-minded music fans whose passions rivaled your own. That sense of community still exists somewhat in the virtual world but it’s not quite the same, a sad fact that the film points out all too vividly.
All Things Must Pass is an endlessly engrossing documentary on the life and death of the famed Tower Records chain. Russ Solomon, the distinctive founder of the chain, is front and center in the film. Many of the surviving employees are also interviewed on camera and the story they come together to put forth is endlessly fascinating, more so for music fans like myself, but even non music fans are likely to find the chain’s story of more than passing interest. The film also features candid interviews with celebrity musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and Elton John, the latter of which convinced the store owners to open specifically for him every Tuesday at 8am and claims on camera that he spent more money there than any of the chain’s customers.
Tower Records, like so many others, eventually fell victim to overexpansion, the online Napster revolution and general changes in the record business. The film documents it all and it’s quite moving to see some of the reactions from some of those whose lives were touched by their experiences there.
All Things Must Pass is directed by Colin Hanks, the son of actor Tom Hanks. Hanks lovingly recreates an era that’s gone forever and the film is a lasting document to those times. The result is a most pleasing and enlightening experience. It’s also one of the year’s best films.
Tower Records is not scheduled at this time to play in Hickory, but will likely be in Charlotte.
The Night Before (**) R
Anthony Mackie, Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (below) have considerable onscreen charisma and I guess it’s a good thing. The trio of stars are one of the few things to recommend in the holiday film entry The Night Before. The obvious chemistry and goodwill that the three project onscreen carry the film a long way during its rough spots, of which there are many. They seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves, which is more than I could honestly say about the experience of viewing the film.
It’s not that The Night Before is a terrible film. It isn’t. The problem, however, is that it’s awfully derivative of other gross out comedies starring Rogen in the lead. So overly familiar that you can almost pinpoint when the film is going to veer from vulgarity to sentimentality, as many film films featuring Rogen tend to do. It’s basically a race to see how many offensive gags can be crammed into the film’s first 80 minutes before things turn serious. Some of the gags work, offering a few genuine belly laughs in the process, but many fall flat.
The Night Before is ostensibly a typical buddy pic that begins with a sequence from some years ago explaining the origin of the trio’s friendship.
The Night Before
It seems that Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lost his parents when he was nineteen after a mishap involving a drunken driver. Chris (Anthony Mackie) and Issac (Rogen) nursed Ethan through his grieving process and, for a while, made it a ritual to have a drunken get together each holiday. Part of the ritual of getting together each holiday has involved searching for an elusive holiday party known as the Nutcracker Ball. Now that the three have moved on and gone their separate ways the trio agree that the time has come to have one last get together. When Ethan stumbles across some elusive tickets to the Nutcracker Ball the three pals are off and running on their way to a series of misadventures, the likes of which will be way too familiar to anyone who’s seen one of Rogen’s previous films.
The biggest problem with the film, aside from its being sloppily written and plotted, is the gaping plot holes in certain sections of the film. In one sequence, Issac mistakenly grabs a phone that doesn’t belong to him, and leaves it with a statue that he perceives, in his drugged state, as talking to him. Later the phone reappears when the person to whom it belongs happens to show up. There’s also a scene where Issac’s wife gets testy with him for having ingested such a huge number of drugs, in spite of the fact that she gave them to him as a Christmas gift. You get the point. It’s the kind of thing that dogs the film for too much of its running time.
Now playing in Hickory.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.