The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Despite a challenging premise and an overlong runtime, the Hunger Games prequel makes the most of the hand it’s been dealt.
The character of Coriolanus Snow is an odd choice for a Hunger Games hero. In the original books and films, as played by screen giant Donald Sutherland, Snow was a cold-hearted, cruel dictator clearly meant to echo real world fascist leaders. Here, in the prequel story The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (say that five times fast), Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) is just a sensitive, emotional teen dreamboat whose main goal is to provide for his family in the wake of the violent revolution that tore apart Panem, the country formerly known as the United States of America.
It’s difficult to understand why author Suzanne Collins, who wrote the novel Songbirds is based on, made the decision to try to humanize a violent authoritarian when a core theme of the original Hunger Games books and movies was lashing back at systemic oppression. Nonetheless, director Francis Lawrence (Catching Fire, I Am Legend) and his enthusiastic cast of talented performers make the best of the rather thematically confused story arc they’ve been given, turning in one of the most exciting, emotionally arresting entries in the franchise. Continue Reading →
Lawmen: Bass Reeves
Screenwriter Josh Olsen (A History of Violence) used to tell anyone who would listen that his passion project was an account of the life of Bass Reeves, a man whose life and career were the stuff of fables. Reeves was the first Black deputy sheriff west of the Mississippi, with an arrest record in the thousands by most accounts. Best of all, legends assert that he almost never killed or shot anyone he didn’t have to. Continue Reading →
Mr. Harrigan's Phone
Stephen King is best known for his massive novels that require weight training just to hold. Entire forest ecosystems have been destroyed so we can have The Stand on our bookshelves. These epic tales are his bread and butter, but if you want to get a pure distillation of what makes King a gifted horror writer and storyteller, check out his short story collections. They provide the strong, grounded characters facing terrifying circumstances that he’s famous for in his longer novels, but in a digestible format. He can be hit or miss (even the best writers may have stinkers when they write an astonishing ten pages a day like King) but if one short story is garbage, chances are the next one will be a fun time. Continue Reading →
Around the halfway point of Roland Emmerich’s new sci-fi disaster flick Moonfall, our protagonists find themselves in a hell of a predicament. It seems like the world is about to end, the most important people have given up on doing anything about it, and the only ones that have a chance of saving the day are the underestimated, the uninspiring, and the over-the-hill. Despite this, they manage to dust off an abandoned space shuttle, squeeze themselves into some old astronaut suits, and blast away to prevent disaster, and maybe, just maybe, become heroes in the process. Continue Reading →
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Just a few days after he passed, it was clear that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 would be Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final film. Back in 2012, Lionsgate made the financial decision to milk a fourth movie out of the Hunger Games trilogy, keeping their cash cow going until November 2015. While Catching Fire made for a worthwhile outing in its own right, the back half of the series does its best to annihilate any goodwill it’d accumulated. Continue Reading →
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
This is a little embarrassing – I’m pretty sure The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was my first exposure to Philip Seymour Hoffman. As I’ve said before, he didn’t appear in many blockbusters, and when I was fifteen (watching this Hunger Games sequel on the largest screen I could find), well, I watched a lot of blockbusters. But on second look, my embarrassment isn’t warranted. Catching Fire, and Hoffman’s work in it, is far better than I’d remembered. Continue Reading →