Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part 1

      “War is over, If you want it”  John Lennon, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

                        Review by Ken Burke

                                   The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1
                     (Francis Lawrence)

The sci-fi saga of Katniss Everdeen continues as the rebellion grows in Panem 
against the tyranny of President Snow with her as the Mockingjay, a symbol of independence.
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ brilliantly insightful reviews.  This is how we write, so as to explore what must be said as art transcends commerce (although if anyone wants to pay us for doing this ...); therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when ready to be transported to—well, wherever we end up.

We also encourage you to check your tastes against ours with the summary of Two Guys reviews, which we update with each new posting (please note that Two Guys critic Ken Burke is a bit odd—in more ways than one—using a 5-star-rating-system but rarely going to the level of 4 ½ or 5 stars, reserving those rankings for films that have been or should be acknowledged as time-honored masterpieces so that a 4 is about the best you can hope for from star-stingy Ken).  But we ask you to be aware that the links we recommend within our many reviews may have been removed or modified without our knowledge.  Other overall notations for this blog may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage.  Now, onward to illumination; you may want to protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.

But one more thing first:  If you’d like to Like us on Facebook you’re welcome to find us on our Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark page by typing that name into their “Search for people, places and things” box or just Google twoguysinthedark.  We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!]

What Happens: To fully understand what’s going on in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 movie, you need to have some background from the first two installments (The Hunger Games [Gary Ross, 2012; review in our April 6, 2012 posting], The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [F. Lawrence, 2013; review in our November 26, 2013 posting]) or the original Suzanne Collins trilogy of books (with this “final” movie broken into 2 parts—come back in November 2015 to see how it all concludes—emulating the “squeeze-as-many-eggs-from-this-golden-goose-as-possible”-strategy, inspired by similar expansions of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises’ final chapters and the even-more-egregious “split-one-book-into-3-movies”-strategy of The Hobbit [with Peter Jackson’s The Battle of the Five Armies finally arriving on my birthday this year; thanks, mate, how thoughtful of you]), which I’ll spare you a repetition of, but if you need them you can look here for the books' summary—but heed my Spoiler Alert for how Mockingjay finishes—or to these links for the first and second movies (if you want more details than I’m about to give you on Mockingjay—Part I you can complete your Wikipedia-wallowing at this site—I know that this Web-based-collective-resource gets some flack from its detractors for being biased, incomplete, or sometimes just plain wrong about certain statements, but I think you’ll find all of these accounts to be intensely-documented and certainly accurate in at least their plot summaries of The Hunger Game movies so far).  What I will tell you is that life continues to be chaotic in somewhat-near-future-Panem (comprising much of what we know as North America; if you want more details on this aspect of our ongoing-story you can consult my Catching Fire review, which also offers a lot more details on the last episode’s plot than I’m going to bother with regarding the current one) as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and other survivors from the 75th Hunger Games debacle (Beetee [Jeffrey Wright]—a wizard at penetrating the Capitol’s cybersecurity so that rebel broadcasts can contradict the official “party-line”-video-brainwashing—and trident-swinging-warrior Finnick Odair [Sam Claflin]), along with Katniss’ mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister, Primrose (Willow Shields), her long-time-friend/occasional-romantic-attraction Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), her Hunger Games mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson)—forced to sober up in District 13’s Spartan surroundings where no recreational drugs are allowed, everyone dresses in jumpsuits, readiness for the eventual rebellion is the constant order of the day—similarly-distressed fashion-consultant Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), horrified at the monochrome underground world she’s retreated to, and Capitol-traitor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman—damn it’s good to see you again, even in this silly situation; I hope you're back for at least part of Part 2, although in original footage rather than recycled outtakes) find themselves in the underground city that houses the remains of the long-supposed-destroyed-rebels of District 13.

 However, Panem President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) refuses to dignify his opposition with that term, calling them instead “criminals” or “radicals,” as part of this movie’s ongoing deconstruction of how politically-based-propaganda can be well-manufactured by both sides as a conflict of ideas fuels the conflicts of armies.  Despite Katniss’ initial rejection of District 13’s leader, President (I guess the 13ers consider themselves to be the legitimate government of Panem) Alma Coin’s (Julianne Moore) request that this previous Hunger Games Victor become the Mockingjay, the inspirational-symbol of Panem’s growing revolutionary sentiment, Katniss changes her mind when she sees how her District 12 home was reduced to rubble in Snow’s revenge for her part in destroying the previous Games (only 915 of 10,000 in the District survived, thanks to Gale’s rescue actions) and when she learns that fellow-Victor (and now lover) Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is a captive dupe of the Capitol’s Panem-wide-broadcasts calling on the various strikers and mercenaries to get back in line as well as appealing to Katniss to aid the central government’s attempts to restore law and order necessary to prevent the country from falling again into the kind of anarchy that destroyed pre-Panem society.  The rest of Mockingjay—Part 1 deals with attacks on the Capitol, the unsuccessful attempt at retaliation on the hidden armaments and occupants of District 13, the liberation of Peeta and the other captured Victors (Finnick’s love Annie Cresta [Stef Dawson], rebel-for-any-cause Johanna Mason [Jena Malone]), culminating with the shock—Spoiler Alert reminder—that Peeta’s been programmed to understand Katniss as a dangerous enemy who must be killed so we end Part 1 with him strapped to a bed, thrashing around for escape, as we wait for a year for this to all come to closure.

So What? For me, the most significant thing about this part of The Hunger Games is the depiction of how both sides in a battle for a society’s future play the other as the mindless aggressors, bringing havoc to what each faction considers to be their vision of the country’s destiny (not unlike the recent U.S. elections where the rhetoric focused on imminent crisis and need for new, bold leadership before various catastrophes accumulate to take down our hallowed way of life).  In Mockingjay—Part 1 we see how Katniss may be a wily survivor in the manipulated-Hunger Games-battle-environments but she’s genuinely just a skilled-archer-teenager whose goals in those previous contests were only to protect her sister from having to compete in the first one (2 combatants are chosen at random from each District; Prim met that fate but Katniss intervened by volunteering to take her place), then in the second she was just trying to work cooperatively with several other combatants rather than kill them (as she had to do the first time) to bring the slaughter to a halt (but with a goal of getting Peeta rescued instead of herself if circumstances required it); she agrees to be the spokesperson for the rebellion but with demands that the Games-captives be freed from Capitol confinement and pardoned for seeming to be in league with the government, so ultimately she’s still more concerned for Peeta’s welfare than for the success of the resistance movement (at least until she sees firsthand the wanton destruction of her previous District 12 life), which makes her much more of a pragmatically-decided/rationalization-based-hero than a dedicated-from-the-very-fiber-of-her-being-warrior-against-evil, as with, say, Wonder Woman (finally coming to the big screen in 2016 as part of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice movie [Zack Snyder]) or The Avengers(Josh Whedon, 2012; review in our May 12, 2012 posting) Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson, also in Iron Man 2 [Jon Favreau, 2010] and Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, 2014; review in our April 10, 2014 posting])—although you might chalk that up to the differences between the futuristic sci-fi and fantasy genres in terms of situations, motivations, and physical abilities of the characters, but still we constantly get the sense in Mockingjay—Part 1 that Katniss is always struggling to rise above the fear, panic, and desperation of her situation of truly becoming a soldier overthrowing a ruling system that she detests rather than simply a lone woodland ninja, protecting herself and those close to her but more out of desperation than any sense of committed rebellion.  (Which gets us into dangerous, historically-weighted-gender-based-considerations about the protagonists in action-based-struggle-against-oppression-stories, even if Katniss is the creation of a female author: Gale comes off as a fierce opponent of the Capitol’s desecration of human dignity in the various subjugated Districts [as does President Coin, a complete-no-nonsense-leader who resists retaliation against the Capitol’s attack on District 13 in hopes of keeping her resources hidden, to be used more effectively when the rebels have a better option of inflicting serious damage on their adversaries], while Katniss spends a lot of this movie having nightmares, crying over the hurt and confusion she feels, and resisting a leadership role in generating armed resistance against the Capitol for fear it will result in retaliation against her beloved Peeta.)

 Thus, she’s a washout trying to act in studio-produced-videos encouraging District citizens to further the rebellion (just as Dave Schultz [Mark Ruffalo] could barely force himself to cite delusional-benefactor John du Pont as “a mentor” in the obnoxiously-self-aggrandizing-doc about du Pont in Foxcatcher [Bennett Miller; review in our November 19, 2014 posting]) but does eventually find her PR voice for awhile when she’s flown on location to the ruined remains of District 12, then starts to lose it again as she waits in quiet desperation for news of the raid to free Peeta (I’m assuming she was never considered to join that liberation team, both because she’s not really a trained soldier and because her vested interest in the success of the operation might have compromised its results).  So, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 furthers the story of how Katniss, along with her near and collective companions (especially the ones who destroy the dam feeding power to the Capitol), continue to increase their opposition to the well-dressed-fascists who subjugate their citizens in the name of “security” and “freedom,” but it does so in a stretched-out/played-for-time-manner intended to force us to pony up another huge payday next year (this opening weekend proved to be the largest of 2014 so far in the domestic market with $123 million taken in—although not up to the level of the $150+ openings of the previous 2 Hunger Games movies, yet Part 1 reached that goal in the international market with $152 million more from 85 countries not named U.S.A. or Canada), along with undermining the sense of dedication and inspiration that we’d hope to get from a primary, awe-inspiring, take-no-prisoners rebel leader by showing her resolute most of the time in only her very personal need to rescue Peeta.  It makes for an interesting sociological comment on the rhetorical manipulations that feed all segments of a society—not just the ones we’re supposed to understand as corrupt and evil—as well as the plausible reluctance of a young ordinary citizen to suddenly become the face of a revolution, but for something that’s intended as part of a rousing-action-movie-franchise this part of Mockingjay seems to mock its own existence with the expectation that we’ll just patiently wait for it to explode in its 2015 finale (or maybe be satisfied this fall/winter with the humongous clashes to come when The Hobbit wraps up is own overblown-intrusion on our time and wallets about a month from now [you’re welcome, if you like, to read our previous reviews of those Tolkien-adapted-lead-in-movies in our December 20, 2012 and December 17, 2013 postings]).

Bottom Line Final Comments: I can only hope that this monetarily-based-fascination with pushing trilogies (or final chapters, as with the Harry Potter saga) beyond their needed length will subside a bit after the uniformly-critical-coolness to this unnecessary-extension of what was originally just 1 book in the Hunger Games trilogy (these for-profit-narrative-extensions amusingly remind me of what was consciously intended as parody by Douglas Adams in his hilarious 5-volume-trilogy [?] of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, published 1979-1992); however, given the money made by this franchise and the others that have adopted a super-size-attitude, I assume we’ll see more of this sort of absurdity rather than less.  As for how The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 succeeds on its own merits, it’s not at all unwatchable (especially for a chance to see Hoffman again, as well as to contemplate whether we’re now getting Katniss with her long hair frequently flowing, rather than so often being in braids, as a means of helping audiences distinguish her from Shailene Woodley’s cropped-hair Tris Prior in the now-ongoing-alternate-futuristic-sci-fi-teenagers-save-the-world Divergent franchise—which may be better than The Hunger Games [or not], but I chose to not invest in another one of these repetitious-time-consumers [the first one, directed by Neil Burger, came out in spring 2014; next is Insurgent (Robert Schwentke), set for 2015, followed by the TWO PARTS (!) of Allegiant in 2016 and 2017], although comments on this other series are certainly welcome), but it seems more like a postmodern commentary on the marketing of ideas and products (including itself) than the best use of Katniss Everdeen as an inspiring-role-model for female teens and young women who constantly find depictions of themselves in action-based-movies to be in secondary positions relative to the commanding males who dominate their stories.  Certainly Katniss is justifiably angry and sincerely rebellious when she cuts a “rise up” promo in the rubble of her former home (or when she joins in with Gale, using some high-destruction-arrows to shoot down jets ordered by the Capitol to bomb a hospital full of wounded District 8 dwellers), just as she’s worried sick about the rescue of Peeta (then even more disturbed when she encounters him again, only to find him reworked into an obsessed assassin), but even though she’s right that there’s no one else for Coin and her team to call upon for the kind of media-awareness that Katniss possesses given her Districts-wide-coverage in the previous Hunger Games, she soon finds out that there are other impactful spokesmen for the incubating revolution when she sees how powerful a presence Gale presents when he does a long broadcast about the invasion of District 12 and his efforts to save as many of his neighbors as possible (all of this done not just to recruit rebels but also to flood the Capitol’s airwaves during the stealth rescue of Peeta and the others, but it sure showed male Gale as being as convincing and soul-stirring as was Katniss in her short spots—maybe even more so—giving her [and us] reason to question whether she’s up to properly reasserting herself as the supposed-central-figure in stabilizing all of this futuristic chaos when Mockingjay—Part 2 lands just in time for another tsunami of holiday cash a year from now).

 In the meantime—well, at least for the next 10 minutes or so—I’ll wrap up this snide review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 with my standard use of a Musical Metaphor to put the specific cinematic evidence in question into final perspective.  While I could go back to my “War Is Over” title material taken from a famous John Lennon anti-war-song (on the 1975 Shaved Fish compilation album of his solo singles released to that point in the U.S. [except for “Stand By Me,” also out earlier that year]) I may save that one for Mockingjay—Part 2, when I assume Panem's civil war will erupt, then truly be over.  For now, though, I’ll offer you 2 tunes from Lennon-colleague Bob Dylan, whose “Gates of Eden” (from the 1965 Bringing It All Back Home album) at (a live version recorded at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, England on May 7, 1965) tells of the kind of breakdowns in a society-on-the-edge-of-collapse that often leads to civil war—restorative or not—while “Masters of War” (from 1963's The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan) at warns of how such angry-social-upheaval-attitudes can be corrupted into propaganda toward an outwardly-directed-enemy (such as how our Cold War fear of the U.S.S.R. helped promote and support the very sort of “military-industrial complex” that war-hero-turned-President Dwight Eisenhower warned us against in his farewell speech to the nation in January, 1961).  War within Panem becomes inevitable when a central government that promotes stability only through the subjugation and exploitation of its citizens—where the elite are encouraged to ignore the injustices meted out to the vast majority of the population by the monstrous diversion of “games” where young people must kill each other in order to survive and bring extra food to their undernourished Districts—finally requires such rulers to impose themselves in a frightfully-physical-way upon anyone who defies their authority.  The existing episodes of The Hunger Games have set up the unchallenged case for retaliation by these downtrodden people, constantly plied with Orwellian logic and “Big Brother” video intrusions into their lives—although we really didn’t need the ongoing redundancy of such illustrations in Mockingjay—Part 1 except to stall the plot and increase tension for the big payoff next year—so now the stage is set for the tyrants to be overthrown by a war more justifiable than what Dylan rails against.  If you can curb your enthusiasm for this finale (even as The Hunger Games wrap-up will butt up against the late-season-2015 return of an even-more-successful-rebellion-based-series, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens [J.J. Abrams]), Lionsgate studio will rejoice in the opportunity to market it to you, just in time for the real battle to begin in our present society, the 2016 Presidential election, to which all candidates will assume that the Hunger Games’ slogan, “May the odds be ever in your favor,” applies only to each one of them.
Catch-Ups from Past Reviews
 Here are a few final additions to recent Two Guys in the Dark reviews, mainly inspired by my frequent contributor and for-all-practical-purposes -the-other-guy-in-the-dark, Richard Parker, of San Antonio, TX (sorry, Pat, but we’ll make history someday when we get something of yours posted here).  The first concerns Interstellar (Christopher Nolan; review in our November 13, 2014 posting) and the frequently-voiced-complaints that you can’t hear what the actors are saying at times because their dialogue is somewhat inaudible, especially in contrast to the foregrounded-Hans Zimmer-soundtrack (there’s not a problem with conflicting aural presence in Professor Brand’s [Michael Caine] death scene when he reveals the truth of the Lazarus Mission voyages to Murph Cooper [Jessica Chastain]; there it’s just a matter of Brand speaking so softly as he’s losing consciousness that only a few words are easy to catch unless you’re a lip-reader).  Nolan now admits that he mixed the soundtrack purposely to obscure dialogue at times, which forces audiences to extract information from the scene from other elements, requiring us to invest ourselves more in the experience rather than just having it all handed to us as we’ve become accustomed to over the last century by the standard methods of Hollywood entertainment filmmaking (Nolan’s using a general tactic with films done from the various Realist perspectives more so than the mainstream Formalist tactics of mainstream studio fare, but to say more than that here would require a full-blown-film-history lecture which I’ll save for some other time).

 Next, Richard led me to the fact that Stephen Hawking now has a Facebook page (only since October 7, 2014, yet he’s already gotten over 2 million likes; Two Guys in the Dark started ours back on May 30 of this year, but so far we’ve gotten only 118 likes [when I began writing this we had 119 but someone bailed out before I could get it posted; I guess I upset incoming-Senate-Majority-Leader Mitch McConnell one time too many] so maybe we need to start including more mathematical equations about black holes—if we could ever figure out how to write one) where you can find some short comments from him that are relevant to Interstellar and The Theory of Everything (James Marsh; review in our November 19, 2014 posting).  I had occasion to see The Theory … again a few days ago, which now prompts a couple of additional comments although not a reconsideration of my “mere” 3 ½ of 5-stars-rating-decision (despite the excellent, Oscar-nomination-quality-acting of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones).  First, at least as the film presents it, we should find no surprise that Hawking chooses time as his dissertation topic because he assumes he has so little of it left according to his initial medical diagnosis.  Second, previously I forgot to mention what’s probably the key image of the film (I wish I had resources to share it with you), shots of Stephen on the stairs in his home (which lead up to his living quarters) on the night of a celebration with Jane and some close friends following the acceptance of that doctoral project, where he’s retreated in response to the difficulty he’s now having with the simple matters of eating and drinking; while he’s there we get angles looking down on him from the second floor, then the reverse angle of him looking up at infant Robert behind a baby gate, with the scene showing both father and son as prisoners of sorts of their current physical conditions but one that Robert will grow out of even as Stephen will get worse, to the point where he can no longer even crawl up and down those stairs.  Third, given the Interstellar mention noted above with its evocation of Hawking's black-hole-research (and the crossover reality of Nolan’s physics collaborator, Kip Thorne, also being a close friend of Hawking’s and a minor character in The Theory …), I find it interesting that the first thing Hawking types into his new computer-speech-device are the opening lines from the “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)” song (written in 1892 by Harry Dacre), also sung by the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)—a touchstone film for Interstellar—as it was devolving back to its primitive state as it’s being deactivated by astronaut Dave Bowman.  (Faithful-correspondent Parker has also led me to a 2004 BBC docudrama simply called Hawking, in 6 parts on YouTube beginning here—I’ll ask you to find the others on your own if you like—starring Benedict Cumberbatch which you also might be interested in, although I admit I haven’t had time to watch it yet but will soon.)

 Lastly about The Theory …, in regard to an early scene where Stephen is rousted out of bed by a classmate friend in order to attend their academic advisor's weekly seminar, then quickly scribbles the correct equations to 9 of 10 difficult physics problems on the back of railway schedules (he didn’t have any other paper available and probably ran out of room to do the last one) just before running off to class, it reminds me of a story about one of my grad school roommates, David Paredes—a law student—who was also rolled out of bed one evening by debate teammates in order to participate in a mock trial which apparently David pulled off brilliantly in a completely spontaneous manner, so it’s nice to know that I once knew someone who at least approached Hawking’s superb mental level, something that I can only admire from an I.Q. distance (not that I’m dumb—although I can’t prove that all of my readers would agree with that—but I feel myself to be clearly on a different plateau from the likes of them).  However, one person’s brilliance may simply be another person’s disinterest, just as one film critic’s anathema on screen may be another’s “best of the year!”  I bring this up again (just as I did in my review of The Theory …) to reiterate the point that, unlike some of my reviewer-colleagues, I try to avoid absolute decisions that a given cinematic experience is clearly this or that but prefer to acknowledge that it impacted me in a certain manner while others may find it better or worse (although in most cases my ratings are on par with either the Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritics decisions, sometimes both in the rare cases where they match each other [the Metas are often about 10-20 points lower]).  I liken this to my recent attendance at Justin Timberlake’s concert at the Oakland (CA) Arena (November 22, 2014) where I admired the elaborate staging (especially during the second half when the front part of the stage moved all the way to the back of the hall so that the singers and some of the musicians were finally as close to those of us who paid for cheaper seats as the first half had been for those who anted up considerably more for tickets; my ever-fetching-wife, Nina, gets credit for this iPhone photo above and for getting me to the concert) and professionalism of all of the music and dancing but just have to acknowledge that I’m about 20-40 years older than most of the audience (wrong gender as well), wasn’t anticipating having to stand up all night to even see above my enthusiastic-fellow-attendees, and just am not the right listener for music I perceived as repeated-tempo, repeated-lyric songs (I’m sure my parents felt the same way about the 1960s British Invasion).  Similarly, I may well not be the ideal audience member for what James Marsh (and Jane Hawking) was aiming at in The Theory of Everything, which doesn’t make it a lesser film for many who see it (including the Tomatoes critics who gave it 80% compared to my 3 ½ of 5 stars) but for me it just represented a lesser approach toward the work of Hawking and his seemingly-luminous-importance than what I think could be achieved if it had not been constrained by working primarily from his ex-wife’s memoir.

 To close out these catch-up-comments, in looking over some recent postings on the Facebook page of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, I came across a couple of items relevant to Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller; review in our November 19, 2014 posting) that contribute to what I was saying about this film.  In Bernard Boo's interview with Miller at his Way Too Indie website, he cites the director as saying, “The style of the film is designed to desensitize you [so that you notice] all sorts of subtleties that are occurring beneath the surface in these performances. Part of that is silence. Silence has a way of magnifying and amplifying, sensitizing us. It’s also a very difficult thing to face because we like to feel the silences in an attempt to masquerade against something that we are uncomfortable with. Within this film, for example, there are moments where the silence just exposes and shines a light on something that might not be comfortable to look at.”  Then, Jeffery M. Anderson notes the following in his Miller interview from the November 21, 2014 edition of the San Francisco Examiner: “The style also showcases the wrestling in a very clear way, highlighting months of training that Tatum and Ruffalo put in to appear like Olympic gold medalists. Miller tells a story about ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in which John Travolta showed up to an early cut of the film, saw his dancing had been chopped up into myriad shots, and insisted it be put back into a few wide shots.”  (These comments about the power of silence in a soundtrack, along with wide shots vs. editing to convey certain aspects of a given film—with the wide ones being especially effective in showing the acrobatic/athletic/graceful abilities of dancers, physical comedians, and sports characters while the more actively-edited-scenes help build motion, rhythm, and impact in action-based-stories—also brings to mind another link I found in the SFFCC postings, one that compares images from 2 of modern cinema’s great masters, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese, just for the power of the individual images alone—but with these shots taken away from their original scenes we lose the cinematically-stylistic-precision associated with Kubrick [more of a Realist depth-of-field/long-take/following-action-master for me, as shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968)—now we’re back to Interstellar associations—despite the grand cut between the flung animal bone and the spaceship] and Scorsese [more of a Formalist in his structuring through editing and visual-emphasis within shots—exemplified by the marvelously-brutal-fight-scenes in Raging Bull (1980)—despite his use of fabulous tracking shots through environments as with the opening of Goodfellas (1990)].)

 OK, enough diversion from what wasn’t worth writing about in the newest installment of The Hunger Games.  I’ll be back next week after digesting my annual Thanksgiving over-indulgence with reviews of something new.  11/25/14—11:15pm 
Well, hell!  I thought I was done composing this week’s posting material but some other ideas—along with watching very troubling news reports from the last couple of days—tell me that I can’t stop just yet.  Against the backdrop of ongoing concerns about Ebola, ISIS, immigration reform, governmental inability to function, and now the nationwide controversies, protests, and at-times-out-of-control-responses to the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson after his fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO last August, I just can’t pretend this all isn’t happening.  However, Two Guys in the Dark is a site devoted to film and related cultural analysis more so than an Op-Ed page, so I’ll attempt to be neutral on the events generating the crises shaking our society right now, trying instead to finish this posting with a little more music that I find appropriate to the situation.  In fact, my reconsidered-ending-self-dialogue started with the combination of my writing a bit about Martin Scorsese and wondering if I might add one more Musical Metaphor here, which naturally led me to that eternally-compelling-tune that he and I have both overused already, the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (from the 1969 Let It Bleed album), at (shot in Amsterdam, 1995; Lisa Fischer’s vocals are really on fire along with Mick’s, even if the video quality is far from ideal), with its disturbing lyrics (available for you here if they may be hard to understand when sung; this video uses the album cut, with Merry Clayton stoking her own fire as the added vocalist) relevant to the fictional chaos brewing in The Hunger Games movies and the real-world-disturbances we face that keep reminding us that at times it seems we’re just “a shot away” from our own civil war, even if it’s not as official as the one we suffered through many generations ago (actual rebellion seems closer to happening in Thailand, where life has imitated art as protesters against their military-coup-rulers have started using the 3-finger-Mockingjay-salute, possibly at their own peril).  However, I’d like to provide music to lighten the mood some as well, even though this last chosen song also comes from a time of nationwide protests, anti-war-sentiment, race riots, and a destructive “cultural gap” that I lived through firsthand between Nixon’s Silent Majority and those of us who naïvely thought we could change the world with good vibrations, so in honor of trying to soften culture-clashes through laughter along with noting the Thanksgiving-timing of this posting, I leave you with Arlo Guthrie’s epic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” at (which I’ve also used a couple of times before and likely will again during this time of year)—from the 1967 Alice’s Restaurant album—in hopes that its attempt at bringing humor to events that speak to much larger substance than the garbage-dumping depicted in the song might lighten our respective moods a bit at a holiday time when the goal should be to share love, comfort, and material surplus with each other, easing our too-frequent-tensions whether they result from micro- or macro-level conflicts.  With wishes that the national situation will be a little calmer next week—maybe including some strategies for directions to emerge from our ongoing societal fog—I’ll broaden John Lennon’s original goal from our long-ago-back-at-the-beginning-of-the-review-title and add my desire for close-to-home-wars to be over as well.

If you’d like to know more about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 here are some suggested links: (47:29 interview with director Francis Lawrence and actors Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, and Natalie Dorme—be aware that while the video quality is quite nice here the audio in this clip is very poor—likely not an official clip from this press conference or if so a horrible embarrassment—so you’ll have to strain to hear clearly what anyone is saying but if you can make good sense of it you might find value in it … maybe … so I’ve included it here)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our extremely-limited-level of technological control.

Please note that to Post a Comment you need to either have a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. I am amused by Ken's disclaimer: "...Consult my Catching Fire review, which ... offers a lot more details on the last episode’s plot than I’m going to bother with regarding the current one", considering Mr. Burke's Mockingjay Part 1 analysis is only two words shorter than last year's version (5769 words vs 5771 for Catching Fire), and certainly covers the bases better than the Oakland Athletics did at the end of the season. Granted, both reviews include extensive diversions and explorations of other issues and concerns of the day.

    So while there is little to add to Ken's excellent Mockingjay Part 1 examination, I will note Josh Hutcherson's recent Shortgate media attention, launched after a SNL appearance where he looks like a 10 year old standing next to statuesque Jennifer Lawrence. In the movie he appears equal in size even in action shots. It seems the Hunger Games special effects gurus have progressed beyond using camera angles and lifts for Hutcherson to some sort digital homage to The Thief of Bagdad (1940) where the Genie is superimposed as a giant next to mere mortals. While Bagdad won Academy Awards and stood the test of time, Mockingjay may not be as fortunate.

    1. Hi rj, Really? Almost the same length for both Hunger Games reviews, huh? Well, so much for my line-scanning-estimation abilities. I guess that like Arlo Guthrie in my final Musical Metaphor suggestion, once I got into writing about Mockingjay—Part 1 I was neither too proud nor tired to stop (nice snag at the A's also; hopefully, next year will be better, but we've been saying that for a long time). Nice comments on "Shorty" Hutcherson as well (the A's do need a new "short"stop next season; I wonder if he'd be interested?).

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and anyone out there who even clicks on this blog for quick curiosity. Your support (and compliments) always makes this a worthwhile endeavor. Ken

  2. Watch The hunger games mockingjay part 1 Online : When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.

    Watch The hunger games mockingjay part 1 Online free putlocker: Katniss now the symbol of rebellion now is in the way to destroy another games in district 13 too.

  3. Thanks for passing on this accessibility information, but, as always, I haven't clicked on these links and take no responsibility for whatever happens if any of you choose to do so. If anyone encounters any sort of problem or finds that they are illegal please contact me and I'll remove this comment. Ken

  4. I was searching for The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 from couple of days finally my search comes to end by visiting on this post thanks for sharing this precious information. Watch The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 Online Free Putlocker

  5. Hi Kavin, You're welcome, and thank you for your kind words. However, for anyone reading this, as usual I have no connection with this link offering the film for free nor have I clicked on it myself. If anyone has any problem with it or finds that it's an illegal site please let me know so that I can remove this link from our blog. Ken

  6. Replies
    1. Hi Mitchel, Thanks for sharing this site information which I'll have to assume is for a legitimate, non-pirated option. If anyone has problems with it or finds that it's an illegal site please let me know so that I can remove it from our blog. Ken

  7. Full Streaming Links Available Here -

  8. Hi akm samsad214, As with the other similar comments and my replies directly above, I thank you for sharing this link assuming that it leads to a legitimate, non-pirated option. However, if anyone has problems with it or finds that it's an illegal site please let me know so that I can remove it from this blog. Ken

  9. This is how i found your blog quite interesting and concern in the blog is really impressive keep updating your blog and i have also bookmarked your blog for future updates and thanks for sharing this kind of precious information...!!!

    Watch Ricki and the Flash Online

  10. Hi Cohen, As with the several comments just above, thanks for your kind words about my review and our blog and, assuming this link for Ricki and the Flash is somehow legal, thanks for passing it on but if anyone encounters any sort of problem with this site please let me know and I'll delete this post. Ken