Friday, November 20, 2015


On to my, um...severely mixed-feelings section (primarily concerning the denouement/ending!)

We didn't get to feel Annie's grief at being so swiftly widowed, except in her "So would Finnick if he were here" statement & letter to Katniss & Peeta. Of course, she's one of those people that most viewers/readers/fans will only care about *because* she's Finnick's girl, and not so much in her own right. The disadvantage to Katniss' POV being so wholly inescapable in the source material is that we still don't get to experience much of anybody else's side of things, even Peeta's. I figured, for instance, that there'd be no cutting away to witness people's reactions and activities/goings-on in 13 and elsewhere. Wasn't even expecting that, or any of the other little things that just wouldn't have been able to be worked into a movie under 2.5 hours. But all of the critics claiming that the supporting characters were almost criminally underused had me plenty worried--that was practically my biggest fear! Obviously you're not going to get tons of info and details about them, so you have to rely on drawing logical conclusions and inferences. (Haymitch does, thankfully, pop up a number of times throughout, and is a thoroughly wonderful presence who's progressed a great deal.)
Still, I would more readily forgive the general underutilization had the last quarter of the film done more with the supporting cast than it did. Yes, what we see is marvelous, yet my deep-seated super-fangirly need for more cannot and must not be denied.
MJ2 is a very, very good text-to-screen translation. It's grand; parts are phenomenal. My primary issue is still with the ending, which is certainly a vast improvement over the book's on several counts (MJ being an example of film[s] managing to improve upon a book more than has typically been seen), but could've gone much further than it did. I really, really wanted them to go all-out and tell everything, fill in all the gaps. Yes, this is Katniss' story, but in telling her story, Kat introduced us to a very interesting world populated by other highly compelling and intriguing people as well.

Good things toward the end:
-Peeta planting the primrose! Yay for that.
-Mentions of Mrs. Everdeen & Gale, as in the text--in a letter from Annie! It's nice to know they're all okay. I can live with getting just that from the movie, but.....
-Immediate aftermath: Inauguration of Paylor (what is her first name?!?), great line about Plutarch ("And they say nobody ever wins the Games.") Ha! He surely did. At least this would seem to intimate a much nicer future for this terribly scarred and broken land; it's uplifting. (And Haymitch drinking water with K&P--good! Good step. ^u^)
(Plutarch's the ultimate winner, but Katniss is the nearest to an ultimate victor; in spite of all her immeasurable personal suffering, she triumphed. She stuck to her guns and did the right things where it counted most. She did what Cinna believed she could: help to bring about a better world. Effie never lost faith in Katniss herself, and eventually gained faith in the rebellion's potential for real success.)
-Everlarky goodness. They then skipped ahead to mini scenes of the two living together/growing back together over time, going to bed...followed by a bigger leap to the simple epilogue, practically lifted straight from the page. (Why was anyone worried about them tampering with the Toastbabes' sexes again? Pointless! I knew it! Still no names spoken for them kiddos, so Willow & Rye 'tis.) This little end section very quickly returned to an overly slavish faithfulness to Kat's narration, though, by zeroing in with such a tight lens on just her and Peeta--to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. In that sense, we suffer from the same problem all over again; it feels as if they're the last two people left on the continent. (The population's not THAAAT reduced...!) It's microscopic. (Don't even think about getting me wrong; I love Everlark as well, & I fully appreciate what an exceptional heroine Katniss is. I'd merely hoped she/they wouldn't be the sole focus again when the entire nation has just undergone a revolution and there are a number of other interesting people who need closure, too.)

->Going backward: Here's where it really gets mixed. Effie's farewell to Katniss and Haymitch was...well,  beautiful, but that's an understatement. It's tender & gentle & moving & sweet. The kiss he leans down & plants on her cheek, then her lips (or close to 'em)!! The looks they exchange!!! The caress she runs down his chest!!! *falls down dead from the hubby-wifey preciousness* I suppose that made up for not seeing them dance together at the wedding. And I wanna hazard a guess that that wasn't their first kiss (it will most DEFINITELY be far from their last!!)...'twas rather familiar for that...;) Though you can see they're both trying to keep this as casual as possible. But, it was surely a wonderful statement of love right there in public before Katniss (assuming she saw)--and a precursor as well. A prelude. A promise. They know it's not the end.
One can just imagine their off-screen interactions--in 13, in the Capitol, & throughout the whole damn story! ;w; You can tell there's probably been at least one long, lingering kiss, or that they want them. Like, they couldn't have a long, drawn-out, hyper-dramatic or over-emotional goodbye out there with Katniss right before he and she left for 12. Clearly they had previous time together...probably discussed the future a wee bit once she was able, begged one another to take care of know...! 

-Effie entreating Katniss to at last focus on herself--not in the former "fending for myself" sense, but by really tending to her deepest needs and finding a way to move forward, without the weight of the world on her shoulders. No more games. She has suffered unspeakably, enduring one tragic event after another, and seeing and doing things no one, let alone a teenager, should have to experience. Yet she somehow still remained standing in the end--victorious in her ultimate mission, and in keeping true to herself, despite losing so very much. A deeply damaged person but a true victor, deserving of all which ought to accompany this now that a terrible era is finally over. The future looks brighter from here; thanks largely to her, hope may begin to flourish. She can't feel it yet. Finding her own peace and searching for the happiness she so richly deserves, especially now, will take time...but she can't give up on it. (And oh, how the healing process will apply to all of them...things can never be perfect, but...)
-"Don't be a stranger." Oh, she won't be. In fact, she'll be the opposite...soon. And that line essentially translates to a proposal. ;p It's as good as one. She'll figure it out. There'll be a 'visit' with no end...
-"Take care of her." BUT DON'T BE RIDICULOUS, THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO CONTINUE DOING TOGETHER. You all NEED to take care of one another, BECAUSE YOU ARE A FAMILY. Keep listening to your heart, girl; it'll guide you right. Trust in it. You KNOW where you belong. Haymitch needs to take you home. He wants to keep you. You literally can't stay apart; you need each other. It's your only chance, your only option for really moving forward. That's what you two do--you keep each other alive. You're an unsinkable ship, the counterpart to Everlark, two halves of a whole, the "other star-crossed lovers of District 12." And parenthood is likewise in your stars. Protectiveness, caring, and nurturance are in your nature.
Both of them know deep down inside where destiny is going to lead them.
They were both still holding back too much. It's tough to let go of the past even as things have been shifting, and old habits die hard. None of them can ever fully escape it and have a pure, untainted start at a new life. But by Jove, Haymitch has to let her know she's beautiful, that he loves her so much and won't survive without her...ask her to marry him...obviously, neither will be complete until they're together again. For keeps. It's crystal-clear, and they'll all see it--including those around them who may somehow not already. ;p
Effie, you remember when Plutarch told you your days in the Capitol were over? THAT WAS NO NEWS TO YOU. And you remember that wonderful stuff you wrote about true love in the Victory Tour speeches? That part wasn't just more safe pandering; you meant every heartfelt word.

The agonizing shot of Effie watching Katniss & Haymitch walk away...GODDAMMIT, THAT'S WHERE YOU RUN AFTER THEM, WOMAN! Or better yet, where they run back and say, "What the hell are we thinking? We love you and can't leave you here all alone--please, come home with us!" Or something! Don't wait to extend the invitation you're so clearly going to extend, man!! Don't wait for her to decode the message! It's a total "Please come, please be with me, please be mine and don't leave." 'Cause believe it or not, that's what you will both require. I was possessed with an all but insurmountable urge to lunge down the aisle and hurl myself at the screen in an attempt to leap across the interdimensional border into Panem and SLAP SOME ****ING SENSE INTO THESE LOVABLE DIPS. ;0; 'Specially Mitchie. ;p
When I heard about that scene as a spoiler, I thought, "It's okay. It's okay. Obviously, there should then be a 'Homeward Bound 2'-esque reunion scene!" In short: Chance leaves Delilah in San Francisco; both are miserable and unsure about the decision, but figuring it's the thing to do. Chance gets home and falls into a listless, lethargic depression until he eventually hears Delilah's bark and sees her turn up at the edge of his yard. They race jubilantly into each other's arms--err, forelegs--and it's clear that she ain't leaving. Something showing the end result! ('Course, if Hayffie were dogs, he'd have been the stray and she'd have been the pet...Lady & the Tramp, y'know...but same diff! In the end, they wind up where they belong: together. Maybe with spaghetti smooches next time. ;p)

Anyway, after chilling out and thinking about this--I understood. They might not have felt like putting her on the spot right then and there, still might not have been fully sure of what her response would be, or how it'd work out & what's actually the best place for her...and understand that she feels the need to do whatever job she's going to do in the, Hay encourages her to at least pay frequent visits. She doesn't want to invite herself, or assume they'd want her there for good, or be a burden on anyone in any way--probably wondering whether she's welcome or truly belongs anywhere. Staying in the place she comes from is basically just a sort of temporary default.
However, I believe Paylor & Plutarch will assign her tasks to busy her--important things that she can do, like she'd have been doing in 13--and she'll gladly want to help them out. (They'll offer her to stay in a room in the mansion, make sure she's taken care of, try to keep her safe & watch over her as much as possible, be clued-in enough to keep Haymitch informed of anything they think he ought to know...) So, Effie asks Haymitch to take care of Katniss...for now. (Even if Sae may do most of the direct care at first!) I don't think she can ever forgive herself for having been so involved in the Games process, even though all she ever really did was try her hardest to help the tributes in every way she possibly could. She needs to finally, at long last, be able to learn to relax, breathe, and just be herself, surrounded by people who love and care for her.
But otherwise, after that, there's nothing for her there. Without her, the TEAM is just...EAM. And one simply cannot have eam. That won't do at all. Katniss will not have two mums who don't live with her in 12. Haymitch'll buy a flock of geese and be waiting for his sweetheart to step off of that train. No rush, no pressure on her, just...soon as they're ready to start forging a new life together...

So, what with the kissing and the crying and the whole emotional mess...I am extremely grateful for this magnificent, invaluable loveliness that didn't get a mention in the book, but should've. Yeah, I knew all along that Hayffie's the realest of the real, but even I would've thought that witnessing a KISS (technically two kisses!) in Pt. 2 would have been just a little too much to hope for. That scene leaves the door wide open & points further in the right direction, so thank you for the strong implications & foreshadowing it carries. I just would've given anything to see a little moooore--the next step to unbreak our collective heart a bit. That particular trajectory's been crystal-clear to me for some time now. (Please, deleted scenes, for the love of bread and mahogany, have something great for me that I can edit back in on my comp because it should never have ever been removed for some ungodly inexplicable reason...:\) Having to mentally fill in all their prior and subsequent scenes and interactions--for now!--is simultaneously rewarding and frustrating.

**Talking with a friend on DA...she believes that Effie needed to stay for a bit with Peeta, but then returned with him & was just off-camera in the inauguration scene. LOVE IT!! I mean, it definitely makes total sense for sure that she'd be helping take care of Peeta while both were there, before he was ready to be sent back to 12...

Other critiques:
-What of Johanna?? 8-[
-No suggestion of a reconciliation with Gale, but as with the book, that by no means indicates that it won't happen. Surely Katniss is pleased to hear that he's doing well for himself in 2. And Gale fans should at the very least be glad that he wasn't painted as an out-and-out bad guy. He had his perspective; Katniss and Peeta had their own. His parting with Katniss was hurtful, and you could feel his pain too; though it may very well have been his bomb, he hadn't known that Prim would be among the medics sent in right before the second wave. This time you get no sense that "I'm only sorry I lost my last chance at being with you, which is why I agreed to help your family out in the first place..."
->WHY NOT THIS: A camera-panning montage of moments from the next few years. The memory book, lying open on a table beside a telephone and notes from Gale & Mrs. Everdeen. Johanna, Annie, & "Finn, Jr." visiting 12 (or *possibly* having decided to move there too, or Annie mentioning in her letter that Jo has come to stay with her.) Some rebuilding work going on in the district. The bakery is up and running again. Greasy Sae's there--hey, Greasy! Haymitch and Effie--au naturale, in perhaps a simple sundress, hair down and free, with minimal embellishments/cover-ups--assisting or standing together on their front porch or something, anything. Geese and various critters scampering around their yards. Transition to a wedding in progress (Make that double wedding--Everlark+Hayffie! One toast/kiss, then the other--or simultaneously. Various guests in attendance.) THEN go to the rest of your intimate Everlark moments, and cut to epilogue. Boom. Automatic greatest film ever made in the history of film. Or so all fans would scream and screech as they flop about on the floor like helpless fishes, overcome with feels so intense and sustaining that they shan't ever diminish their hold upon our very souls.

Why couldn't we get that? I haven't the faintest. Would it have made the ending seem too "happy" when it can't help but be bittersweet at best? Would it have hijacked too much attention from Everlark? Believe me, I neither expected nor wanted to walk out of this thing feeling all sunshiny. It's intensely dark by necessity--and masochistically, we want to be devastated. But was it entirely necessary to laden the viewer with SO much weight as to cast a deliberate, interminable shadow of depression as far ahead as the eye can see?? ;; Did we truly have to be THAT committed to being the feel-bad movie masterpiece of the year, that we couldn't have glimpsed other phases of the future that would finally lift our spirits a smidge more? [*Coach Kreeton voice* "OOOHHHHHHH, I FEEL BAD! I FEEL REAL BAD! MAH HAPPINESS IS A MEMORY!"]

I wasn't looking for an additional 10-15 minutes of "ending," or for those paragraphs that appear at the end of some movies and summarize what each and every person went on to do; glimpses of the future would suffice to fill us in. That's all we needed. Not having a shot in there of "natural Effie" with hair down and loose might be the most unforgivable oversight/faux pas. (And we're to assume that the blonde hair seen throughout MJ2 is her natural, then? Just done up in a "wiggy" style, & possibly tinted a bit yellowish? 'Cause I mean, it could be another wig that they found someplace for her that's closer to her natural color, looked real at the roots...and to think we didn't get to see her finally remove the bandanna for Haymitch, and let at least one other person see her natural hair in its natural state. Wtfh? Love the high-banged, set-back lilac wig with the 'kimono-gift' dress, too...)
What makes this all so difficult to deal with is that it's the second time around here. "All right, a book can get away with ending like that; we know what happens!" But to see such golden opportunities missed on film physically hurts.

It wasn't of tremendous importance to find out more about the other surviving squad members and Victors, really (Cressida, Pollux, Beetee...), since I guess it's easy enough to assume that they returned to their homes and work and lives and just, picked up the pieces and were okay. Gressida wasn't as much of a thing as some of us were imagining it might be; she was just tending to Gale's need for stitches. So I guess no "consolation prize" for Gale in the form of a gritty, tattooed, partly-shaven film director. :\ 

I even stayed all the way to the end of the credits, desperately hoping for something extra--but my dedication was rewarded only with music, a slightly impatient mom, and the assurance that "Buttercup" was most definitely not harmed in the making of this film. Drooled upon, perhaps, but not harmed. WHEW. What a relief.

My only other minor quibble also pertains to Effie, since the addition of her scenes throughout Mockingjay is the biggest and best difference between the books and films. Of course, the whole imprisonment thing from the "background" of the text wasn't addressed, because it barely was in the book. Much as I don't even want to think about that, I always find it necessary to reconcile--especially for something far too significant to simply write off as "Whoops, that was a mistake, didn't really happen." But, you know, you've got her with a map on her head, and ignored by the camera between the wedding & Katniss getting settled into the palace, and Katniss demonstrating the possibility of sneaking around 13 and stowing away aboard hovercrafts for secret self-assigned missions,'s not as if they tried to do away with it, even though it probably didn't even cross their minds.

What now? Now that the trilogy as it stands has, basically, been finished? Well, first of all is the hope for lots of great deleted scenes (on the Blu-ray that should be here in March?) Scenes for which they felt there simply wasn't time, or that diverted too much from the Everlark-centricity. Scenes that are still "real," since there are two basic types of deleted ones: Those that just didn't work for whatever reasons, and those that almost definitely DID happen as shown, but (in the director's judgment) don't ultimately need to be seen in the final film. Obviously, I prefer the latter type.
I completely understand if Suzanne is ready to move on to another story she may have in mind, and doesn't feel up to writing another Hunger Games-related book (or working on another blockbuster) within the next few years. Who can blame Lionsgate for wanting to expand and milk this baby for all it's worth, though? (And if you ask me, it's still worth a whole lot more. Few stories and character sets are this unforgettably fascinating.) The Exhibition, theme parks, a mysterious stage show, the "World of The Hunger Games" re-brand--there's no doubt that 'sequel,' 'prequel,' and 'spin-off' are terms they do EVER so want to hear.

Well, I've got a few suggestions, all totally salable: A) Short stories/films. What better way to enhance what we know about this world, these people, and their lives, without requiring another fully epic storyline that warrants whole novels and spans a series of blockbuster features? People will still absolutely buy and devour these.
B) Graphic novels. They can be pretty minimal on the writing/dialog whilst getting the points across visually--they're mostly on the artists!
C) Official artwork. In book format. Hey, we're used to unconventional marketing and products from this franchise! Why not expand by commissioning artwork depicting realistic, detailed scenes? The only real writing involved then is listing out everything to be included in each illustration, & probably captioning them. A picture can be worth a thousand words. You realize how dedicated people are to their fanart and fanfiction? Imagine what a thing like this could mean to us.

Personally, I love the idea of employing illustration--even animation. People talk about the possibility of THG being remade in the future, but there'd be few ways to improve upon it, and you'd WANT as many of the same people involved as possible--which at some point becomes impossible unless you're talking a future-set sequel. I could see bringing them back to do an episodic series, whether live-action or animated (try to dramatize everything that didn't make it into the movies? Though that would essentially amount to retelling the whole thing over again, but in greater depth?) A sequel about the future would be incredible, but might be better suited to shorter and smaller formats. Prequels concerning the history of Panem & the Games, characters' backstories, and past Games could hold some very interesting potential--or, such historical information could be revealed through future/"sequel" creations.

In the meantime, I'm also hoping for the Mockingjay chapters of The Hunger Games Adventures to FINALLY be added to the game soon...because as that went along, it got to be a pretty darn good game. A lot of perfectly believable, acceptable, good stuff wound up in there, on top of all the silly cheese. And corn. I can only imagine how it might be able to add onto MJ if the developers are truly going to update it at some point and haven't been lying to me over the past several months! Additionally, an all-in-one Mockingjay Illustrated Movie Companion would be welcome. I expect the theme park to be "set" more around the time of the first book/film (or maybe CF) than the post-MJ future, but hopefully there'll be elements of all the time periods.

Reacting to MOCKINGJAY: PART 2---PART I!

[Note: These ARE mostly positive reactions, because the film is wonderful--even if I sound kinda negative at first, & do have critiques. This is gonna take a while to get out, but I must.] Well...the 18th has come and gone, and...I've got to be perfectly frank: I still feel as if I haven't seen Part II. Even though I undeniably did. Guess I'm still trying to process. But from June/July through November 17, I had acquired the strange sensation of already having seen at least half the film via clips, trailers, TV spots, and stills well ahead of time. And only now do I realize just how accurate that feeling was--even if it was more like 1/3 than 1/2, I already had so many key lines etched into my mind, and virtually every scene mapped out and visualized. Precious few shots were actually fresh or "surprising" and new by the time of finally seeing it all together. I felt more as though I were just getting additional "sneak peek" clips that filled in the spaces among all the other "sneak peek" clips. Somehow, I had anticipated still more...and that really boils down to the way that the film concludes. I couldn't deny feeling more satisfaction, fulfillment, and "closure" than the (still basically terrific) book had provided--but, still not enough. As a note, that book was Ygritte to the reader's Jon Snow: "You know nothing." Part 2 was in place to enhance the post-execution denouement tremendously, leaving us with something close to perfection. Now I'm here, just struggling to understand how my dearest loves could've taken a few extra (*excellent*) steps and then stopped short, fumbling the ball instead of following through. The issue's not with what was done, but with what wasn't.

Before going into epic detail, let me just address the fact that I attended the Wednesday-afternoon/evening double-feature--and arrived a full half-hour early, figuring I'd need the time to find good parking and secure a perfect spot in the theater. Turned out I could've gotten there late and been fine. There was ONE other person present, and she entered when we were already well into Part 1 (around the "I like you better" moment. ;) 4:30 on a Wednesday, in a not-so-huge theater...normally this wouldn't surprise me a bit. But the special event for the last installment of one of the most insanely popular film series of all time? Call me crazy, but I'd expected at least a few more seats to be filled. We were given two extra lanyard+pin sets just for being there. So, there was none of the electrifying shared experience with fellow mega-fans picking up one another's vibes, as I'd kinda hoped there might be. Guess that'll come Thursday, or more definitely Friday, night. But then, there was no obnoxious spoiler-shouting or anything, either, and barely a thing to distract from my absorption of Part 2. My mom was a pretty good viewing buddy for the most part, even if the movies didn't constantly maintain her rapt attention (I actually had to elbow her right before the climactic execution twist to get her to look up from an apparently important text message.) I'd warned her she was in for 4+ hours' worth of dismal, dreary depression, and she wound up liking it; I just had to refresh her somewhat on the events of the first two. And let her know exactly what a mockingjay IS, and why it's got a rebellious connotation. ;p She thought Gale was cuter than Peeta (told her I'm a Haymitch girl myself & she didn't quite see it) and that Caesar was gay, found Peeta to be a "goofy-looking, annoying, whiny crybaby" (to which I responded with the refresher on the whole story, and by saying I couldn't exactly blame him for blubbering a lot after what all he's been through), correctly identified the two Game of Thrones actresses, immediately called Coin's hair "an ugly wig" (lol yep), guessed during Part 1 that Snow wouldn't end up being killed simply because you want it to happen, and knew Katniss would vote "yea" but didn't realize the true reason at first--because I don't think she saw that twist coming!
All in all, seeing both halves of "Mockingjay" in one fell swoop, as intended, was somehow simultaneously draining and energizing.
Wednesday felt like Christmas morning (a certain ship being the Turbo-Man of the gifts I needed to receive!)

So. The majority of the film is, as I had no doubt it'd be, absolutely well done. The cinematography, the excellent visual effects, the acting from virtually every single cast member--it's all more than proficient, and kept me very much enthralled. You become engrossed in the world of Panem and, horrific as it gets, don't want to leave due to your attachment to the characters. The emotional impact is HEAVY, your torment is real, and all of the action, exhilaration, terror, and danger are made that much more intense by the fact that most of these characters aren't typical interchangeable cardboard inserts, but actual people you really care about.

-I liked that we jumped directly back into the plot with no unnecessary recapping, although I expected them to start with the Nut/D2 scenes and THEN go to the working-on-Peeta and wedding ones. No real matter, though, for me. Obviously the films have to hugely condense time, but Pt. II opens with the next major events in 13.

-The Gale-Katniss rift begins forming early on. Katniss' speech to the man holding her at gunpoint in D2 was very well-delivered. And the wedding was lovely!!, even though it breezed by because we'd already seen 99% of it since June, so I'd made observations on it in response to the trailers. I suppose there simply wasn't time for further merriment or interesting moments and interactions on a joyous occasion.

-Several lines had been noticeably edited, spliced, or added into or out of certain shots, for the trailers/TV spots.

-Johanna: Absolutely brilliant. Yeah, all she really gets to do is say stuff, but it's awesome stuff. She's there, you can feel her presence; it's just that the chunks of stuff that flesh her out a little more in the book (her & Katniss' roommate situation, the pine needles, etc.), aren't shown. I suppose they would've felt...extraneous, in a film where they really couldn't afford to dally in 13 for too long.
But truly, 98% of the comic relief and lightness in Part 2 is provided by her, Haymitch, & Plutarch. 

-In the Capitol apartment scene: The lack of surnames onscreen for the camera crew people bothered me. Not just because I'm an obsessive stickler for details, which I AM--but because it looked cheesy to key "Cressida," "Messalla," "Castor," "Pollux"...followed by "Gale Hawthorne," "Peeta Mellark," "Katniss Everdeen" if those guys are famous enough to go by their first names alone. Or their surnames are unknown/less important than the "main characters"'? Come on, even Casear doesn't just call himself "Caesar!" Mags can get a surname via a poster, but not those guys in a movie? However, I also chuckled, for Gale aime leurs bon-bons! xD

-"Picked from..." "Plucked." If I had to crown the two funniest moments in Part 2, they've got to be this one, and Haymitch tossing away Plutarch's pre-written speech as soon as Katniss predictably rejects it. But oh, Snow's little annoyance at Coin not only having the nerve to intercept his broadcast, but MISQUOTING him! XD Brilliant. You know what, you guys? Leave everyone else out of this mess, and just duke it out between the two of you in your own little arena. Talk about entertainment!! Seriously. How unruffled he always is, how unflappable--coolly, calmly, collectedly assessing the situation, and beginning to methodically stategize his next move.
Never let them see you bleed.

-LEAPING LIZARDS!! The seemingly universally praised sewer sequence was everything promised, especially once the demonic, hissing, razor-toothed, blind, slimy, naked cave lizard mutts appeared at last. Those things are the utterly horrifying stuff of nightmares, and at least ten times worse than the book even had you thinking. I mean, people have compared them to zombies, but although they're humanoid, they look more alien than undead. They don't appear to transform you into one by biting you. And what kind of zombies have you ever seen move with such laser-like speed and agility? Damn. TWD would never have made it past season 2. xD So that scene WAS the spot-on blend of horror and sci-fi it's been touted as--and, of course, rightfully dreaded. Finnick's death was an even harder bit to handle than I thought it would be. The text had made it seem like a mercifully quick, almost instantaneous snap. But ohhh, nooooo. Turns out it had to be Cato and the dog mutts all over again...drawn into him being pulled from the ladder and set upon by numerous mutts, tearing at him as he screams Katniss' name. The way she recited "Nightlock" thrice and deployed the self-destructing holo to spare him the agony and eliminate all the remaining mutts as well...that was really hard to take, man. And then having to see his face on the big wanted poster right afterward! *stab* Way to rub it in. But it cannot be denied that Mr. Odair fought valiantly to the end, and died a hero by allowing the rest to escape first. That's a far better feeling than people had gotten from the book, wherein his death seemed random, glossed-over, and pointless (to the mission.)
Not that every loss along the way isn't very sad, starting with Boggs. And poor Pollux! I hope he's not blaming himself for the deaths of his brother and the rest who didn't make it out of the sewer, since he was the one to come up with the idea of going underground, and was their leader down there. Still, the bulk of the squad consists of mildly developed people you subconsciously know are there so that plenty can be picked off along the trail, without needing to sacrifice too many "main" ones. You're never truly safe, though, if you're not part of "the trio"--and Finnick, alas, stood just outside of that core. >< 
Messalla's flesh-melting spectacle was, as we knew, visualized more as a swift "explosion" into what resembled little cubes.

-There wasn't a whole lot of major stuff to omit/skip. The cafeteria scene, the pre-Capitol training, and a few other things would've been basically unneeded bits. Unfortunately. A couple of inclusions I would have liked: a) Katniss' spontaneous, instinctive shooting of the random civilian (obviously for the squad's protection, but it would've been a daring thing to show), and b) Quick mention of the murdered Peeta lookalike. 

-The "real or not real" scenes interspersed with the action sequences to carry the "Let's restore Peeta" subplot might slow the film down for those who aren't big fans and care more about thrills than drama or story.

-"If you kill him, Katniss...if you end all this..." A lot of people thought this line was OCC for Peeta, especially the "if you kill him" part. I hypothesized that the line might have been manipulatively edited for trailers, but nope. I mean, a) he still hasn't come 100% back into himself at that point, so it could be that it's not the completely original Peeta saying it; and b) By then they had no choice but to forge ahead, to try and salvage the mission, to make SOMEthing of it. Katniss was feeling the guilt of literally thousands of deaths weighing on her conscience, including those of several squad members--one a close friend who'd just been torn apart by lizard mutts. Peeta knew his opinion mattered the most to her, and that he HAD to say something to encourage her onward. I liked his listing of the people who'd died since their first Games (especially the ones who chose and believed in Katniss), though he obviously couldn't mention them all. He wouldn't have even known or remembered some of the names.

-Tigris! Amazing! Yeah, again, we'd seen all there was to see of her previously...but still. The tats! The whiskers! The claws! The mane! She's impressive the hundredth time you look at her, and particularly so when she comments on her former position as a Games stylist: "Snow decided I wasn't pretty enough anymore." GRRRRAWR. What's that SOB got against tigers?!? A phobia?! Do you find them especially hideous for some reason? Or ya jealous? Too"furry" or "freakish" for ya? (Unless she wasn't being honest?) :p Well, I think you're pretty, Tigris. No matter how odd it is to embody your spirit animal by adopting the appearance of a wildcat. Guess her tiger thing just didn't come out well in most opinions. Too weird and out-there (& seemingly a permanent thing with her.) At any rate, she's now sympathetic to the rebels. Her motions were smooth, silky, elegant, and subtly feline--her silhouette tall, slender, and lithe. Another small part that's nonetheless effective, impactful, and awesome-looking. Reminded me a bit of Grizabella, too. ;)

-The Girl in the Lemon-Yellow Coat: A specific detail partially included to help drive home the horrors of war on all sides (there are always lots of innocent victims), and also to inject more suspense. pods during the undercover march to Snow's mansion, but I very surprisingly didn't even miss those, caught up as I was at that point in the action. Katniss can't bring herself to shoot Gale when he's captured by PKs, Coin ingeniously frames Snow for the bombings outside the mansion--scaring and angering enough people to end the war as a rebel victory. After all this...poor Prim almost might as well have been a tribute after all. ;; The post-bombing and post-execution periods were summarized and handled nearly exactly the way I predicted they'd be. Overall, the passage of time could've been better indicated, though--especially among the major events following Prim's death. They unfortunately let non-readers get the impression of it all happening within a matter of days/weeks (was the regrowth of Johanna's hair really the only concrete sign? That covered the major period between Katniss leaving 13 & the voting/execution, but there was still the pursuant trial period before she returned to 12. It all felt a little over-compressed in a film that definitely could've stood to be longer.)
I mean, even the degree of Katniss' physical recovery from her severe burns probably didn't indicate to the general audience the fact that she spent weeks lying practically catatonic in the hospital before being told about what happened the day of her sister's death; they wouldn't necessarily expect her to look too terrible, if they hadn't read the book to know how bad it truly was. The screen goes from smoke, to her waking up (and saying "Mom" as Mrs. E. applies ointment.) Figures that they weren't going to imply weeks of her lying there, lost in dreams and being fed information and all, so you just cut to the chase and have Haymitch tell her the key facts when she's better enough to try sitting up and actually engaging with them. It works. They naturally had to skip over the dullish time in the mansion, too. I just sorta wish there could've been another way to at least work in mentions of the post-parabomb time periods.
Katniss unleashed her emotions at last on Buttercup, in stupendous "ugly-cry" fashion, and it was wonderfully terrible. I almost did want to laugh at the cat's hunch-backed O_O "Whoa, why you screamin' at me?" expression in response to her delayed outburst, since--to quote another of my favorite movies--"laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

-I don't think there should be any excuse for people failing--for long, anyhow--to grasp why Katniss and Haymitch voted in favor of another Games session, and why Katniss nipped Coin in the bud. That was a concern, but it was portrayed...well, pretty much flawlessly. You could see Haymitch's thought processes going on, and his trust in the Mockingjay to again do the right thing. Peeta may have been shocked by the yes votes, or at least Katniss', but no one else seemed to be. It's painfully delicious how Katniss stares with such loathing at Prim's murderer, who thinks the girl's rage is directed at Snow...

-The full reveal of Coin' true nature to the uninformed audience throughout MJ was timed pretty well. From "stiff and chilly but sometimes seems sympathetic/vaguely likable/possibly an okay leader" (gotta be better than Snow...right??), to "stern and cold, seriously over-controlling, kinda suspicious," to Boggs spelling things out for Katniss early in the mission, to Snow's revelations, to the end where she tops it all off by proposing another Hunger Games to satiate the rebels' (& her own...) thirst for more blood (since they can't well further decimate the population by putting the whole Capitol to death, on top of her many initial punishments!) Uuuuberbitch! Clearly, such a move would only perpetuate the endless cycle of division and violence to which Katniss had referred in District 2. That reminded me of Game of Thrones, too--the wheel that just keeps on turning, people viewing each other as enemies and murdering, one corrupt and iron-fisted despot replacing another, and replacing another, and on and on it goes...until at last someone comes along and, objectively seeing this wheel without succumbing to it, vows to take the opportunity not merely to stop it, but to break it.
Although they left out the brutal punishments to which even petty criminals are subjected in 13, I thought the Coin development was fairly well-paced...leading the maybe-wary, maybe-trusting audience to trust in her less and less over time (likely lagging well behind many of the characters)... rather than, say, making her look fantastic and then throwing out one big shocking twist midway or beyond. It was important to understand that in her, Panem would be getting another dangerous totalitarian, Snow's flip-side.

-Loved how we got to see Snow feeling the effects of the poison (not to mention using some more...R.I.P., Antonius.) He may be on his way out, but he's determined to use his every last ounce of strength to bring down Katniss and her allies.
By the greenhouse scene, where he tells Katniss the truth about how the war was brought to a close, it's evident that he's on his way out. If you ask me (or just about anybody else), Coin DID intentionally kill Prim--to try and break Katniss. To solidify and guarantee her support no matter what, hopefully remove her as a threat to Coin's own imminent ascent into supreme power ("interim President," indeed. Misgivings about her: better-placed than you'd have even thought!*) Prim's presence in the line of fire was no coincidence. By giving Katniss the gift of "vengeance" for her sister, Coin figured she had this all in the bag. 'Til she took a nasty tumble. ;p The one good thing Snow did was making Katniss see the truth, and his laughter at the irony of the execution's outcome was just fantastic. Sutherland, as always, is magnificent. Everyone is...from Julianne as super-hammy "'My-Body-Is-Ready' Jesus-Coin," to J-Law as a satisfied-looking executioner. (Snow's "I'm sure she wasn't gunning for your sister, but these things happen in war" line was probably his way of slyly telling her the exact opposite--that, indeed, she was, and she used Gale's technique to accomplish it. 'Twas personal. He let her figure it out, and see that he was right.)
*When Haymitch said he could "never fully support that woman," one had to wonder whether it was really JUST about the prohibition. ;-p 'Cause expand on that--it's clear that 13 isn't big on liberty.

-Katniss coldly dismissed Gale once she recognized the pattern of the trap that had taken Prim, and knew for certain that it was 13's doing. Now, Gale had become too comfortable with indiscriminate killing for her taste; thinking and acting like the enemy was coming far too naturally to him...BUT, his desire to protect Primrose was unquestionable. In the end, neither of them could. 

-Old Plutarch! Well, he played all his cards just right & made out like a bandit. Always knew the right line, the right maneuver. Of all the major characters, he's the only one to emerge basically unscathed--and he got what he wanted. Well played, sir. Of course, it helps not to be *that* attached to anyone; to be first and foremost a gamemaster. There's a guy who could well navigate Westeros' Game of Thrones! (Haymitch's reading of Plutarch's letter to Katniss is a sad reminder of PSH's tragic loss, but the reason for it in the story is so plausible that anyone unaware of this part having been originally scripted for Phil wouldn't necessarily suspect so.)

-"There are much worse games to play." INDEED! Like HongKong '97, Big Rigs, CrazyBus, Desert Bus, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Master Chu & the Drunkard Hu, Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, virtually anything made by LJN, etc. ;p

On the WHOLE, I feel...pleased...though the film falls short of perfection, it is definitely something great to behold.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Favorite Dog Breeds: Top 15 (+ 2-5)

Because in the past I've attempted again and again to do this and wound up with lists of 50-100+...let's just glance over the poster on my wall & narrow this bitch once and for all...

1. Saluki
2. Poodle
3. Borzoi
4. Irish Water Spaniel
5. Afghan hound
6. Curly-Coated Retriever
7. Bedlington Terrier
8. Kuvasz
9. Silken Windhound
Scottish Deerhound
11. Pharaoh hound
12. Ibizan hound
13. Greyhound
14. Whippet
Russian Toy (Phalène-like longhair)
16. Italian Greyhound
17. Chinese Crested

Highly Honorable Mentions: Sloughi, Azawakh, Cirneco Dell'Etna (obviously all sighthounds, lol)

Could continue (e.g., several other terriers [esp. Irish & Skye], Lagotto Romagnolo, Munsterlanders, Barbet & Spanish/Portuguese Water Dogs, all 3 German pointers [esp. longhair & wirehair], Maremma Sheepdog, Kromfohrlander, AWS, Stabyhoun, smooth Collie...dozens more for one reason or another), but that would again go literally on and on forever until nearly all of the hundreds of breeds ever to exist were sorta-ranked. >p<

Aaaaand, for my cat list...Top 20:

  1. Cornish Rex
  2. Oriental (shorthair/longhair)
  3. Turkish Angora
  4. Selkirk Rex
  5. LaPerm
  6. American Wirehair
  7. Nebelung
  8. Havana Brown
  9. Russian Blue (& Shorthair)
  10. Bombay
  11. Korat
  12. Chartreux
  13. Balinese
  14. Australian Mist
  15. Devon Rex
  16. Siamese
  17. Egyptian Mau
  18. Norwegian Forest Cat
  19. Savannah
  20. Khaomanee

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ooh, I think I've found my calendar for next year!

Reviewing the 2016 "World of The Hunger Games" calendar: ****/5

It's always a tough pick, so I'll still want to choose at least one other for another room...but yeah. This is good. At first I was disappointed by the other Hunger Games calendar--which featured pretty much just D13 propaganda posters of the most popular members of Squad 451. This is MUCH closer to what I'd been hoping for.

The BrownTrout name means quality, especially with regard to the paper stock, printing, and date box sizes. The design is awesome. Most entertainment-category calendars don't seem to have much thought put into them. Each month gets a big stock photo of one or two characters, or a random still slapped onto it, and that's about it; they tend to look a bit cheap. The only one I recall using is my Kill Bill one. But this collage style is eye-pleasing and far more artistic than average. I like the backgrounds--part flames, part honeycomb grid (like the arena domes...getting consumed.) The whole thing has a really slick, coordinated, deluxe look to it.

Had I designed this, I might have balanced each image set by placing two more small circular ones in the other corners (hey, the more pics, the better, right?!) Or, if there weren't room for that, maybe alternatingly place one in the upper right/lower left and upper left/lower right, instead of all the right-hand sides? I might also have tried to use images from all the films in chronological order, or even matched them to the months as much as possible (Snow/snow and Effie's "Snow Queen" dress in the winter? The butterflies or woodsy shots in the spring? Flaming outfits in summer? Etc.?) Okay, maybe the latter is a little cutesy and wouldn't always be necessarily appropriate, but it's a thought. The pictures aren't all scattered randomly; there's some logical sense to parts of the arrangement. The REAL issue I have here is the lack of certain people.

I mean, to look at it, you immediately think, "Wow! Everybody must be in there!" But upon closer inspection, you find that a few major people are strangely and notably missing. How in the world do Finnick and Johanna not appear once? I get that Katniss and Peeta are the main characters, but do they need to be there 18 and 10 times respectively while Finn, Jo, Cinna, and Rue couldn't be sneaked in at all? Everybody's favorite love-triangle trio is still actually the main focus--it's rather Gale-heavy with 6 counts of him.
I'm grateful for two shots of Haymitch two months in a row (though they're in the smallest circles), since he and Effie are my favorites, and he's frequently and unfairly overlooked. (*cough cough Funko with the four Katnisses and leaving out a member of the team cough!!!*) If he'd been omitted, I would have raged--all the more given some of the other people included. I'd gladly take more than three Effie-inclusive pics, likewise, but I guess that's not TOO shabby. 'Specially since two are the big center images for the months, & all three come from different films. Hell, you could do a whole calendar of Hayffie moments & every Effie ensemble/look...there are at least 15 of the latter for ya, plus all the Haymitch...x~D
Prim, Plutarch, Caesar, Beetee, Boggs, Cressida, Pollux, Jackson, Coin, & Snow round it out with one or two inserts apiece. Basically...needs more Finnick & Johanna and possibly others; a little too Katniss/Peeta/Gale-heavy. It's definitely diverse, but could stand to be even more so. 

They did a pretty good job of selecting images from all four films (well, as many as they could from MJ2 considering how early it was completed.) Truthfully, from movies so LOADED UP with gorgeous and iconic scenes and costumes, you could've grabbed out a bunch of random handfuls and been able to assemble a nice calendar. So they worked in lots of key people and important events, and as many more as they could've potentially chosen, it came out looking pretty great. Well done.

I also appreciate the new "World of" title they're now applying to everything--virtually promising us that although Part 2 will conclude the series as it's written so far, we can certainly expect more out of Panem in the future. ;) 
Most of the time I go with dog breed calendars, but I've had many of my favorites by now, and apparently they're never going to give me a Saluki maybe I'll just pick up one of the doggy page-a-days and get 365 for the price of 12. This year it's Lisa Frank; most other times it'll be something nature/travel/vintage-themed, art/architecture, sea life, demotivational posters, etc. Next year? Going to Panem!

Edit: Just got it. The layout of the pics makes more sense now--they cycle through each of the four films three times, taking 3 shots/stills from each per month. :) [THG>CF>MJ1>MJ2, x3]
Review: "Where's Finnick? Odair he...wait, no..." 
Review #2 
Review of "Yearbook Dogs" 
"Yearbook Dogs" #2 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"My ABC's" & 10-Question Survey...'cause why not?

These were goin' around, so...

A-Age: 28 (going on 12)
B-Biggest Fear: Needles
C-Current Time: 8:43 p.m.
D-Drink you last had: Water
E-Easiest person to talk to: Myself
F-Favorite Song: Let It Go ^w^
G-Grossest Memory: Several incidents involving my brother & vomit >____<
H-Hometown: Clark, NJ
I-In love with: Hayffie more than anything/one else atm XD
K-Killed Someone: Many times (mentally at least)
L-Longest Relationship: Like...a year-ish?
M-Middle Name(s): Kathleen Theodora
N-Number of Siblings: 2 (younger bros)
O-One wish: To live in a parallel universe with all of my favorite character-people...oh wait, I already do. And spend more time there than in this world. ;-p
Person you last called: My grandma, a week & a 1/2 ago
Q-Question You're Always Asked: "Is your hair naturally that red/curly?" (Answer: Yes.)
S-Song You Last Sang: One of Ownage Pranks' songified pranks XD
T-Time You Woke Up: 6 am thanks to the low-battery fire alarm going off
U-Underwear Color: Red right now
V-Vacation Destination: Next? Not sure. But I ultimately want to go all over the rest of the US/Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, & other islands...we'll see where else after all that. ;]
W-Worst Habit: Scratching off scabs and picking my nails short x-p
X-X-Rays You've Had: Dental & left foot after motorcycle accident
Y-Your Favorite Food: Who could pick one thing? *-* Many fruits, pasta, Belgian waffles, cereal, pretzels, hummus, various veggies, macarons & meringues & gummies & ices & looooads of other sweets/candy/pastries...
Z-Zodiac Sign: Cancer & Fire Rabbit/Cat "Looking at the Moon"; third decanate, Taurus moon, Leo rising, Cancer/Leo cusp; Dragon ascendant, Sheep love sign

1. Nickname: Red, Shell/y, Kat, Sissy, Mike, Michelin, Michelob, Myshylee...etc.
2. Eye color: Green
3. Hair color: Red
4. Random fact: I'm a huge toy collector (G4 My Little Pony, plush/plastic dogs & other animals, Disney/Pixar stuff, Lisa Frank...I have TONS of collections.)
5. Favorite color: Rainbow. (Cheating? Okay, chartreuse...)
6. Favorite place: My mind and My World, which includes all of the greatest places in the entire universe
7. Favorite celebrity: I have rather large lists of actors & musicians...but then, I have long lists of EVERYTHING
8. Favorite animal: Dogs, then fishes (and some marine invertebrates)
9. Favorite song: Since I have thousands on Spotify, I'm basically going with Let It Go as #1 now ;)
10. Favorite book: Are you even serious with the asking me this right now? UMM. Let's just say the whole Baby-Sitters Club, Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley, & Goosebumps series, because all of those together? Fuggeddaboutit. Amazing. Cemented a lifelong love of reading. ;3

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Blindmowing! 8'''-O (MJ2 Trailer Discussion)

Just the sight of hovercrafts touching down gives me a chill. Watched on normal-speed first, then on 0.25. ;}
This time, the arena's in the Capitol. 8-0

Those SUMBISH lizard mutts--Cheesus Christ on a cracker. Okay, honestly, I was pretty much picturing bipedal, overgrown iguanas. Not these nekkidly nightmarish, horrifying-beyond-belief, slippery-slimy-looking eyeless man-beasts. *-* (Were we all silly to envision green gator-like things? Did we project our assumptions onto the text in spite of it, because what do you want when you're talking about reptilian monsters that live in a sewer? What we see in the trailer may be closer to the actual description of the mutts than what's been living in our heads...!)

OhgodOhgodOhgodOhgodOhgodOhgod, the parachute scene. They look like bubbles gently floating down, descending upon the crowd of children...`,-,`

Coin's fresh, upgraded "Paneman Presidential" look...hah. Did she get a makeover from Effie? xD That must've been fun. (Girl time! Sleepover!)

Tigris looks even cooler than I imagined, with that super-elaborate tattooing and whiskers and everything. From the little bit we can see of her shop and its basement, I don't think the shop is what I picture, but it looks pretty awesome anyway. Just...brighter, with nicer (Asian-inspired?) wallpaper. 8) Spotted a box in the cellar marked "glamour sample," hehe.

Shit. I'm not ready. I'll never be ready. I can't be ready. There is no ready. But I don't give a shit 'cause I neeeeeeeeeeed it now. x,_,x

Also: Ginormous greenhouse in a scene that reminds me of Winterfell, where Coriolanus Snow knows nothing?? >3<

Still no spoilers of any kind (if you've read), so that's good. I really didn't want any of those. Weeellll, unless you're counting the kiss. Folks might have a point that it'd be a better idea to show more of Peeta acting "mutt-like" rather than hugging & kissing Katniss in the trailers, but hey--they're still selling the love story! ;P
And okay, I suppose there MIGHT be a couple other very quick shots of scenes that'd be rather spoilery to show, but they kept it so that even readers can't be sure enough of what they're seeing to know that anything major is being "spoiled"/shown. To the non-reader who's not squinting and looking for particular details to identify a shot, it must simply look like an "awesome" action/war flick. ;p There are teasing bits to make you wonder about what's going on, but only readers know. The trailer contained nothing that I, personally, was surprised to see; it's the manner in which some of the scenes have been visually realized that's so amazing.
It's all still misleading for the film-only fans...right up to the end; I like that.
The wedding remains, predictably, the most lighthearted part by far.

Now, on my precious Hayffie front: I knew with near-certainty that there wouldn't be much new footage of either of them, which is disappointing, yet...the rest of it might just be TOO fantastically phenomenal and spoilerish to reveal ahead of time! It did include the Papa-Haymitch nod/grin/knee-touch, and the emotional Mama-Effie quick mirror shot & smile toward Katniss. Plus, of course, the all-encompassing wedding-dance shot.

No Beetee, I just realized. Figures, the resident geek gets relegated to the background...

What's next, I wonder? There are just under four months to get through now...will there be another trailer? More stills and/or posters? Will August, September, and October each hold some major reveal? I don't know how much more they can give us, but...well, no, I take that back. Running through the plot in my head, there are definitely things that could be shared without it being "too much."

In regard to another discussion:

-YES--I enjoy how MJ deals with the usage of propaganda in wartime, the cost of war, the distrust of revolutionary leaders ("new boss, same as the old"), and so on.

-Peeta's line about killing Snow & how that would give meaning to the other deaths: Some thought it was OOC for Peeta to say that one death would make another "mean something" because he's a pacifist. Well, I mean, obviously he's not a *complete* pacifist (who would refuse to use violence or kill anyone for any reason), but he is among the people closest to being one. I think, for one thing, he's trying to make Katniss feel better about the fact that her attempted "solo assassination mission" failed and resulted in the seemingly meaningless deaths of several people. Because by this point Katniss feels that her personal body count is way up in the thousands. Finnick is already lizard chow. ;___; The only thing that'll make her feel shittier is Prim's explosion. One can't be sure that Peeta's as fully convinced of the rightness of all this as, say, Gale is...he might be beginning to see it differently, especially in light of the fact that he was brainwashed into a weapon to kill his long-time love. Personally, I sympathize with him immensely, but would see the killing of Snow as necessary. Charity, really. xp Katniss was going after him out of pure, blind hatred, seeking revenge. Her method turned out to be a pretty reckless, half-cocked failure.

     His execution should be performed in the name of everyone who's ever been hurt or killed by him and the violent system over which he presides.Not that killing him is all it takes to "end all this" and change things for the better, but by this point it's fairly clear that ousting him is the ever-so-crucial first step. He's ruthless; no one and nothing is safe from his wrath. (And what would really be the point of capturing him to let him live out the rest of his life?)
Prim's death (along with all the other kids') is what makes Katniss see how imperative it is to eliminate Coin before she can continue on with her new-old system of injustice, totalitarianism, and unbridled killing. Katniss stood to lose her precious little sister no matter which "supreme commander" (aka giant refrigerator, aka hearing aid ;) was pulling the strings...and she chooses to kill the one ultimately responsible for her death. Kat and Haymitch don't really want more Hunger Games; they just wanted to put themselves on Coin's good side temporarily.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Wow. I needed a little while to get a hold of myself after seeing that; it blew me away. I'd been trying to be realistic and saying, "Don't get your hopes TOO high. It may just be a propaganda piece, or only focus on one or two simple scenes...and it'll probably only be about a minute, and not show everyone." Needless to say, that was way more than I was really anticipating. Time to scour each individual frame and notate the minutia!!!

Katniss' speech is givin' me chills. "We all have one enemy. He corrupts everything and everyone. He turns the best of us against each other. Tonight, turn your weapons--to the Capitol!"
Snow is so totally Satan. And I couldn't miss Brie--I mean, Lyme! (But danged if she doesn't still look just like Brienne there, lol.)

I guess the Everlark embrace is kind of a spoiler for non-reader fans, but I enjoy it. :'3 The trailer didn't give away anything that readers don't already know is coming.

FINNIIIIIIIIICK. ;_______; PRIIIIIIIIM. ;0; PLUTAAAAAARCH...not because he dies or anything, but just because of Philip. :'[

Now, Effie & Haymitch are my favorites, so I was praying to see them. Nothing spoilery, of course, but the shots we got are thrilling! Firstly: I'm betting--for now, anyways--on that being Eff's natural hair. 8D Light blonde, as I presumed (and as you could veeeery slightly glimpse poking out in Pt. I.; possibly a little yellowy-looking.) And teased up with mad hairspray and gel, apparently, so it looks more wig-like, but still real--actually growing from her head. It's in an almost Bride-of-Frankenstein-esque shape at the wedding, but I like it. What an upstanding hairdo.
(Though it could possibly be another wig, especially if the Capitol did remove her hair like Johanna's...)
Then the fringed, large-collared grey dress in the mirror shot--that's proooobably the scene straight from the book, near the end, prepping for the execution. :X Interesting outfit. Monochromatic, yet still Capitol-style... Somebody pointed out that the collar and fabric are reminiscent of Finnick's wedding clothes.**   *is totally dead*

Awwww...Effie smiling at Katniss, and beanie-less Haymitch smiling & touching her knee...;w; They're like her fairly odd parents!

I think my favorite clips are of the wedding (in which Effie may've had a hand in the planning...!) The dancing! The blown kiss! The beauty! The camera crew--recording it, I suppose? Naturally. And OMGGGG, Haymitch & Effie standing together!*** Right behind Coin & Plutarch. Oh, my darlins are so high-ranking. ^w^ (And there's Johanna behind Effie!!)

Now for Effie's wedding ensemble, because as usual she stands out--the pink flamingo in a gaggle of grey geese. ("Why am I the only guest dressed for the occasion...?" ;p Yeah, way to underdress, everybody else! And Coin, why you no let her give you makeover?! XD) [[Although it later appears that Johanna, at least, is in the D13 jumpsuit version of a dress!]] That pink getup must incorporate the garment Effie had on her table at the start of MJ1--what she must have been wearing when she arrived. No idea where she came by the rest of the outfit...and what're the odds that she'd just happen to have brought all the perfect accessories for this particular event with her? ;p Maybe they were able to stop somewhere and pick up such things, at some point.

Adorably, she appears to have chosen a coastal theme for her look to honor the happy couple and their district! The flowers, the bracelet colored like sea glass...the, possibly seashell or something earrings? It isn't clear enough to make out the shapes, but for some reason that was my first thought. And the necklace...ooh. A NECKLACE OF ROPE. Wardrobe symbolism strikes yet again. So glad she decided to go with that outfit for the wedding; c'est parfait. :']

Man. Haymitch, you had BETTER tell her that you like her dress, and her hair, and love everything about her. Call her "Sweetheart." Tell her she's beautiful. *Yzma voice* I need to hear these words. (And to see you two dance, and then eventually proclaim your love in some dramatic fashion, hold your own wedding, and make your own babies. It's tough to tell what exactly is going on in that huge wide shot of the dancing, but you can definitely spot Effie, and I'll go with "THEY'RE DANCING" because that so obviously must take place during the wedding...yarr.) hoping for/counting on SO MUCH from this movie, and I have no idea how many more times I'll lose my mind between now & November.

Aaaaand, I said more stuff: 
I think I'm-a cry & die, though not necessarily in that order... 

***IG discussion of the possibility of it not being her real hair in the "mirror scene" with Katniss:
"Yeah, Idk, it does look pretty yellow there, as opposed to natural light blonde (could be the lighting?? Or that she colored it?)...even though it does look as if it's growing from her scalp...could've possibly been colored (or a wig) b/c she was all Capitol-dolled-up again for that bit. Even though this fringed grey ensemble is still more monochromatic and almost sort of "fancied-up 13"-looking than what we might've expected for the occasion. 

The hair also seems...well, fairly damaged...possibly from things she's done to try and alter it, and/or simply being covered up so much, which has to be rather suffocating.
I'm hoping to and counting on seeing her REAL hair (not even teased/gelled up, just au naturale) & some more casual clothes, but assuming they wouldn't show THAT ahead of time b/c they wanna keep all the big reveals and Hayffie-type goodness a surprise. *fingers & everything else crossed*"


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"Make New Friends But Keep Discord"

Another definite new favorite episode of the season so far! Very weird, and I'd expect no less from a Discord-centric one. Reading the description, I thought, "How interesting it'll be if this is a male friend of whom Discord is jealous..." xD But needless to say, this is going to fuel Fluttercord shipping regardless. A new male friend would've perhaps been too blatant...
          I've got to say, there are a lot of common MLP ships with some merit. I mean, Fluttercord's beyond obvious now, though I had also enjoyed the thought of Dislestia or "Discord Pie." Or him with any of the mane six, really. Then you've got Fluttermac, which hypothetically makes a lot of sense, despite us seeing extremely little interaction between those two. But Big Mac could also still wind up pairing with Cheerilee, or any of the mane six aside from Applejack (you just don't wanna go on that adventure. Not with these ponies.) There are few for which you can derive much actual support from the show, of course. The only canon couples are...well, the few who actually are! Parents, mostly. But, enough about that stuff; back to the episode.

Okay, first of all: NEW FAVORITE CHARACTER. Treehugger is amazing. I love her tomato-colored dreadlocked/corded hair, and her epic eyebrows and voice and the things she says. I always love the "hippie-dippie" characters (just started watching Grace & Frankie on Netflix, and Frankie's the best! XD) Absolutely, Treehugger & Maud & Flax Seed & the other hippie ponies from the comics need to be BFFs. Treesie and Maud are both so eminently chillaxed. And speaking of Maud, she attended the gala this year! In a sparkly blue dress! Wondrousness!! 8DDD

So Treehugger's an earth pony with a cutie mark that looked like a heart balloon, or a heart on a stick or something? I dunno, I felt as if that could've been a little better thought-out. Doesn't have to be a tie-dyed peace sign with daisies around it or anything, but it looked a tad bit uninspired for such an awesometastic pone. But then, she'd probably be all cool about the whole thing and feel cosmically blessed by any cutie mark that turned up, interpreting it as being one way or another fully in tune with her aura and life force. -u-

Interesting how Discord brought the Smooze back--but instead of being a many-faced ocean of purple goo under the command of a witchy trio, it seems he summoned a smaller quantity of green JELL-O (like B.O.B., or the jelly monster from the beginning of Monsters, Inc.) with a mouth. Plus a tophat, bow tie, and dumb but lovable personality. Smoozie is still capable of consuming anything/everything/anypony/anyone, but also easily distracted by disco balls, and placated by Treehugger's patented, harmonic, mellowing, lip-rippling Sonic Bliss(R). 

Unnnhhhhhh, I wanna see Treehugger, Treeflower, Candy Warren, "Beret Girl," Sunshine, etc., get together for a love-in...8)

That was a nice view of Discord's house and home dimension. He's got a cool floor-ceiling and dish-dirtying detergent. And there are flying badgers there, apparently.
For a few minutes there I thought he might be about to force poor Post Haste to be his plus-one! For sure he's made big strides, but is still his old self; FULL reform may be too much to ask, and where's the fun in that, anyhow? ;]

Flutters used "anypony" in reference to that teacup-munching Draconequus--curious. Typically the word is only applied to ponies. :p Maybe they're such close chums now that she's starting to think of him as one.
    Must be pretty creepy to have him slither out from under your blanket in the middle of the night and demand all up in your face to know where Twilight is.

So fittingly, Twilight's graduated from Assistant Hoofshaker to Assistant Gala Planner/Organizer. (Yet Celestia still finds jokes about her flying skills amusing. x3) She really has a great time at these unconventional Gross Gruesome Galas, man. This one was even funner than the last, what with that portal to another dimension of strange 'live-action' sock puppet beings opening up, and a guest nearly getting tossed through it and all. The 'Zoe Trent' in Lestie's voice becomes more noticeable when she gets all excited.
And where the hay was Luna?

There was no focus on everypony's gala dresses and manestyles this year, so you had to purposely look at them, but once again they all looked fab...especially Pinkie! And Flutters' hair, with the Leia bun...and Dash, AJ, Rarity (her hairdo was swell)...and the Crusaders! Applebloom's peach-colored dress! Scoots! Twi! Celestia! 8D (Plus camera-shaking, fourth-wall-shattering Pinkie in the beginning! XD)

The conflict resolution and Discord's realization of the moral was quick, sensible, and effective. Nice indignant Flutterrage.

"You're the most basic of jokes." There are numerous Best Ponies, and Maud Pie is among them. A regular comedienne, she be.
Other favorite lines/notable moments:
The "two cakes" story.
"Blessing." "I meet a lot of different creatures--each one of them perfect and unique." (Wait, Discord & 'Treesie' have really met before?! And she didn't specifically remember him...? Or what? Does this relate at all to the comic revealing Discord's ONE other friend from the past? The "Friends Forever" one where he takes the Crusaders time-traveling?!)
"I need, like, a few minutes to clear out my chakras before I can hug you from a place of authenticity."
Nude Rarity at the gala--oh, the equinity!! Luckily it would seem that she managed to retrieve her outfit from Discord's vacuum.

-"Tough crowd"=Rodney Dangerfield impression! Same as Genie's in Aladdin when he says he can't believe he's losing to a rug. And his little video-game-style question mark announcing his teleported arrival.
-Only at Sugar Cube Corner is "most delicious" the LEAST delicious rank on the deliciousness scale!!
-Noticed that they appear to have a problem animating Pegasus wings when the ponies are clothed. The wings often wind up placed too far forward, despite the convenient holes that should eliminate that. It was especially obvious on one shot of Twilight hovering--her wings were literally attached at her shoulders.
-Cute how the Crusaders were so pumped for their first "best night ever!" (Like, "Yeah, that's what they said the last time...!!") Applejack's reaction to seeing her little sis in her dress was sweet. She cries on the outside too, sometimes--and Dash's tail pays for it! (I wonder what card game they were playing...)
-Lyrica Lilac spotted (the one who passed out), but no Purple Wave.

To conclude, a very non-basic joke:

What's the difference between a dirty bus stop and a lobster with beast implants?

One is a crusty bus station, and the other is a busty crustacean.

What's the difference between a crusty bus station and a mid-flight pause to clean off one's avian self?

One is a dirty bus stop, and the other is a birdie dust stop.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tanks For the Memories

AKA, "Dash experiences DABDA" (the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief/loss--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.)

Okay, another new favorite episode of pony.

-REFERENCES, REFERENCES! We had that distinctly Abbott-&-Costello-y bit about Clear Skies, Open Skies, Everywhere, & Fluffy Clouds (cool designs & voices for those characters, too)...Dash's Grinchy grin when she gets the wonderful, awful idea to stop winter from coming...and of COURSE, "Winter is coming." Well played, Hasbro. Way to reference GoT in a manner that should (hopefully?) sail right over the heads of any kiddies who might happen to be watching. ;-] I had said that, too, during the song--"Face facts, Dash. Winter is coming!" Just couldn't believe they did it.
-We learn more about how the change of seasons works in Equestria (from autumn to winter, anyway.) The weather is all on us Pegasi. B-) Maybe more of us should have names without any form of "sky" or "cloud" in them...
-WHAT AN EMOTIONAL EPISODE. Most of them end on an upbeat, comedic note, but this one was saddish. At first Dash just seems bound and determined to deny the obvious because she's looking forward to doing all kinds of awesomely-fun, primo wintertime stuff with Tank. But her concern for him is touching, and this was supposed to be their first winter together. Suddenly she learns that they'll never be able to enjoy her favorite season (good choice there, btw) together because he's got to go bury himself underground, and they'll be separated for months. She feels kind of betrayed, even though she knows it's not his choice to burrow in the dirt and leave her for a little while. And she thinks preventing winter will be doing him a favor. Now that is loyalty--trying to prevent the seasons from changing for your friend's sake. 8'-| Her seemingly infinite waterworks aren't too far off of what mine'd be, faced with the prospect of not seeing one of my woof-woofs for a whole season. At least in her case, Tank knows what's happening and isn't being left somewhere without understanding why. It's his instinct, and he can't ignore it. For a moment I wondered whether RD would pull a Sandy Cheeks and try to cram in as much makeshift winter fun as possible before Tank headed off.
-Rainbow Dash solo. YES. And it was beautiful. ;u; Not another "Awesome As I Wanna Be" sort of tune, although I do love that one.
-"DO I LOOK ANGRY?!?" *rageface* >8-( "No, no, of course not, not at all, Dashie!" *sweatdrop* ^.^; XD *squiggey Applejack lieface*
-"You too?!" "Nope, I'm good." "I'm mostly sad because you're not sad!" "Me?! What about Applejack?!" "APPLEJACK CRIES ON THE INSIDE, TWILIGHT!" "It's true."
-"You're using the word! Oh! She's using the word!" ^w^
-Tank's PJs and slippers, omfg. Gotta get Ulla some slippers made in my image. Plus some ingenious flight gear.
-CLOUD WALL. PINKIE PIE WALKED THROUGH DASH'S BEDROOM WALL. BROKE RIGHT THROUGH IT. While Dash was feeling so "whatever." Time to get a second, non-hibernatory pet! That scene was so good. Dash's wailing sobs would make a good .gif to express feels of extreme sorrow. I liked how Twilight pushed Applejack forward like, "Go on, Honesty." AJ clearly felt awkward. xD But as soon as Fluttershy joins in the weeping, Pinkie and Rarity can't help topping off the heap of bawling equine emotional wrecks. Then when Dashie says, "Oh, Tank...I'm sure gonna miss you," and they lean their heads together...MANLY TEARS, THEY HAVE BEEN SHED. *,-,*
-Disguising yourself as an employee and causing a chaotic catastrophe--another Lucyesque move, Dash. I applaud you. And another "What have I done?!" moment for you. However, even if you were willing to try and use that arduous method to bring about winter every year, I'm not sure you'd be able to recreate that precise series of events.
And yes, winter=water.
-Question: They do have a legit veterinarian in Ponyville, right? I mean, Fluttershy is more of a holistic animal nurturer/whisperer/daycare-type-person than anything...she isn't a licensed vet...and Spike may be an expert on BEING *a* reptile (same family, yes; very different genera & species), but...geez guys, find an actual vet. (And I could hear the Pinkie Pie in Flutters' voice on the "teensie-eentsie-weentsie" line. ;)
-Believe I spied Sprinkle Medley, Sunshower Raindrops, & possibly Strawberry Sunrise among the backgrounders.

ETA: Some reactions to the midway-point of GoT, Season 5: "Kill the Boy"...ooh, even the episode titles giva ya the chills!

Whole fam seems to agree: Daenerys>Team Stannis>Boltons >P< BLEHCK!! Especially on Ramsay, one of the most despicable sleazebag creeps right along with the late Joffrey...although the "How can you tell she's pregnant? How did you find it?" was pretty funny.
Stannis scored a couple points in my book with that "fewer" (he literally echoed me.) And "Keep reading" was good advice to Sam (<3!)  But still: GO DANY GO. <333 "If I give everyone what they deserve, I'll have no one left to rule." XD Good point. Best line!! Or one of 'em. Tyrion can always compete. (Damn, those two should be unbeatable once teamed...) 

Hoo, boy, look what's a-comin'. Stannis vs. Roose, a Meereenese wedding, Brienne & Sansa (hopefully--and also maybe some Pod-training!) 8-O
The show will go on forever at this rate, though, and I think we're already halfway through S5...XD What will come first, book #6 or Season 6?!? I keep waiting for the major, major stuff from book 5, and now we finally got Tyrion on a boat with the Stone Men attacking (the whole boat sequence in the book is rather lengthy, and involves his dwarf THAT coming?) What happens to Cersei should be as satisfying to watch as it was to read. But man, ever since Brienne Vs. Sandor, it's felt almost like anything goes! Because there are still two unfinished/unpublished books of source material, even the readers are liable to be surprised at any moment. I hope Varys shows up with Dany soon, because he rocks (and seems like a more fun traveling companion than Jorah. No offense, Mormont. I still like ya.) D-'8 at the ending, as usual...
Shippin' Missandei & Grey Worm! ^u^
Love Davos & Shireen together, awwww...hehee. Her mum don't know nothin' 'bout her own daughter. ;p

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 ~ ****, 2 thumbs up

[really, really, really long review/commentary]

Mandatory spoiler alert--this is more of an in-depth, analytical synopsis/response suitable for those who don't mind being spoiled, or have already seen it & read the novels.

I've recently become a big fan of this series, and I was very highly impressed with this film. It's a change of pace from the prior two, but I absolutely love it when a great epic story gets darker, deeper, and more intense as you go. The Hunger Games is a truly worthy successor to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter (let's just forget that Twilight even made the attempt.) And this is the start of Act II*, where all heck begins to break loose and you can sense that the proverbial fan is about to get hit big-time. [*Or perhaps Act III if this isn't a musical--what do you mean, this isn't a musical?! That was all in my head?! Confound it...]

Having read the brief criticisms of Part 1 (virtually all claiming that "nothing happens," "there's no action, they just talk," and "Katniss spends the whole time moping or whining over Peeta"), I had to wonder how it was possible that such viewers had seen the same film I did. Maybe it's an attention/memory-span thing. Overlong? Hmm. Had I not been watching on the floor, I'd have been edge-of-seat riveted. I didn't want it to end, and would have much appreciated an extra half-hour.

The worst thing about it is the agonizing wait for Part 2 (currently a 7-month one...aurgh!) All I can say there is that the next one had better deliver, by being the mind-blowing, explosive, fast-paced, 3+-hour extravaganza promised by the buildup of tension and ever-increasing stakes of the third installment. Of course, readers are aware that there is simply no way to be prepared to witness certain, er, upcoming events...but let me put it this way: Complainers about Part 1's "slowness" will be pleading for its sweet mercy again come November.

Additionally, the split was completely necessary. Although the third book isn't significantly longer than the others, it simply contains too much for a single film. It was possible to condense the Games and everything leading up to them twice...but to go from Katniss not wanting any further part of a rebellion, to the end, in one shot...the scale's just too great. Too much takes place. How rushed, undeveloped, non-informant, overwhelming, and "way too easy" it'd feel if they attempted this as a single movie. Several hours, and probably an intermission, would be needed anyway. (Hrm, maybe a THG miniseries or something is in order...or at least graphic novels?)

Just about every cast member gives a noteworthy performance. They and the director seem to truly "get" the characters and what makes them tick, which comes across in interviews as well as the films. So, we rejoin our protagonists in District 13--yes, the one thought to have been completely obliterated three-quarters of a century ago. In truth, this militaristic district has since been more or less thriving in a subterranean fortification. They're austere, but for a self-sequestered, long-thought-extinct district, they've got some fairly impressive high-tech weaponry (even nukes.) Which is because they used to be the Capitol's weapon designers. 

Our main character, the former celebrity, is wounded, damaged, and hurting. She and Finnick are in fear for their loved ones, Peeta & Annie, who were scooped up by the Capitol following the Quarter Quell. The leader of 13, a stern and enigmatic woman by the name of Alma Coin, wishes Katniss to be groomed into the Mockingjay symbol--but only once convinced that she, rather than Peeta, is the right "Chosen One" for that position. For a bit Kat's very reluctant to get on board, but eventually agrees to comply if her personal demands are met (and the demands, including their delivery, are terrific.) From the start, all she's wanted was to protect her loved ones and herself--not to spark rebellion or incite civil war, not the responsibility of rallying a nation, and certainly not to start keeping a "personal kill count" that's escalated into the thousands. "Why, oh, why didn't I run away with mah two bois, Prim, and Mum when I had the chance?!"

She takes a devastating trip back to her now utterly demolished native district, 12, to take in the ruins and skeleton-littered rubble. (And also to bring back some stuff from her house, including Prim's disagreeable cat, Buttercup.) 9.15% of the population survived (you did your best, Gale. Well, sort of. You DID conveniently "forget" about Peeta's family.) Anyway, speaking of whom...early on we can tell that the Katniss/Peeta/Gale "love triangle" isn't going away, but luckily no one else really pretends that it should be their main focus, or take precedence over what's going on in Panem at large. Plus, I'm sure most of us could see where that was going before we finished reading.

For most of this film, Katniss' main job is to star in "propos"--propaganda commercials for the rebel cause. She's introduced to her film crew, of whom the most endearing member is a bearded ginger Avox named Pollux. The rehearsal scene is humorous, as it becomes rapidly clear that this scripted Katniss is one awkward, stilted actress (it's fun watching J-Law pretend to be bad. Also cute to see Effie trying to be all supportive and encouraging, but with a look on her face that says, "...Crap, this isn't working.") The girl's only hope of being taken seriously is to witness firsthand situations that'll evoke genuine feeling and passion, so she'll be spurred into saying something she really means.

One such situation is a visit to a District 8 hospital full of badly wounded folks, where she has to lie about losing the baby she never conceived. When the place is bombed and destroyed, Katniss is spurred to deliver the kind of powerful, inspiring monologue her group was looking for. It's turned into a "Join the Fight" propo and broadcast, and she's become that galvanizing figurehead. Other key action sequences include the killing of Peacekeepers by a bunch of District-7 lumber workers, and the explosion of a dam that knocks out power to the Capitol. So, lots of explosions for those who can't get enough of them--but they're explosions with a plot-advancing purpose. Oh, and the "Hanging Tree" song? Very haunting. J-Law's got a real nice voice.

One advantage of the film is the fact that we get to periodically pop into the Capitol to see Snow. Ahh, Snow. Calculating, speech-making, frozen-hearted, public-execution-ordering, Everlark-shipping Snowy. Sutherland does a fantastic job with this guy, whose first name says it all with its last four letters. He's got a couple of close confidants called Egeria (neat name) and Antonius, who're nice touches. So, after deciding on the right word for those against him ("radicals"), he expressly and officially forbids association in any form with the Mockingjay symbol. Friendship with Katniss Everdeen now amounts to treason, most grievously punishable. (Note what his granddaughter does as he issues his declarations.) Snow really does appear to wish that he could, as Johanna Mason suggested, simply throw all these people giving him grief into the arena and kick back with a big ol' bucket of buttered popcorn.

Meanwhile, Peeta is repeatedly interviewed by a more serious (but still groovy-looking) Caesar Flickerman. At first he's an honest voice of reason, pleading for diplomacy and peaceable behavior. By the third broadcast, though, he's starting to look rather poorly and say things that make him sound like a traitor to his friends. Is he under some form of duress, or
perhaps brainwashed? We can tell that something unspeakable has begun happening. The fact of the matter is that the poor boy's being hijacked--the government pulling its own sadistic form of Clockwork Orange on him, until he's classically conditioned and reprogrammed into the perfect anti-Katniss/Mockingjay basketcase-slash-weapon. Egads!

At the end of one transmission, Our Peeta breaks through and issues an urgent warning--13 is being attacked! You'll all be dead by morning! Sheet! What follows is an intense evacuation scene in which everyone descends massive staircases further down into the earth. The extra few minutes afforded them by Peeta make the difference, and nobody is killed; they weather the explosions that rock the fortress in an even danker, drearier, oxygen-reduced bunker environment. They stay there longer in the book, but the scene on film is just as good, providing an appropriate sense of stifling, suffocating claustrophobia down there. Prim revealing that she's being trained as a doctor, easy amusement at the teasing of Buttercup with a light...and speaking of those two, Prim has been called an idiot for going back to save the cat. I can't take that view, since there's no way I'd ever have left my dog behind.

So, as Katniss & Company rise from the depths no worse for wear, she's consumed with thoughts of Peeta...and decides that she wants to drop the whole Mockingjay thing, because keeping it up will result in his further torture and alteration. Coin sees that it's time to get bread-boy over here--along with Annie and Johanna, per the agreement. Gale is the first volunteer for this recovery mission, which proves suspiciously easy. Dun, dun, dun.
Skyping with Snow, Katniss tries to nobly offer herself in Peeta's place, but is shot down. There's a horrible moment where she thinks she's lost both of her best male friends, and potential love interests, at once.

Beetee is the invaluable "tech guy" on the team, without whom their messages wouldn't be able to reach an audience--and Katniss wouldn't have any explosive or incendiary arrows in her quiver. Finnick is broadcast giving a shocking expose; he reveals scandalous facts about the prostitution/selling & objectification of Victors, and the reason behind the "He drinks blood?!" bit in Catching Fire (big secret: Snow poisoned his way up the ladder of power, allowing himself to develop permanent bleeding mouth sores to avoid suspicion. Hence the fragrant white roses that are his signature, calling card, and favorite way of communicating with Katniss.) Aside from perhaps Snow's own immediate family (perhaps?!), no one is ever truly safe from his wrath. Everyone is at his mercy, and most of the characters are victims.

Mercifully, the film doesn't end on "the strangle," and the reunion of Finnick and Annie (*preferred ship name="Annick") is adorable. The actual conclusion to Part 1 involves a neck-braced, red-eyed, horrified Katniss, a thrashing, isolated Peeta, and a heck of a speech from Coin. She talks about justice and never giving up the fight, how they are now all "one people, one army, one voice," whom will "become an alliance to be reckoned with." She foreshadows the first segment of Part II--they're going to set out to conquer the government's principal military facility in the mountains of District 2. Dun, dun, dun...! *shiver* (Nooo, you can't stop now, things are just heating up!! Graah!)

Now Philip Seymour Hoffman, rest his soul, was the perfect Plutarch Heavensbee--a highly "creative" gamemaker, now working with another president to engineer a different sort of game. He's genial, persuasive, and capable of skillful manipulation. Julianne Moore struck me as ideal casting for the part of Coin; she pretty well nailed it. Natalie Dormer comes in fresh from another epic story about a game in which "you win or you die," but sports a considerably different look from Margaery Tyrell: She's Cressida, the partially-shaven and tattooed film crew leader. All in all, the additions to our core cast are solid.

To me the most fascinating character is Effie; physically and emotionally, her arc is dramatic (though not in the simplistic, sudden way most people assume)--and Banks continues to play the role hilariously, heartbreakingly well. 

     So, the girls of "Team TEAM" (Trinket+Everdeen+Abernathy+Mellark) were, wisely or not, uninformed of the plot beforehand. Now they need to be brought up to speed, filled in on details, and come to grips with the grim realities of Panem's current state--in order to make their choices.
    At first the little refugee feels imprisoned, worried, and alone in this extremely strict, confined, dank, uniform, and monochromatic society, where the simplest things are disallowed. (She's actually accustomed to some of that, but in different forms; this kind of exposure to a society like 13 is a bit of a shock.) Loath to be seen--especially bare-faced & wig-free in her baggy, admittedly less-than-flattering regulation jumpsuits--
and insistent on covering her hair with a large bandanna, she hides in her quarters until Plutarch comes to see whether he can coax her out. He quickly confirms what she already knew--that she has officially and voluntarily relinquished that privileged, more sheltered life she's known. But now, Thirteen seeks to recruit both Katniss and herself, as the "face of the revolution"--a savior of sorts--and adviser thereto. They can be irreplaceable parts of this movement whose time has come. Of course, she's initially hesitant and unsure--but soon she's in. She won't be the one to break up the team that was basically her idea in the first place.

So she lays it on the table for Katniss, literally: The aim is to restore democracy to the nation. (Bring back 'Murica, perhaps? Doesn't sound toooo bad right about now, eh? Y'all can be signers of a new constitution, and reserve rights for the people in the precise numerical quantity of "hella"...) Effie shows Katniss the Mockingjay suit design sketched by their old friend Cinna, who was so brutally beaten to death before Katniss' eyes immediately prior to the Quarter Quell. They've got the suit ready for her, if she'll accept. It was definitely a good call making the guys able to get Effie away from the Capitol early on, so that we get to see her in action alongside the rest of the gang, rather than waiting for the reunion near the end of Part 2. Even hearing a gritty account of her off-screen experiences would be less satisfying than this development.
    It makes sense that they'd want her, if possible, over simply kidnapping the less-useful cosmetic prep team trio (whose primary book scenes were there to hammer home the disturbing, foreboding similarities and parallels between 13 and the Capitol, Coin and Snow...which I anticipate being even more evident in Part 2.) As it is, they're still trying to mislead those who don't already know what's up (aka, those who didn't read/don't remember the books well)...throw them off the scent, if you will...;) She's a good substitute for a somewhat extraneous and similar "Plutarch's assistant" character; even if a few of the retained comedic lines seem forced, they work thanks to skillful acting. And it all means a whole lot more coming from her--someone who genuinely cares about Katniss, who also knew and cared for Cinna.

Still relatively vivacious, chirpy, and a little bit sassy (like her friends!), Effie always has been pretty good about trying to optimize lousy circumstances. She tries to give her confidence a slight boost (and incidentally make her utilitarian jumpsuit look some 75% cooler) via nicer, somewhat chic-er styling and combinations of such elements as a headwrap-bandanna (gangsta!), her own shoes, a glovelet, bangles, rosy-tinted glasses (yes, underground; suh-wag! xD well, I guess the lights down there are pretty harsh & glaring), the tunic/poncho/cape over the thick grey leggings (& stirrup pants?), or a black sweater draped over her head (possibly borrowed from a certain, *ahem*, "associate??") Grey becomes the new fuchsia, or...something...and she adapts. (Quite well & quickly, it must be said, for someone used to a more extravagant culture and suddenly being asked to join in an incredibly dangerous war effort in one of the most austere places imaginable. She's got some spunk, not to mention the purest of hearts.) It's fun to see her get a wee bit creative with more limited materials. Gotta hand it to Coin for apparently figuring it best to just let her get away with the minor additions/tweaks/modifications, so long as she wears their stuff and basically blends in. (I mean, you can take the girl out of the Capitol...) [I could & have gone on for ages about the significance and symbolism in Effie's costumes, her development/progress, and so forth; that's for my Hayffie/THG documents. Oh, Effs, you're beautiful--no matter what you've got on your outside.]
Effie's also tougher than one might have thought--but then, "Fe" IS the chemical symbol for iron. As the film progresses and her eyes are opened to some cold hard truths, we see her coming to embrace a new identity--as revolutionary, full-on rebel, wind beneath the wings of the Mockingjay.
    As always, Effie does her very best to be as helpful as possible. Her trust in Plutarch seems to increase, but it still remains to be seen how much faith she's got in Coin to lead them. >;p It really is nice to see her so much earlier than in the text, where she's imprisoned and we don't know what's happening to her, which is worrisome--indeed, for a while Katniss believes that she may well have already been executed. (Thankfully she survives, with help from Haymitch and Plutarch, but remains enshrouded in mystery. Katniss mentions the potential need to let Coin know that she was on their side.) Like the author, I'm delighted that we finally get more of her, but I do honestly have to hope that they're able to somehow address the original situation--for the sake of unity, completeness, and blank-filling. There are just ever so many possibilities, honestly, for how everything could go, that I almost don't even want to think too much more about it...and yet I do...and yet I don't...because I'll most definitely go mad long before November.

And then there's my other favorite--good ol' Haymitch, who's experiencing some difficulty and displeasure of his own in adjusting to total sobriety...but managing, and
doing a darned good job of dealing with it. (After all, it's mandatory in 13, but he chose this; running a revolution calls for a clear head.) While Effie hides, he's being "dried out." But he and she act just like protective, proud parents toward Katniss. (It's the Capitol-bred Jabberjay, the wild mockingbird, and the resultant mockingjay!) There's a very cute scene in which he basically takes on the role of a teacher at a digital blackboard (*wipes screen clear* "Hope that wasn't important"--lol!), and Effie is the eager (and a bit titillated) little teacher's pet. They share a somewhat surprising, delightfully flirtatious & funny/adorable moment, and...oh, yeah, Hayffie confirmed for my new OTP. Each light-heartedly but (finally!) publicly, openly claims to prefer the other this way--closer to their real and genuine, natural selves...a raw, "just you", perhaps it's for the best that they've been stripped down & laid bare like this. Divested of their usual fronts--his liquor and her masks ("over-the-top, wild" outfits, hairstyles, and makeup)--it's almost as if they're being reborn, so that their truest selves can begin to emerge more fully than before. I really do love those two; they are just full of surprises. And after all, "like you better" implies what we already knew: that they've truly (like-)liked each other all along. ;D (What an understatement "like" is!!)

More philosophically...there is always a very real possibility that a second rebellion will fail, leading to unprecedented levels of oppression, suffering, and destruction. There's the fact that civil war will inevitably cost thousands (possibly millions?) more innocent lives...the chance that one bad system will be replaced with another...that the world will be plunged into sheer chaos...or indeed, that mankind in "North America" (or whatever they now call this continent--is it all just "Panem," like Australia?) will be essentially annihilated. On the other hand, the big picture is becoming clear. Snow's evil is unchecked, his "peace" maintained at high costs. It isn't simply about abolishing the games anymore. The games ostensibly exist to protect an established system of law and order that's neither peaceful nor just; it may in fact be corrupted beyond salvation. Those who would like to see change for the better may finally be faced with a feasible opportunity at last, if enough citizens can be persuaded as help dismantle the oppressive establishment board by board, saw the (NON-MAHOGANY!!) tables of tyranny in half, etc...even if some do have their own personal agendas as motivation to overthrow Snow. 

With regard to the overall series...I like each book and movie so far. I found the first two books to be approximately equal in quality to their adaptations. Both versions have their strengths; I adore how the movies bring these characters and the story to life, but naturally, the books provide a lot of "bonus" scenes you wish could have been depicted on film. I appreciate how faithfully the source text has been followed, and was able to thoroughly understand and enjoy the first two movies before being compelled to read, in order to glean all the information that had to be omitted. The premise itself is intriguing, and the characters have that magical quality of seeming very real. I have to share, however, in the general consensus that Mockingjay is the weakest book of the trilogy.

It's by no means a bad book--just not, in my opinion, as good as the first two. It necessarily has a bit of a different structure, and a larger scope. The bones of it are great. However, it felt as if the author were uncertain of how to handle this section of the to play it out, and especially, how to wrap it up. I got the sense that perhaps she just wanted to get it done and published. It's still, of course, a more than worthwhile read. The benefits are all the additional details which explain or provide insight. They're often the things that don't translate well to  the audio-visual version because they'd require a narrator, or would bog it down too much. Still, they do make you wish that they could be included in a brochure with the film, to inform or remind viewers of what's not seen or heard onscreen!

While few gory details are spared, many others are. Surely the YA reading level has something to do with the frequent feeling of rush, vagueness, and glossing-over. The ending and bittersweet epilogue are particularly sparse and, frankly, on the *really* depressing side. I understand that by that point, our narrator is drained and burnt out, and hardly bothering to learn or share much with us. That helps to explain the extreme lightness of detail, which almost seems like a setup for subsequent elaboration. But it's tough on such detail-oriented fans as myself, who must always know absolutely EVERYTHING. Readers are left with so many burning questions and ponderances (we didn't even learn the names of the Everlark children until later on.) And the matter of whom or what ultimately took out Snow is one of about nine hundred things it'd be super-swell to know.

Basically, these characters and this story are worthy of Harry Potter- or Lord of the Rings-length books, and I felt distinctly unsatisfied after all that the story had done to me. "That's it? So open-ended? It feels as though we should be waiting for another." With Part II of Mockingjay, I'm not asking for a future that's all sunshine and rainbows; that'd be totally unrealistic --I just very much hope that things are fleshed out for us in a much more satisfying manner. The brief summation we got barely gave a taste of the "new world order." Overall, the book is a blend of strengths and weaknesses--a great many strong, very well-written passages, interspersed with lesser bits.

So the benefits of this film, which covers almost the first half of the book, are numerous. For one thing, we're no longer 100% locked inside Katniss' head--seeing only what she sees, knowing only what she (thinks she) knows, and receiving everything exclusively through her point-of-view filter. This forces one more than ever to think well beyond the text itself and--as per usual with first-person narrators, especially of the YA variety--keep some salt grains handy. Don't take everything for gospel. Yes, we remain tethered to Kat throughout the film, but are at least allowed to see a bit more so long as it relates directly to her. All in all, the film provided a better perspective and made the story more engaging, exciting, suspenseful, and thrilling. It permitted greater development for everyone else, and flowed well from plot point to plot point. There's nothing hugely wrong with it, and they again made up with various excellent scenes for the things that had to be left out. At the same time, I could have used another 20-30 minutes, since I was pleased with the way that it actually expanded, enhanced, elaborated--and in some ways improved. Of course nothing is perfect, but the cast and crew make valiant efforts to approach perfection.

Changes made from text to screenplay were largely wise. I think there's just enough wiggle room and space for revision to think that even we readers can expect some (hopefully awesome) surprises. Yet, I believe we should continue to anticipate the core plot and major events and developments remaining intact (e.g., I'd see little reason to hope for the sparing of doomed people or to fear a survivor biting it.) So far, Mockingjay is still proving a powerful and effective story with a large scope and intriguing war commentary.

The biggest omissions from the source material include Madge, Darius (aka 'the cool Peacekeeper'), Bonnie & Twill, Peeta's prosthetic leg, Katniss' hearing loss, explanation of the use of fallen tributes in creating mutts, and an explanation of the mockingjay's origin (well, the latter was a deleted scene that didn't work.*) Oh, and the fact that arena mutts can be created from like, slightly-resurrected dead tributes--but that concept would've been understandably difficult to get across to a film audience. Would've been awesome to see, though.

At first a couple of those seem like fairly significant points, but ultimately, their removal isn't of tremendous consequence. The story isn't really too hurt without their mentions; it's not hard to accept that a lot of important things do have to happen off-screen and/or go unaddressed. The films succeed by, for the most part, leaving out only that which isn't totally crucial and can be concisely summarized, touched on, or implied in some other ways.

*Because Plutarch wouldn't require an explanation of the species, soooo.......although I totally see why they discarded that, I wish it could've been worked in somehow. Idk how, because it's just a known thing in their world, so how do you reveal it without breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience...maybe someone could be heard explaining it to someone young enough not to know yet, or whatever. Even if Madge had made the films, she wouldn't have explained it... :/ (Again, that brochure wish...!!!) The films merely convey the sense that the Capitol didn't really care for mockingjays all that much, for some unprovided reason.
Certain deleted scenes were removed for clear reasons (too contrived or silly/goofy/out-there or what-have-you)--while others can be assumed to have happened, basically as filmed, but simply couldn't be fit in for one reason or another, or didn't add enough to the movie to be as necessary as the rest. In the director's estimation, anyway.

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