Friday, November 20, 2015

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

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 themselves--until...well...you 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 Capitol...so, 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, but...it 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, so...it'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"...as 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.

-Sooo...no 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
10.
Scottish Deerhound
11. Pharaoh hound
12. Ibizan hound
13. Greyhound
14. Whippet
15.
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