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Wrapping Up the Hunger Games with Mockingjay Part Two


It is no secret that the Hunger Games series has been a huge hit, but all good things must come to an end. It was with some trepidation that I called the Sky phone number to place my order for the final movie of the series – Mockingjay Part 2. Like so many others, I had enjoyed the previous installments, but was nervous to see if the mammoth hit would come to a glorious end, or an end that fell short. Having not yet read the books, the final remained a complete mystery to me.

The Hunger Games series cannot be mentioned without a mention of the main star, Jennifer Lawrence. She delivers another excellent performance in the finale, so there was certainly no disappointment there. Her supporting cast, which includes Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman all turn in excellent performances as well. Clearly, a great cast was in place, but there is of course more to consider. If you have not read the books, read on. Otherwise, you may find yourself calling the Sky phone number to ask for your money back on this rental.

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I refuse to be the spoiler alert person. While I realize that most Hunger Game fans went to see this movie at the theatre, some (like myself) waited for Sky to add the movie to their lineup so that I could watch from home (contact Sky if you do not see the movie on your listings). What I can say is that even if you have not read the books, you are likely to find Mockingjay 2 rather predictable. It is quite easy to see where the movie is headed, as there are very few twists and turns along the way. Towards the end, however, there are a few surprises, but fans of the franchise may see these coming as well. Does this detract from the movie overall? Somewhat, depending on whether you like to be kept guessing.

Action fans will enjoy many of these scenes and the PG-13 movie is suitable for older children. President Snow is his usual, horrible self, but plays a somewhat smaller role in Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2. President Alma Coin, played by Julianne Moore, takes on a larger role and factors greatly into the overall plot and ending. Both Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman play small roles in this one, but it is good that both were included so as to make for a complete finale.

About halfway through the final Hunger Games, I paused the movie (and actually had to call the Sky phone number to get it re-started, but that is another story). While preparing my popcorn, I stood in front of the microwave and gave some thought to all the possible endings that the movie could have. As it turns out, it ended in the way I predicted, but I was not disappointed. Lawrence started the series a heroine and ends the same way. Those who want a happy ending for her will not be disappointed, but there is a tad more. I’ll leave that for those who do not mind being spoilers.

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Personal Vendetta DVD


 

This movie is not the worst film of all time, but it tries so hard to be the worst one you could ever conceive, and it fails; there are worse ones. It’s not supposed to be a comedy at all, but any regular film watcher will be in fits at the alarming rate of impending mistakes. It is excellent film school fodder to see what you can and shouldn’t do with a movie in terms of casting, script, music, direction, camera work and editing.

Where to start? The screenplay has so many clichés and expected lines you can almost play guess the next line and be correct several times. You don’t need to know the film to be able to exactly map out the plot sequence. You just know what’s going to happen next and how it will all end. The final twist is so obvious you can’t believe they actually used it. Didn’t they ask for opinions first?

If the screenwriters had spent some money getting a professional to look over their script and give a coverage report before they went into production, many of the problems may have been ironed out earlier. The dialogue was quite awful at times; many, many times.

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Here’s the blurb so you know what it’s all about:

A one-time victim who had previously suffered at the hands of her violent husband joins the police force in hopes of helping others in her situation, only to find her painful past emerging from a prison cell in director Stephen Lieb’s tense revenge thriller. Bonnie Blackwell was left for dead after being beaten to within an inch of her life by her sadistic ex-husband. Bonnie is a fighter, though, and after recovering from her injuries she quickly determines to join the Los Angeles Police Department and devote her life to the prevention of domestic violence. Her husband has recently been released from prison, however, and now in order to move on with her life this former victim must make one final stand against the man who nearly took it all.

While the film stock used is excellent (well perfect for television and download because it won’t be on at a cinema near you) some of the camera work leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a classic shot of the police lady being angry with a crook. The angle of the camera ensures that we can’t see any of the anger in the actresses’ eyes as the peak cap completely covers the top half of her face.

Music should bring the whole movie together. It shouldn’t take over. The one Roland keyboard they ordered for this job is often played at volumes so loud you can’t tell what else if happening or it varies so much when people stop talking, rather than blending in.

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The foley work needs improvement. The husband was slapping the wife around the face, but the slaps looked so soft they might not even have hurt. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have hurt in real life where it’s an abysmal action by any weak person, but in a movie it’s got to look like it hurts. The foley artist that put the slaps on later must have collected his noises from someone wanting to speed up their horse just before the race finish line. Even then the number of slaps didn’t agree with the number of blows from the male actor.

Regrettably the music doesn’t match what’s going on far too often. We have scenes of a woman being beaten up by her husband but the music tells us that we’re either at a fairground or a vampire movie.

 

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Making the Found Footage Horror Movie : Part 2


Remember, The Blair Witch Project’s success was due largely to a unique confluence of factors.Enter Blair Witch.The Blair Witch Project came out at a time when consumer camcorders had gotten so inexpensive and pervasive, our collective tolerance for lousy visuals had reached an all-time high.  The very notion of throwing a home movie on the multiplex screen seemed revolutionary.  It was a declaration of independence from corporate rule, brought to you by the good folks at Artisan Entertainment, Inc.Blair Witch was also the first major film to benefit from a viral Internet campaign. We simply hadn’t seen anything like it before. That disorientation made us stupid.

We’ve all gotten a lot smarter since then. It’s much harder to fool people now.

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Enter Scream. And The Brady Bunch Movie.

The 90s were all about “meta.” In the emerging Internet era, Gen-X’ers delighted in flaunting their media savvy, their mastery over forces that had softened previous generations to mindless mush. They congratulated themselves on their liberation from the corporate machine – secretly terrified that their sell-out parents had bred them as brain food for The Matrix. If the 50s were about the fear of reds and radioactivity, the 90s nightmare was the video vampire, the corporate Caligari. This is why “meta” movies like The Blair Witch Project and Scream gained traction to define a decade of horror.

That’s my theory, anyway.Exit Scream. Enter… what?Scream 4 (2011) fell flat because it felt irrelevant. Everything it had to say had been said before, many times. When I first heard that Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven were making a Scream for the YouTube generation, I got excited.

But the fact is they didn’t. They made a Scream for the Scream generation and threw in a couple of contemporary references as if to prove they were still hip with the kids. The definitive YouTube generation horror movie will come. I expect it to be a found-footage piece, incorporating online video and social networking to give it life beyond the film itself. I’d like to think it won’t come from a major movie studio, but from someone like you.What scares us now?

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Personally, I’d go with loss of privacy, of never knowing who or what might be watching at any given time. Between the Patriot Act, the proliferation of smart phones and online video, and the recent eruption of social networking, this is probably a good bet. Think identity theft. Government surveillance. Video blackmail, maybe. Think Twitter and Facebook. Cyber-stalking. Texting.

Getting more into the realm of fantasy: What if the Internet were sentient? What if (as in the anime Serial Experiments Lain) the online world were a kind of afterlife? What kind of story can you tell now that you couldn’t have told before this technology existed?I want to see that movie! I challenge you to make the definitive horror film for the YouTube generation. You’ve got the equipment (or can borrow it). You’ve got the talent (or can borrow it).

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The Audience is Stupid: Making the Found Footage Horror Movie


In 1999, I was stupid. When I caught The Blair Witch Project at a preview screening, I thought it was a true story. Or at least I sort of did. Or at least I sort of wanted to. Keep in mind this was before the backlash. Before the phenomenon, even.

It was exciting. It seemed real. It was weird enough to intrigue, but also – importantly – small enough that I could believe I had simply missed the story in the news.

That’s where many of Blair Witch’s bigger budget successors have gone wrong. It’s all about suspension of disbelief.  I think we’d be aware, for example, if a humongous alien monster squid had dragged a trail of slime through the streets of New York City.What is a found footage film?

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Exactly what it sounds like. Footage that was found at some point after an event, usually horrific and featuring edible students or yuppies, typically compiled, edited, and packaged by a third party for mass consumption. Some examples:The Last Exorcism (2010)Cloverfield (2008)Paranormal Activity 1,2,3 (2007-2011)The Blair Witch Project (1999)The Last Broadcast (1998)Why make a found footage film?

The best thing about this subgenre is that it’s relatively easy and cheap to produce. It takes a weakness (no budget, yucky video) and turns it into a strength. Can’t afford a RED camera? Say your protagonist carries a Flip Cam and call it an artistic choice.Why not make a found footage film? The worst thing about this subgenre is that it’s relatively easy and cheap to produce. As with most things that are easy to do, it’s hard to do well.

Don’t think you can just throw some actors together, make scary noises, and roll camera. What you’ll get is a lot of footage of actors pretending to be scared while some idiot makes noise. And don’t think you’re gonna fix it in post. You’ve got to have something to fix before you can fix it. You must have a script. Feels silly that I should even have to mention this, but there’s something about this kind of movie that makes people think they can just splatter a wall with random stuff and watch it magically coalesce into something like art.

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Your script doesn’t have to be fully written in the traditional sense. If you plan to have the actors improvise, the scripted dialog isn’t as important as the characters, the situation, the overall story. You might want to include some sample dialog in the outline, to give the actors a sense of tone, and to communicate important narrative points.

Also, think about your concept. Are you telling a story that couldn’t be told any other way? How is it different from other similar films? If you’re going with a faux-reality approach (i.e., a hoax), how are you going to stay ahead of an audience that’s played this game before?