3 new movie reviews in brief: Mockingjay Part 2, Brooklyn, The Night Before

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2

Film Review The Hunger Games Mockingjay -- Part 2

Jennifer Lawrence is somber and sullen as Katniss Everdeen in the final instalment of The Hunger Games series. (Murray Close/Lionsgate/Associated Press)

Just about the best thing you can say about The Hunger Games final is: it’s over. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the exhausting title of the final movie in the series that began in 2012. We rejoin Panem’s rebels, who are about to take on the capital, but each of those familiar faces is hiding scars. Katniss, as played by Jennifer Lawrence, is somber and sullen, still recovering from being attacked by Peta. For his part, Josh Hutcherson’s Peta is scrambled and confused after being tortured in the capital, while Gale – poor Gale (Liam Hemsworth) – sulks in the corner.  

Katniss may be sharpening her arrows to take out the evil President Snow, but the biggest villain here is greed and the decision to split Suzanne Collins’ pulse-pounding final Hunger Games novel into two separate films. Instead of the book’s jam-packed ramp-up to war coupled with a sobering finale, what we get with this movie is a slow, brutal slog.

As the uneasy moral centre and what increasingly seems like a one-note role, this Katniss is a waste of Lawrence’s bold, vivacious talent. Hutcherson easily acts circles around Hemsworth’s pouting pretty boy Gale. A special nod goes to Elden Henson as the mute Pollux: he’s a tour-de-force without uttering a word. The only actor who seems to be enjoying himself is Donald Sutherland as Snow, the increasingly unhinged leader leering like a jackal at all the blood he’s spilt. Of course, the concluding chapter of The Hunger Games was never supposed to be fun, but with all the effort expended to get here, this final showdown feels strangely anticlimactic. 

— 3 out of 5 stars


Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan transforms from hesitant girl to worldly woman as Eilis in the 1950s-era romantic drama Brooklyn. (Kerry Brown/Fox Searchlight/Associated Press)

In 2009, Nick Hornby helped the world discover Carey Mulligan with his smart script for An Education: her portrayal of a self-possessed teenager kickstarted her career. With Brooklyn, Hornby may have done it again. Though Irish actress Saoirse Ronan has starred in some gems (Hannah and Atonement for starters), Brooklyn could have whole new legion of fans learning to pronounce her name (tip: it rhymes with “inertia”).

Not a melodrama, nor stuffy period piece, Brooklyn is a bold, beautiful romance that stretches across the Atlantic. Ronan stars as Eilis, a quiet, determined young woman who leaves rural Ireland to find a new life in New York in the 1950s. At first, she’s homesick: a pale, awkward girl with an accent and shabby clothes. But everything changes when she meets Tony, a cocksure Italian-American with a thing for Irish girls.   

Shooting in a faded Kodachrome palette, director John Crowley presents Brooklyn as an epic journey – not just of a teen crossing an ocean, but Eilis‘ transformation from hesitant girl to worldly woman. Looking at Ronan at the end, you’d swear she’s grown a foot taller. It’s the way she holds herself. It’s the people in her life she’s been forced to confront. It’s those eyes – like blue searchlights – taking everything in and missing nothing.

— 4 out of 5 stars


The Night Before

Film Review-The Night Before

Seth Rogen, seen with actress Jillian Bell, reteams with 50/50 director Jonathan Levine and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the raucous holiday comedy The Night Before. (Sarah Shatz/Columbia Pictures/Associated Press)

Seth Rogen and friends put the high back in holiday with their raucous, Christmas-themed comedy The Night Before. Director Jonathan Levine reteams with the actors from 50/50 – Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – while adding Anthony Mackie for this tale of friends heading out for one final wild night.  

The formula might feel familiar, but the gusto with which the boys go at it is gobsmacking. Rogen’s physical comedy –as a soon-to-be-dad chasing magic mushrooms – features facial expressions that would put Vincent Price to shame. Gordon-Levitt provides the soul of the story as an aimless slacker still wounded by the crash that took his parents many Christmases ago. Finally, Mackie delivers as an insecure football star selling his soul one Tweet at a time.  

To round out this Christmas punch bowl of debauchery, Levine cast performers who give fresh riffs on a holiday tale, including Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer as a certain Seuss-inspired villain and Michael Shannon (!) as local weed dealer Mr. Green. The latter’s turn as the raspy, toque-wearing drug guru is reason enough to book a babysitter and see this in theatres. Throw in Miley Cyrus, Canada’s own Nathan Fielder, Tracy Morgan as well as Mindy Kaling and The Night Before adds up to an x-rated Xmas mirth bomb. Sure, the eggnog gets syrupy at the end, but hey, it is a holiday movie after all. 

— 4.5 out of 5 stars

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