I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 | 123 min. | Rated PG-13
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci
The last time we saw Jennifer Lawrence’s beloved Katniss Everdeen, she had just finished her second Hunger Games and had been rescued by the resistance to the domineering President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Now, we find Katniss in the hands of District 13, where they groom Katniss as their heroine against the ruthless, ruling Capitol. While this continuation of the story is engaging enough to ignite interest, there is a certain fatigue to the matter.
MOCKING JAY – PART 1 is a substandard follow-up to the spectacular CATCHING FIRE. There is not much to really see in PART 1; while it’s refreshing to have a change of scenery away from the killing arenas, the final destination leaves us with very little to appreciate and anticipate.
Everything about PART 1 looks and feels different (similar to David Fincher’s ALIEN³), a necessity to keep things moving and fresh, but one fraught with more problems than ever before. Very little happens in this movie, and what little the characters accomplish is mostly futile. To add insult to injury, the end credits very clearly mark the halfway point to a larger film. If you’re attempting to prove that the last book of a series needed to be split in two for the silver screen (or three if you’re Peter Jackson), then make sure each of those parts functions as its own film.
Fortunately, though, we still have Jennifer Lawrence, and that alone is enough to keep the audience awake. Her charm and drive proves to be the strongest asset of this franchise, and she (along with more screen-time from Philip Seymour Hoffman) save PART 1 from being the ultimate disaster.
With PART 1, you’re left with a lot of big talks and even more mawkish moments. The action, tension and energy that made the first two installments worthy of your attention are all practically nonexistent here. Like the novel, there are no actual Hunger Games, and the only attempt at suspense is a scene that feels overwrought and difficult to comprehend due to the overall darkness of the film – visually, that is.
In the end, there is no sense of anticipation for the next installment. Nonetheless, PART 2 promises to offer more gripping action and drama, which ought to be something to look forward to.
MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 opens tonight.