Spared or Spoiled Reviews: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 (Lionsgate)


Directed by Francis Lawrence

Written by Danny Strong (with Peter Craig)  Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonElizabeth BanksJulianne MoorePhilip Seymour HoffmanJeffrey WrightSam ClaflinJena MaloneStanley Tucci & Donald Sutherland

Mockingjay Part 2 picks up exactly where we left off in Part 1. These movies could be spliced together as is, except for a two second title sequence that would seem weird right in the middle of the movie. I almost expected to hear a Katniss Everdeen voice over saying, “Previously on Hunger Games.” A good movie. However my feelings on Mockingjay Part 2 are formed by my intense hatred of the new Hollywood money grab of splitting movies into parts to get more than one admission. Whenever this happens, I will continue to skip the first one and wait for the DVD and then see the second one in the theater. I’m buying ONE ticket for your ONE movie. So this time I saw Part 2 in the theater and Part 1 at home. And I liked it, so no spoilers.

Verdict: SPARED


My girl Katniss is a bad mother- “Shut your mouth.” But I’m just talking about Katniss.

What I like about the first two Hunger Games movies is that they start with a morality tale about politics & freedom and they end with a game of death in the arena. It’s a beautiful pattern. Mockingjay is the same. But because they had to split the third book into two movies, the rhythm is gone. The pattern is broken. Mockingjay is just the same as the others but they ruin it by having to make Part 1 about the politics & the propaganda and Part 2 the fight to the death. But without both parts together you don’t get the feel of the repetition. And I love that pattern about the first two. You get the politics and then you get the battle. It’s the same movie but it’s bigger each time. And I’m going to stop complaining about it but THEY RUIN IT with this money grab. I’m done.

Mockingjay Part2

“Show of hands. Who here was in the scouts? That many huh. Keeping your hands up, how many of you have cookies left?”

And before you think I’m knocking it. I’m really not knocking it. As one movie, Mockingjay is amazing. Except for maybe the normal problem when this happens where there is too much filler. Oh yeah, that’s the other problem when you have two movies but only one movie’s worth of entertainment. You have to add all this filler. I know I said I’d stop complaining but I’m trying to review half a movie here and it’s difficult. Being half a movie stretched to its limit, it starts in the middle, the pacing is all wrong, and there’s like five fucking endings. Now I’m done.


“Okay. So what am I looking at?” “Well this is where we are now.” “Great so where’s the food court?” “Do you remember where we parked?”

There’s other things to talk about though. Like my other reviews all concentrate on the politics. I love the political intrigue. I love the revolution and the propaganda. The Hunger Games is an excellent story. And I’m kind of sorry I saw the movies before reading the books. (Though I may still listen to the audio books later). In Part 2 of Part 3, the politics is in full effect and the ending (the first one) the conclusion to all this madness is perfect. It is pure perfection. I thought after all this time it would be anti-climactic. It was not.

Julianne Moore as President Coin in Mockingjay Part 2

“I wonder if anyone can tell that what I really wanted was to be an X-men.”

Jennifer Lawrence is her same amazing self. She doesn’t give her best performances in the Hunger Games movies because she knows it’s not that kind of a party. Yet she still carries all four movies (THREE!!! …sorry) on her talented shoulders. And honestly, she could blow the rest of the cast off the screen if she wanted. But they’re all decent. Philip Seymour Hoffman is noticeably silent here however, and sometimes conspicuously absent. But you can’t blame the guy for dying. So there is a scene missing at the end. And you can most definitely feel its absence.


“What do you see, Sarge? Talk to me.” “It looks like Mel’s run out of clever captions for the pictures. Everybody stay frosty. This could get ugly.”

But as a purely political movie about income inequality and the horrors of a fascist dictatorship and a state-run media and a rebellion and a revolution and the pitfalls that it creates, The Hunger Games and especially Mockingjay parts 1 & 2, without all the fantasy elements, is a phenomenally excellent example of revolution done right. Pay attention.

Katniss and Friend

“Is it true? Has Mel run out of things to say?” “I think so. He isn’t even gonna mention how this picture’s not even from Part 2.” “How can you tell?” “I’m wearing that stupid breast plate from Part 1.” “Damn it. This is serious.” “I know. Right? Stay frosty.” “You too.”

If I had to find something to criticize it would be that I assumed the arena effects were built-in to the arena. In this movie they’re in the streets and in the sewers and in the subways. Maybe I just don’t know how it works. I need to read the books. It just seems like a whole lot of construction involved to make these locations into elaborate traps.

Mockingjay Part 2

“I’m frightened, Sarge. The last two captions have just been about how Mel doesn’t know what to say. It’s all so self-referential.” “I Know. Just remember your training and it’ll all be over soon.”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a good movie as long as you watch Part 1 right before you see Part 2. Mockingjay is one very good movie cut in two parts. A movie that needs to be sewn back together as soon as fucking possible.

– Mel

Photos From Around The Block: Times Square Today

I went to Times Square last weekend. Mostly to see Mockingjay part 2 but also to get some pics of the square. I used to live in the neighborhood when I was in college. It was cool to be able to roll out of bed on New Year’s Eve and step right out into the world’s biggest party. This was back before the Disney take over or the high security after 9/11. This was back when you could still go to sex shows in the neighborhood and to seedy movie theaters that showed martial arts films and bootlegged versions of blockbusters days before release.

When I was in High School I used to work on Times Square in one of the bigger movie theaters, The Embassy. But that was even further back. Way back in the days of drug dealers, hustlers and prostitutes on every side street. I put up an old picture I took from those days a while back. Here it is again.

Embassy Times Square

Yes. I’m old. And Times Square had completely changed by the time I was in college and it’s changed even more today. I hadn’t been back to my old neighborhood in well over a decade. There are fewer cars and more people. More lights. More ads and more vendors. A ton more cops and a lot more theaters. Just a lot more of everything I think.

And oh boy has it changed.

To the pics…


The Chrysler Building in the distance.

The Chrysler is a big ass building. So that’s pretty far away. You can also see the time. It’s 4:25. The sun will be setting soon. I was hoping to get the full Times Square light show.

Reflection and Jets on a screen

Reflection and Jets on a screen

You can see the window cleaners. Another clock in the distance. It’s 5:05. And fighter jets flying by on a big screen. I remember when Times Square had just one screen.

NYPD of Ads

NYPD of Ads

Today there are at least a hundred screens all over the place. All moving ads and TV and News. It’s overwhelmingly active.


Old Buildings

The old buildings are still there but surrounded and suffocated by new ones.

Reflected Ads

Reflected Ads

The new ones are slick and sleek and ugly and piled one on top of the other. Hotel after hotel after hotel. And having lived there I get it. But still, you can’t go home again.

Heads Up

Heads Up

In my day, the streets were filled with characters. And they still are. Hustling and bustling. (What the hell is bustling anyway? I know a hustler when I see one. But a bustler?)


Lyric Theater

But the old theaters are still there and they’re still as beautiful as ever. Timeless.

Shubert Majestic

Shubert Majestic

I used to go see lots of plays and musicals and concerts. It’s all about how early you get in line and since I lived there I was often first in line.

Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood

Booth Schoenfeld

Booth Schoenfeld

They used to have half-priced tickets to fill the houses. They’d go on sale right before curtain but the line would be miles long well before. I doubt they even need to do that anymore. I think every show sells out every night. (I could be wrong)

The Big Screen Helicopter and Plane

Helicopter and Plane passing overhead

Deep Grey Sky

Deep Grey Sky

Times Square Construction

Times Square Construction


At the Crosswalk

Crazy Ex-girlfriend

Crazy Ex-girlfriend Billboards

Times Square Today

Times Square Today

Friedman Barrymore

Friedman Barrymore at dusk

I haven’t seen a Broadway show in over 20 years. I barely get out to the movies these days. So the theater is just wishful thinking. Maybe one day.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall

My first movie was at Radio City Music Hall. Lawrence of Arabia on a giant screen. I was too young to know what was going on but it was still magical. Absolutely breathtaking.

Subway Station

Subway Radio City Fridays

The Lights of Times Square

The Lights of Times Square

It took me over an hour to walk the eight blocks through the massive crowd. But of course I kept stopping to take pictures. But since I’m a New Yorker, I knew to step out-of-the-way before I stopped. If only tourist knew to do the same.

I may feel nostalgic for the way it was but Times Square is still gorgeous. And it is truly a feast for each and every one of the senses.

And speaking of feasts…

Happy Thanksgiving,

– Mel

Captain America: Civil War Trailer

Aw yeah.

Honestly this whole thing hurts my heart. Captain America and Iron Man fighting is sad.

Can’t we all just get along.

But then again…

Fuck yeah!

The last fight in the trailer where Bucky and Cap hold their own against Iron Man is sick.

This trailer has everything. Scarlet Witch flying. Black Panther being all Black Panther-y. Falcon kicking ass. And lots of cool dialogue between Cap and Tony. But what it doesn’t have… Vision, Hulk, Ant-Man… Spiderman.

Captain America Civil War

I hope it’s better than Winter Soldier. I’m not saying Winter Soldier was bad. Winter Soldier was amazing. I’m just hoping this is better.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Fantastic Four

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Fantastic Four (20th Century Fox)

Fantastic Four Poster

Directed by Josh Trank

Written by Jeremy SlaterSimon Kinberg & Josh Trank  Based on Fantastic Four by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Starring  Miles TellerMichael B. JordanKate MaraJamie BellToby KebbellReg E. Cathey & Tim Blake Nelson

Fantastic Four (2015) reminds me of like when a foreign studio makes a knock-off version of an American title. There is nothing that is Fantastic Four about this movie except maybe the character’s names and their powers (and even then barely). They could have called it the Fabulous Four. I mean they would have gotten sued but it would have been more accurate. If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know that one of my major pet peeves is when a comic book movie doesn’t respect the source material. This is a gigantic example of that. This might take awhile.

Verdict: SPOILED


Firstly, in their desire to make them younger, they made them too young. I found myself asking, “Shouldn’t they be supervised? or “Are there no adults?” and finally, “No seriously. Franklin Storm is going to send both his children to another dimension? Could he be the worst parent ever?” Reed Richards is building particle transporters in his garage when he’s like ten years old because you have to start him that early to justify Miles Teller playing the part. It is way too much of a stretch (pun intended).


Secondly, they send them with Victor von Doom (his real name. And no. No one thought that with a name like that he would eventually become a super villain). And in doing so rewrite the character and his powers and his generally everything about him. I don’t know why they keep getting Doom wrong. But every time they do the FF they get Doom all wrong. Doom is awesome and he looks awesome. Keep the comic book look. No one ever wants to keep the comic book look. That ain’t Doctor Doom.

Doctor Doom

Thirdly, well this one I kind of like. They change the justification for the group each getting different powers. The comic makes it about their personalities but the Fantastic Four movie makes it more about how they are affected by the planet in the dimension that they go to. It’s actually interesting. Nothing else about the movie is. The planet keeps them alive by giving them the powers they get. Ben is pelted with falling rocks so they make his skin solid rocks. Johnny is on fire. Reed’s is interesting because he is trying to save Victor but can’t reach him and the planet gives him the stretching powers. Sue is hit with an energy blast of light and it gives her a force field and the ability to manipulate light. But of course this is my interpretation of the visuals. They don’t explain a god damn thing.

Reed and Ben in the fourth dimension

Here’s the main problem. The Fantastic Four origin story should be enough. But it’s never enough. There has to be some villain thrown in and it crowds the story. The origin story in itself is a great story. But they speed through it. The group learning to control their powers is a good story. But here they skip over it with the words ONE YEAR LATER flashed on the screen. And because of this there is no character development or character arcs. It’s a team. You can’t give them the same amount of screen time as a solo hero. So it’s hard to identify with them or even root for them unless you’re the kind of viewer who automatically roots for whoever they say is the hero. I didn’t care about them.

Sue Storm

And Lastly, even though I knew this was going to be a bad movie. And I knew they would try to squeeze a lot of story into a short amount of time. Fantastic Four (2015) is still boring. I did not expect it to be as boring as it turns out to be. But Fantastic Four is a boring ass movie on top of all the other things wrong with it.

– Mel

But wait there’s more…

The Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four is the story of a family. You can make the Human Torch or Johnny Storm the adopted brother of Sue Storm (I have no problem with him being black) but if you fail to make them a family or to show any chemistry between the characters then it doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t mean anything.

Reed Richards

You can make Reed Richards younger but not this young. However you can still cast Miles Teller just age him. The character of Reed Richards is prematurely graying. And Ben Grimm is more than just some classmate of Reed’s who he decides to invite into space (another reason why they needed an adult by the way). Useless character.

Reed and Ben

Why does every origin of the Fantastic Four have to include some iteration of Doctor Doom? They have other enemies. It would be like the Joker being the villain in every Batman movie. But if you’re not even going to make the character be Doctor Doom from the comic then don’t use his damn name.

The Thing

Reed and Sue is a love story. Ben Grimm is a tragedy. And The Human Torch is just the torch except that he’s family. He’s Sue’s brother. People knock the previous Fantastic Four movies but at least they got the characters right. You can’t change everything. You can’t change their very essence as well as their ages and their origins and their relationships.

That’s not The Fantastic Four.

Now I’m done.

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: American Ultra

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

American Ultra (Lionsgate Films)

American Ultra Poster

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

Written by Max Landis

Starring Jesse EisenbergKristen StewartTopher GraceConnie BrittonWalton GogginsJohn LeguizamoBill Pullman & Tony Hale

American Ultra is a fun idea but it is badly executed. The directing is completely and absolutely bloody awful. The actors look like they are rewriting their dialogue and their actions while the camera is rolling. I can take or leave Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. When they’re good (and that usually means a really good script or a talented director or both) they are pretty fucking good, but when they are bad they are horrible. Some actors can shine above the material. These two can not. So without good performances, there is nothing to like about American Ultra. In a word, it is garbage. I’m going to spoil the shit out of this one.

Verdict: SPOILED

American Ultra


Jesse Eisenberg plays a stoner character who is nervous and squirrelly to such an annoying extent that I was not rooting for him. He is beyond annoying. And for some reason his girlfriend is Kristen Stewart. It makes no sense because he is so very useless. He has no memory of his past. No skills. (I mean he can draw a little and he’s supposed to be working on a creative comic book story but it is not creative or even the least bit good). He wants to take his girlfriend on vacation but has never been able to leave this small town. He has these panic attacks you see. He is what I would call a non-character. Un-written. One of the many hallmarks of lazy writing. Two-dimensional on purpose. Something a very clever 12 year-old would write.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart

It turns out he’s a super secret spy-type killer or some shit. But that is so unbelievable and the situations that he fumbles his way out of are far less conceivable than Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis or Mr. Magoo stumbling and bumbling through defeating their adversaries because Jesse’s character is actually trying to do the things that he does. But it’s so far-fetched and badly choreographed that they might as well have said he had super powers. The outlandish escapes and kills are another symptom of the bad writing. Max Landis, who wrote Chronicle and happens to be the son of John Landis, wrote the screenplay and it is awful. Nepotism is alive and well and living in Hollywood California. This should never have gotten made. It is pure garbage.

American Ultra 2

Anyway… Spoiler Alert. Kristen Stewart was of course his handler and fell in love with him and stayed after he was released from the super secret spy program. (they make the agency the CIA. I feel it would have been more believable had it been some made-up agency because it’s all so corny and cartoony) Anyone who has ever seen a movie knows that Kristen Stewart is in on the joke. It comes as no surprise but the director plays it like it’s some big reveal. Maybe with better actors this major part of the story could have landed better. It’s bad. And they think it’s cool. You can tell they think it’s cool.

Connie Britton

And then the CIA officers played by Connie Britton, Topher Grace and Tony Hale are also very bad in this. And I’ve seen all of them do better. It’s the script and the director. It’s hard to care about any of the characters because it might as well have been stated in the script that they all lost their memories too because there is nothing substantial to any of them. (In American Ultra, only John Leguizamo rises above the bad writing). And it’s silly and they’re silly but it’s difficult to know if it’s supposed to be silly because the director plays it so straight and the actors spend most of the film screaming at each other. Every character shows the brutal physical damage they take. So there is bruising and bleeding like it’s a very serious movie but the fight scenes are hysterically slap-stick, so it doesn’t fit. Except for the punchline. The last scene, after the climax, before the epilogue, is the punchline of this massive joke of a film and it only works because they show the damage.

Kristen Stewart in American Ultra

Again SPOILER ALERT. So when we get to the end, our heroes are covered in their own blood and other’s blood and bruised and beaten and surrounded by heavily armed officers with high-powered rifles and the town is burning and mayhem and carnage and blah blah blah. So after going through the movie fretting over when and where to ask his girlfriend to marry him (while killing people… it’s very stupid). He chooses that very moment, rifle scopes pointed at their chests he drops to one knee and shows her the ring. And it’s actually very sweet. (she says yes) But you have to go through miles and miles of crap to get to it. The end does not justify the means.

American Ultra 3

America Ultra is a very bad movie. A great idea that is lost in crappy dialogue, weird improvisations, mindbogglingly dumb action sequences, bad acting and extremely horrible direction. This is garbage. Straight up garbage. Absolute garbage.

– Mel