If you don’t know who The Boy Who Lived is, I wonder if the rock you are living under is cozy. If you do know who he is, I’m happy you’ve gotten to experience his world. This Monday, June 26th, marks the twenty year anniversary of when his story was first available. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first released in the UK on this date, and it’s been twenty amazing, magical years.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” picks up where Part 1 left off, and as the final installment in Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy, it sees Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) last attempts at putting an end to the oppression brought upon by Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland). That build up and that final encounter would have been better suited for “Mockingjay – Part 1,” as the lull in between parts dampened what was at stake. “Mockingjay” the novel should not have been broken up into two parts; there was just too much time to fill with things that did nothing to build upon the stakes that were already there from the first two installments. Though action packed and exciting in parts, “Mockingjay – Part 2” is a bit of a laborious task to sit through.
Films based off of books rarely work as well as their source material, but every so often one comes along that pays perfect tribute to its written form. “Goosebumps” is a newly released Rob Letterman directed film based off of the classic 90’s book series of the same name by R.L. Stine. The film pays homage to the many ghoulish creatures Stine created, some so iconic they actually elicit a surge of nostalgic love when they’re doing their best to be scary. It’s a film that really harkens back to the original series and the youthful fright of excitement it provokes and to the writer Stine is. Not nearly a groundbreaking foray into film, “Goosebumps” is an odd example of that not mattering; the film is exciting fun throughout.
Peter Pan is one of the more iconic characters within the children’s literature world, the work of J.M. Barrie providing his background. Pan’s story has been most notably made popular via Disney’s animated film, but a new Joe Wright directed live-action film, “Pan,” offers a reimagining of the original mythos, taking us back to a time before Peterbecame Peter Pan. It’s an origin story, giving us insight into the lovable and iconic characters of Peter Pan (Levi Miller), James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), and Mr. Smee (Adeel Akhtar). But the main charm of who Peter Pan is widely known as is lost in “Pan,” just a shred of his fun loving, adventure seeking personality remaining. The story of this reimagined origin takes everything away from the original themes that make Peter Pan the character and Peter Pan the story so beloved, which is a shame because there’s a major forlorn existence of Peter that is critical in making him the character he deserves to be.
“The Martian” is a Ridley Scott science fiction directed film following the journey of Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he fights to live in solitude on the planet Mars after being left behind during an exploration mission. Based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it’s a book-to-film project that actually sustains the acclaim from its source material. It’s a film largely about solitude, science and exploration, and using knowledge to solve problem after problem. It’s a visual delight with storytelling that at times seems dauntingly laborious, but is whittled down to showcase the core themes presented throughout.
“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” is the follow up to 2014’s “The Maze Runner,” both directed by Wes Ball. Based upon the novel of the same name by James Dashner, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” continues the adventures of Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the rest of the Gladers as they traverse a barren wasteland in order to save their lives. Aside from that loose outline of the plot, the film manages to divert away from many of the main events of the novel, which is similar to the way the first installment was presented. And like the original “The Maze Runner,” this sequel loses a lot of the feeling and intrigue—feeling and intrigue that was critical in making the novel a page-turner—when translated from book to film.
“Paper Towns” is a recent book-to-film adaptation, the novel of which was written byJohn Green (author of “The Fault in Our Stars”). Sitting idly in the teen romancedramedy genre, “Paper Towns” is not likely to achieve the same acclaim “The Fault in Our Stars” achieved due to the lack of depth and development to the characters or plot. What it does manage, however, is to inspire the start of something, to break free, and to expand horizons before it’s too late, but even that’s done almost halfheartedly, the substance of the message feeling as papery as the film’s title.
Disney’s newest live-action foray into their long repertoire of fairy tale princesses is “Cinderella” which is directed Kenneth Branagh. The film sticks true to the iconic princess who is perhaps most popular as the face of the Disney Princess franchise. For a tale that has been iterated in many different ways, “Cinderella” manages to reel in the many inspirational tales of years past and bring the story back to its roots in an awe-inspiring way. It is a great addition to the already extensive interpretations of the many tales Disney has to offer.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the concluding chapter of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, and the final installment of our film adventures in Middle-earth. This film ties up the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he joins forces with a group ofdwarves guided by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim their land and home under the mountain that has been overtaken by Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a fiery dragon who hoards all the gold there. As a final piece in a saga that’s spanned over a decade long, “The Battle of the Five Armies” is slightly a let-down, hardly being the fitting finish one would expect. However, as the movie trudges on (just shy of the 2 and a half hour mark) the action intensifies and the stakes rise, making it a decent addition to the franchise.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1” is the penultimate film installment of “The Hunger Games” book trilogy starringJennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. The film breaks down the first half of the third book, “Mockingjay,” into two hours of anticipation of the final confrontation between Katniss and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). While it was great to see the film take its time in building up this final altercation into two separate films, it was perhaps done with a book that wasn’t as exciting as the previous two. Still, seeing the efforts of the destroyed and rebuilt District 13 trying to usurp the Capitol by unifying all the remaining Panem districts was a great way to showcase the rise of a rebellion in the eyes of the suppressed.