Hunger Games: Mockingjay, or How to Build a Rebellion

Review by Slewo Oshana

So like a lot of people in America, I first became aware of the Hunger Games franchise by way of the movie adaptation. And like most of America I fell in love with the world, the characters, and the things it reflected about our own current pop culture. I even enjoyed Catching Fire as well, and was looking forward to Mockingjay. Although, frankly I cannot say I was a fan of this third…sorry, third and ½ part of the series.

A large part of the appeal of the Hunger Games series has been the breadth of well-developed (or at least appealing) characters that have come to life over the series, in addition to the writing that utilized our obsession with reality television, and how it plays into our own ignorance of the problems of the world: both internal and external. I’m not here to rehash any of that though; the problem with this movie is that it severely lacks these qualities that made the previous movies relevant. That’s not to say there’s nothing good about the film, by far there are a lot of things that are or could be great elements.

At the beginning of the film Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles trying to channel the rebellious spirit and righteous anger that she came to embody to her supporters, for an anti-Capitol propaganda ad on behalf of District 13. It plays a lot of what made the first and second films so appealing to me with the focus on perception and controlling the public with a spectacle. Along with Woody Harrelson’s return for a third take on Haymitch, who even sobering up can’t resist with the quips, which adds some needed levity to a self-serious film. Which presents one of the big problems with the film, when the film travels even ever-so-slightly- off the beaten path of the plot, there’s some good moments when the film is just allowed to pick at a scab for a second and have some fun, it actually gives the actors great material to work with. Which is the biggest problem: the actors have very little to work with that’s off the beaten path.

This isn’t really their own fault of course; it’s charting a path given to it by the books. Which when you’re coming from the previous two films in the franchise makes it very hard to digest when you’re expecting a slightly different problem. However, the other problem is that this material isn’t very unique. While Mockingjay pokes fun at writer clichés, it also falls victim to them. Clichés by themselves are not a problem, obviously movies are filled with them, but Mockingjay falls victim to many detrimental ones. One of the biggest flaws being, that it constantly leans on past events in order to stir emotional resonance with the audience. Whether that is bringing up past Katniss emotional speeches, flashbacks from the previous movie, or references to events both people in a conversation would have went through.

None of this by itself is a bad thing, but it makes the story feel toothless when it introduces a litany of new characters who with the exception of probably President Coin (played by Julianne Moore), are just there to serve a plot purpose and nothing more. While again, I do understand this is due to it being an adaptation, that also allows it to make changes and with characters fighting for screen time already, the lack of dimensionality makes it all the worse.

That being said, I think Part 2 can reverse itself if it returns more to trying to the character development and the social commentary that made the first 2 films successful. As it is the third film has too many characters with varying levels of dimension, a fairly generic rebellion story, and a lack of an ending. Speaking of that ending, multi-part final films are a staple of American cinema at this point.

While its equal parts a way of expanding story, and of course to extend the moneymaking by letting the series have more air, it’s perpetually annoying. It doesn’t help that in this case the film barely has an ending so much as an intermission, and when ticket prices can go from 9-13 dollars at a cinema, that’s an insult to the moviegoers. Hopefully, Mockingjay Part 2 can deliver on the promise of the buildup this hype has built, and Part1 was simply an aberration.

Some of the Black Friday deals coming for gamers

Black Friday is a week away. If you have held out on getting certain games and systems, now may be a good chance to act now for the holidays.   Below are some of the best picks you may want to act on. Make sure you read the fine print as you click the links.

Microsoft – Many stores have taken advantage of the price drop and have bundled the Xbox One and right now it looks like Best Buy has one of the biggest deals out there. 2 Assassin’s Creed games are bundled in this deal for $330!   Click Here.   Microsoft will also have their own sale going on although it looks like they will be matching brick and mortar retailers. Click here for more.     Walmart’s XBone bundle will include Halo Master Chief Collection. Click here

Sony – GameStop is also running the same deal as Best Buy with the Xbone and also the PS4 for $400 with 2 games. GTA V and The Last of Us digital download. Click Here. Walmart will be carrying a GTA V Bundle for $450 and a choice of 2 games. Click here

Nintendo – staying with Gamestop, (and you can also use the link above) GameStop will sell the NES Edition of the 3DS at $199. If you have 100 dollars more, you can nab a Wii U bundle (w/ Super Mario 3D)

A few games and gadgets of note up for sale (Please note these deals can change prior to Friday and quantities are limited)

Disney Infinity Marvel Heroes set

Google Chromecast

McFarlane Toys

The Evil Within

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

Pop Culture Uncovered #10 – “Would you like to play a game?”

Click here to listen

In this episode, Aitch and company entertain a full house. We start off with our comics reviews and previews but the bulk of this episode we spend looking at the Xbox One and Playstation 4 as we look at how they are holding up one year in.

This week we look at:
Operation HomeFront / Wounded Warrior event
The upcoming VA Comic Con – http://vacomicon.com/

In our Reviews
Fade Out #3
Batman Eternal #32
Lock and Key Slipcase Set TPB
All New Captain America #1
Deep State #1

In our Pull List for November 19, 2014

Loki, Agent of Asgard #8 (Axis)
Injustice: Gods among us #4
Wonder Woman #36
Batman and Robin #36

In our Roundtable, we look at the state of gaming and the next gen consoles. Some of the issues we focus on are:
Major Game releases for 2014
Upcoming Games for 2015
Has the Xbox One and PS4 lived up to their promise
Connectivity issues and server outages
Ubisoft failings
Are exclusives still important
To micro transact and DLC or not?

and so much more…

Catch us at
Popcultureuncovered.com
Email us at Pcupress@gmail.com
Twitter – @PCUncovered
Follow – Femmes in the Fridge and Pete goes to comic con
Listen to us via:
iTunes, Stitcher , and our App on Windows Phone

Dragon Age Inquisition: 1st Impressions

**As I have not had enough time to play this game long enough to give it a full review, this is a 1st impression of the game with the time that I put in so far.**

To start, many reviews are already out and so far they are really glowing with this game and I can see why. This game is a back to basics approach similar to what we got when Dragon Age: Origins first appeared back in 2009.   Looking at this game, it’s hard to not compare it with Skyrim but suffice to say, it feels like it’s enough to keep me busy until at minimum, The Witcher 3 comes along or whatever the next gen Elder Scroll game drops since there is still confusion if the online game is coming to consoles.

Presentation

DA:I starts off a bit bumpy as your character wakes up after a large explosion of some kind kills most of the leadership of Ferelden. It’s confusing because not a lot of that is given via cut scenes as things ‘just happens’. It takes a while for the whole story to come together as your hero and your party explore the land trying to find out how you play a part in the opening of rifts across the land. One thing I do like even though it’s a bit of a mixed bag is, similar to Mass Effect, you have the ability to carry your past games into the present one. Don’t worry if youo played on last gen consoles, because if you have an account online with the Dragon’s Keep you can apply it to the game or even if you haven’t you can jump in and get filled in with the past games as you go. Another part is the character creation screen. With the jump to next gen systems, you have so much more you can do with making your characters but I felt like you were really limited in the types of hair styles you can give your character. Sorry guys, but I have to admit, I was a bit peeved that there was no way I could give my character dreadlocks. One good thing that Bioware has kept up with of course, is that also like the Mass Effect games, your character has spoken dialogue and each choice is vocalized driving the story. If you have played other Bioware titles, then you know how much of the story is driven with your choices via cutscences and it affects how people view you due to your choices.

Gameplay and control

Not a lot I can add here except that it feels like a Bioware game. Early on you are restricted to where you can go and what you can do but as it opens up, there is a bit more freedom to roam unlike the earlier games. Combat is fluid as well and also as noted in a few reviews, you can use a tactical camera to control your party in battle and I also agree with the complaint that in some cases, the camera doesn’t pan out far enough to pick up on enemies just beyond the screen.

Graphics

Maybe I am that one in the minority, but so far the graphics in this game are a bit of a mixed bag. While it’s easy to tell this is a next gen game (running on the Xbox One), a lot of the game looks ‘artificial’ and this is where my comparison of Skyrim comes in. Skyrim’s environment even for it to be a 3 year old game and running on a good PC rig was beautiful to look at and not saying that DA:I isn’t but for some reason, it doesn’t have that same immersive impact that Skyrim has. It’s not a bad looking game, don’t get me wrong, but you just have to see it to believe it.   Depending on how it looks to you, in my opinion, it’s not bad enough to not play the game. I think it’s suffice to say that Bioware has a graphical standard when doing games and Bethesda has another, this the games have a certain look.

Should you get it?

Yes! This is one of the first epic RPGs coming for the new consoles and ever since this game was announced, I was onboard. So far, this game makes up for DA II and gives us RPGS fanatics something to look forward to until other titles make their way to these consoles. You have a large amount of side quests to keep you busy in the early hours, a lot of lore to consume and so much more. It’s going to be difficult to divide time between this, GTA V, Far Cry IV and so many other game releases but trust me, this is the game that you want to play in the cold months coming.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is set to drop on all systems on Tuesday, November 18, 2014…along with GTA V, and Far Cry IV.  Prepare to be broke.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Review

By Armand Hill

I have to admit Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been one of the games I’ve been looking forward to the most this season. While its being released on last gen and next gen consoles, this will be the second Call of Duty game to be released on next gen systems. Advanced Warfare represents a break from the previous iterations of the franchise (Modern Warfare, Black Ops, and last year’s Ghosts) and a literal jump forward to the future. With a new campaign featuring Kevin Spacy (House of Cards, Usual Suspects, Superman Returns) and a multiplayer mode significantly different from years past, I had high expectations, some of which where met, others unfortunately were not.

Campaign

The campaign story for Call of Duty begins in 2016 with the invasion of South Korea by the North. It’s apparent from the opening minutes that  the major addition to Advanced Warfare is the exoskeleton. Sledgehammer Games took great care in making sure the exoskeleton doesn’t come off like a Halo knock off.  It definitely gives a player a sense of power with features like boost jump and other exo abilities but at no time will you drift into thinking that your playing Destiny, another Activision FPS. Following the death of your best friend in the first mission and the loss of your arm, the player takes a job with Atlas, a incredibly powerful military contractor headed by your friend’s father Jonathan Irons played by Kevin Spacy. The initial antagonist is Hades, leader of the KVA, an anti technology terrorist group. Predictably however the player ends up in conflict with Irons and Atlas who are revealed to have allowed a massive global terrorist attack by the KVA to be successful in order to profit from the aftermath.
Call of Duty has a history of controversial/thought provoking moments in its campaigns.  Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 had the shooting of innocent civilians in a Russian Airport as part of your attempt to infiltrate a terrorist cell. In Advanced Warfare the moment was riding on a transport home following the first mission of the game with the remains of your fellow Marines following the U.S. Military’s efforts to prevent the invasion of South Korea by the North. This part of the game concludes with you tending your best friend’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. I haven’t been able to come a a definitive conclusion about whether this was a genuine attempt to expose gamers to the realities of armed conflict or whether the inclusion of this moment is cheap and exploitative. To its credit it made me think, and that at least in my mind is rare for a modern major console release. [Its important for me to note that Call of Duty has a history of supporting veterans, most recently selling Call of Duty limited edition dog tags to place 1,000 veterans in high quality jobs].

I can’t really voice a complaint about the game play but at the same time I wasn’t wowed by it either. The controls were everything that you would expect from a Call of Duty game, accurate and responsive, and the new grenades definitely were a plus. Still the campaign failed to really grab me. It could be that I’ve spend to much time playing previous Call of Duty’s but the campaign mode even with the addition of Kevin Spacy failed to generate a lot of enthusiasm for me. The story is fairly predictable and the exoskeleton while interesting and a nice twist fails to be able to carry the campaign mode all on its own.

Multiplayer

This is not your older brother’s Call of Duty when it comes to the multiplayer. There is an impressive amount of customization from the cosmetic to the essential, players are given the ability to alter just about anything. This marks a major change from Call of Duty Ghosts, which allowed for limited customization based upon your achievements in the multiplayer mode, customization is available to all players from the very beginning.

Another significant change to multiplayer is the exoskeleton itself. Players are genuinely more mobile than any previous version of the game. Seasoned players will have to make the adjustment to having to worry about attacks from above and the overall faster pace of the game. The change in speed isn’t for everyone and I can imagine that some players might find themselves playing Ghosts for a more traditional experience.

At it’s heart the multiplayer is still about your kill to death ratio and making it to the next prestige level as quickly as possible. The new changes do make the grind to level 50 and back again a enjoyable one.

 

Overall

 

Ultimately Call of Duty Advanced Warfare is a good but not great game. I found the story mode in Destiny to be more enjoyable than Advanced Warfare campaign even with Kevin Spacy, which is something that I did not expect. Advanced Warfare isn’t the transcendent FPS title this year the way it has in years past.  This entry in the series is definitely worth playing but something is going to have to be done in order for this franchise to avoid the fate Assassin’s Creed and Madden, where even devoted fans don’t show for every new title and frequently skip years.  For the time being however Advanced Warfare is just advanced enough to merit a purchase.

 

 

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