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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes | Official Trailer 2 — In Theaters November 17th, 2023

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The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (Lionsgate Films)

The following piece was written during the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie material being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction

Release Date: 17 November 2023

Director: Francis Lawrence

Screenplay Writers: Michael Lesslie & Michael Arndt

Distributed by: Lionsgate Films

Production Companies: Colour Force & Good Universe

Cast: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Josh Andrés Rivera, Jason Schwartzman & Viola Davis

Did You Know?

This movie is based on a book by the same name that was written by Suzanne Collins. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a dystopian action-adventure novel by American author Suzanne Collins. It is a spin-off and a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. It was released on May 19, 2020, by Scholastic. 

Plot

Experience the story of The Hunger Games, 64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute, and decades before Coriolanus Snow became the tyrannical President of Panem.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows a young Coriolanus (Tom Blyth) who is the last hope for his failing lineage, the once-proud Snow family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. With his livelihood threatened, Snow is reluctantly assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a tribute from the impoverished District 12. But after Lucy Gray’s charm captivates the audience of Panem, Snow sees an opportunity to shift their fates. With everything he has worked for hanging in the balance, Snow unites with Lucy Gray to turn the odds in their favor. Battling his instincts for both good and evil, Snow sets out on a race against time to survive and reveal if he will ultimately become a songbird or a snake.

Catch the trailer online and get ready to return to the Hunger Games!

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes Official Trailer 2 (Lionsgate Movies)

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Adventure

Dune: Part 2 Review | A Real Masterpiece!

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Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides & Zendaya as Chani (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Like an oasis in the desert, Dune: Part 2 brings life to cinema in a refreshing way. Experience Denis Villeneuve’s blockbuster on the big screen, the way it was meant to be seen.

Plot

Paul Atreides unites with Chani and the Fremen while seeking revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the universe, he must prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Review

Just a word of caution, spoilers ahead.

Denis Villeneuve brought this masterpiece to life like no other. An amazing cast who really played their parts well!

The story picks up where Dune: Part 1 ended off. As you may recall from Dune: Part 1 House Atreides, led by Duke Leto Atreides, arrives on Arrakeen, with the assignment of taking charge of Arrakis, however, the assignment is short-lived as the Harkonnens along with the Sardaukar invade the Atreides family has to fight for their lives. Leto is captured, but manages to sacrifice himself to take down Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Lady Jessica and Paul Atreides, Leto’s son ends up in the desert and crosses paths with the Fremen, the inhabitants of Arrakis.

If you haven’t watched Dune: Part 1, I high recommend doing so.

Zendaya as Chani (Warner Bros. Pictures)

We see Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya reprise their roles as Paul Atreides and Chani, respectively. They bring the roles to life like water would in a desert setting and between the two halves of the movie you can see a clear transition with the role of Paul as he moves from not wanting power to eventually declaring a war.

Austin Butler as Feyd-Ratha Harkonnen (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Austin Butler portrayed the part of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. I found myself rooting so much for Feyd-Rautha just based on his story. I totally enjoyed Austin’s performance as I have watched him perform before in Elvis, and this made him a favorite already. The make-up team sure did amazing work with the Harkonnens. The fight scenes are to die for and Austin and Timothée delivers a spicy finale.

Javier Bardem as Stilgar (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Javier Bardem returns as Stilgar, leader of the Fremen. He delivers a great performance as Stilgar and is one of the strongest believers in Paul’s destiny. Josh Brolin is back as Gurney Halleck. He is one of the few who survived the invasion by the Harkonnen, and is reunited with Paul.

Dune: Part 2 combines politics with religion and warfare as the fight for control over Arrakis becomes heated when Paul accepts his destiny, declaring himself to be the prophesized Lisan al Gaib. Paul goes from fighter, riding a sandworm, to eventually leading an attack on the very emperor who encouraged the fall of House Atreides. Family dynamics play a big part as you discover that Paul is more than just a target of house Harkonnen, he is also family.

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Hans Zimmer provides musical excellence, while the cinematic experience is totally out of this world. The soundtrack of Dune: Part 2 is available on Spotify. Denis makes Arrakis real for us in vivid scenery of the main areas on Arrakis and with a story so powerful, I will always want to go back to visit the sands of Dune.

Dune: Part Two (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Hans Zimmer

The trailer doesn’t spoil much of the movie. In fact there are a few surprise appearances that will leave you hungry for more. The story delivers a plot twist at the end. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end. Dune: Part 2 has a runtime of 165 minutes.

I rate this masterpiece a 5 out of 5. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Denis has planned for Dune in the future. You don’t need to see the future to know that this is an excellent movie. Go and watch it and if possible, watch it in IMAX, how it was meant to be seen.

Frank Herbert wrote a masterpiece, and Denis Villeneuve brought it to life!

Do it for the fighters! Do it for Arrakis! Watch Dune: Part 2 at a cinema near you!

Dune Official Trailer (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Doctor Who: The Giggle, A Wildly Satisfying Finale That Teases A Promising Future

Russel T. Davies’ Whoniverse-reshaping finale is a thrilling, heartwarming, chilling, and satisfying hour of telly, that never eases up.

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SPOILER’S AHEAD!

As brilliantly put by beloved Doctor Who companion Donna Noble, “That was completely nuts!” The final episode of the three 60th anniversary specials, “The Giggle” may just well be the most bonkers, yet impeccable piece of Doctor Who TV… ever. Where last weeks special “Wild Blue Yonder” saw writer Russell T. Davies deliver a masterful episode in restrained storytelling, “The Giggle” is the showrunner unleashed. Throwing epic musical numbers, eerie moments of horror, impactful social commentary, and a divisive yet satisfying final 20 minutes result in an unrelenting hour of telly, and perhaps the best episode of Doctor Who ever.

Kicking off with John Logie Baird’s invention of the television in 1925 as well as introducing audiences to “Stooky Bill” – a real puppet who could put Annabelle to shame – “The Giggle” quickly picks up where “Wild Blue Yonder” left off. In the midst of world wide carnage, the Doctor (David Tenant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) must search for answers as to why planes are falling out of the sky, and human beings are busy beating each other up on the streets, leading the two to the celestial Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris), one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

Still from “The Giggle” (BBC Studios)

Russell T. Davies is never one to shy away from delivering a script oozing with his rightful fury at current social climates. Take previous episodes like “Midnight” “The Long Game” and “Turn Left” for example all offering impactful stories with themes of human nature, the power of media, and anti-immigration prejudice respectively. Here, Russell T. Davies satirically imitates anti-vaxers, anti-maskers, conspiracy theories, and government empathy brilliantly. Some of it may be a little on the nose – such as a hilarious and obvious dig at Boris Johnson – but it more or less works in favour of poignant, and well-crafted satire.

“The Giggle’s” mad cap, and unprecedented energy is only more apparent through the episodes many tonal shifts. Under the guise of another property, this constant tonal shift would have felt jarring. But in “The Giggle” the episode pivots in-and-out of horror, comedy, musical, and drama effortlessly, adding to episodes manic and unpredictable nature.

Keeping on theme with last weeks unnerving episode, “The Giggle” is surprisingly steeped in horror. Especially for those who suffer from pupaphobia, the fear of puppets. Whether its the imagery of that “gosh darn” creepy doll, Stooky Bill, or the Toymakers endless gothic labryinth, “The Giggle” is another terrifying episode of Doctor Who, proving once again that this sci-fi show isn’t for children. No scene is scarier perhaps than the haunting scene with Stooky Bill’s wife, Stooky Sue, who’s found crying in the corner of a dark room, before creeping towards Donna chanting a horrifying rhyme. But its all played for laughs when Donna nonchalantly beats the puppet senseless.

Still from “The Giggle” (BBC Studios)

Elsewhere, Neil Patrick Harris’ Toymaker who stole the show. His multi-faceted, and multi-accented villain proves to be the deadliest enemy the Doctor has ever faced, as well as perhaps the most entertaining. Harris’ intoxicating performance enthuses the Toymaker with fear, intelligence, and a playfulness unlike any villain we have seen before. His celestial abilities are terrifying and unparalleled, making the Master – the Doctors nemesis/best friend – look like an amateur. Through the subtle yet deeply fascinating line, “I made a jigsaw out of your history” – explaining, teasing and disregarding the recent messy Whoniverse canon with ease – the Toymaker becomes much more of a threat. Lets not forget the unexpectedly brilliant “Spice Up Your Life” musical number where the Toymaker effortlessly turns soldiers into balloons, once again proving his celestial power.

Bringing back David Tennant – the most popular actor to ever take on the role – was perhaps Davies’ wisest decision upon returning, and reviving the show. Tennant’s return doesn’t just provide a great headline for the show that would drive its viewers back after an incredibly messy past few years, but also offers a heartwarming vulnerability to a character who hasn’t stopped running, fighting, and caring for nearly two decades. The Doctor has never taken a second to grieve, or stop running. He’s lost innumerable companions, and was responsible for destroying half the universe with the Flux. A messy piece of Doctor Who canon which has now been beautifully woven into the Doctor’s character thanks to Russel T. Davies.

Davies delves into the characters vulnerability, and insecurities forcing the Doctor to question his being, and ability to save others. The line “I’m all sonic, and TARDIS, and Time lord, take that away, what am I?” is an incredibly powerful piece of character development, made all the more impactful through Tennant’s performance. The Doctor has always put himself above others, but “The Giggle”, more specifically Donna, encourages the Doctor to stop trying to sacrifice himself for others, and to instead take a second to care for himself.

With Tennant returning to the role, audiences will instantly have that connection to this version of the Doctor, making his vulnerability much more heart-wrenching, and his ending much more satisfying.

Tate was equally fantastic as she has been through all three specials. Her confident, and hilarious performance continues to prove why Donna Noble is one of the best ever Doctor Who companions, and her chemistry with Tennant is deeply infectious.

Still from “The Giggle” (BBC Studios)

The episode carried a lot of emotional stakes way before the title music kicked in, what with the episode forcing viewers to sit through another David Tennant regeneration. However, what was supposed to be an emotional finale, resulted in an unprecedented and incredibly exciting final 20 minutes. Davies introduced possibly the most divisive aspect of the show… well ever. We are of course talking about, Bi-generation. The idea that instead of changing faces, the Doctor instead becomes two Doctor’s. A current Doctor, and a new Doctor. This not only served as a great way to introduce Ncuti Gatwa, who instantly proved himself as an extraordinary Doctor, but also gives the 14th Doctor a satisfying arc that finally lets him rest.

Bi-generation is a fantastic concept for now, but in the future, this idea could lose all the emotional weight a regeneration used to harbour. Saying goodbye to a current incarnation of the Doctor was never easy. But, if Bi-generation is a continued element then no regeneration will be as impactful or emotional as it once was. For now, it was perfect.

All in all, “The Giggle” – and collectively all three specials – are some of the best work Doctor Who has ever put out. The final special of the 60th celebrations served as a satisfying and emotional goodbye to the modern era of Doctor Who and an exciting tease at the franchises future. It’s an undoubtedly bonkers satire, that blends horror, musical, comedy, and drama elements together to create the best and most heart-warming Doctor Who episode ever. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us Whovians.

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Leave the World Behind: A Visually Stunning Post-Apocalyptic Thriller With Very Little Substance

Leave the World Behind is a visually stunning post-apocalyptic thriller, plagued by overbearing themes that lack impact, and annoying characters.

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Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali

Based upon Rumaan Alam’s novel of the same name, Leave the World Behind is a visual spectacle. The film boasts a fantastic cast, and Sam Esmail, the films director, effortlessly shrouds audiences in a deeply tense atmosphere that never eases up. On its surface, Leave the World Behind is a flawless post-apocalyptic thriller However, while the film is a visual marvel, Leave the World Behind is very thin.

Netflix’s post-apocalyptic thriller tosses up plenty of interesting themes and ideas – one of which infuriated Elon Musk – but the film never does enough to drive these themes home. While Leave the World Behind is certainly up there as one of the most visually stunning films of 2023, its lack of substance results in a thin, uneven, and messy apocalyptic thriller.

Leave the World Behind follows Amanda (Julia Roberts) and her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) as they rent a luxurious home for the weekend with their kids, Archie (Charlie Evans)and Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) . Their vacation is soon upended when two strangers – G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Myha’la) – arrive in the night, bearing news of a mysterious cyberattack, who seek refuge in the house they claim is theirs. The two families reckon with a looming disaster that grows more terrifying by the minute, forcing everyone to come to terms with their places in a collapsing world.

Still From Leave the World Behind (Netflix)

There’s no denying that Leave the World Behind is a visual masterpiece. Every frame is polished and expertly crafted, and Sam Esmail’s framing, lighting, and blocking create some of the most striking shots of 2023. These shots, accompanied by the films anxiety inducing score will immerse audiences in an unbearably tense atmosphere that will never let you go. From the very first frame, to the films final moments, audiences will be on the edge of their seats with their heart pounding and their mind’s racing.

The films cast is extraordinary, with Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Mahershala Ali, and Kevin Bacon headlining the film. Each star delivers unsurprisingly great performances, and seeing all these stars act against each other – some of the best actors of all time – was a euphoric experience. Due to its unbearable tension, and of course the captivating performances from the three stars, the scene between Mahershala Ali, Kevin Bacon, and Ethan Hawke was one of the stand out scenes in film.

Likewise, the younger cast deliver equally fascinating performances. Not an easy feat considering the talent of their adult co-stars. Charlie Evans and Farrah Mackenzie are great as a brother and sister duo, but its Myha’la’s performance as Ruth, the self-confident, and cynical teenager who steals the show.

Still from Leave the World Behind (Netflix)

However, where Leave the World Behind drastically falls flat, is with its substance. The films characters aren’t at all interesting, and while the film has a lot to say, its messages aren’t impactful enough to make a lasting impression.

The characters in Leave the World Behind are simply detestable. No character is layered enough for us to care about them, and their terrible decision making and naivety become incredibly infuriating by the time the credits roll. None of the characters get arcs, or any sort of development forcing us to question why we should care about them. Instead, audiences will be watching a post-apocalyptic thriller with the stars playing themselves, as opposed to playing a character. Take that for what you will.

We have seen innumerable movies blame technology for the end of the world. Take The Matrix, or Terminator for example. But where those movies succeeded, Leave the World Behind sadly fails. Leave the World Behind has a lot to say, but the film never does enough for us to really care about it. The film tackles the impact of technology, our over reliance on it, and how it could potentially end the world. With the world enamored with streaming platforms, social media, and electric cars, our ability to live without this tech, proves extremely difficult. An interesting premise sure. But how does Leave the World Behind show this? Through a character being obsessed with Friends. We get the metaphor, and the films themes of finding comfort at the end of the world, but Leave the World Behind really hammered us over the head with it.

Similarly, as we have grown immersed in our modern world of technology, our fondness of human interaction, and trust of others has drastically dwindled. Towards the early moments of the film, its an interesting concept, but it slowly wears off.

Still from Leave the World Behind (Netflix)

All in all, Leave the World Behind is an entertaining although thin post-apocalyptic thriller. Audiences will be drawn in by the films cast, and its incredibly eerie atmosphere, and will become hooked on the films gorgeous cinematography. However, for those hoping for a multi-dimensional post-apocalyptic thriller with something to say, then Leave the World Behind isn’t for you. Its characters are irritating, and its themes are overbearing and lack impact. Its got a lot of style, but very little substance.

Leave the World Behind is now available to stream on Netflix.

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