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‘Mockingjay,’ ‘Frankenstein’ worth a watch

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II ***1/2

The story is now complete. The final Hunger Games sequel is currently showing at nearly every movie theater in the U.S., and probably in most countries worldwide that show movies. In four epic installments we followed Katniss Everdeen and the gang in the recreation of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian YA (Young Adult) novels turned into a blockbuster movie series. Like its predecessors, “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II” stars Jennifer Lawrence as rebellion leader Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peta Mallark (her conflicted part-time boyfriend), Liam Hemsworth as Everdeen’s other love interest, along with veteran actors Donald Sutherland as the cruel Panem President Snow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and Stanley Tucci giving the film much-needed star power. As is typical in the current wave of YA novels made into movies, there’s plenty of romantic melodrama simmering at or just below the surface of life and death dilemmas faced by the young heroes at every turn—in other words “the teen years.” This is the winning formula that reaches adolescents, and, if done well, is entertaining and moving for more mature audiences as well. Hunger Games has proven its viability as Hollywood gold, but don’t bother seeing this finale unless you’re caught up with the story line. Is it worth going back to the beginning? Only if you’re hungry enough.

Victor Frankenstein ***

Though this retelling of Mary Shelly’s famous Frankenstein classic starts out with real promise, lots of creative narrative and imaginative storytelling, by midpoint it turns from fantastic to just pretty good, and I guess that ain’t too bad for a long-dead monster tale. In this origins story, anglophiles enamored by early 19th Century England will particularly marvel at the filmmaker’s treatment of old London, and the barbaric conditions in which sophisticated Georgian Brits lived. Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter) as Igor gives a particularly strong performance as a mercilessly bullied young circus clown and hunchback with a brilliant mind and an eye for the beautiful young trapeze artist, Lorelei, played by Jessica Brown Findlay. Igor is recused by fanatical and unstable medical student Victor Frankenstein, played by James McAvoy, who recognizes the hunchback’s skills from a set of notebook sketches. Dr. Frankenstein and his very reluctant assistant reanimate all kinds of creepy creatures making this a true horror film with all the classic Gothic moralities in play. This is as much (maybe more so) Igor’s story, which gives the film a new twist. Young Igor, healed by Frankenstein, is loyal to a fault, and while assisting Dr. Frankenstein simultaneously pursues his former high-flying love interest, who’s good sense tells her nefarious deeds are afoot. When a Scotland Yard detective won’t leave well enough alone Frankenstein’s foul plans become exposed and we follow the cast through to an epic stormy night finale, worthy of other Frankenstein tales, proving it is possible to reanimate the dead.

What do those stars mean?

* Really, really, really bad. Don’t bother.

** Pretty bad, with one or more redeeming scenes.

*** Pretty good, but maybe not great, worth seeing for most

**** Really great, a winning combination of story, casting, and directing

***** The rarest gem, an all-around perfect motion picture

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