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Ep. 078 – Mockingjay reviews, plus Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland

Grae Drake is back! She and Matt Atchity discuss their reactions to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and Ryan Fujitani shares the critics’ take on the latest chapter of the blockbuster series. Next up, Ryan covers new DVD/Blu-ray releases 22 Jump Street and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Since TV Editor Sarah Ricard is on vacation, Beki Lane jumps in to discuss the debut of State of Affairs on NBC. In the last part of the show, Grae shares her interviews with Mockingjay stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, and Sam Claflin.

This week at the movies, we’ve got just one wide release: the hotly-anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. What do the critics have to say?

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

69%

Sure, it makes business sense to stretch the Hunger Games series as far as it can go — but does it make artistic sense? Critics say the answer is a tentative yes; while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is decidedly short on action, its exceptional cast and intriguing ideas still make for compelling viewing. War is brewing throughout the land, and the skill and compassion that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has displayed in the Hunger Games has made her a folk hero for the rebellion. But while Katniss is uncomfortable in her new role as a symbol, she teams with a band of rebels in order to ensure her family’s safety and rescue her old partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capital. The pundits say The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 provides a deeper look into the trials and tribulations of District 13, even if it sometimes feels like an extended cliffhanger for the final chapter. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Lawrence’s best-reviewed films, as well as our video interviews with the stars.)

New on TV:

The pundits say The Missing (Certified Fresh at 96 percent) turns a common premise into a standout thriller, thanks to heartfelt, affecting performances.

Critics say State of Affairs (22 percent) benefits from Alfre Woodard’s talent, but this overly serious show is dragged down by Katherine Heigl’s unsympathetic character and a surfeit of unintentional laughs.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The King and the Mockingbird, a long-gestating animated fable about a despotic ruler in love with a shepherdess, is at 100 percent.

  • The Mule, starring Hugo Weaving in a black comedy about a suspected drug mule who struggles to keep from turning over his stash to the authorities, is at 94 percent.

  • Bad Hair, a drama about a nine-year-old Venezuelan boy whose mother objects to his attempts to straighten his curly locks, is at 93 percent.

  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, an atmospheric horror film about a skateboarding vampire and her tentative love affair with a blue-collar boy, is at 91 percent.

  • Happy Valley, a documentary about the Penn State community and its response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is at 84 percent.

  • Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets, a rock doc about the Britpop legends’ 2012 farewell show, is at 82 percent.

  • Little Hope Was Arson, a documentary about a spate of church burnings in rural Texas, is at 80 percent.

  • Late Phases, a horror movie about a werewolf that terrorizes a retirement community, is at 63 percent.

  • The Sleepwalker, a thriller about a simmering family resentments that come to light when a young woman is contacted by her estranged sister, is at 57 percent.

  • V/H/S: Viral, the third in the series of found-footage horror anthology films, is at 46 percent.

  • Extraterrestrial, a horror film about a group of teenagers on vacation at a secluded cabin when they come face-to-face with an alien invasion, is at 38 percent.

  • Reach Me, starring Kyra Sedgwick and Sylvester Stallone in a drama about a mysterious author who inspires a cult following, is at zero percent.

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Ep. 075 – New movies & TV, plus Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels & Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy

Matt Atchity, Grae Drake and Tim Ryan start the show with this week’s big movies – Dumb & Dumber To, Beyond the Lights, Rosewater and Foxcatcher, and Grae shares a quick interview with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Editor Ryan Fujitani then steps in to talk about this week’s new DVD/Blu-ray releases How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys and Tammy. Then TV Editor Sarah Ricard shares the critics’ reaction the series premieres of The Missing and State of Affairs. The second half of the show features an extended interview with Dan Gilroy, director of Nightcrawler.

If it involves the world’s most beautiful woman, then it’s more than a little newsworthy here at Rotten Tomatoes: Jennifer Connelly has a new gig! She’ll be starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Edward Zwick‘s dramatic thriller "The Blood Diamond."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film "centers on a poor African farmer who gets caught up in a conflict between an American diamond smuggler (DiCaprio) and the syndicate that controls the local diamond mining industry.

The story is by Charles Leavitt and C. Gaby Mitchell, with a screenplay by Leavitt and Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz."

And yes, Jennifer Connelly is absolutely the world’s most beautiful woman. It’s been proven by scientists at M.I.T. and NASA.

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