The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 Review: Thrilling end to an intelligent action adventure saga  

The Hunger Games movie saga, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as revolutionary poster girl Katniss Everdeen, reaches its conclusion with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. I saw it last week, and the review embargo has just been lifted.

The series – based on Suzanne Collin’s popular book trilogy – took me by surprise. I was lukewarm about the initial instalment, both before and after seeing it. In hindsight, this is probably not because of the quality of the film itself (directed by Gary Ross), but rather my own prejudice.

The Hunger Games: A Running Man and Battle Royale rip off?

As a teen I had seen Arnie in The Running Man (1987) – based on a book and set in a dystopian future where the state sanctions a TV death match as a means of pacifying the populace. Later, I had marvelled at the magnificent Japanese movie Battle Royale (2000) – also based on a book and set in a dystopian future where the state sanctions a TV death match as a means of pacifying the populace.

Sound familiar?

So with what seemed to be the same set up – teenage ‘tributes’ battling to the death for the masses on mass media – it was through this lens that I watched The Hunger Games (2012). As far as I was concerned it was as expected – largely derivative of Battle Royale and The Running Man (the latter of which isn’t even particularly good) with added YA (young adult fiction) dust.

But looking back, the beginnings were there for what has become an intelligent an engaging saga. With Francis Lawrence installed as the new director for the rest of the series, the first sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) added layers of political and media commentary & satire, while remaining true to being a YA action adventure. The first part of the follow up story The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) took us into the territory of the war film, which is where this concluding chapter remains.

Jennifer Lawrence embodies the how good a female action hero can be

Central to the success of this saga remains the confident and engaging performance from Jennifer Lawrence, who as Katniss Everdeen has come to embody how powerful a well realised female action hero can be.

The film picks up immediately after the events of Part 1 – Katniss is suffering both mentally and physically from the effects of being almost strangled to death by her former District 12 fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who has been brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) into believing that Katniss is evil.

The new Katniss/Peeta dynamic is central to their relationship in this film. Katniss spends much of the story afraid of him, and lamenting that the Peeta she knew is gone. He in turn is full of hate for Katniss, and simply wants to kill her. Despite their mutual distrust/loathing, they are thrown together for the sake of the continuing media battle of Penem, and the pair’s importance as propaganda puppets.

Katniss Everdeen – not just a symbol of revolution

Katniss is beginning to tire of being used as a political tool, this time by President Coin (Julianne Moore). In this film, Katniss finally decides it’s time to write her own story. Like Peeta’s hate for Katniss, she has a singular vengeful purpose now – to kill President Snow. As far as she’s concerned he is solely responsible for the misery of the world about her. She wants to see him dead, and preferably by her hand.

Also remaining in the mix is Gale (Liam Hemsworth). As well as his ongoing role in the love triangle with Katniss and Peeta, he continues his transformation into a callous revolutionary fighter – displaying a crueller streak than before. He is another character hardened by the ongoing war.

Of the other key players, President Snow continues his unsettling relationship with Katniss, and Sutherland is as sinister as ever. In not dissimilar fashion, Julianne Moore’s President Coin is on the surface a heroic leader, but what lies beneath is also troubling. Her determination to control Katniss plays out in the wider context of the war and its aftermath.

The Hunger Games reimagined

There are no ‘Hunger Games’ per se in this movie. Instead, Snow deploys the gamemakers to devise ever more imaginative (and TV friendly) ways to defend the city from the invading rebel army. This leads to some visually stunning scenes, but the stand-out sequence is a subterranean set-piece that is as tense and exciting as anything you are likely to see this year. Jennifer Lawrence displays Katniss’s archery skills to full effect, in a thrilling ensemble action scene.

The previous film suffered from an obvious fault – it was only part of the story, where not very much happened, and there was very little payoff. The whole thing felt like a preamble towards the next instalment.

But this film is given the chance to explore themes and characters fully. It brings the story to a satisfying conclusion, in a way that is surprising, dramatic, and powerful. Friendships are shattered, and loved ones are lost. For everyone left standing at the end, the world will never be the same.

All is not perfect with this concluding chapter. The story has a clear conclusion, and what follows is a lengthy epilogue that is crying out for a pair of scissors to wrap up the story with the brevity it deserves. It’s not quite Return of the King level, but disappointing all the same. Also, while I’m not familiar with the books, a few of the characters seem to get short shrift in the movie, despite the 2hr+ running time.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last movie

Someone who certainly doesn’t feel absent – but with less do do than previously – is Philip Seymour Hoffman. He died during filming and before his scenes had been completed. I think I spotted a couple of occasions where he may have been digitally inserted into scenes, and there appears to have been one obviously important passage that was rewritten for another actor. But I was on the lookout for these instances and I don’t feel they will distract from the story.

Overall, this is an engaging conclusion to a saga that began with what seemed to be less ambitious aims. The series has cleverly dealt with themes of political manipulation, propaganda, and the damaging effects of war on society. These are all messages that are of great relevance today, and will continue to be so.

The fact that these ideas are dealt with so thoughtfully within an exciting action adventure, that appeals especially to teens, is a great credit to all involved with this – from author Suzanne Collins to the actors and filmmakers. Teens obviously have a natural defiance against authority and the status quo. These stories highlight the positives of that attitude, and how we would all do well to remember that feeling as we move beyond those years.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen has inspired a generation of girls

The character of Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence’s terrific performance, will continue to be a benchmark for female led action adventures. She has inspired a generation of girls to aspire to become confident and proud women, and hopefully educated their male peers to accept this as a reality.

The Hunger Games series has demonstrated once and for all that the time of the female led action adventure is now. That they can be engaging across a series of movies and be hugely popular with audiences, especially if created with integrity, respect, and intelligence like this series.

Fa`mily Fever

Immerse Yourself in Star Wars With This Stormtrooper Homeware Set

Being a fan of something – and showing that fandom – has many outlets these days. As well as toys, there are clothes, accessories, and homewares.

My daughter is easily identifiable as a Star Wars fan, and was lucky enough to be sent this great Stormtrooper set from Character World.

The classic stormtrooper look has always been a favourite of mine, and now it’s one of my daughter’s too. Their distinctive black & white design lends itself well to reproduction, as these items show.

The classic Stormtrooper rug (ok, among other items) has added an eye catching Star Wars look to my daughter’s room.

The trooper cushion has become more of a toy to cuddle, though other times she likes to pretend it’s a mask!

The force is strong in my family….

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The trooper look has been updated for the forthcoming The Force Awakens.

STAR508 AWAKEN SINGLE 91 ROTARY2It is this design that features on the single pillow and duvet set. These new troopers also look pretty good when reproduced, although I think the duvet isn’t as visually striking as the classic trooper items. It is also reversible with a fabric design that matches the pillow on the reverse.

As with many of these things, the stated target market is young boys, but don’t let that make you think for a second that these are not for girls too.

My daughter loves this set, and her favourite is definitely the cushion. As she currently favours the classic Stormtrooper look (that may change once she has a chance to check out the new movie) this was always going to be a hit, plus it’s a good size for her to play with.

She also calls it Stormy (who is a ‘she’ in case you were wondering – take that Captain Phasma).

The use of the stormtrooper design on all these items is nicely realised (although as mentioned I favour old trooper over new). All items are made of artificial materials if that’s something you look out for.

If you like the look of these and you’re feeling lucky, why not enter our giveaway?

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Bedding: RRP £15.99

Cushion: RRP £14.99

Mat: RRP £19.99 

We received all these items free of charge from Character World for the purposes of this review.


What Stormtrooper / Star Wars homeware items would you like to have in your home? Please comment below.

Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Female characters used to be a rare occurrence in Star Wars. In the original trilogy there was Princess Leia of course, but the likes of Aunt Beru and her blue milk, Mon Mothma mourning her Bothan spies, and… um, oh Toryn Farr who fired the Ion Cannon on Hoth, made fleeting appearances. It wasn’t too much better in the prequels. Continue reading Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Our Spider-Senses Are Tingling Over This Spider-Man Kids Backpack

For any of you who think I am indoctrinating my daughter into a life mini-me of geekdom, here’s a fact for you – unlike me, she doesn’t like Spider-Man anymore.

However, she loves Spider-Girl – and luckily her outfit looks an awful lot like Spider-Man’s.

This similarity works for this terrific LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack that my daughter was very happy to receive.

My daughter is adamant her new LittleLife Spidey Daysack is a Spider-Girl one.

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The Spidey mask is an iconic design, and it’s effectively used as the basis for this kids day sack, which is also assembled to match the shape of the masked Spidey face. As an added bonus, the whites of Spidey’s eyes are also highly-reflective, adding to your child’s visibility as the days get darker.

As well as being (to me) a stylishly designed accessory it’s also a really well made backpack. The materials are sturdy, the adjustable padded straps and secure buckles are high quality, and it has a lot of room for what she needs to pack for outings or a day at nursery. It also has a top handle for carrying or hanging, plus an internal name & address label should you want to fill it in.

If you likes facts and figures, the main details for this Spider-Man Day Sack are:

  • Weight: 220g
  • Dimensions: 14cm x 22cm x 30cm
  • Capacity: 4 Litres
  • Suitable for Ages: 3+ Years (with no upper age limit stated!)
  • Additional Features: Reflective Eyes

This is a great product, and I’m really glad we have it. And not just because it’s a Spider-Man Girl one.


Unfortunately, the Spidey Day Sack doesn’t come with an inbuilt Spider-Sense. But instead, we were sent this terrific Family First Aid Kit for us to deal with any accidents our Spider-sense would have prevented. This kit has pretty much everything you could need to deal with most bumps, scrapes or worse when on the go with your kids.

LittleLIfe Family First Aid Kit

Here’s a list of what it includes:

  • Primary care leaflet
  • 25g Sudocrem
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Forehead thermometer
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Nappy sacks
  • Micropore tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Medium and small eyepad dressings
  • Low adherent dressing
  • Fabric dressing strip
  • Wound closure strips
  • Gauze swabs
  • Plasters
  • Woven bandage
  • Crepe bandage
  • Triangular bandage
  • Safety pins
  • Burn gel
  • Eye wash

And last but not least:

  • ‘Brave Little Star’ stickers (magical adhesives that reduce crying times enormously)

It’s all efficiently packed up in a tidy zip-up bag that measures only 17 x 12 x 7cm, so while you could keep this at home in the bathroom cabinet it’s perfect for taking out with you – just in case.


Finally, we were also sent this Gruffalo Toddler Daysack (toddler not included).

LittleLife-gruffalo-toddler-daysack-stock image

While our daughter, at nearly 4, is too old for this (recommended age is 1-3), I can see this is another well made, thoughtfully designed, and fun looking product.

The Gruffalo’s face is faithfully reproduced, including important details such as the poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

As it’s for a smaller child it has about half the capacity of the Spidey sack, and it also comes with toddler reins. We never had to use these, but I know many other kids are far more into defying requests not to run off.


The LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack and Family First Aid Kit are on sale at Amazon.

They can also also be purchased from the LittleLife website or variety of other retailers

The Gruffalo Toddler Daysack is also available to buy at the LittleLife website.


Disclosure: We were gifted all products for the purposes of this review.


Review & Giveaway: Karate Lottie, Ballet Lottie, plus Sweet Dreams Accessory Pack

We already have a varied collection of Lottie Dolls. We love them for many reasons, but particular because it’s easy to see similarities between them and the kid.

Why we love @lottie_dolls – she's a lot like my daughter 🙂

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Well, this week we were sent a suitably eclectic trio of items that my daughter had chosen to complement the likes of her Rockabilly Lottie above.

The first of these items was the Sweet Dreams Outfit Set.

This is an accessory set, so there’s no doll just the clothes – but it’s great to have more outfits for them. Our daughter has always liked putting her toys down for naps and sleeps, and this accessory set gives her a chance to do that while at least one of them is dressed and ready for bedtime.

It comes with all-in-one pyjamas, a dressing gown/robe, and fleece slippers – all perfect for making sure your Lottie doll is nice and snug.

Next up was the first of the two dolls – Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie.

Our daughter has been going to dance class on Saturday morning for a while now, and loves it. Like this Lottie, her outfit is also all pink (the choices for children’s tights and leotards for dancing seemed to be pink or pink), plus she has a tutu she wore last term too – so this Lottie is one she definitely associates with her experience of dancing.

Ballet Lottie is nicely decked out in her special ballet costume (with a 3-layer tutu), a sequin leotard, ballet slippers, and a drawstring shoe bag.

My daughter’s final choice is my personal favourite – the Kawaii Karate Lottie:

As mentioned on this blog previously, Kawaii essentially means ‘cute’ in Japan, and as well as providing a handy instance of alliteration, it’s an accurate description of this doll (although Kickass Karate Lottie would’ve worked too).

Kitted out in full karate gear, plus a choice of white or yellow belts, a rising sun headband, a helmet, plus some collector cards displaying how to hit and kick like a girl, this is a great set.

Playing with her new Lottie Dolls
Playing with her new Lottie Dolls

We are a multi-racial family, and we have toys around us that reflect that diversity. Lottie have dolls of various skin tones, and I was glad that our daughter has chosen a brown skinned Lottie to add to her collection.

The choice of Ballet and Karate Lotties is not as random as it seems. Our daughter’s been very interested in Batgirl of late, and often picks out my Batgirl of Burnside trade paperback to look at (I’ve read the whole thing to her – dating apps, transgender villains, evil algorithms and all).

There’s a page showing the pre-Batgirl Barbara Gordon doing ballet (pink outfit) and martial arts (white training gear), and I think that’s made an impression.

Karate + Ballet = Batgirl. And now Lottie too.

This selection of dolls displays yet again why Lottie is such a great product. Her range of outfits and interests continue to reinforce the message that being a girl shouldn’t limit your aspirations – and you can like frilly pink skirts while also being kickass at karate.

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Lottie doll retails at £16.99 (USD $19.99); accessory sets and outfit sets retail at £7.99 (USD $9.99)

Lottie is also available online at

In the UK, Lottie is also at Debenhams, Ocado, Natural History Museum, Jo Jo Maman Bébé, and independent toy stores.


Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, my daughter did receive the featured dolls and accessories free of charge.

Which Lottie doll is your favourite? Check out the range at, then head back here and tell us!