Napoleon and Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Double Feature Review

In this week's podcast, Lindsey reviews two films in theaters during the Thanksgiving holiday: Napoleon and The Hunger Games prequel: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Only one is worth watching. Read on for the details. 

A king puts a crown on a Queen's head
[L-R] Vanessa Kirby as JOSEPHINE, Joaquin Phoenix as NAPOLEON

Napoleon is supposedly an epic historical biopic about the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, with a focus on his relationship with first wife, Josephine. It's directed by Ridley Scott, written by David Scarpa and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Rupert Everett, Paul Rhys. 

In a year of great movies, Napoleon earns a big fat thumbs down. It didn't showcase his strategy as a political or military leader, didn't dazzle us with epic battles (except one), and didn't warm our hearts with his love for Josephine. I learned more about Napoleon from watching Bill and Ted

Final score: 2 out of 5
Release: In theaters November 22nd and will eventually land on Apple TV plus. 

A man touches a woman's face. They are in the woods.
[L-R] Tom Blyth as CORIOLANUS SNOW, Rachel Zegler as LUCY GRAY BAIRD

The Hunger Games: The Battle of Songbirds and Snakes serves as a prequel to the The Hunger Games trilogy, a character-driven dystopian franchise. Directed by Francis Lawrence, written by Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt, and based on a novel by Suzanne Collins. The film stars Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Viola Davis, Jason Schwartzman, and Peter Dinklage.

What a thrill to return to Panem. We witness the early days of the games, when the seeds were planted for the spectacle they eventually became. It's the 10th anniversary of the Hunger Games. The capitol has squelched a rebellion but with costly casualties. The rich are struggling, including Coriolanus Snow, who plans to win the coveted Plinth prize so he can attend college for free. Instead, he must sponsor a Hunger Games tribute and help her win the hearts of the public. 

Final score: 3.5 out of 5
Release: In theaters now. 

Music by Aleksey Chistilin from Pixabay: Cinematic Time Lapse

Lindsey Dunn is a film critic with membership in both NC Film Critics and Southeastern Film Critics. She loves all things Cobra Kai, Netflix Dark, indie horror, and any stories about complicated relationships. You can find her at and most social channels @1ofmystories.


[Podcast transcript. Please note: AI-generated. Grammar mistakes are possible.]


Hello everyone, I'm here for 1 of my Stories, this is Lindsey Dunn. Today I'm going to be reviewing two movies, Napoleon and The Hunger Games: The Battle of Songbirds and Snakes. It's the week of Thanksgiving and many people will be looking for movies to see in the theaters and both of these are coming out, either have come out or are coming out this week so I wanted to review.


both of these movies which will be catching a lot of public interest. Before I go any further, I hate to be generic, but if you like listening to my reviews, I'd love for you to give my channel a follow. You can also leave a review on Apple Podcast or any of the sites where you can review things. It really helps me out a lot.


and will help people to find me and build my channel so I can keep getting access to movies and share with you what I'm enjoying. So the first movie is Napoleon directed by Ridley Scott. The script is written by David Scarpa. It is starring Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Rupert Everett and Paul Rhys. In theory, this is an epic historical drama about the rise and fall of the infamous


Napoleon Bonaparte with a focus on his relationship with his first wife Josephine. Ridley Scott, as I look through his catalog, is pretty hit or miss for me. What are some hits? Well, I love Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, and I really enjoyed The Last Duel also, which is the most recent one.


that I remember really enjoying. As I look at those, that list of movies, I'm seeing a lot of action, a lot of great characters, very compelling stories that keep you riveted to the screen. Others that are misses would be movies like House of Gucci, Robin Hood, and this latest, Napoleon. I'm giving this a big stink award. Now Robin Hood was an 


action movie. Sometimes it's difficult to fully understand why something works or it doesn't. But for Napoleon, I didn't understand the point of this movie. I went in expecting a biopic. Now, a person doesn't have to be a hero or laudable to make them an interesting subject for a biopic, but they do need to have some sort of charisma or at least you create for your


viewer an understanding of how the person got to be where they got, how they got to their place of celebrity-dom. This movie in the description I read you, it said the rise and fall, but this movie didn't showcase Napoleon's strategy as a political or military leader. It didn't dazzle us with many epic battles. There were a few, but if that's


your primary vehicle you need to make more. And it didn't warm our hearts with his love for Josephine. And at 2 hours and 38 minutes, it became a slog to sit through. And I went and hyped for this movie. I drove to Charlotte to see this movie because the press screening was not in Raleigh slash Durham where I lived. So I went and hyped and walked out harunk. I expected a war epic.


that would convey the story of how Napoleon became a great military leader, or at least how he got the position where people thought of him as a great military leader. Perhaps that's not the point of the movie, but then what is? We see him portrayed as whenever he goes into battle, he flat out almost has a panic attack. He looks insecure. He looks cowardly. He's not really sure what he's doing.


and he's not really a confident leader for the moment. Now there were some political things happening in the country and the movie does place you in those at the very beginning. It kind of shows you what was going on in the country and how crazy everything was. The royalty was being shouted down and not very popular. So you would say the time was right for somebody to come forward.


and take control and in this case they looked to a military leader. So we have these, like I said, some fairly good battle scenes, which are good, but we don't really see how Napoleon contributed to winning those. Whenever you see him, he's just standing there for the most part when he's not having a panic attack. Once he gains control over the upper hand where he becomes the general, mostly you see him standing there.


just waving his hand to give the order. So it's almost like he just happens to be there when the military is doing something laudable. Almost like that Forrest Gump. People talk about Forrest Gumping it. In the movie Forrest Gump, he would be around all of these great events in history, but he just happened to be in the same vicinity of those events. So he didn't cause anything great to happen.


And that's how I feel that Napoleon is portrayed. He's not particularly charismatic or funny or interesting. And the relationship between him and his first wife Josephine, who's portrayed by Vanessa Kirby, this is an actress I really like. Again, we're not really seeing why she likes him. We can understand why he likes her because she's pretty and sassy and all that.


She's interesting. Before she met him, she went through some difficult times and maybe she was just looking for someone to take care of her. But they sort of have this great love that transcends time. At one point, their marriage eventually dissolves because he needs to have a child. He needs to have an heir and she's not able to deliver that. And so he finds a different spouse and annuls their marriage. And she is


genuinely broken up about this. However, we didn't see that the marriage was that great. She has infidelities with other people and when you see them having sex as portrayed in this movie, it's not great sex. It actually looks very unpleasant. But even after the marriage dissolves, they continue to write these letters and it's almost like they're soulmates or best friends through the rest of time.


So their relationship is very confusing though as to what she's getting out of it. The only thing I can think of is that we all know that as described to us in history books, he had a huge ego and thought he was so much better than anyone else did. He had an inflated sense of ego about himself. So perhaps he wanted to believe they had this great love.


And so he wrote these grand letters and that maybe it was in his head how great their love was, even though it wasn't that great in practicality, because we don't see that it's that fulfilling for her. But we do see she does continue to want a friendship with him or companionship somehow. The movie does spend a lot of time on their relationship and how it impacted him. But I


a movie for. When you're going in to see a movie about a compelling character, you want to see not just their romance, but you want to see what they accomplished. And that movie, this movie did not do that. Joaquin Phoenix is a very talented actor, but I didn't find this performance compelling. And I don't feel like I learned that much about Napoleon from watching the movie. I feel like I got more education from watching Bill and Ted.


than I did from this movie. And in a year of excellent movies that have already come out, I don't really see this making a dent. Napoleon is in theaters November 22nd and will eventually land on Apple TV+. It feels weird, y'all, me reviewing a movie, talking about it, that I didn't like. I'm not sure if I've ever done this on a podcast before. Usually, even if I don't,


think a movie is as great as other people. I can find good qualities or things to speak about or write about depending on the format. But in this case, I truly do feel like it was a little bit of a waste of time to see this movie. And I don't see it being part of the awards conversation. I truly don't because there's been so many great movies that came out this year. So unless it's going to get awards for things like costumes or makeup.


or setting or cinematography maybe. Yeah, again, compared to other movies, it just wasn't that interesting. So I think this one is going to be a big old no for me. Sorry, Ridley Scott. And I have seen reviews from other people that did like it. And all I can say is taste is subjective. It's just not for me. If you find something...


riveting or interesting about this movie, I'd love to hear what it is. I love action movies. Braveheart's one of my favorite movies of all time. I think that's a interesting story about an unusual hero. And you saw his Rise and Fall, also Lawrence of Arabia. Actually, Lawrence of Arabia is probably my favorite movie of all time. And that's a Rise and Fall, a riveting movie that keeps you glued to the screen. And this just was not anything in compared to that.


that's kind of what I went in hoping for. Okay, moving on to the second movie now. The second movie is Hunger Games Battle of Songbirds and Snakes directed by Francis Lawrence who directed all the other Hunger Games movies except the first one. It's written by Michael Leslie and Michael Arndt and based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins starring Rachel Zegler.


Tom Blythe, Viola Davis, Jason Schwartzman, and Peter Dinklage. It's an absolute joy to return to Pan Am. I love this series of books. I liked all of the movies. I feel like the first two movies were the strongest of the series, but I've liked all of them.


In The Hunger Games, Battle of Songbirds and Snakes serves as a prequel to the original trilogy. And it shows the seeds of the games as they became known. What is this movie about? It's the 10th anniversary of The Hunger Games. The capital of the district has won against the rebels, but with costly casualties. And the rich and powerful are struggling.


Coriolanus Snow is our lead character. He played Donald Sutherland in the original Hunger Games movies. He is a teenager in this movie. As a student at the school, he has been working hard to win what's called a plinth prize, which will give him enough money to go to a university at absolutely no charge. On this 10th anniversary, the students all learned there will be no plinth prize, and in order to win any money,


they are going to be asked to sponsor a tribute in the Hunger Games. This is the first year that anybody is getting a sponsor and you will be judged as to how well you make the audience invested in your player. And so the stakes have been raised. Coriolanus is determined that he will win this award so that he can still


have enough money to go to college. Through this story of this 10th anniversary, we will find Easter eggs that show up to hint towards what we know will happen when a young lady named Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to substitute for her sister Prim. We learn why Snow hates District 12 so much. Why he always hands out roses.


And we also find out how the Hunger Games actually came to be as they are today. We see the games as they once were, where it wasn't a show with creative arenas and creative kills, different ways to make the tributes fight each other. At one time, it was just a very boring fight to the death, more like a Colosseum in Rome, where people would just fight to the death and it's over.


In the essays he writes, he projects the idea forward of making the games more of a spectacle, making them something people will want to watch because they get interested and invested in the people who are playing the game. And that leads to higher more people watching and more views. So from here on out, I'm actually going to call Coriolanus Snow just Snow because that name is a little hard to pronounce.


Snow is played by Tom Blythe and he had Riz, as the kids like to say. He had a great screen presence and with that white blonde hair he was giving off Draco Malfoy, Tom Felton vibes. Sometimes his line reading left something to be desired when he's trying to create gravitas and go dramatic. Some of those lines he did not deliver the best. But when he is...


On screen, he is definitely riveting. He's very attractive. He was chosen for probably that reason. So I don't think his actual speaking is always the best, but he had a great presence on screen. Rachel Zegler is playing Lucy Graybeard, who is the tribute that Snow ends up sponsoring during the games. Her gift is that she sings, she has powerful pipes.


and charm to spare. She's a songbird and there are performances throughout the show where she sings. Sometimes she's singing for the camera, other times we just hear her performing during a scene. And the music, I believe, will probably be nominated for either the best score or perhaps best original song. The music is pretty notable so I think that will


get some attention for this movie. The only thing about her performance I don't think worked is that she had this Appalachian accent. And I'm not sure why that was a thing because now she was in District 12 and we find out she wasn't born there, she got moved there, and she's part of this group of wanderers who perform.


the cubby and so maybe she's supposed to represent a faction of the society, but the accent seemed very awkward and out of place. Did it bother me too much? I don't think it stopped me from enjoying her performance, but it did stand out as being a little odd and not something that I would have expected to hear. Viola Davis plays Dr. Gall, who is the game maker. She's great.


I did enjoy her performance. She's chewing up scenery all over the place. Serves as a weird sort of mentor for Snow, where she's trying to pull the great ideas out of him so that she can make her Hunger Games better. I truly enjoyed the ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I think it was a great movie, even though it lasted also for 2.5 hours. I'm not sure it was as good as


the original movies because in those movies we do get to know Katniss, but we also get to know many of the other tributes and we form an attachment to them. And so then when we see them having to battle each other and kill each other, then there's a gravity to it because we feel moved by their plight. Even the bullies, the kids that are bullies, we see that these kids have been


raised and pushed by their districts, their families, and their society to be these killers to matter to their society. And so we do care for them. In the case of the games in this book, there isn't an opportunity to really get to know any of the other tributes that well. We do get to know a few of them, but they're sort of, they're just on screen, to put it bluntly.


This is early days of the Hunger Games, and so there aren't all the bells and whistles. There isn't much to the arena except for at the very end when the snakes finally show up, then there's sort of a show and a spectacle that is thrown in there.


but that's only towards the end. I'm not sure if Songbirds and Snakes will be up for any awards except for perhaps the original song and soundtrack I mentioned before, but it was definitely worth seeing. It's definitely a movie you could take tweens and teens to and people who of course were raised on these books are gonna wanna see the final chapter. The...


movie. The movie came out on November 17th so it's in theaters. It would be a great post Thanksgiving watch or anytime during the holidays if you need to get out of the house and see a blockbuster on screen. This is definitely a great pick for that and that is my review of that movie. So there you have those reviews and I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. I'll see you next time on one of my stories. Goodbye!