|THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (director: Francis Lawrence; screenwriters: Simon Beaufoy/Michael deBruyn/based on the novel by Suzanne Collins; cinematographer: Jo Willems; editor: Alan Edward Bell; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair), Lynn Cohen (Mags), Jena Malone (Johanna Mason), Amanda Plummer (Wiress), Paula Malcomson (Katniss’s Mother), Meta Golding (Enobaria), Bruno Gunn (Brutus), Alan Ritchson (Gloss), Stephanie Leigh Schlund (Cashmere) ; Runtime: 146; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Nina Jacobson/Jon Kilik; Lionsgate; 2013)|
|"Cleverly helmed by popular music
video director Francis Lawrence."
by Dennis Schwartz
The middle film in The Hunger Games trilogy, in IMAX, is cleverly helmed by popular music video director Francis Lawrence ("Water for Elephants"/"I Am Legend"/ "Constantine"). He irons out a few of the original's many defects. It's based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel and is written by Slumdog Millionaire's Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn (a pseudonym for Little Miss Sunshine writer Michael Arndt).
this sequel, the 16-year-old archery expert
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, who
happens to be 23) has returned home safe
after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games (a survival
of the fittest game for kids played out for real on a
reality TV show, where the contestants are chosen by
lottery). Also selected to compete were Katniss'
fellow tribute--the stocky baker's son, the lovesick
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
sparks a rebellion among the oppressed masses in
the Districts of Panem. The tyrannical corrupt figurehead President
Sutherland) fears Katniss' popularity
will spark a full-blown
rebellion for reform if left unchecked. Thereby
the President orders that the winning duo go on a
"Victor's Tour" of
the districts, where he tells his new
Seymour Hoffman), that it's bad
business for a despot to let such enemies
live. Snow orders the couple's demise during
Quarter Quell, an event which only occurs
every 25 years in the Capitol, in
celebration of the Capitol's victory over
the districts. The games now as set forth by
the Gamemaker have the previous victors
competing against each other.
Exhorting, as the first film did,
the same virtues of courage and sacrifice to live
by with dignity in a totalitarian regime, the pic,
more smoothly filmed than the shaky hand-held camera
used in the original, moves along the same tracks
with the same fervor and energy in telling its dystopian fable and
sending the optimistic message, faithful to the
book, that it's not impossible to topple an
Stanley Tucci returns to
flamboyantly 'talk the talk' and flash his shining
pearly white teeth as the over-friendly creepy TV
personality of the games. Elizabeth Banks is pleasing as
the overly cheerful elaborately garbed image
consultant/brand stylist. Amanda Plummer has her one
flashy moment as a Quell combative be a scream. Lawrence
grows even more into her starring role, giving the
pic some good star appeal. Philip
Seymour Hoffman is a welcome new addition,
showing off his acting skills.
It's an escapist fantasy film that more or less works as solid spectacle entertainment. It subverts how shallow is the aim of the district youth to reach only for celebrity and how the games are used by the base Snow to manipulate the masses by using the games as a distraction. But despite such gravitas, the pic still keeps its pop-culture pulp allure by exploiting its eye-popping Hollywood blockbuster production values to drown out any meaningful subversive political messages.
REVIEWED ON 11/22/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ