The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

image001By: Jake Turner (A Toast) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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I have a confession to make. I just recently saw the phenomenon The Hunger Games; the edge of your seat entertainment by director Gary Ross and based off the Suzanne Collins novels. However, I was blown away by the dialogue, the action, and the independent performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I thought it was one of the best of 2012, but then I saw Catching Fire. Let me say this… I found out I have nine different facial expressions and one was a big smile on my face as I left the theater.

Ross is out of the picture and they brought in I Am Legend’s director Francis Lawrence, who brings a sense of an epic vision across every aspect of the film adaptation. Story, plot, characters, special effects, and action sequences are all elevated from the original where it’s more about the story and human emotion that set up Mockingjay, Part 1 to near perfection for next November.

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Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are back, ready to move on from their victory of the 74th annual Hunger Games where they had a rare triumph for humanity and I won’t go in too deep because there are people who still haven’t seen the original. They are back in District 12 where things never changed except the introduction of a word that has been missing… hope. Katniss’ heroism and bravery showed that she is the symbol of hope to her district and her family.

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We got something Kayne and Kim don’t have. Brains and the power to FLAME ON!

Suddenly, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) makes a unexpected visit to the district where he wants Katniss to prove that she truly loves Peeta during the traditional district tour with their trainers Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks).  Meanwhile, each district is dying because the lack of funds coming in because the 1% likes to keep it all themselves and be entertained by children and teenagers being killed in a no holds barred game. There is much symbolism during the tour and Katniss has to witness the tragic results.

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Don’t underestimate us, my bow is not far and Peeta is packing something sharp.

We are also introduced to the main creator of the Hunger Games, Plutarch Heavensbee (played with mysterious confidence and swagger by the always reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman). Now, my fellow District 12 lovers, I must stop or I will give away serious plot points. Trust me.  Hmm, I wonder if that immobilizer from Men in Black is real to use…

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There are terrific performances across the board once again, if not better than the first. All the characters are rich in detail and they each get their scenery chewing moment; there is a lot to go around. Lawrence and Hutcherson’s chemistry continues to build, but the amazing thing is that it’s so spot-on that you don’t know if it’s for real or a performance for Snow and his loyal society of the rich and wealthy. It just has to seen to believe. Because remember, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is still working in the mines, in love with our heroine.

Harrelson and Banks once again know how to bring it with their excellent balance of humor and heart in their own unique ways. Every one-liner will get you to possibly choke on your popcorn, because they are that funny and out of place. Banks once again is the only one that can pull off her outlandish fashion choices, she just has the body language and height for it. Sutherland continues to shine with villainous glee and even though it could be that egotistical delivery or the actions that the audience witnesses,  even without his presence we know in our minds that he gave the order.  Also, Lenny Kravitz gets some great moments by coming with a dress that every woman in the theater will want. They may even google til late in the night to get the right fabric and style. However, it’s too Hollywood to be real and that’s what makes it so appealing. Lastly, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman just makes the movie with his likable ego intact and that laugh, just leaving you in question.

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Can you believe we became friends at a little Boston Bar in the 80’s, whoops, wrong cast. Wow.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt outdoes the original as they make sure it’s the story, character development, and the twists that are the main focus of this installment. The action sequences (while were spectacular) is just the backdrop that gets at least 5 of those facial expressions I mentioned earlier, such as shock, mouth dropping, gasping, blinking your eyes to check if it’s a dream, and you see where I’m going.  Lawrence really puts his heart into this film, and best of all throws the shaky cam off the soundstage and sticks with old school camera work, moving with the characters and staying still during the character exchanges.

Verdict

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If I continue on though, I may turn it into a short story of spoilers. So, let me close by saying this. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are just the first two parts of a franchise that will entertain people of all ages, young and old because this is in the process of becoming this generation’s Star Wars.

Yeah, it’s that good. In case you missed it, Mockingjay: Part 1 will be out November 21st, 2014.

One of the best of 2013.

 

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when you see Plutarch smirk

Take a Drink: when you see Caesar laugh during the interviews

Take a Drink: when rumblings of revolution are referred to or shown

Do a Bodyshot: when you see Katniss do something badass

Down a 32 oz Mug: when the big reveal comes. Shhh…

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