I find all these YA movies really grating because many are just generic love triangles with different window dressing (aka Aliens! Vampires! Witches! Etc…) However, The HARRY POTTER films were great and it turns out, so are THE HUNGER GAMES! 

CATCHING FIRE was fantastic! I greatly enjoyed the first film, but the second installment takes the series to a whole new level. My wife was tearing up through most of the film and I was on the edge of my seat especially in the final act. 

Picking up where THE HUNGER GAMES left off, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned to District 12 but are shortly off on a whirlwind victory tour, which neither wants anything to do with. 

An unexpected visit by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) puts everything in perspective for Katniss. The stunt she pulled to survive the 74th Hunger games gave the denizens of the Districts hope, something that the President wants to squash as soon as possible. If Katniss doesn’t play ball the people she cares about most especially Gale (Liam Hemsworth) will suffer. 

But she has no intention of placating this madman. Unfortunately, he conspires to have her done away with in the vilest way possible: He concocts a special 75th Hunger Games tournament that she is forced to participate in. She’s going to need more than her trusty bow and her cunning if she’s going to survive. She’s going to have to trust the very people that have her directly in their sights. 

What struck me most about this film is how dystopian it actually is. It’s downright depressing how the odds are stacked against our heroes. Escape from it seems almost an impossibility. Katniss’ sister remarks that this is not living and they have to do something because status quo is just not tenable any longer. Seeing how Katniss navigates social politics in and out of the arena is quite impressive. 

CATCHING FIRE doesn’t pull any punches and is a mature PG-13 film. It deals with some very adult themes and situations that even had me shaking my head in exasperation for their plight. Add to that a simply incredible supporting cast with everyone turning in superb performances. 

I can’t recommend this movie enough. As a matter of fact towards the end of the very swift two and a half hour runtime, I was secretly hoping that the new STAR WARS movies could be this good. 

This is dystopian science-fiction at its best and I can’t wait for the next 2 installments. If you didn’t already hear, they’re dividing the final book to accommodate 2 movies. It’s hard to complain about too much of a good thing.

JANUARY 15, 2014


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