Hunger Games: Catching Fire catches fire

Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comNovember 21, 2013 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is book two of The Hunger Games trilogy. Rebellion is stirring in the 12 districts and Katniss has become the face of revolution.

She just wants to be left alone, but powerful enemies -- like President Snow -- won't let that happen. To get rid of the rebellion threat and squash her influence on the unhappy districts, Katniss and Peeta are dragged back to the Capitol to participate in the 75th annual games. This time, all of the celebrity winners of previous games are competing.

It's a game-changer.

The original cast returns for the sequel. Jennifer Lawrence shows the Oscar, Golden Globe and other awards she got last year are no fluke. Her minimal dialogue, deer-caught-in-headlights performance is multidimensional and intense. Katniss is torn between love and duty and hates being the face of a rebellion she knows will end in death for thousands of innocent people.

Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are terrific as Katniss and Peeta's team leaders. Acting hunks of wood Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth show signs of life and reprise the roles of the two men in Katniss' life. Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Philip Seymour Hoffman are evil personified. New characters done by Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright are added to the mix.

I'm one of the few critics who didn't like last year's The Hunger Games. It was a paint-by-numbers, uninteresting thriller. I never believed for a moment that the movie's two heroes were in any sort of danger. Everybody dies in their order of importance to the plot.

Change writers, change director and presto, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire catches fire. Part two of Suzanne Collins' post -apocalyptic story is jaw-clenching tense from start to finish. Director Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants) and writers Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) have put together a must-see action thriller whose only flaw is a cliff-hanger ending.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone

Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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