Dr. Donna Copeland’s







 Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water For Elephants) has proved worthy of taking the director's chair in The Hunger Games saga. Catching Fire is the second, highly anticipated series in what will eventually be four film installments based on the bestselling novels by Suzanne Collins. Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) continues to be the heart and soul of the films, delivering another performance here that is powerful and rare for a female in today’s male chauvinistic industry. The additions of Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and especially Jena Malone (Pride & Prejudice) turn out to be the right actors for the intriguing new characters.

 ​Forced to tour the losing districts after their controversial victory, Peeta (Hutcherson) and Katniss (Lawrence) struggle to act as if they are in love now that it appears they are safe. President Snow (Sutherland) is desperate to rid the world of Katniss before the districts become more rebellious than they already are. The new game programmer, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), promises that his plan to show Katniss as one of them will make all her followers turn against her. With a diabolical new plan for the 75th anniversary of the hunger games, Katniss, Peeta and the rest of the district’s victors are forced to all play the game one more time. ​

 ​“Forget everything you know,” Haymitch says, and the viewer should take note as well. Of course it would have been pretty boring if the film had followed the same path as before; but no, this second part keeps us guessing right until that ending that will have you banging your chair. The suspense is driven by the idea, much like the first, that anyone can die at any minute and anything can happen. New rules and a very different game; Lawrence is playing a character nearly unheard of in cinema that is fighting to protect not only her family but two men she loves (making out with both of them interchangeably, I might add). Two fearsome scenes where Katniss defies the order she is supposed to follow give the actress ample opportunity to flex those award winning skills.

 ​Banks’s Effie gets more screentime and a more well-rounded character, but it’s those unbelievable costumes (Trish Summerville) that will give Catching Fire it’s best chance at an Oscar nomination. There is a wonderfully shocking and very tastefully borrowed scene from Chicago the musical when the tributes give their individual scenes; very good writing. Less violent than the first time, The Hunger Games series, however, really succeeds in creating pure hate for the enemy as we are shown many scenes of ruthless and evil behavior.

 Final Thought – Everything you could ask for in a sequel that is equally as thrilling as the original.

 Grade B+                By: Dustin Chase

 Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, the second installment in a series of films based on the novels of Suzanne Collins is just as laden with intrigue, excitement, and beautiful visual effects as the first one.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is more emotional in this version—which bothered me—but the scheming and manipulations of the Capitol with President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in charge are just as devious and cruel, and it is refreshing to see Kat’s compassion for others, as she learns what is expected of her, to be just as prominent as before.  However, what I admired so much in the first Games is not as much in evidence in Kat this time; namely, leadership and craftiness.  I think the perspective of the writers this year (Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt) differ from that of Gary Ross, the previous writer/director.  It was so refreshing last year to see a female heroine in a strong leadership role.  

 The victor’s of last year’s games, Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) pulled a fast one on the Capitol, forcing them to award the prize to two entrants, rather than one.  But the President (Donald Sutherland) is none too pleased, and gets his revenge by telling them that after their victory tour, they must face winners from previous games.  In that, there will be 24 contestants in games which, this year, include electrical fires, poisonous fog, blood rains, and wild monkeys.  Although Kat has fallen for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), she is fiercely protective of Peeta, who is hopelessly in love with her.  That, with not wanting to kill anyone else, seems to be foremost on her mind this year, more than her own survival.

 Additional players, such as Plutarch (Philip S. Hoffman) will have an impact on the games and enhance the excitement.  He and Jena Malone as Hannah add welcome twists to the action, and with sounds of rebellion in the Capitol of Panem, President Snow is more determined than ever to see that Katniss is defeated in games that are record-breaking in their demands.

 Jennifer Lawrence continues to awe the viewer with her acting skills, and all around this production’s cast is top-notch.  Costuming is also outstanding; according to The Hollywood Reporter, an Alexander McQueen director supplied costume designer Trish Summerville with some of the outfits, and they are sumptuous to behold, especially those worn by Katniss and Effie (Elizabeth Banks).  

 The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire is likely to please those who loved the first installment.

Grade:  A-

By:  Donna R. Copeland