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Catching Fire quick review


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#1 of 26 mattCR

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Posted November 21 2013 - 10:57 PM

For those that have read the book, the movie is a fair adaptation; although one of the key points of book 2, which involves the Mayor's daughter and the original telling of District 13 is of course, not involved (because she was cut out of movie 1, so hard to retcon that now)

 

Still, I thought this was a fantastic presentation and Jennifer Lawrence nails it.   For people who haven't read the book, the ending is incredibly satisfying, dark, brutal and has that theater feel that reminded me most of say, Empire Strikes Back.

 

It is that bitter twist that occurs throughout the presentation that manages to cement that this isn't a 'kids' film.  There is a lot of death, a lot of tragedy, and there are some real difficult issues dealt with here; and it does it with more vigor and gusto then the first film.

 

This is the kind of film that people will talk about and have bitter opinions over, because it isn't just a candy & popcorn film, and the performances here are damn good.

 

Solid A


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#2 of 26 Freddie Z

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Posted November 22 2013 - 03:53 AM

Yeah, I really liked this film a lot. Way more than the first film. I felt more of the plight of the districts and their struggles and resentment towards their oppressors. The quarter quell felt more brutal and more dangerous. The acting, especially Jennifer Lawrence, are superb. I really cared for the characters and can't wait to see the next film. I will see this film again.

#3 of 26 Yavin

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Posted November 22 2013 - 11:02 AM

I fully agree with your review, and I echoed the same sentiments (especially the Empire Strikes Back vibe in my review).

 

I've never read any of the books in the series, but it was a solid 4 out of 5 for me. To add to the point about things from the book not appearing in the film: There are several characters who appear and then either disappear for the rest of the film or have very truncated arcs, which I attribute to a) setting up for the next film, and b) trimming in the adapatation process.


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#4 of 26 mattCR

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Posted November 22 2013 - 06:26 PM

Watched it again today with my son; and I have to say, on a second viewing I appreciate this much more.   There are several elements here that work in unexpected ways; the train stop in District 11 is but the start, but it is a powerful one - it is powerful in the book, but you realize that the use of characters and settings deliver what is one of the first of many body blows.  It would be so easy for this to be ham-fisted over the top, but it is subtle; giving you all of the implication and leaving it to your imagination to understand.

 

The use of the talking point cards - and especially the flat vocal affect that Lawrence uses delivering them gets across a powerful bit of irony - it is easy to see why the district doesn't believe; and despite all the words you can understand the people in the district get the message that these 'victors' are no more than tortured prisoners as well.  

 

This is something that comes across through the book slowly and I always thought would be hard to get across, but presented in the purpose of 'The Hunger Games' as a mean to remind the population of their place in this new order - as nothing but people who serve at the pleasure of the rich - is fully laid out.

 

The film takes small moments and makes the most of them; a young girl telling Katniss that she hopes that she can be brave enough to volunteer as tribute, and Katniss horror in realizing that she would likely die for following this idea.  ... it's a great way to show why we say some people are heroic for their actions, but it doesn't mean they won't be missed greatly by those who loved them for doing it.

This same idea pops up again inside the games with Mags.. and subtle moments with Peeta 'I think she sacrificed herself for me..' in reference to a Morphling from District 9.

 

This film works in a lot of ways that the book frankly didn't.  There are visual cues here and acting punches that are far beyond what you normally see in this kind of film.   I gave this film an "A" after I viewed it once; after the second time, I have to say, this is in the top five films I've seen this year.

 

That says a lot when I put films like '12 Years a Slave' in those ranks.

 

In fact, outside of 12 Years a Slave, I can't think of another film I've seen this year that manages to address so much in it's time period.  There are a lot of films where I said 'if I just had 20 more minutes', I can't think of how you could add - or subtract - much to this film to improve it.   I'd still want to see an extended cut, of course, but whoever did the editing on this cut it together in a way that is perfectly satisfying for a theater.

 

This is a much grown up film from the first, but it is fantastic.   My "A" stands, but when I compile my top 10 of the year, it's going to take a lot to bump it down from a high spot.


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#5 of 26 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 22 2013 - 07:59 PM

I thought the first film did as good of a job adapting the first book as could be expected giving the realities of casting and the content restrictions for a PG-13 rating. A lean, mean but very effective film with some well-executed bits of social satire.

Given Gary Ross's departure and the tight production timeline, I was expecting a paint-by-numbers second film. The fact that the reviews have been even better than the first film is very encouraging. I hope to see it this weekend.

#6 of 26 Patrick Sun

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Posted November 22 2013 - 10:09 PM

I thought it was okay, I wasn't as drawn into it as I was the first film.  My audience groaned when the end credits came up.  Heh. 

 

It's a decent followup, a little long (at almost 2.5 hours), while I felt some of the characterizations too abrupt to invest in (not including Katniss), and left me feeling like "The Matrix Reloaded" in some ways, but definitely sets the table for the 3rd film in the franchise.

 

I give it 2.75 stars, or a grade of B-.


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#7 of 26 TravisR

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Posted November 23 2013 - 10:27 AM

The only thing that I didn't like about this movie was the ending. I shouldn't even call it an ending because that indicates that there was some kind of wrap up to the story being told and this was just a stopping point in the middle of everything. I assume the book does the same thing but I could hear other people grumbling "That's the end?" as they were leaving the theater.

 

All that being said, it's a testament to the movie that I'm aggravated by not getting to what happens next yet and I'm sure I'll lighten up once I see the next movie (which will undoubtedly have its own stop-the-story-in-the-middle cliffhanger).


Edited by TravisR, November 23 2013 - 10:30 AM.


#8 of 26 Wayne_j

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Posted November 23 2013 - 01:03 PM

The ending in the book is extremely similar.



#9 of 26 mattCR

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Posted November 23 2013 - 09:54 PM

It's actually a lot less ambiguous than the ending of the book, especially with her non-verbal at the end.


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#10 of 26 Jason_V

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Posted November 23 2013 - 10:26 PM

There wasn't a moment I was bored with Catching Fire.  In the long run, I think I could have handled a 3 or 3.5 hour version of the story.  The actual arena sequences felt severely truncated from the book, as did the total devastation of District 12.  I didn't get the sense of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale in the movie or that big pit in my stomach anytime President Snow was mentioned.  The movie did what it had to do and, I guess, what it was destined to do: introduce a new audience to the books.  It's in the original work where the nuances are more thoroughly explored. 

 

Something I wish they had saved for the third movie was the end revelation that most of the other tributes were in on the plan to save Katniss.  It's referenced in subtle ways through the arena, but I'm not sure we needed it in this movie.  Or having Katniss actually wake up on the ship.  Wouldn't it have been a much more...heart stopping ending (for those who haven't read the book) to only see her limp body disappear inside the ship.  The way it ends now, I didn't feel anything.  It's just words.  (SHOW, don't tell!!)

 

Was I disappointed?  Not in the least. 



#11 of 26 Wayne_j

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Posted November 24 2013 - 04:24 PM

$161 million opening weekend best all time for November openings.  If the numbers hold, the best ever opening for a 2D only movie.  The estimate is very barely over TDKR so if it was over estimated it will be below..



#12 of 26 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 24 2013 - 07:29 PM

I caught a matinee this morning. I thought it was superior to the book (my least favorite of the three) in a number of ways, and Francis Lawrence did probably the best job of any sequel director since Irvin Kershner of catching the ball and running with it. When a franchise changes directors mid-way through, usually one of two things happens: either the director is an auteur who puts his/her own imprint on the sequel to the point where it doesn't feel like a seamless continuation from the first movie, or the the director is so content to rehash the first movie that he/she doesn't bring anything new to the table. Catching Fire feels like a seamless continuation from the first movie, but it also builds and expands on the first movie.

Lawrence wisely retained two of the most important players from the first film: production designer Philip Messina and composer James Newton Howard.

Philip Messina worked with Gary Ross to build a unique world with distinct environments for the first film. There was a wonderful sense of logic and history to the architecture for each. Bringing him back ensured a certain visual continuity in the various environments that played an enormous part in convincing that this was all the same world.

I re-watched the first film last night on Blu-Ray and James Newton Howard's score really stood out to me. Music really plays an important role in both pictures, and the continuity of themes is so important. It really irks me when every movie in a franchise has a different composer and a completely unrelated score. I hope he's signed for the two Mockingjay films too, because he's doing really great work for this franchise.

My only issue with the movie was the same problem I had with the book. I loved the first book and movie, loved where things left off and was ready for the story to move forward. With the victory tour and the crackdown, it seems to be doing just that and then suddenly it's back into the arena. Even though the circumstances are completely different -- and the movie did a great job of accentuating the differences -- it just seemed redundant and rather anticlimactic. And then once Katniss is back in the arena, she's a passive character, an unknowing pawn in someone else's game. It's never a good idea to have your protagonist be essentially passive for half the story--a criticism that can also be leveled against Mockingjay.

I did think the movie grappled with this about as well as it could, by making it very clear that Plutarch Heavensbee's plan could have gone one of two ways: if Katniss had proved herself to be the person President Snow thought her to be, she would have alienated the masses and been killed in the arena. There were several junctures where Plutarch's plan depended on her being the person the masses thought her to be: selfless and decent and caring and brave.

Of all the young adult franchises, this continues to have the most uniformly great performances. Jennifer Lawrence owns the screen for the entire running time, and she's so gifted that all of the subtext that comes from the internal thoughts of the character can be effortlessly interpreted by the audience through her speech and body language. Josh Hutcherson continues to do great work in a severely underrated performance. He's not the strapping masculine love interest that Liam Hemsworth is as Gale, but his characterization is never simplistic. He smart, and he's emotionally complex, and selflessly devoted to Katniss without ever coming across as fawning. Over these two pictures, he's really earned Katniss's devotion to Peeta, almost as fellow soldiers in the trenches more than traditional love interests. Woody Harrelson continues to prove that he's among the best character actors working today, with a portrayal of Haymitch that's ceaselessly entertaining while bursting with concealed intelligence, danger and wit. Donald Sutherland continues to give of the standout performances of his career as President Snow, that deeply sinister sort of evil that's dramatically underplayed rather than overplayed. His Snow is lethal but always calm and collected, a man in full control of himself. Elizabeth Banks's portrayal of Effie Trinket enters increasingly complex territory as the wool slowly starts to fall from her eyes. The injustices perpetrated by the system have grown so great that she can no longer ignore them. See that disillusionment filter into Banks's heavily ornamental performances was really well-handled. Lenny Kravitz and Stanley Tucci give more of the same, which is perfectly fine because what the gave last time was some of the standout moments of the first film.

All of the new cast members are excellent. Philip Seymour Hoffman is enigmatic and thoughtful and perfectly suited to Plutarch Heavensbee. Jeffrey Wright makes Beetee a really standout in a performance bursting with confident intellect. Sam Claflin was exactly what I imagined Finnick to be: outwardly glamorous and even frivolous, inwardly empathetic and loyal and strategically keen. Jena Malone was not quite how I pictured Johanna Mason, but I loved what she did with the character. She almost played Johanna like a Lindsey Lohan or a Miley Cyrus, a faded celebrity so angry and bitter at the system that chewed her up and spit her out that she's become completely uninhibited and prone to lashing out with outragious and inappropriate behavior that make her a regular in the tabloids. Probably a substance abuser, though not to the extent that the public thinks. Malone absolutely nailed the stripping scene in the elevator, and her interview with Caesar Flickerman was one of my very favorite bits in the movie. Finally, Lynn Cohen does tremendous work as Mags without a single line of dialog.
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#13 of 26 Jason_V

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Posted November 24 2013 - 08:44 PM

Lenny Kravitz and Stanley Tucci give more of the same, which is perfectly fine because what the gave last time was some of the standout moments of the first film.

 

I think the supporting cast, as you pointed out Adam, is really stellar in these movies.  The "minor" characters are all brought to life by wonderful actors who understand their roles in the film.  Elizabeth Banks brought a lot of sadness to the movie; it never actually felt like she was interested in Katniss or Peeta as people until this movie.  Maybe she felt she was on the line, too, or maybe there was genuine empathy on her part.  I'm glad she got more to do here than in the first movie. 

 

The same for Stanley Tucci.  He annoyed me in the first movie, first viewing, but he's just an absolute wonder.  The smile, the teeth, the makeup, the energy he brings to everything he does.  He also has the empathy for the tributes exudiing from every pore in his being.  It's an odd contrast: on the one hand, he is the "face" of The Hunger Games; on the other, you sense he knows this is all wrong, but is performing his role to survive.

 

Really, that's what everyone is doing.  Acting and doing what society demands of them to survive. 



#14 of 26 Adam Gregorich

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Posted November 25 2013 - 09:30 PM

 

The same for Stanley Tucci.  He annoyed me in the first movie, first viewing, but he's just an absolute wonder.  The smile, the teeth, the makeup, the energy he brings to everything he does.  He also has the empathy for the tributes exudiing from every pore in his being.  It's an odd contrast: on the one hand, he is the "face" of The Hunger Games; on the other, you sense he knows this is all wrong, but is performing his role to survive.

 

 

I think in the first book/movie, people in the capital didn't think the Hunger Games were wrong, but by putting people that they now know and love, who were supposed to have a free pass for life back in, they see them as getting the short straw and are starting to rethink the whole concept of the games.  Same can be said for Stanley Tucci's character.  I don't think he had a problem with the games, in the first movie, or he never bothered to think if what he was involved in was wrong or right.  That appears to be changing.



#15 of 26 Patrick Sun

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Posted November 26 2013 - 06:29 AM

Did this not happen 25 years ago?  Do people have short memories in the districts?


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#16 of 26 Jason_V

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Posted November 26 2013 - 06:35 AM

Did this not happen 25 years ago?  Do people have short memories in the districts?

 

It did, but that was basically a generation ago.  And, in my mind, none of the other tributes were as loved as Katniss and Peeta.  Surely at least part of it is the romance, how they stood up to the Capital and the baby revelation. 

 

I think in the first book/movie, people in the capital didn't think the Hunger Games were wrong, but by putting people that they now know and love, who were supposed to have a free pass for life back in, they see them as getting the short straw and are starting to rethink the whole concept of the games.  Same can be said for Stanley Tucci's character.  I don't think he had a problem with the games, in the first movie, or he never bothered to think if what he was involved in was wrong or right.  That appears to be changing.

 

Very true.  If Lionsgate gets ballsy, I'd love to see a Stanley Tucci-centric spinoff.  I'd love to see behind the gloss and glamour.



#17 of 26 sidburyjr

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Posted November 26 2013 - 06:51 AM

Did this not happen 25 years ago?  Do people have short memories in the districts?

 

Not according to the books.  Every 25 years there is a special hunger games that has supposedly been chosen far in advance (but which we know isn't true).  IIRC for the 50th games there were double the number of tributes.  The 50th was the one that Hamich was the victor.



#18 of 26 Lou Sytsma

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Posted November 27 2013 - 07:54 AM

 And then once Katniss is back in the arena, she's a passive character, an unknowing pawn in someone else's game. It's never a good idea to have your protagonist be essentially passive for half the story--a criticism that can also be leveled against Mockingjay.

 

Agreed.  My biggest problem with the second and third books.  Passive Protagonist diminishes emotional investment.


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#19 of 26 Robert Smith1

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Posted November 27 2013 - 03:34 PM

The particular fraction quell believed a lot more raw and more hazardous. The particular performing, particularly Jennifer Lawrence, tend to be outstanding.

 

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Robert Smith



#20 of 26 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 28 2013 - 11:12 AM

I think in the first book/movie, people in the capital didn't think the Hunger Games were wrong, but by putting people that they now know and love, who were supposed to have a free pass for life back in, they see them as getting the short straw and are starting to rethink the whole concept of the games.

I don't think the people of the Capitol necessarily see it as a matter of right or wrong, so much as a justified response to unlawful rebellion. The framing of the Hunger Games as essentially a judicial punishment for the collective guilt of the Districts means that the rules are essential to the legitimacy of the Hunger Games as an institution. By sending the victors back in, the Capitol broke the compact and undermined the legitimacy of the institution.

The name Panem comes from the Latin phrase "panem et circenses", or "bread and circuses." Much like the Roman Empire used the Colosseum, Panem uses the Hunger Games as both superficial appeasement and as a weapon against its enemies.

I think some people in the Capitol always found the Hunger Games abhorrent (but were smart enough to keep quiet about it), while the majority just took them for granted, much like we would the Olympics.
 

Same can be said for Stanley Tucci's character.  I don't think he had a problem with the games, in the first movie, or he never bothered to think if what he was involved in was wrong or right.  That appears to be changing.

I've always viewed Tucci's performance as portraying Caesar Flickerman as a willing and conscious participant in what's going on, who knows his role is akin to the news anchor on North Korean television. He's both television showman and regime propagandist, a sort of unholy cross between Tom Bergeron and Joseph Goebbels.

One of the few times he blatantly shows his hand is in Catching Fire when all of the victors going back into the arena hold hands on stage. Caesar sees what's happening and immediately cuts the broadcast.
 

Did this not happen 25 years ago?  Do people have short memories in the districts?

As Dick mentioned, while the quarter quell is special from "normal" Hunger Games, the gimmick that sets it apart is different each time. The previous quarter quell had double the number of tributes from each District.

Edited by Adam Lenhardt, November 28 2013 - 11:15 AM.





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