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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

thehungergams-catchingfire-ukposterThe Hunger Games is arguably the most popular franchise right now, and with the second installment in the four part movie saga, director Francis Lawrence captures what Hunger Games director Gary Ross could not. Lawrence takes the series in the direction it should be going, with brilliant action scenes and a well-done story. Top notch acting from Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, and many others, Catching Fire should not be passed off as standard young adult fare.

Catching Fire finds Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the victors of the 74th annual Hunger Games, an annual televised fight to the death. They are now living in the Victor’s Village in District 12. Words of uprising have been spread around the districts, and as the two embark on their Victory Tour to the other districts, a rebellion seems underway following the results of last year’s games. On top of that, the two lovebirds must go back into the arena once more, for the 75th Quarter Quell (think all-stars reality tv shows), where the tributes are reaped from past victors.

Like the first film, Catching Fire features some magnificent actors flexing their acting prowess here. Jennifer Lawrence, my favorite actress right now, is once again on top of her game. Haunted by visions from last year’s games, Katniss must keep herself together to escape the arena. Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta, is much improved from his corny dialogue and weak acting from the first film. Now he has a tougher personality and is much sharper, and Hutcherson really delivers here. Other favorites like Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Lenny Kravitz as the stylist Cinna, and Woody Harrelson as their mentor Haymitch, deliver great performances, but they don’t have as much screen time as they did in the first film. My favorite from last time around, Stanley Tucci as announcer Caesar Flickerman, shines once more with some of the film’s best lines and funny moments. Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’s old friend Gale and Willow Shields as her sister Prim round out the top actors, as they have much more time in the spotlight than before. Donald Sutherland also shines as the chilling President Snow.

New characters help give flair to the ritzy glamour of the Capitol and the harsh battles of the arena. New tributes such as Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) are standouts. They are both bitingly funny, with memorable dialogue and great scenes. An elevator scene in which Johanna strips naked is both awkward and intimidating, and Finnick provides some great eye candy. Jeffrey Wright plays Beetee, a tech savvy tribute who helps them escape the arena. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a delight as head game maker Plutarch Heavensbee, and he gives one of the best performances of the film. All in all, Catching Fire’s acting is a delight, and features an outstanding ensemble cast.

Catching Fire is a perfect adaptation of the novel. Haters and die hard fans will nitpick details, but Lawrence captures the spirit of the novel almost word for word here. Like I said, Lawrence is taking the series in the direction that it needs to go. While Ross was an expert at the emotional scenes in the first film, such as Rue’s death, Lawrence is king of action and dialogue. The battle scenes in the gorgeous arena are outstanding. A spinning cornucopia and poisonous fog are only some of the obstacles that the heroes face in the clock-shaped dome. These scenes are brilliantly done, and fans will remember them scene-for-scene from the book. Sharp dialogue and writing helps break apart the tense emotional scenes, and the film is quite funny at places, courtesy of actors like Banks and Malone.

The film’s plot seems all too relevant in society today. A bitter satire on surveillance society and privacy is seen in the undertones of the film. When the Peacekeepers take over District 12, to the monitoring on the arena, it calls to mind some current events in a surprisingly relevant way that no other big films like this can. It’s a small thing, but definitely noticeable.

If there’s any minor criticism, it’s that Catching Fire has a real sense of deja vu from the first film. I know that this can’t really be helped, considering that they are almost identical in form, it would have been nice if Lawrence broke apart a few scenes to make the film feel different than its original. While it’s not a shot-for-shot recreation, in terms of form and structure, it comes pretty damn close, and this is especially noticeable after watching the two films back to back.

Catching Fire is a visual spectacle. A gorgeous arena filled with all kinds of traps in a beach setting make for some fantastic set pieces. A huge wave crashes over a part of the arena, and lightning strikes and force-fields litter the forests. These are gorgeous, and some well done CGI helps to emphasize the danger of the arena. The snow covered District 12 and futuristic Capitol provide some cool locales, and with a higher production budget, it allows for some new shots and angles you’ve never seen before. Cinematography is solid, with some excellent shots on a sunset beach and a beautiful finale. A decrease in the use of shaky cam should make fans happy, as the action scenes are easy to watch and more enjoyable as a result.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is everything you would want out of a sequel. It’s tense, funny, emotional, and features some of the best acting you’ll see in a blockbuster like this. Director Francis Lawrence has taken control of the series, and now I’m eagerly looking forward to the next installment.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 4

Buy The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Today!

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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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July Box Office Predictions

Here are my box office predictions for this month. July 2013 is certainly not as busy as May or June, but there are still some big releases as well as some smaller ones that should get some box office attention. Sorry about the delay on these predictions. I was very busy last week. Anyways, here they are:

July 12

Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro’s track record has been shaky, but the fan-favorite director’s monsters vs robots movie should connect well with a niche audience. It might not do well for average moviegoers, but geeks and nerds alike have been talking about this one for months. Overseas it should do better business, as it isn’t appealing to such a small audience like it is here domestically. Expect Pacific Rim to win its weekend with $50 million, going on to $170 million.

Grown Ups 2

Adam Sandler and the gang returns in a sequel that nobody wanted. Sandler’s brand has been diminishing with every movie, and Grown Ups 2 looks poised to only add insult to injury. The first film was a surprise hit, but not many people enjoy Sandler and his shenanigans anymore. Not to mention the fact that this group of guys haven’t had a big hit among them in years. Still, Grown Ups 2 should make $35 million during its opening weekend and closing with $120 million.

July 17

Turbo

Dreamworks has already had a hit this year in March’s The Croods, so they are running on a pretty good year so far. Turbo seems very middle-tier, especially since Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 have already sucked out the animation fan base. Not to mention how difficult it is to start a new orignial animated film not based on anything. Turbo should do okay, though, just enough to be considered a hit. An opening weekend of $30 million seems likely, with a total of less than $100 million.

July 19

R.I.P.D.

Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds both star in what could be a sleeper hit. An interesting premise puts two deceased cops among the ranks of the R.I.P.D., where they must track down their original killer. Though Reynolds hasn’t been much of a draw as of late, R.I.P.D. should connect with older audiences thanks to Bridges and the film’s more comedic feel, akin to Men in Black. An opening weekend of $25 million seems likely, totaling around $70 million.

The Conjuring

The horror genre has been quite successful lately; thanks to niche films and unique marketing campaigns, the genre is as strong as ever. The Conjuring doesn’t seem like it will be as big as The Purge or Mama, two horror hits, but it should do okay. Opening in the summer could hurt it though, but The Conjuring should conjure up an opening weekend of $20 million, falling sharply then closing around $50 million.

Red 2

Another interesting sequel, Red 2 seems like it isn’t very necessary. Although the original Red made quite a bit of money back in 2010, Red 2 might have difficulty connecting due to it coming out so late after the first film, and it might have some competition thanks to a few other action flicks in July. Red 2 should open with $15-$18 million, closing around $60 million.

July 26

The Wolverine

One of July’s biggest films, The Wolverine once again stars Hugh Jackman as the clawed mutant, yet The Wolverine won’t open anywhere near any of Marvel’s other hits. The X-Men brand is on the rise thanks to First Class and a sequel coming in 2014, and it does have most of the weekend to itself, which is pretty rare. Wolverine isn’t everyone’s favorite, though, as seen in the disappointing X-Men: Origins film, but it still should do pretty solid business. Expect it to open around $50 million and close somewhere near $150 million.

July 31

The Smurfs 2

Not this again. A sequel to 2011’s surprise hit, The Smurfs 2 seems like it will annoy, yet still cook up a box office spell. Once again, animated competition is pretty high this year, and The Smurfs 2 should do okay, yet open at less than its predecessor and total less overall. Audiences will most likely grow tired of the blue people, and might skip this one, especially after the summer’s other animated hits. An opening weekend of $30 million seems possible, closing at $100 million.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in Other

 

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My Summer Box Office Predictions (Part Two)

June kicks off hot off the heels of a spectacular May, headed by the success of Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Fast and Furious 6. We have Pixar’s next big hit, a Superman reboot, another White House action flick, and a few more comedies, but can June duplicate May’s success? Not likely. Let’s take a look at my predictions:

June

June 7: The Internship

The first week of June is a quite one, with a small horror release (The Purge) alongside a bigger comedy. The Internship pairs Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as two guys who get an internship at Google, but must compete with younger, brighter minds. The film seems to be relying on the comedy duo of Wilson and Vaughn, but audiences might react differently, since these guys are much older and less relevant than today’s top comedy stars. Still, it should do okay business with older moviegoers, but the younger crowd might stray away. I’m expecting an opening weekend of $25 million with a domestic total of barely $90 mil.

June 12: This is the End

An apocalyptic raunchy comedy where movie stars play themselves? An interesting premise for what might be this summer’s Ted. With such power stars like Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jay Baruchel, with a lot of smaller cameos, This is the End should do well domestically. Opening on Wednesday could prove beneficial, as Man of Steel should dominate the second weekend of June. An opening day could rake in around $12 million for a five day total of $60 million or so, closing around $150 million.

A Superman reboot looks like one of summer's biggest hits.

A Superman reboot looks like one of summer’s biggest hits.

June 14: Man of Steel

Arguably the summer’s biggest release is a Superman reboot. After Superman Returns’ mixed success, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan are giving it another go starring Henry Cavill and Amy Adams. The directing/producing duo should bode well, as it should attract the younger demographic given the track record of the two (300, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight). Marketing seems poised at shrouding Clark Kent’s origins in mystery, so the plot looks like it will bring in more serious moviegoers. It should do great business here in the U.S. with decent business overseas. Expect a high opening weekend at $130 million with a total of $270 million.

June 21: Monsters University

Pixar’s track record has been slacking lately, but Monsters University seems to break that, as it should connect with younger audiences as well as 18-25s who grew up with Mike and Sully. A prequel is an interesting take on the tale, as it’s something that Pixar has never done before, but Monsters University should be the biggest animated hit of the year. Franchises are risky for Pixar, though. Outside of Toy Story, Pixar’s only other franchise has been Cars, and we all know how that went. Monsters University should connect, though, and an opening weekend of $75-80 million seems likely, closing higher than its predecessor at around $270-280 million.

Monsters University should bring Pixar back to center stage.

Monsters University should bring Pixar back to center stage.

June 21: World War Z

One of 2013’s riskier flicks, director Marc Forster’s take on the action-horror novel could be the next After Earth. The only star being Brad Pitt, who isn’t well-known for action vehicles, World War Z should have trouble finding footing, especially after so many action movies this summer thus far. A strange marketing strategy hides the story and the zombies from the public, focusing on Pitt’s star power, which could backfire and leave many viewers confused. World War Z should open at around $40-45 million and end around a disappointing $130 million domestic total.

June 28: The Heat

A well-known comedy pairing? Check. Great director and track record? Check. Action-comedy not starring old men? Check. The Heat should perform very well, not only among women but also with younger moviegoers, and could prove to be the next Bridesmaids. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy seems like a match made in heaven for comedy shenanigans, and Paul Feig is no stranger to these two lovely women. After many disappointing action-comedies of late, audiences might find The Heat to be a breath of fresh air. Tracking indicates an opening of $50 million or higher, winning the weekend, and ending around $170 million, with a sequel looking likely.

June 28: White House Down

This weekend’s other action pairing stars Jamie Foxx as the U.S. president and Channing Tatum as a secret service agent. This year has already had a White House thriller in the form of Olympus Has Fallen, which proved a big hit for such a small company. White House Down might have trouble, since the two films are releasing only three months apart. But with star power like Tatum and Foxx, who have been very popular lately, White House Down shouldn’t have much of a problem. Marketing indicates a darker thriller, but still providing comedic bits, so it should connect with younger audiences, especially given its PG-13 rating as opposed to Olympus’s R. An opening weekend of $45-50 million seems possible, and a total of around $140 million should put it above Olympus Has Fallen.

That does it for this month’s big releases. Next month we have a sequel to a surprise animated hit (Despicable Me 2), some risky moves from well-known directors (Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim), and Hugh Jackman’s return to the clawed mutant (The Wolverine). Keep it here to Re:Spawn to see my July predictions next month.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Other

 

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