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November 28th, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire



Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Willow Shields, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymor Hoffman, Lynn Cohen, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, and more.


Directed by: Francis Lawrence Screenplay by: Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt Based on the Novel by: Suzanne Collins Cinematography by: Jo Willems Music by: James Newton Howard


Premise: Close to a year after the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is still trying to deal with the horror of those death filled days. And President Snow doesn't like how the districts have taken her defiance during the games to heart and have hope again. Under threats to her family and friends, Katniss picks up her fake romance with Peeta to please the president. But every move she makes only displeases him all the more. He wants her removed permanently. Yet it is the new head of the games who comes up with the plan on how she could best meet her end - by using a little known clause of the games and make the 75th Hunger Games one which picks its contestants only from previous winners of the games. And Katniss is the sole, living female winner from District 12, so she has no way out. (Rated PG-13)


Review:


1)
Acting - Total Thumbs Up:
For "Catching Fire" there were several returning characters as well as a bunch of new ones. Jennifer Lawrence totally sold the PTSD's, grief, and other whirlwind emotions flowing through Katniss Everdeen. Josh Hutcherson's Peetah Mellark was earnest, even while battling the bitterness at Katniss's lack of affection for him. Donald Sutherland was delightfully evil as President Snow. Elizabeth Banks was great at showing how Effie Trinket finally realizes that the system they live under might be flawed.


I thought Lynn Cohen gave an amazing performance as Mags - and she never uttered one word. Sam Claflin was also very entertaining, as he kept the audience guessing throughout on just what kind of person he was.


2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is full of lovely, visual special effects. The 3D map in the game control and the shield dome were but two of many. Others special effect efforts were even more impressive because they didn't even seem like special effects - the crawling fog, the lightning, the waves, and even the baboons all seemed like natural, integral parts of the environment rather than an added element for our entertainment.


The only spot that seemed to have difficulty was not one you'd expect. Katniss is at the top of a tree, looking out at her surroundings. And though she really is in a tree, the forest around her was not. Yet when the images were merged, they didn't blend well at all, and failed in their purpose. It was quite surprising.


3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: Since I'd not read "Catching Fire" before seeing the film, I'd wondered how they were going to deal with matters as left in "The Hunger Games." I couldn't have been more pleased. Though almost a full year had passed, Katniss is actually shown still trying to deal with what she'd done in the previous games. Suffering from PTSD's, trying desperately to cling to the life she'd hoped to make with Gale, cowed by the enormity of what she is being told is her fault just for trying to survive and save those around her - realistic reactions to the events thrust upon her, and one which most films would not have ventured to show.


The escalation of events, the 'games' Katniss is not aware of which are happening all around her and beyond. The horrible sense of guilt and helplessness as things are given meaning beyond anything she'd imagined
and unable to do anything about any of it.


There wasn't much rehashing of things which had gone before, so no slowing of events for those who watched the first film. I think enough is glimpsed in the beginning to at least give new viewers a general idea of what's going on, so they'd be able to enjoy it.



Even the film's title operates on several levels, which was delicious fun. There are even several surprises in store.

4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: In "Catching Fire" we get a glimpse of several of the other districts, each with their own look and feel. The location of O'ahu, Hawaii allowed for a totally different arena than the one used for the first film and looked great. The cinematography took full advantage of the new venue, giving us some really spectacular shots at various points.


5) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: As with the first film, strange clothes and makeup abound. Effie Trinket has more costume changes than lines. Her butterfly dress was utterly amazing. Taking the concept to extremes, even to butterfly eyelashes. I loved the contrast between people like her, and other normal citizens of the Capital vs. the more restrained tastes of those more confident of their status or power.


Conclusion: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" outdoes "The Hunger Games" with regards to story, intensity, and logic. Lots of power plays and plenty of great visuals to kept us thoroughly enthralled. Sadly, no previews or extra bits in the credits for the next one.


Rating: 4.5 out 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Paying Full Price to See Again) (Been a great season for good movies!)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

Novels


JEWEL OF THE GODS

(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!


Excerpt:
"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."





INNER DEMONS

(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!


Excerpt:
The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."



THE PRICE OF MERCY

(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Excerpt:

Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.




CROSS-EYED DRAGON TROUBLES
(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”

Excerpt:

“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.



WILLING SACRIFICE
(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”

Excerpt:

Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”



IN THE SERVICE OF SAMURAI
(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”

Excerpt:

Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.



VASSAL OF EL
(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”

Excerpt:

Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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