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HUNGER GAMES, THE: CATCHING FIRE

SYNOPSIS:
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

Review by Louise Keller:
Exuding charisma and screen presence, Jennifer Lawrence is this sequel's greatest asset, the giant close ups of the IMAX experience accentuating the 23 year old Oscar-winner's appeal and celebrity as well as that of her Hunger Games heroine, Katniss Everdeen. The highly anticipated second adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best selling trilogy, Catching Fire encompasses the same themes of courage and sacrifice in a totalitarian regime as the first film and will no doubt thrill the fans, despite the fact that it delivers less. It is surprising that the odds are not in the film's favour, in light of the narrative's rich undercurrent of betrayal and pretence; it feels overlong, the emotional curve fails to ignite and the ending is anticlimactic.

Screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn have painstakingly established the reality and circumstances in which Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are again about to face their fate in a battle for survival. It is Katniss who has captured everyone's imagination and the manipulative, dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland) identifies her as a threat to his oppressive rule. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the head game-maker is a welcome addition to the cast, concocting a scenario in which Katniss is used as a puppet and distraction.

Katniss and Peeta's fabricated romance is nicely played out, with handsome Liam Hemsworth's Gale Hawthorne waiting in the sidelines. The scenes in which Katniss and Peeta make scripted celebrity appearances in each of the Districts have bite, and Trish Summerville's sensational costumes dazzle. Effie Trinket (Elisabeth Banks), in elaborate blue, orange, purple and gold wigs, spidery lashes and wild outfits is a wondrous creation. Katniss's gowns are breathtaking and her Cleopatra-esque make-up striking. Look out for the wedding gown worn for the television interview, complete with fairytale flounces, frills and diamantes that dramatically catches fire as Katniss twirls. Lenny Kravitz returns as the stylist with good advice, Stanley Tucci as the reality show host with big hair, teeth and eyeliner and Woody Harrelson's mentor irritates. I felt like sending him to the hairdresser to chop that straggly, lank hair that forms a curtain over his eyes.

Water for Elephants director Francis Lawrence makes us wait one and half hours before the actual Games begin, when the previous victors are pitted against each other in this - the third Quarter Quell of the 75th anniversary of the rebellion. This is a battle to the death and there is much more than devious opponents to conquer: other elements include poisonous fog, vicious baboons, a tidal wave, blood rain and a deadly electric storm. But it is Lawrence who holds our attention and steals our hearts, her expressive, vulnerable face magnified to exaggerated proportions. I was a tad disappointed the film does not fire in the same way as does Lawrence, but the fans may not agree.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Slaflin, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Alan Ritchson, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Geoffrey Wright

PRODUCER: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik

DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence

SCRIPT: Simon Beaufoy, Michael deBruyn (novel by Suzanne Collins)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jo Willems

EDITOR: Alan Edward Bell

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Messina

RUNNING TIME: 146 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 21, 2013







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