Thursday Night Movie Club
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
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Release Date: 22 November 2013

Director: Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence
Liam Hemsworth
Jack Quaid
Taylor St. Clair
Sandra Ellis Lafferty
Woody Harrelson
Josh Hutcherson
Paula Malcomson
Willow Shields
Donald Sutherland
Elizabeth Banks
Bruce Bundy
Nelson Ascencio
Lenny Kravitz
Stanley Tucci
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Amanda Plummer
Toby Jones
Sam Claflin
Jena Malone
Katniss Everdeen
Gale Hawthorne
Greasy Sae
Haymitch Abernathy
Peeta Mellark
Katniss' Mother
Primrose Everdeen
President Snow
Effie Trinket
Caesar Flickerman
Plutarch Heavensbee
Claudius Templesmith
Finnick Odair
Johanna Mason
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie poster #1 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie poster #2 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie poster #3
Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching FireTwo events at the end of The Hunger Games have a direct impact on the follow-up film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The first is Katniss and Peeta's act of defiance, choosing to die rather than give the people a victor in the games. The second seems rather innocent: Cinna placing Katniss' mocking jay pin on her dress for the coronation ceremony. This little token is shown to the people of the capital as well as all of the 12 districts. The pin becomes the symbol for civil unrest.

Trailers for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, depicts a new version of the games pitting past champions against each other. Oh no! Been there... done that! The Hunger Games franchise was going to make millions remaking the exact same film as the original! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games: Catching FireAfter successfully competing in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are slowly beginning to realize the truth of the situation: they will never be free from the Games. They will spend the rest of their lives being haunted and hounded by their heroic deeds. They are now mentors destined to train future tributes and thus reliving their own nightmares over and over. The government will see to that. As Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) explains, "No one wins the Hunger Games. There is only survival." This point clearly explains Haymitch's alcoholism.

Katniss is suffering a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. She has nightmares of the games even when awake hunting turkeys with her bow and arrow. Her life worsens when she returns home to find an important guest in her champion's house, none other than President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Snow sees right through Katniss' and Peeta's deception. He plans on making their lives a living nightmare by forcing them to continue their phony love affair throughout their lives. Snow threatens harm will befall Katniss' family, friends and the residents of District 12 if Katniss fails to be convincing.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson in The Hunger Games: Catching FireBehind the scenes, a chess game is taking shape meaning more trouble on the horizon for Katniss Everdeen. President Snow wants her eliminated before she starts a rebellion. The new Master Gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is plotting with Snow. Their goal is to embarrass Katniss, to make things appear as if she is now a government stoolie.

During the victor's tour of the 12 districts, Peeta and Katniss both give very heart-felt messages to the people of District 11 resulting in an old man being shot dead. When Katniss and Peeta read carefully crafted messages, they are greeted with boos and more protests. The people of the Districts see the change in Katniss and don't approve.

The 75th Hunger Games commence in The Hunger Games: Catching FireTo bring about Katniss' final downfall, Heavensbee decides to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games with a special Quarter Quell. Every 25 years, the past victors from each district, regardless of age, are brought back to fight to the death once again. District 12 has only one female victor: Katniss. The odds are not in her favor. For the males, there are only Peeta and Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch is none too pleased having spent the last several years in alcoholic bliss.

These Hunger Games are different. Past games were made up entirely of rookies. These games are composed entirely of past champions, competitors who all killed their last opponent in order to be crowned victor. None of the competitors are happy being recalled to compete once again. The rules stated they would never have to compete. The competitor's interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) are filled with undisguised, unbridled hatred for President Snow's decision.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching FireThe stakes are much higher now. On the train ride to the capital, Katniss begins to see signs of civil unrest in the form of graffiti. The painted symbol is of Katniss' mocking jay pin. This small token of rebellion was all but inconceivable a few short months prior.

Director Francis Lawrence adds suspense throughout The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. There is a nagging feeling in the back of the brain that things are not as they appear. Lawrence and screenwriters Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt drop hints throughout but explain very little of their significance until the final moments. Once the games begin, unlike the first film, part 2 is filled with a large dose of problem solving. Different parts of the arena become lethal regions at seemingly random times. A loony competitor solves the riddle.

Director Lawrence has a daunting task and he succeeds beautifully. Lawrence has to recreate the same Hunger Games yet make them fresh, exciting, suspenseful, more dangerous, more deadly, more intricate than the previous film. He also deals with a new cast of characters and actors. Each actor relishes his/her role and makes the character unique. These new competitors are past champions who each won their respective games using different, radical methods. For instance, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) used his brains to outwit his competitors, basically hot-wiring the electrical grid in the arena.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching FireThe returning cast and the new cast members all give stellar performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman stands out. Plutarch Heavensbee is a schemer. He not only sets up the Games, he plots with Snow to execute the best strategy to bring down Katniss and stem any hope of rebellion. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is even more intense. Katniss experiences a growing sadness as reality of her situation becomes clearer. Her mistrust of everyone deepens. She knows full well that there will be only one victor this go around.

As with most trilogies (Star Wars and The Matrix), the first Hunger Games film stood alone. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire asks more questions but leaves many unanswered. The final film The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay is slated to be released in two parts. The wait won't be too long but it will seem like an eternity. Welcome back Katniss! There are more surprises looming just beyond the horizon.