Aw, what a shame I didn't wrap this and the entry about Frozen into one post; I could have titled it "A Song of Ice and Fire". Ah, well. Thanksgiving weekend is always a good time to catch a movie, and this year, I made it The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I've read all the Hunger Games books, and enjoyed the first movie, so of course I'm in this franchise for the long haul, even if I think it's silly that they're splitting the last one into two films. Francis Lawrence took over the director's chair for this one, and set about fixing a lot of the problems the first one had. Bye, shaky-cam! Nobody misses you!

In fact, a lot of the production's aspects are deeper and more thoughtful this time around. While the first movie is more about the action, this movie is more about the characters. Of course, that also saps a few of the thrills. In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta are forced to go on a victory tour to the other districts to talk up the capitol and their "love" story. They're terrible at being government puppets, and the spark of revolution in the populace that was lit by their co-win starts to get stronger. In retaliation, President Snow institutes a rule that the next games will be played by victors of previous ones, so Katniss and Peeta have to go back into the arena. This time, though, they've got powerful allies both within and without.

There are plenty of new faces in the cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, who always seems to be two steps ahead, and Jena Malone as the badass Johanna Mason. I was initially very skeptical of her casting; I didn't think she'd be able to handle the role as I understood it from the books. But wow, did she ever win me over. Most of the other roles are acted well, too, though Lenny Kravitz continues to be useless. Stanley Tucci always knocks the role of Caesar Flickerman out of the park, and Elizabeth Banks manages to imbue the vapid Effie Trinket with real dimension and emotion. If there's any big flaw, it's that middle movies like this always suffer from a bit of Loose End Syndrome. They don't start at the beginning, and they have no real ending, so maybe this movie didn't pack as much of an entertainment wallop as it could have, but there's no denying it was very capably done.

The most encouraging thing about the movie is a meta-fact. It has handily won the box office for two weekends in a row, and is setting all kinds of earning records. Frozen is also racking up money and praise galore. Coming on the heels of Gravity, that means three of the highest-earning and most critically lauded films of the year all have women as their driving force (literally in the case of Frozen, which was co-directed by Jennifer Lee). Could there be another revolution in the works? We can only hope so.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: B


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