After Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) emerge victorious (and both alive) from the 74th Annual Hunger Games, they return home for a short while before being enlisted to embark on a “Winner’s Tour” and are forced to travel to all the other districts to congratulate them on their fallen tributes from the Games. However, Katniss and Peeta’s defiance in the face of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has attracted the attention and imaginations of a new wave of rebels, determined to bring down the morally corrupt government around them. This forces Snow to arrange for a twist to the games – and on the 75th year, all previous surviving winners are made to participate in the Games once more, including Katniss and Peeta.
This second installment was far better than the first. While Hunger Games set up the franchise, it didn’t paint a complete picture of the plights of the common people and their struggles. Catching Fire is much more intimate and lets us in on the futility of resistance but also on the hope these people embrace whenever it arises.
The acting by the two main characters was much more polished, and Katniss has gone from being a bit of an annoyance (Screaming, running out into the open because she can’t control her emotions) to actually being a kickass, strong female character. Likewise, Peeta hasn’t all of a sudden become a master combatant after one stint in the games as I’d expected him to do, but he does hold his own. Respectable abilities, but not unbelievable.
The movie is pretty long (two and a half hours….phew) but the director, Francis Lawrence, does such a great job of pacing the film that it doesn’t really feel as long while you’re watching, and by the end you’re going to want to see what happens next (though there seemed to be some ripped-off elements of The Matrix there).
One other notable addition to this film is that of Philip Seymour Hoffman – who usually turns any performance into gold. His role had a subtlety to it that I think you’d have to watch the film multiple times to get.
In closing, go see this film even if you didn’t really like the first film, The Hunger Games. This is really what the first film SHOULD have been. It does everything the first film did but does it better. It’s a little long, but worth it.
JOE Rating: ★★★★
Charlie Wessler (Dennis Quaid), an insane and desperate screenwriter, manages to sneak his way into an interview with producer Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) for a movie pitch. What follows, as Griffin listens mostly at gunpoint, is a series of loosely-connected short films that Wessler thinks will be his cash cow. There is a story of a man with testicles on his neck who goes on a blind date, one about two men kidnapping a leprechaun and the consequences of doing so, one of a woman who proposes the ultimate gift (which may make you more uncomfortable than you think), and one in which Robin (Batman’s sidekick) is on the Gotham City speed-dating circuit. These are not the only skits, but in the end, they all culminate into a film that is reminiscent of others in its genre such as Kentucky Fried Movie.
There were a ton of stars in this film. Aside from Greg Kinnear and Dennis Quaid, there was also Common (the rapper, from Hell On Wheels), Hugh Jackman, Will Sasso, Richard Gere and others.
That having been said – this film should have been AMAZING. As it stands, it felt like I essentially watched an entire episode of Saturday Night Live…and not their best skits, either. Some of them admittedly made me laugh out loud but most were just potty humor. Poop and piss jokes, literally, comprised most of the skits in the film. The one that had me laughing the most was the leprechaun skit but only because of the novelty of seeing Gerard Butler as a leprechaun spouting obscenities at Johnny Knoxville and Sean William Scott that’d make a sailor blush.
It may be worth watching, if only once, on Netflix or somewhere else you can find it on the cheap. I suspect that mostly teens may find this funny, but for the rest of us it’s so-so (and not as good as Kentucky Fried Movie, either….not by a long shot).
JOE Rating: ★★
Original Theatrical Release: November 7, 2008
Director: David Wain
Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) are two energy drink salesmen who travel to various schools and businesses to try and sell their company’s drink. Danny is jaded and fed up with the company and is taking it out on everyone around him, including his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks). When Danny goes too far and ends up trashing his company’s truck, he and Wheeler must face either jail time or community service. Not opting for jail, the two salesmen end up as Big Brothers; Danny to a socially-crippled teen named Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who spends his days dreaming of being a medieval warrior. Wheeler, meanwhile, is assigned to a foul-mouthed boy named Ronnie (Bobb’e J. Thompson) and the both of them give the guys a run for their money, testing their patience, wallets and friendships.
I never quite know what to expect from a movie that has either Paul Rudd or Seann William Scott in it. Sometimes I think they get typecast as the same old characters they always play. This movie isn’t that different, but it certainly does some interesting things that a lot of their other films don’t do.
First, I did like the dynamic between Scott and Rudd. They’re just like a different version of the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson duo, to me, and that formula works pretty well. Rudd was sarcastic and sometimes angry like Ben Stiller and Scott was sort of daft and out for himself, but full of heart like one of Owen Wilson’s characters. (Think Starsky and Hutch, or Zoolander).
The addition of the big brother program headed up by Jane Lynch’s character was great, as well as the LARP (Live Action Roleplaying) group that Christopher Mintz-Plasse enjoys so much. There were a couple of smarmy moments I didn’t enjoy, because I find that a lot of times in comedies like this they try to throw in some touchy-feely type things like Adam Sandler started doing with all his comedies after the 90’s and it sort of ruins the pacing.
Overall, I think it’s one of my favorite Paul Rudd movies. Plus, he helped write the script so it looks like working with Judd Apatow has paid off for him because this definitely seemed like it could be an Apatow movie. Give it a watch, even for all the cool cameos by other funny folks.
JOE Rating: ★★★★
Movie Trailer For Role Models