The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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: ★★★★

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Original Theatrical Release: July 22, 2011
Director: Joe Johnston

It’s 1942 and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants desperately to join in the fight for his country during World War II. The problem is, he’s too scrawny and sickly. However, Doctor Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees within Rogers something special and offers to change his sickly demeanor. Eagerly, Rogers accepts and changes his life forever as he is injected with the Super Soldier Syrum which enhances his strength, speed, stamina and agility. Steve then becomes Captain America, and must go up against the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) with the fate of America and the world hanging in the balance.

Overall, I think they did a good job with Cap in this rendition of his character. Joe Johnston directs something that feels appropriately pulpy and 1940’s-retro-nostalgic.

The supporting cast is amazing, with talents such as Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and others. Sometimes, I felt their individual talents were put to waste on such minor roles, but hey…it’s great that they’re even in the film to begin with.

I’m still not really sold on Chris Evans as Captain America, even after Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. I guess I’ll have to see what I think once Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out. I still really think of Evans as The Human Torch/Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four. He was perfect for that character, but Steve Rogers had a lot of good-guy charisma, where Evans has cocky-guy charisma.

The action was all pretty decent and the special effects were neat for the most part. Most notable was how they managed to work their CGI magic and camera tricks on Evans to turn him into the 90 lb asthmatic he portrays at the beginning of the film. It looked really convincing for a good portion of when they showed him onscreen, even while he was shirtless.

If you love Marvel movies, you obviously have probably seen this…but you can also get behind this if you like action flicks or war movies or are just curious. I don’t think it’s really as good as Iron Man was, but it can hold its own (and sadly, might be better than Thor in some ways).

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The First Avenger