[Arctic] Weekend Roundup & Quick Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s truly one of the c-cc-coldest weekend ever. It’s way too early to have an arctic weather conditions here and it lingers way too long!

CurrentWeatherMplsWe’re talking about several degrees below zero (Fahrenheit that is, so it’s a few dozen degrees below zero in Celcius!), with Wind Chill Advisory issued by National Weather Service when the wind chill is low enough that it poses a threat to human health and life if adequate protection is not taken against hypothermia and frostbite! Now, where I live, I don’t just look at the temp, but the ‘Feels like’ part is far more important, and so it feels like -21˚ out there right now. This is the time I ask myself time and time again, ‘Why the heck do I still live here?!’ 😉

Well, we didn’t stay cooped up inside because of the snow and frigid temp, so we did see Catching Fire on the big screen, finally!


Now, my friend Ashley has written a full review of this last week and I agree with her praises on the movie. I enjoyed the first film but I’d actually give this one more of an edge. I had only read the first book so going into Catching Fire, I tried not to read any of the plot points so it was a pretty different experience. I must say I like being surprised, and there are some moments here that made me go WHOA!

Here are some of the things that I enjoyed from the sequel:

  • The darker themes explored more boldly that shows just what’s at stake for the characters, especially Katniss. Director Francis Lawrence was bolder in showing the brutality of the oppressive Panem regime (well as much as PG-13 would allow for it, that is), such as the whipping scene and the Hunger Games itself. I like political intrigue and the casting of Donald Sutherland as President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch add so much gravitas to the story.
  • In regards to Hoffman, I feel that he elevates the film every time he appears. I sure hope he would have more screen time in the third film given what we now know about his character.
  • Speaking of supporting actors, besides Sutherland and Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci are equally memorable. Tucci never fails to entertain no matter how over-the-top his character is, if anything he makes the games’ host Caesar Flickerman so darn amusing.
  • I’ve warmed up to Peeta in this movie, seems that his character is more fully-realized and Josh Hutcherson is given more to do in the role. I like that he’s more assertive and confident with himself, but yet he’s got this inherently likable quality about him that won me over. Hutcherson has a more effortless chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence here, and I could see how Katniss is even more torn now between him and her childhood love Gale.
    The brief scene where Peeta comforts Katniss when she has nightmares is one of my favorites. It shows just how much the stress of these brutal games take a toll on these kids.
  • All the hoopla about Jena Malone‘s scene-stealing performance as fellow tribute Johanna Mason is justified, especially the elevator scene which is a hoot! Sam Claflin is convincingly slimy as Finnick Odair, perhaps a little too convincing, ahah. Glad to see him show his chops as he’s so bland in Snow White & The Huntsman, but then again look who he had to act against, ahah.
  • Speaking of costumes, as atrocious as some of them are, the Mockingjay dress is pretty darn cool. Ok so it seems to be inspired by Black Swan but man, when Katniss twirls and the white *wedding* dress turns to black I literally gasped [I think costume designer Trish Summerville ought to be nominated for her work] Btw, when President Snow saw that and his expression immediately soured, it was a pretty chilling moment.
  • Interesting to see the likes of Jeffrey Wright as one of the tributes. I guess it made sense that some of the tributes are older as they’re picked from a pool of past victors.
  • The set pieces are fun to watch. The arena where the tributes are being introduced to the crowd reminds me a lot of the chariot scene in Ben-Hur.
  • I like how the ‘circus freak-y’ character Effie Trinket’s humanity is revealed more in this film. I think there’s a glimpse of it in the first film but it’s more apparent here. I think Elizabeth Banks did a fine job here, and she barely gets a mention other than for all the crazy costumes and makeup she wears.
  • The games itself is beautifully-shot. I didn’t see it at the IMAX but my pal Ted who saw it there said it was marvelous. I was pretty caught-up in the games and it reminded me just how vicious and unpredictable it can be!
  • Last but not least, Jennifer Lawrence still owns the role as Katniss Everdeen. She is a heroine worth rooting for as she’s as vulnerable as she is bad ass. No doubt that a large part of the franchise’s success is due to her casting and it’s easy to see why.
    CatchingFire_KatnissEven in her already illustrious career long before she even hit 25, I think Katniss would be regarded as one of her best roles. It’s interesting to see her effortless acting alongside people close to her age (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth) but she looks just as comfortable in the presence of veteran actors like Sutherland and Hoffman. She has the confidence of someone well beyond her years but there’s also certain nuances that she brings to the role that I notice more now that I’ve seen more of her work.

Ok, there are lots to love here but I’m not saying the movie is perfect. I thought the pacing was off in the first hour. I actually glanced at my watch a few times as it felt rather long. I’m not fond of Willow Shields as Katniss’ sister Prim and their scenes didn’t quite resonate with me. There are also very little character developments with any of the tributes. Yes I know this story is more about Katniss and Peeta, but the tributes are almost an afterthought here that by the time the games begin, it felt like the games was actually lesser in scope than it’s supposed to be in the book. Also, am I the only one creep-ed out by Finnick and Mags at one point of the game? It’s just bizarre and not in a good way.

CatchingFire_GamesStartThe games itself isn’t as gripping as I expected, though there’s a big tense moment at the start of the game when everyone got dropped to the island. But overall it just wasn’t as riveting, and the fact that Katniss had so many allies right off the bat seems to lessen the gravity of the games, if you will.

That said, I’m still looking forward to the third film. Boy that ending made me wish Mockingjay will be released next month instead of a year from now!

4 out of 5 reels

This weekend I also watched Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (read my review)

So that’s my weekend roundup folks! Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Or you can also share what you watched this weekend.

42 thoughts on “[Arctic] Weekend Roundup & Quick Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

  1. I hope you have a good heater in your place. Besides, I saw a video of a multi-car pileup in Wisconsin. Oh…, that was bad.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the new Hunger Games film and gave kudos to THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!! Honey, if that film was Rated R. I’d either faint or be in jail.

    BTW, which version of The Grandmaster did you see?

    1. I do have a good heater at home but when you’re out and about it’s impossible to get warm no matter how much clothes you wear. Yeah I saw that in WI. I bet there are places in MN that have some crazy traffic accidents too.

      Ahah you’re referring to the elevator scene right? She definitely stole scenes in a few occasions.

      A friend of mine lent me the dvd, I believe it’s the Special Edition one: http://www.amazon.com/THE-GRANDMASTER-Disc-Region-Free/dp/B00CBR9S44

  2. Ted S.

    Yeah seriously, why the heck are we still living here in MN? It’s way too cold and the icy roads are even worse. I agree on a lot of what you point about Catching Fire, I thought the game would be much bigger and intense, which is why I still like the first movie better. But yeah the IMAX sequences were pretty awesome.

    I rented The Hangover 3 over the weekend and as a fan of the franchise, I thought this one was just a waste of time. Everyone looked like they’re just tired of being in the movie and worse of all, it’s just wasn’t funny.

    1. It’s nuts isn’t it? It’s not even February and it goes on way too long!

      I figure on IMAX the game is even more awesome to watch w/ those long shots. But overall it just wasn’t gripping enough. I dunno, maybe I was expecting too much.

      I have zero interest in seeing The Hangover, glad that franchise is over and done with.

  3. Hey Ruth! That cold spell hit here too but not like you guys. Brrrrr!!!!

    Haven’t watched the Hunger Games flick yet. I was pleasantly surprised by the first film. I think I gave it 3 stars but that was more than I expected. Still I wasn’t excited enough by it to have any real urge to see the next installment. It’s really good to hear it is worth a watch.

    1. Ahah, I think the coldest it is in your area is like a warm front for us 😀

      I think the second one is just as good if not better Keith, I like the political intrigue aspect and those veteran actors I mentioned are superb. Of course I like Jen Lawrence too so that helps.

  4. Catching Fire was pretty good, but I do feel the product didn’t quite live up to the hype. To me, it was merely decent, and didn’t linger in my mind. I would give it a 7/10 like the first film. I guess if I was a fan of the books, it would resonate more. Glad you enjoyed it, anyway 🙂

    1. Hi Chris, glad you’re back blogging again. Oh I think 7/10 is pretty good, I do think as I read the first book I care more about the characters. It’s one of the better YA novel adaptations I’ve seen I think, and the cast is awesome!

  5. We’ve not been too bad with temperature over here but we had some horrible high winds and rain which caused some pretty bad flooding in places.

    I think your points on Catching Fire are pretty spot on Ruth. It was definitely darker, which I really liked and there are some brilliant performances in there. But it is too long and there are some characters which are very underdeveloped. Apparently the other winners are more fleshed out in the book, which does make me want to go and read it to find out more about them.

    1. Hi Chris, looks like we saw this movie around the same time. I like the darker aspect though there could be more character development on a few major winners like Johanna and Finnick, maybe the 3rd film will flesh it out more. I might read the 2nd book too, I really like the first one.

  6. First, winter is a beautiful thing, Ruth. That’s why we live where we do. 🙂 I even took my dog for a walk this morning – gotta say it was a fine day to be outside. (Note sarcasm.)

    Second, I agree on Catching Fire. Mostly. I still think Peeta is underdeveloped, considerably so, and I think the important tributes get their share of treatment, but otherwise, I agree. It is better than the first and does set the stage for the third and fourth quite well.

    Third, I can’t wait to read your thoughts on The Grandmaster.

    1. Hi there James! Ahah, I noted the sarcasm in your comment man 😀 Btw, check your DM about a possible meet-up next year.

      I’d love to see more of Peeta as I’ve grown to like the character here. I actually don’t care much about Gale, mostly as Liam can’t act worth a darn.

      Stay tuned for my review of The Grandmaster tomorrow or Thursday. Have you seen it?

      1. Got the PM. Will reply soon – a meet up sounds like fun.

        And I have seen The Grandmaster. Technically, I think it’s brilliant, just a step or two behind Gravity. Narratively, I think it very flawed, maybe even bad. Which added, I think, to a C grade.

        1. Cool, I’ll see if there are other bloggers who live in the Twin Cities 🙂

          I totally agree w/ you about the narrative of The Grandmaster, but I’m quite generous on my rating as you’ll see.

  7. It’s been really cold this week over here but not nearly as cold as there! Hope you stay warm and healthy, Ruth!

    Pretty much agree with your thoughts on Catching Fire. Glad you lked it too!

    This weekend I watched Knocked Up on TV and The Butler at the cinema.

    1. Thanks Fernando, I feel like the only place colder than us are the North and South Pole! 😀

      Yes I’m glad I finally got around to it and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I still haven’t seen Knocked Up yet! What do you think of The Butler?

      1. Actually, the South Pole is in summer right now and the temperature is *only* around 2 degrees Celsius below zero. So you’re actually colder, haha!

        Knocked Up is hilaripus, but I don’t think you’d like it. Didn’t love The Butler, the writing was a bit corny but I loved the performances, especially Whitaker and Winfrey.

        1. Oh geez, that’s nuts!! Wish we had a ‘Cold Day’ on top of ‘Snow Day’ but we never get a day off no matter how cold it is here.

          No I don’t think Knocked Up is my cup of tea. I hear ya about the writing but I like Whitaker and some of the supporting cast. I’m never been a fan of Winfrey in general but I have to admit she was memorable.

  8. Ruth, I completely agree with you given that I am not a fan of the winter. I often ask myself what am I still doing in Maryland lol. The problem is that winter hasn’t even officially started. I’ve heard so many great comments about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that it’s probably the next film I’ll go see in theaters. It’s been a while since I saw the first one, but I guess it’s good to go in and just be surprised like you said. Cheers!

    1. Hi Raul! You’ve been hit with tons of snow over there aren’t you? Yeah, it’s not even January yet 😦

      I think Catching Fire is worth a look on the big screen. It did a nice job connecting w/ the first one and overall I think it’s a more compelling and darker film.

  9. Tom

    Great work Ruth. This movie was so intense, through and through and the stakes were definitely raised, as was the bar for all the performances. I am actually surprised I haven’t returned to theaters to see it a second time I loved it so much. That’s an interesting perspective you have here, too, since you have read the first book but not the second (yet, anyway). I haven’t gotten to the books myself yet, but I definitely plan on it. Again, nice work here.

    1. Hi there Tom! I haven’t been able to see a lot of films twice on the big screen as there are just sooo many to see. But yeah I could see you wanting to see it again. I really like the political intrigue and the stakes not just for the tributes but for the other citizens as well. Can’t wait to see what Plutarch & co. would do in Mockingjay, hopefully more screen time for Hoffman!

  10. I’d give anything to be up north – Florida is so hot even in Winter; it doesn’t fully feel like Christmas. Happy that you liked the second Hunger Games! I wasn’t very crazy about it; just felt very underwhelming but over time I might grow to love it.. Nice review! 🙂
    This weekend I hope to squeeze in Sense & Sensibility, Love Actually, and some small Barbra Streisand movie (School finals are over so I’M FREE!!).*crossing fingers*

    1. Hi Katy, trust me you don’t want to go too much north where we live. We’re talking about an 70-80 degree swing in temperatures, not factoring the wind chill! Your body will be in shock.

      Were you impressed w/ the first film? I can see that if you’re not into the story in general it might not do much for you.

      Ooooh Sense & Sensibility is my ALL TIME FAVORITE film. I just love that movie so much. This is a rewatch I reckon?

      1. You’re right, my body would probably go into shock. It’s been ten years since I’ve been up north. *sobs*

        I rather liked the first film, just because it didn’t seem like a huge phenomenon. Most fans hated the direction and handycamera but I thought it made Katniss’ time in the games more natural/raw. Catching Fire felt more like a Hollywood “watch this sequel” blockbuster rather than a follow-up to the first one. It really did adapt the book extremely well; it was just largely underwhelming. And I felt in some scenes Jennifer was more like her off-screen personality rather than Katniss.

        Sense & Sensibility will be a first time watch for me! 😀

  11. It’s been cold here, too, but it sounds like you guys have got it worse. Spring can’t come soon enough!

    I saw Catching Fire a couple weeks ago. I thought it was solid enough, but it kind of felt like a rehash of the first film. I’m curious to see how the next film plays out though.

    1. Spring is still five months away!! I can’t believe we get THIS cold so soon 😦

      I think the third film will be very interesting w/ the whole revolution happening. More screentime for Hoffman as Plutarch hopefully, he’s sooo good here!

  12. Pingback: Movie Review – Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay Part 2 |

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