Hunger Games heat­ing up

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCH­ING FIRE ( M)

Di­rec­tor: Fran­cis Lawrence ( I am Leg­end) Star­ring: Jen­nifer Lawrence, Josh Hutch­er­son, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Har­rel­son, Phillip Sey­mour Hoff­man, Don­ald Suther­land.

IT’S Games on again. Catch­ing Fire, the sec­ond screen out­ing for the all- con­quer­ing

Hunger Games phe­nom­e­non, marks a grad­ual, but no­table im­prove­ment upon its pre­de­ces­sor.

The tone is darker, the sto­ry­telling is more com­plex and the cru­cial el­e­ments of the much- loved nov­els by Suzanne Collins re­main res­o­lutely in­tact.

Once again, Jen­nifer Lawrence leads from the front with an em­phat­i­cally grounded per­for­mance as war­rior hero­ine Kat­niss Everdeen.

As the story picks up, Kat­niss has re­turned in tri­umph to Dis­trict 12 af­ter tak­ing out the 74th Hunger Games.

The cyn­i­cal Pres­i­dent Snow ( Don­ald Suther­land) is still hard at work op­press­ing the masses.

In an ef­fort to dis­tract them fur­ther from his ne­far­i­ous plans, Snow leans on Kat­niss to play up a sup­posed love she has de­vel­oped for her Games co- win­ner, Peeta ( Josh Hutch­er­son).

Not sur­pris­ingly, this doesn’t go down well with her real beau, Gale ( Liam Hemsworth).

How­ever, as a cer­tain sense of stoic pragmatism has kept Kat­niss alive so far, she re­luc­tantly goes along with the ruse.

The first half of the film ze­roes in on Kat­niss’ per­sonal frus­tra­tions with be­com­ing a poster girl for the bru­tal regime she loathes.

Though this sec­tion is short on grip­ping ac­tion, a deeper un­der­stand­ing of her char­ac­ter is achieved that will be cap­i­talised upon in Mock­ing­jay, the two- part fi­nale to the se­ries which launches this time next year.

The sec­ond half of Catch­ing Fire re­turns to more fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory with the stag­ing of the 75th Games. The twist here is that the tour­na­ment is open only to pre­vi­ous win­ners.

Kat­niss must step into a volatile new games arena – an en­closed bio­sphere con­tain­ing hazards such as poi­son gas, elec­tri­cal force fields and, err, killer mon­keys – and get the bet­ter of an all- star field of con­tes­tants.

Speak­ing of all- star fields, the sup­port­ing cast of Catch­ing Fire make win­ning con­tri­bu­tions across the board.

Woody Har­rel­son ( as the wily men­tor Haymitch), El­iz­a­beth Banks ( as Effie Trin­kett) and Stan­ley Tucci ( as Cae­sar Flick­er­man) re­peat their great work from episode one.

A lively bunch of new faces led by Phillip Sey­mour Hoff­man ( as the ven­er­a­ble game de­signer Plutarch) and Jena Malone ( as Kat­niss’ ri­val Jo­hanna Ma­son) save the ex­pe­ri­ence from ever get­ting too fa­mil­iar.

While the run­ning time is de­mand­ing at al­most two and a half hours, there’s barely a mo­ment wasted in Catch­ing Fire. The pacing is sharp, as is the writ­ing and di­rec­tion.

Take the tip from Haymitch when he tells his pro­tégés “last year was just child’s play”.

Catch­ing Fire burns up the screen in its own right, and in fine style.

Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

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