As long as we’ve had this website, there have only been a handful of movies for which I just couldn’t get it up to write a review, and not even because I disliked them. (Are you listening, WORLD WAR Z?) That was almost the case here, and though I feel obligated to weigh in on what is, after all, one of the signature blockbuster series of recent times, I was heartened when chatting with Alan last week, who told me he had also seen CATCHING FIRE, also enjoyed it, but was similarly unmotivated. I could tick off the boilerplate positives: a still-absorbing story, solid acting, cool costumes, etc. But thinking back, not much has stayed with me. Stanley Tucci is a sure high-point, so oily and overly hearty as the Games’ M.C. (His laugh alone deserves a Supporting Actor nomination.) Elizabeth Banks gets to briefly show some sensitivity underneath Effie Trinket’s grating ditziness. And at 23, Jennifer Lawrence’s future seems limitless. But after the first half which emphasizes the Evil Empire’s internal politics in the face of growing dissent among the people, THG:CF devolves into an extended version of “Survivor”. It’s this “adventure” part of the movie that interested me least, leading to a rather sudden surprise development that had me thinking there was still more to play out. Since I’d already been watching for two hours-plus I sneaked out for a nature call — and to my shock upon returning, the audience was streaming out of the theater. The movie had ended! — Jeff Schultz

The first HUNGER GAMES movie was good mainly because it featured Jennifer Lawrence and a truly bizarre/awesome performance from Stanley Tucci. It held my interest for the most part even though at times during the “Games” portion it became a little overly sentimental. The second film THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE doesn’t suffer such problems. The premise is Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are targeted by the government after their historic win in The Hunger Games because it has sparked a revolution. To deal with it President Snow decides to stage a kind of All-Star Hunger Games. But, the real purpose here is to kill Katniss and Peeta. Mainly Katniss, who has become a major pain in Snow’s ass. The start of the movie is good, but unlike the first movie the action and interest level really picks up after the Games begin. The movie is good, held my interest and once again features wonderful performances from Lawrence and Tucci. I will say I guessed Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s role in the drama almost as soon as he showed up. It didn’t kill the movie for me, but it was a fairly predictable plot twist. This wasn’t the number one movie of 2013 for no reason. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out in MOCKINGJAY this fall and next. — Alan Yudman

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