Knee-jerk review: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

1. It'd be interesting to see some kind of study about what impact, if any, Katniss Everdeen has had on archery lessons among tween girls.
2. This sequel is much better than the first film.  This is due in part to the bigger scope and budget.  No more cheesy special effects from the late night SyFy movie-of-the-week bargain bin, not for a multi-million dollar tent-pole franchise.
3. But there's also a stronger emotional undercurrent to the story, whether it's Katniss dealing with a kind of PTSD from her experiences in the Games in the first movie or simply watching her evolve from a disinterested figurehead to a determined rebel leader.
4. Yes, we're one of those people who's read all of the books.  We liked the last book, Mockingjay, the least.  And the filmmakers are turning that one into two movies.  We'll see how that works out.  (The first book is the best one.)
5. We've seen Battle Royale.  It's worth a look if you're into this kind of dystopian story.  Similar plots, but it's got an entirely different tone than the Hunger Games stories.
6. All of this is fairly ridiculous, but the cast sells you.  They are fully committed.  How can you go wrong with Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Geoffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci?  That's a rhetorical question, people.
7. "Tick tock."
8. We really can't get behind the Gale-vs-Peeta thing.  Why is this such a torturous decision?  Gale just seems like a meathead.  The fact that we're even talking about this shows how this movie lays bare a Twilight-style romantic triangle and betrays the story's young-adult, female-skewing roots.
9. Donald Sutherland certainly seems to be having a good time.
10. The movie is way over the top with its depiction of the gap between the haves and have-nots, but there are certain similarities between Panem of the future and America of the present.
11. Brilliant name for the Capital's violent, brutal shock troops: Peacekeepers.
12. We're going to have to find a way to work the three-fingered salute into our everyday life.
13. The ending is rather abrupt, but it's very faithful to the book and clearly sets up Katniss as a jaded, determined hero who will spend the next two movies kicking ass and taking names.
14. And, oh yeah, Jennifer Lawrence is a movie star with real acting chops.  We'll be talking about her for years to come.  How can you not like her?  She's like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock.  But maybe with more range than them.

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