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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

*Note: I am writing this under the impression that my readers have seen the first film/read the books

*Note: There are spoilers

Finally, a movie that lives up to its trailer.

Hold on, I’m still trying to process how unbelievably well done this film was.

Okay, I think we’re good.

I’m writing this as someone who’s read the Hunger Games trilogy and who thoroughly enjoyed the books. 

I cannot think of any other way to have done this flick with how it’s rated and how it’s trying to stay as close to the book’s storyline as possible.

The movie is 146 minutes long, or two hours and twenty-six minutes. And although I knew that time was passing merely because my body kept telling me to shift position, I was never once thinking that I was bored or wishing that the movie would just wrap up.

Jennifer Lawrence put on another fabulous acting display, pulling off Katniss even better in this movie than in the first one, and displaying her talent as an Oscar-winning actress. Josh Hutcherson put on another fine performance and Woody Harrelson was striking once more in the role of Haymitch. 

The director, Francis Lawrence, did an impeccable job with bringing to life the horrors of Suzanne Collins’ world. As I had been with the first film, my main concern going in was that it wouldn’t be dark enough to pull off what the books had done so well. 

But with what little he was able to do without an ‘R’ rating, Lawrence made unbelievable and Jennifer (Katniss) made perfection. Combining the scenes of suspense, sadness and horror with Jennifer’s flawlessly disturbing facial expressions, each scene was done correctly and so well that it instilled powerful feelings in the audience.

I’m not joking here. There were at least four girls around me (more girls, of course, came to see the movie) that jumped at almost every single jump-scare put in place by the director. They were good ones too; not always easy to see coming.

Then, perhaps only a moment later, the same girls were crying or covering their mouths when someone was killed.

There were three particular things that stood out to me in this film.

First was the sequence in which Katniss and Peeta (Hutcherson) are on their trip to the other districts and make their stop at District 11, the home of Rue. 

This entire scene was done so, so well. From the point at which Katniss takes the microphone to tell Rue’s family how sorry she is that she couldn’t save their daughter’s life, to the instant an old man in the crowd raises three fingers in salute to The Girl on Fire and is immediately taken and shot while a screaming Katniss is being yanked away, it is impossible not to feel some kind of emotion. 

That had to be the best scene from both of the films thus far, and you better believe I’ll be watching it on YouTube again when it finally appears there.

The second thing that stood out to me was the death of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). 

When I read the books, this was the death that struck me the most out of everyone who dies. Even those who are killed in the third book. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because of how pure Cinna is and how he seems like the only normal person from the Capital. Perhaps it was the relationship he has with Katniss, and how much the two quietly rely on each other. Or perhaps it was because of how brilliantly and openly he defied the Capital while simultaneously giving Katniss and the rebels in the districts, hope.

But no matter what it was, when Cinna is beaten to death in front of Katniss while she’s locked in an elevator, I remember having to put the book down and just stare at Suzanne Collins’ name on the cover, wondering how in the world she managed to make me feel something for a character that was hardly vital to the overall plot. 

While Lawrence couldn’t make the death quite as brutal as the book’s, he was pretty damn close. And again, Jennifer’s performance made the scene as good as it possibly could get. I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon.

The final thing was another scene from the book that had caught me, and I had been wondering for a while how they would manage it in the movie (again, due to the rating system). 

The scene I am referring to is when the group finds themselves in the section of the arena with the Jabberjays that emit the screams of someone you love in pain. I wasn’t as impressed at first as I was with the other two scenes, but when both Katniss and Finnick (Sam Claflin) race to get out and realize they’re stuck with the birds for an hour, that’s where the feelings set in again. 

Peeta can only try and calm Katniss from the other side of a forcefield that’s separating them, and they stare into each other’s eyes, both of them helpless, as Katniss screams and claps her hands over her ears, her eyes pleading with Peeta, with anything, for help that simply cannot come. 

Shudder inducing. 

There was absolutely nothing I could find wrong with this film, or that I just didn’t like. I believe there is one tiny moment where a cut from Katniss’ face to herself again looks sort of strange, but it’s not a big deal and it doesn’t affect the film’s overall performance. 

This is the best book adaptation I’ve seen for a long while, and it’ll be tough to have the next movie be as great as this one was. The effect may not be the same if you haven’t read the books, but I implore you to check out this flick while you can. 

Trust me, the odds are in your favour in terms of you enjoying it.

Rating out of 100: 92


Movie Review: Now You See Me

As long as I've got my suit and tie...
As long as I’ve got my suit and tie…

Come closer. Closer… There you go! Now you’ll be able to read the review much better! 

I was pretty excited to go see this movie if only for the fact that Jesse Eisenberg seemed to finally be back in a role where he got to play a witty, smart character that matches his acting style. But the movie features a fantastic cast that really do improve the film. A few notables would be Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher.

The movie has music that works well with the scenes and sounds exciting. The effects are solid and smart. But the best thing about this flick has to be just how much fun it is to watch. It almost feels like you’re at a real live magic show the entire time as you watch four of the main characters, who call themselves the Four Horsemen, perform tricks and dupe audiences over and over. The tricks and shows themselves are the most entertaining and fast paced parts of the movie, making them the parts that you’re waiting for every few minutes, hoping they’ll do another.

Not surprisingly, the film is not slow-paced and is made to be quick. The one-on-one scenes between characters are some of the most enjoyable to listen to, if you’re there for the writing and acting. Eisenberg has a scene where he is being interrogated in jail and it brings back memories of his stellar performance in The Social Network as he instantly becomes the quick talking, witty, cocky character that he’s so good at playing. 

My personal favourite would have to be any scene in which Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are talking one-on-one. Watching two big name actors who have been simply brilliant many times over speak to each other in a sort of epitome-of-acting showdown is just marvelous. 

The plot contains many twists and turns, like you would expect going to see a movie about magic and there came a point where I thought to myself, “I really have no idea what’s going on anymore. Anyone could be anything and everyone could be guilty or innocent.”

Certainly, Now You See Me keeps you on your toes and makes you want to learn more as it progresses. It’s never really overwhelming so that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on, but it can be difficult to keep up with at times if you haven’t been paying close attention. 

Something else that’s different about this film is that there aren’t main characters that are set in stone. Well, there are, but you’re not sure if you should root for them or not. The Four Horsemen (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Franco and Fisher) are main characters who you identify with early and want to succeed, even though they are doing illegal things and are classified as ‘the bad guys’. Then, at the same time, you’ve also got Mark Ruffalo’s character, who is working for the FBI and trying to catch the Horsemen. He is ‘the good guy’ who you also want to see succeed, thus making the movie a tension filled war within your own brain over who you want to see come out on top.

Thankfully, there’s nothing horrendously faulty or lame blaring from the bright lights of this movie and it is worth going to see if you want to watch something solid and entertaining for an evening. It’s one of those things where you walk out thinking, “That was cool. Glad I saw it.” 

But maybe I should’ve let this movie sink in even a little more than I did and listened more closely to Eisenberg’s last words; the closer I look into things, the farther I actually am from the truth.

Rating out of 100: 76