“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Action/Science-Fiction: 2 hours, 26 minutes)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Francis Lawrence
Rated: PG-13 (Violence and disturbing images)
Movie Review: This is the second film in “The Hunger Games” series, which is an adaptation of the books by Suzanne Collins. It is aptly directed by Francis Hoffman (“I Am Legend,” 2007; “Water for Elephants,” 2011). ”Catching Fire” is better than its prequel, “The Hunger Games” (Director Gary Ross, 2012), which had an awkward story that still lingers slightly.
Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) return home after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The spoils of their victory are short-lived. Rebellion in the districts of Panem triggers an unusual response from President Snow (Sutherland) and the Capitol. The president believes the victors of the Hunger Games are inspiring people to rebel against the government, disrupting the order established many years ago across the districts. Snow enacts the 75th Annual Hunger Games: The Quarter Quell. The competition pits former Hunger Game victors against each other in an attempt to quell the winners’ ability to inspire the people.
Throughout history, governments have a unique manner of creating heroes from gladiators, warriors of the battlefield, celebrities and other noteworthies, only to diminish them when they gain too much power. This premise is the nature of “Catching Fire.”
Katniss Everdeen is the main warrior who becomes an inspiration for citizens to rebel. Oscar-recipient Lawrence plays her well. Of course, this screenplay is better constructed this outing. She has better written material from which to work.
Lawrence is not the only cast member with an improved performance. The cast finally has a script that matches their abilities. Also, the addition of Academy Award-winning actor Hoffman is good. He, Lawrence, Hutcherson, Sutherland and Harrelson are dazzlingly here.
Again, this happens because the script works to make the story arc interesting. “Catching Fire” is a straightforward story that works semi-independently from its prequel and the novel. This film is enjoyable, even if one did not see its prequel or read the popular book series.
“Catching Fire” is genuine entertainment with a scheme worth following. It works. Simply put, it combines intriguing characters, good action sequences and a neat philosophical concept floating in the background regarding governmental power and the combined strength of united citizens.
Grade: B (The mocking jay is finally catching fire.)
“Delivery Man” (Comedy/Drama: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders
Director: Ken Scott
Rated: PG-13 (Thematic elements, sexual innuendo, some drug material, violence and profanity)
Movie Review: Vince Vaughn movies are a hit or miss. This one is good. Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a deliverer for his family meat business. His life is just fine until he learns that his multiple sperm donations to a fertility clinic nearly 20 years ago have resulted in him having fathered 533 children. Now, 142 adults have filed a lawsuit for Wozniak to reveal his identity. Thought of as an underachiever, Wozniak is an overachiever when it comes to producing offspring. He must now decide if he wants to be a father to 533, plus the one on the way with girlfriend Emma (Smulders).
While Chris Pratt is present for comedy, he is the worst part of this film. He is not convincing, although funny occasionally. He plays Vaughn’s best friend, Brett, a washed-up lawyer and father of four. His drollery subtracts from an otherwise workable piece that delivers drama and comedy bits. Pratt's involvement shows this film would have been better as a firm drama.
“Delivery Man" starts in a typical Vaughn manner — silly — but the film quickly becomes a touching one. As Vaughn becomes more responsible, the film improves with each scene.
This production is nothing powerful, but it offers enough to make it worth it. A kind story about doing what is correct quickly becomes moving. Vaughn, Smulders and a few others easily make this tale endearing.