Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Welcome to District 12 Catching Fire Review

Since we first saw the film at the L.A. Catching Fire premiere, we've been pretty over the moon about this film as are many Hunger Games fans. Now that we've all got the chance to see it more than once,  check out our reactions to this epic movie!


Courtney - "Just like last time, my expectations were unattainably high. Why do I keep doing this to myself?! I guess I can't help it, folks. We run a fan site, we're exposed to everything Catching Fire, and all this work we do because we love and are dedicated to this franchise. It seemed almost impossible to meet my expectation and yet- Francis Lawrence not only succeeded, he blew it out of the water. I was delightfully shocked by the added scenes and it was adapted just about perfectly. Now, I'm sure some will disagree, but this is THE EXACT film I wanted to see out of this franchise. I am more than pleased, I am ECSTATIC. This movie can do no wrong in my eyes, and I believe Francis Lawrence has saved us all."

Tiffany- "I tried my hardest not to have high expectations for this movie so that I would not be disappointed when I saw it. That didn’t exactly work out, but it turns out I didn’t really need to worry much. Catching Fire is my favorite of the three books, so I was hoping that viewers of this movie would connect to this part of the story as much as I did."

Janine- "I usually set my expectations for book-to-movie adaptations low as there had been much disappointment in the past. My excitement, however, has made it hard to manage my expectations. Catching Fire is probably my favorite book in the trilogy and after some imdb research into Francis Lawrence’s other work, the casting choices, the trailers and the tv spots, I went into the theatre thinking, ‘this is gonna be AWESOME!’ as well as, ‘if it isn’t as great as you think it is, you only have yourself to blame.” Turns out, I didn’t have to stress about my high expectations so much because the movie not only met my expectations, but exceeded them as well."

Denise- "Going into this movie, I simultaneously had high expectations and extremely low expectation. From some casting choices, I was concerned, but the trailers gave me a much bigger sense of excitement than even the first movie. It captured the look that I pictured while reading in the book just from the slight glimpse we saw of Snow's party."

Book to Movie

Courtney- "Why is it so hard for the industry to release book adaptation films that are to the fans liking? Even the most notable, Harry Potter, isn't really recognized as good adaptations among the fans. The only one I can really say has hit the nail on the head is Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Ring franchise. I guess it takes a SUPER FAN of the books to honor it completely while still maintaining the director's vision. Francis Lawrence said he wanted to make the book, and that he did. SO many scenes are straight out of the book, small details still made it in, he built more scenes into the film, plus he referenced things to come. I can't wait to see the Mockingjay films, because Francis knows how to adapt this amazing story in a way that makes everyone happy."

Tiffany- "So many scenes were as they are in the book, several lines being word-for-word, and even those deviations from the book really do work for the movie and series as a whole. I’ve said for a while now that Bonnie and Twill are a device in the books to make Katniss aware of uprisings in the districts so it makes sense that they were not needed for the movie, especially after seeing the movie and knowing now how they accomplished that. The crowd reactions during the Victory Tour make that portion of the story a lot meatier as far as significant content for the plot. The other worry that many fans had with changes was since Madge was omitted from the movies Katniss was not going to see the uprisings on the mayor’s television. The quick solve was for Katniss to see it from an open door to the Peacekeepers’ control room on the train, which ramps up the tension for the Victory Tour even further."

Janine- "I was incredibly impressed with how closely the movie has kept with the book. Hearing the characters speak word-for-word the exact lines in the book just drove the emotional stake into my heart. Visually, everything in the movie looked exactly as I’d imagined when reading the book."

Denise- "The number of times I screamed in my head "THAT IS EXACTLY LIKE I PICTURED IT" are honestly too many to be counted, to the point where I was lamenting over the fact that more movies (I'm looking at you, Harry Potter) didn't more closely follow the book.
       You can immediately tell that Francis Lawrence and the writing team paid very close attention to the book with how accurate the adaption is. Even little things (that though not important to the plot, but important as a symbol of the filmmakers trying to be faithful) like Buttercup's more accurate appearance made you feel much more comfortable with the change in direction."

Additional/Changed Scenes

Courtney- "I had a heart attack when blood came out of President Snow's mouth and into his drink. I gasped so loud in the theatre!! Mockingjay is my favorite book, and the fact that this got referenced made me so so happy. Plutarch and Snow additions really worked with the source material, and I think gave a fuller sense of the story and what is happening on both sides."

Tiffany- "The scenes between President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee were genius. In the books, Plutarch is almost comical, but Philip Seymour Hoffman and the writing in these scenes gave Plutarch a very necessary edge and really hits home his duplicitous side once he’s revealed to be part of the rebellion."

Janine- "I feel like the the additional scenes/characters (between Plutarch Heavensbee and Snow, and even between Snow and his granddaughter) worked better visually to get the point across and move the story along that having the omitted characters/scenes from the book. Which I guess is the point. Basically, I think it’s great how the movie has tackled the third person vs first person POV and kept the integrity of the story by not only keeping elements from the book in the movie, but also by the additional scenes and conversations that we do not get to read about in the book."

Denise- "Peeta's tribute to Rue and Katniss' 'tribute' to Seneca Crane shows their personalities so perfectly and I was so happy that both of these moments were shown and Peeta's painting wasn't covered up."


Courtney- "PTSD is a big theme in the books, especially when you consider what The Hunger Games reference in Suzanne Collins' life. They constantly deal with it throughout the movie with Marvel, her having pushed Peeta away, night terrors, etc. Combine all that with Jennifer Lawrence's super acting powers, and WABAM we have a portrayal of Katniss that exceeded our expectations. Just amazing."

Tiffany- "The portrayal of Katniss’s PTSD is much more than what I was expecting. Her seeing Marvel as she is hunting serves as a reminder to the audience that Katniss’s actions in The Hunger Games are not forgotten. And Peeta running into Katniss’s room as she wakes from a nightmare is definitely one of those scenes fans were wanting to see that I was unsure would make it into the final movie. It was very important to get the “Always” line in there.
      Katniss’s desperation to keep the people she loves safe is carried through the entire movie. As a fan of the books, I appreciated that Katniss reminds viewers throughout that having been in the Games and then going back is not okay, that it is a terrifying and horrible experience. In the books, we know through first person narrative that Katniss feels guilt for her actions, and in the movie, that feeling is portrayed through careful writing, with Katniss’s outburst on the train being about killing people instead of simply yelling “No one cares!” at Effie like in the books. Once again, I’m grateful that an amazing actress like Jennifer is our Katniss."

Janine- "An expectation that I was not worried about setting incredibly high was Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. As soon as she starts panicking after she flashes back to shooting Marvel, the tone is set for the rest of the movie. We can see that Katniss carries the weight of what happened in the last Hunger Games not only when it is made obvious but throughout the whole movie, but in the slight nuances of Katniss’ facial expressions and actions. I am absolutely in awe of how Jennifer plays Katniss as scared and strong and determined and yes, even a little sassy, all at the same time."

Denise- "As soon as Katniss has her first PTSD related freakout in Catching Fire, I knew we were in for a much more adult film than the first one. Jennifer's brilliance in showing how traumatized Katniss had become after the 74th Hunger Games put me in her shoes and I felt her panic as I watched her struggling to breathe. This film immediately puts you in her mindset and sets you up for the reality and fear that Katniss experiences throughout the movie. You get to see that Peeta means a great deal to Katniss throughout this film, but her heartbreaking reaction to this and Peeta's almost death in the arena are incredible. We are so blessed to have someone as talented as Jennifer playing our Mockingjay."


Courtney- "I want to give Josh Hutcherson a big hug on behalf of the entire fandom, because I think with the combination of great script writing and his acting, Peeta truly came alive in this film. He by no means overacted, and made Peeta's character appealing for the reasons we all love him without being cheesy or overdramatic."

Tiffany- "I’ve really got to hand it to Josh. Catching Fire is an important part for Peeta in that this is where Katniss gets to know him and will serve as a contrast for who he becomes in Mockingjay. Essentially, this is the start of her feelings for Peeta and what Katniss will think of when she thinks of the “real” Peeta. And Josh acted it well, keeping Peeta open but not overly lovesick. The look on his face when he takes a seat next to a sleeping Gale said it all, both heartbroken and resigned. The beach scene between Peeta and Katniss was one of those that fans talk about a lot from the books that couldn’t possibly be live up to expectations, but I was incredibly happy with it and I think the movie did that important scene justice."


Courtney- "Dude, high five! Maybe it's because we got to see more scenes, but I saw in Catching Fire why Liam was chosen for this role. My favorite scene of his is when he tells Katniss why they can't run away. You really see the fire in his heart and desire to fight back after all The Capitol has taken from him. His character really came alive."

Tiffany- "I was very happy to see the changes for Gale. Being whipped for assaulting Romulus Thread and not for poaching and his focus on rebellion when Katniss suggests running is excellent set up for Gale’s role in Mockingjay and makes him more sympathetic and three-dimensional as a character."

Janine- "Seeing Gale being whipped for helping someone as opposed to poaching was a good change. I think it helps develop his character - from wanting to run away, to wanting to fight - all leading up to the Gale we will see in the Mockingjay movies. I’m not sure if it was just that Gale did not really get a lot of screentime in the first movie, but I feel like Liam Hemsworth’s acting has improved vastly. I did not think I would root for Katniss/Gale ever, but I did a little bit."

Denise- "I have to applaud Liam Hemsworth in this movie. His acting is vastly improved and you actually want to root for him to get the girl. The acting in this film is superb."


Courtney- "Elizabeth Banks wanted nothing more than to play Effie Trinket. She has taken this role, made it her own, and really humanized her. When she is so emotional when she says her goodbyes to Katniss and Peeta, I struggle keeping it together. She was not my first casting choice a long time ago, but I am so thankful I was wrong."

Tiffany- "I was grateful to Elizabeth Banks and the writing of this adaptation for the way Effie was portrayed in this movie. Though Effie is largely comic relief, it was very important that they show that underneath the makeup, crazy clothing, and wigs, there is still a human being in there."

Janine- "I am really happy with the way Effie’s character was written for this movie, and the way Elizabeth Banks has portrayed her. The scenes where we see that Effie is clearly distraught moved me the most - Effie is from the capitol and comes across as shallow and is mostly there for comic relief. So seeing her close to tears when her victors have to go back to the arena really tugged at my heartstrings."

Denise- "Effie's reactions during the reaping scene are so genuine and Elizabeth Banks shows you exactly what Effie is feeling without toeing the line and causing her any problems with her job and with the Capitol. Appearances are everything with Effie and it is captured beautifully."


Courtney- "Wowie. Did these guys steal the show or what?! Jena Malone and Sam Claflin made jaw dropping performances of their characters. They became exactly what I wanted to see and then some. They truly evoked the comic relief they provide yet a real sorrowful truth under all the layers that both those characters possess. Five stars!"

Tiffany- "Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair was fantastic. I’ve liked him as an actor for a while, but hadn’t seen him act in this kind of role before. He goes from smarmy to dangerous to vulnerable in a way that is so Finnick from the books that I was thankful we had Sam for the role. Having known about his intense preparations for the role and determination to be the Finnick fans wanted, it was a pleasure to watch the results of that hard work. Sam’s biggest moments for me were when he watches Mags walk into the fog and after the hour with jabberjays are up. Both are very vulnerable moments for him, and both are hints of what’s to come for Finnick in Mockingjay. It was most important to me to be sold on him as Finnick for those moments more than anything, even the sugar cube scene, and I really think he nailed them.
     Jena Malone as Johanna was an incredible thing to watch. She embodied the character’s spirit but not in an overtly obvious way. The elevator scene added some needed levity to the film before the heavy stuff, and her Caesar Flickerman interview was a stroke of genius. The line though that really got me was “Love is weird.” It made me anxious to see Johanna in Mockingjay, even though that won’t be for a while."

Janine- "A week or so before the movie, I watched an interview where Francis Lawrence talked about Jena Malone’s audition. He said something to the effect of after having seen her audition as Johanna, he could not see anyone else in the role. This made me happy as I am a fan of her work, but after seeing her first scene in the movie (in the elevator, though to be honest it might have been the TV spot where she says, “Make him pay for it!”), I totally understood what he meant. Her Caesar Flickerman interview was amazing. She was flawless and I am excited to see more of her in the Mockingjay movies.
        Sam Claflin was not my first choice to play Finnick. Having only seen him in the Pirates of the Carribean movie maybe two years before people were discussing possible Finnick choices, I have to admit that I completely forgot about him. I was happy and excited when he got cast, though, honestly, because he was great from what I remembered from the Pirates movie (and from what Tiffany said) and also honestly, I thought he was really cute (I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that). From what I saw from watching some interviews, meeting him at the Fan Camp signing and seeing him in the red carpet, I have learned that he is incredibly incredibly charming (incredibly!) which then lead me to think, yeah he’s got ‘Capitol-Finnick’ down but how will he do when Finnick is vulnerable? Or angry? The answer to that question is GREAT. One of my favorite scenes in the movie was Finnick and Katniss with the jabberjays. Sam Claflin was incredible as Finnick Odair."

Denise- "Seeing Peeta and Katniss snuggling up in the train caused my inner fangirl to squeal, but nothing prepared me for how perfect Sam Claflin and Jenna Malone as Finnick and Johanna would be. The sugar cube scene played out the relationship between Finnick and Katniss so well and the elevator scene had me rolling! Johanna was always my favorite character in the books, and I'm pretty certain she's going to remain my favorite character in the movies. I think it's the foul mouth and appreciation for nudity."


Courtney- "Seeing these scenes in IMAX was incredible. The visual effects were phenomenal, and I am so pleased that amidst all the fancy shmancy effects, the grittiness and terrors of the arena were emotionally compelling just as it was reading the book."

Tiffany- "Everything that happens in the arena is by and large how I wanted to see it on film. From meeting Finnick at the Cornucopia, to the CPR scene, to the fog, the monkeys, the spinning Cornucopia, jabberjays, lightning tree, everything. The fog was terrifying, and hearing the jabberjays as opposed to reading about made it such a real experience. When Peeta hits the forcefield and Katniss is crying hysterically and shaking and hugging him when he is revived, Finnick’s expression as he watches them did not go unnoticed. Again it is great setup for Mockingjay."

Janine- "I don’t know how many times I’ve said this already, but here it is again: visually, it’s exactly how I imagined it while reading the book! It really is. Every hour-long threat that we get to see, the beach, the cornucopia, when it spins - it feels like I dreamed it into the movie. When Effie says, ‘The Capitol has spared no expense,’ she was right. Every threat is terrifying and shows how far the Capitol is willing to go to make sure the power stays where it is. Then we see the walls of the arena crumble and a hovercraft take Katniss away where she wakes up to Haymitch and Plutarch Heavensbee and they talk about the rebellion - the stage has been set for Mockingjay."

Denise- "When we finally get to just before the games when Katniss is getting ready, I was gripping my arm rests so tight I thought I might break something. Cinna's beating is a quick and horrible scene and it was exactly like I pictured it in the books.
     When we get to the arena, the quick paced action gives you a real feel for how it must be like in the games. Everything from the Cornucopia to the monkeys happens so fast that you're slightly disoriented with how quickly people die, but it's brilliant because it's so real and true to life. Also, props to Weta for the AMAZING monkeys (such a huge step up from the mutts in the first film)!!!
     My favorite part of the movie is when Katniss and Finnick get tricked by the Jabberjays and are psychologically tortured, because you see the scope of what the Capitol can and will do. Not only will they break your bodies, they will break your mind, as we will see in Mockingjay."

The Ending

Courtney- "I guess it's because we didn't get a hovercraft scene last time, or maybe because when it comes to endings of book adaptation films they don't tend to be like the book, but the ending was a surprise to me. It was exactly like the book, even down to the syringe. It was everything I wanted as a fan, and even added in the epicness, "This is the revolution and you are The Mockingjay". I mean, what's not to love?!"

Tiffany- "When Katniss wakes up in the hovercraft, grabs the syringe, and bursts into the room with Haymitch, Finnick, and Plutarch, it is all I could’ve dreamed of for that scene. From Finnick’s demeanor and worry in his face (for book readers, we see that as him knowing the Capitol has Annie), to Haymitch’s line about Katniss and a syringe against the Capitol which is ripped from the books, to Plutarch declaring Katniss as the Mockingjay and their mission, it was an incredibly compelling scene. Her reaction to finding out they didn’t get Peeta out was spot on to what I wanted from that scene. And the final scene with Gale’s cliffhanger-dropping line and Katniss’s last look of determination propels the audience into Mockingjay in an understated yet intense way."

Janine- "Everything from when Katniss is lifted out of the arena up to the moment the screen turns black was just so intense. The strong acting, combined with lines taken straight from the book - what a way to go out with a bang! (or maybe, to start off with a bang - did it not make you more excited for the next movie?!) The last minute or so in the movie (right after ‘There is no District 12’ - also taken straight out of the book) with just the close up of Katniss’ face - I am getting goosebumps right now just thinking about it."

Denise- "The action in the arena is displayed much more realistically and it is much more adult than the first movie, and it sets up what the action will be like in the final two installments. When we finally get to the climax of the movie and you see Katniss figuring out Beetee's plan, I was holding my breath even though I knew what was coming.
      Though Katniss being lifted out of the arena was giving me Return of the King flashbacks, I love that if you aren't a book reader, you're not entirely sure who is actually getting her until you hear Haymitch. Katniss' horrified reaction to what actually happened and her screaming "You're a liar!" at Haymitch seemed to make up for the lack of hovercraft reaction after the first games."

Great Moments

Denise- "I cry very easily in movies, but I'm pretty sure I cried a pool's worth of tears at the entire District 11 scene. From Katniss' speech to Rue's family, to the man who gets killed and to Katniss' horrified reaction, I was sobbing my head off. It was even more emotional on screen than in the books. Then seeing the reactions on the citizens of Panem's faces to the little girl who informs Katniss that she wants to volunteer for the games because of her, the movie sets up everything for Mockingjay perfectly."

Final Thoughts

Courtney- "I've seen this movie 5 times now so believe me I've had time to dissect. I may be one of the few, but I feel this movie is the best Catching Fire film that could have ever come out. It honors the book in a very rare way. I haven't seen an adaptation this good since Lord of the Rings, and THAT is saying something. Francis Lawrence loves this story as much as we do, and I bet we can expect two more great ones."

Tiffany-"Overall, I am extremely pleased with this movie. The look of it, the feel of it, was what I have been hoping for the series for so long. It has made me incredibly excited for the Mockingjay films. From watching the movie, I could feel the reverence for the source material, and I’m grateful for that."

Janine- "I give this movie an A! As I’ve said earlier, the movie has kept the integrity of the story we get in the book, and it’s almost tangible how it does that - from the visuals, to the tone and the acting of the cast. Francis Lawrence has done an incredible job and I am so, so excited for the Mockingjay movies!"
Denise-"This is the best adaptation I've ever seen and if this is a glimpse of what is yet to come, I just might start camping out for the next one today."

Logo Reveal

Courtney- "At the premiere, I may or may not have thrown my hands up in the air and triumphantly yelled obscenities in my excitement over the logo reveal. They didn't have to attach the logo reveal to the end of the film, but they did. After all the epicness and emotion Catching Fire provides, THIS PART was the best."

Tiffany- “It was very strategic to have the logo reveal after the way Katniss’s expression changes in the final seconds of the movie. This gave the Mockingjay logo meaning and significance, foreshadowing what’s to come and making me as an audience member that much more excited for the next installment.”

Janine- "Talk about unexpected! I was ready for the credits to roll but then seeing/hearing the Hunger Games logo gave me goosebumps! And then seeing it turn into the Catching Fire logo made me gasp and think ‘WAIT A SECOND’ and then the Mockingjay logo! I definitely exclaimed something bleep-worthy. Remember, this happened in a few seconds so you can imagine my reaction irl. Also, I WANT THAT PIN!"

Denise- "Is it bad that my favorite part is the logo change at the end? The Mockingjay rising perfectly goes with the determination in Katniss' eyes at the end. THAT PART IS SO AWESOME."