It's time to go back to the arena with Katniss Everdeen. But don't expect nonstop action in the second film in "The Hunger Games" series.
Millions of advance tickets have already been sold for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and this opening weekend is forecast to hit $165 million by some sources.
Based on the second book in Suzanne Collins' trilogy, the story picks up about six months after Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark have bested the Capitol and both survived as winners of the 74th Hunger Games.
For those who missed the wildly popular books and first movie, let's recap.
The Hunger Games were created by the leaders of Panem, a post- apocalyptic version of North America, to punish and keep subservient the country's 12 districts after an earlier rebellion. In the games, two "tributes" from each district, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, are pitted in a fight to the death, with only one winner.
In the first movie, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) manufactured a love affair during the games to help gain favor with those watching on TV. As the last two survivors in the arena, they made a pact to both die by poisoned berries but were stopped at the last minute and declared dual winners. As the movie ends, Katniss and Peeta are headed back to District 12 and pondering what will happen next.
Much of this second movie deals with repercussions from the 74th games -- Katniss and Peeta dealing with post-traumatic stress, turmoil bubbling up in the districts as the oppressed population rallies around Katniss' act of defiance and the Capitol's plotting to destroy her and quash any rebellion. Peeta also must cope with his seemingly unrequited love for Katniss.
Donald Sutherland is back and has a more prominent role as the ruthless President Snow. Adding weight to the proceedings is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the new head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee.
The two characters plot to get rid of Katniss by making former tributes participate in the 75th Hunger Games. The heavy action of the games doesn't come until about two-thirds of the way through the film, which is true in the book as well.
Several actors return from the first movie. Elizabeth Banks is allowed to add some humanity this time to Effie Trinket, the District 12 tributes' elaborately costumed escort to the games, and Woody Harrelson's Haymitch Abernathy is a wiser and more sober mentor this time around.
Playing small, but pivotal, roles are Stanley Tucci, as the delightfully smarmy Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; Lenny Kravitz, as Katniss' inventive stylist Cinna; and Liam Hemsworth, as Katniss' best friend, hunting partner and possible love interest Gale Hawthorne.
Joining the ranks of the tributes are Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, as Beetee and Wiress, who both won earlier games based on brains, not brawn; Sam Chaflin as Finnick Odair, who won the games at age 14; and Jena Malone as the tough and angry Johanna Mason.
While the first movie left viewers quietly wondering about the future of Katniss and Peeta, this sequel begs for the next installment to come soon. The ending leaves more questions than the whole movie answers. But moviegoers will have to be patient. The last book, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay," is being made into two movies (in a trend started by the "Harry Potter" series and continued with "Twilight"). The first part is due out next November and the last in November 2015.
If you want to know the ending now, pick up the book. It certainly won't take two years to read it.
Susan Jones is assistant features editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7919 or email@example.com.
J-Law conquers all
Jennifer Lawrence's career was on fire even before she landed the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen.
Lawrence began acting professionally at age 14, when she appeared in commercials and smaller film roles. In 2007, she was cast in the TBS sitcom "The Bill Engvall Show," playing daughter Lauren Pearson. A few more movie roles followed, and her first taste of national acclaim came when she portrayed Ree in 2010's "Winter's Bone." Her performance earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Lawrence played Mystique in "X-Men: First Class," which became a summer 2011 smash, but an even bigger hit was still to come.
Lawrence achieved true A-list status when she was cast as Katniss in "The Hunger Games," and Hollywood really came calling.
She appeared in "The Beaver" (2011), "Like Crazy" (2011) and "House at the End of the Street" (2012), before taking on the role of Tiffany in 2012's "Silver Linings Playbook." That performance earned her Golden Globe, Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild honors for best actress, among many other awards.
According the IMDB, Lawrence has eight more projects lined up for future release, including David O. Russell's "American Hustle," out next month; a remake of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden;" and even a small part in the sequel "Dumb and Dumber To."
She's graced many magazine covers, is the new face of Dior and has established herself as a style icon.
Even with all this attention, the 23-year-old has stayed surprisingly humble.
"I am amazed at some of the people who even know about me now or that I hear want to work with me or want to send me over a script," Lawrence told the Fresno Bee. "These are people I have idolized, and that has been very jaw-dropping and lovely."
-- Rachel Weaver
Just like Katniss
The popularity of "The Hunger Games" books and movies seems to continue drawing more people, particularly more girls and women, into the sport of archery -- a bow and arrow being Katniss Everdeen's weapon of choice.
Last year, the Archery Trade Association reported a 20 percent increase in sales of archery equipment. Anecdotally, Kevin Butt, store manager of The Archer's Edge in Oakdale, observed increased traffic after the first movie came out in 2012, and he expects to see the same trend after the new movie is released. Specifically, more women seem drawn to archery, he says. Manufacturers are responding, by adding a feminine touch to equipment -- bows and other supplies in shades of pink, which The Archer's Edge carries.
"There's definitely been a bigger interest," Butt says. "('The Hunger Games') has definitely helped on that end, as far as getting women into the sport. It's definitely good for the sport."
-- Kellie Gormly
Get the look
Fire up your look with flame-colored mascara, glossy nail polish and bold lipsticks. These are some of the choices in Cover Girl's Capitol Collection, a line of beauty products inspired by "The Hunger Game: Catching Fire."
The tie-in is a little baffling, because the heavily made-up characters in the movie -- the Capitol dilettantes -- aren't exactly the people you'd want to emulate.
These are limited-edition items that help create the bold, avant- garde looks seen in the film.
Nine glosstini polishes in miniature bottles come in colors such as Seared Bronze and Inferno. The Capitol nail stickers collection offers six designs, such as Crimson Blaze and Red Hot Rebellion. Lipslicks come in Firecracker, Tickled Pink, Blind Date, Glow for It, Glisten Up and Turn Up the Heat.
-- JoAnne Harrop,Soundtrack stands separate
As a snapshot of this moment in pop music, the 12 songs on the soundtrack to "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" are emotional, love- obsessed and heavy on strum and rhythm.
Like the first installment, the music represented on "Catching Fire" isn't necessarily in the movie. Rather, this collection is "inspired" by the film and delivers a soundtrack to a generation of PG-13ers living for Nov. 22.
Picked by music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, the second volume has a lot of good makeout songs and just as many calls for courage.
In "Lean," the National's Matt Berninger seduces with the line "I can see a fever's on the rise/ I can see the waters in your eyes." Santigold's "Shooting Arrows at the Sky" brims with sing-along invention while referencing Katniss Everdeen's weapon of choice.
Coldplay is here, too, but in a battle with Lorde's haunting version of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," Lorde would forever reign supreme.
-- Los Angeles Times
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