Catching Fire Movie Review, Part 1: Scenes That Wowed Me *Spoiler Alert*

Favorite Moments from "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" movie

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  "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is fast-paced and stays relatively true to the books. I have seen the movie twice and in both instances am thoroughly impressed with the acting, the sequence of events, and the choices the director–Francis Lawrence–makes. It is much more satisfying than the first movie, though I still worry about some of the themes translating to those who have not read the books.
  The following list includes my favorite moments from the movie. I will include my least-favorite in a separate post. Please note: there are movie and book *spoilers* to both Catching Fire AND Mockingjay in my lists!

Moments that WOWed me in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire":

District 11 Silent Salute - Favorite Moments from Catching Fire movie
• District 11 Victory Tour stop...everything about that scene was spot-on. And it was just as heart-breaking–if not more–seeing it as it was reading it. When Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) looked at Rue's family and began talking about how she sees Rue in the wildflowers, in the mockingjays, and especially in her sister Prim, the tears started streaming. They played the same heart-wrenching music we heard in "The Hunger Games" after Rue's death, which was a reminder of the first round of tears shed for Rue. But the moment that actually made me choke back some sobs was when the old man whistled and gave Katniss the silent salute. Jennifer Lawrence's reaction mimicked the audience's: the horror, the helplessness, the disgust of the atrocity that happens next to the old man. Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson's) reaction had the same horrified look when the trigger was pulled. Thankfully the door closes to spare the audience–and keep it at a PG-13 rating–but that doesn't mean it didn't diminish the effect of what had happened. The Capitol's reaction to the seemingly innocent whistle and salute is still frighteningly terrifying.

• Snow's granddaughter...what a great addition to the story! It will tie in very nicely with Mockingjay and really showcased Katniss's impact with the Capitol audience.

A favorite moment in Catching Fire: Seeing the "real" Buttercup

• Buttercup is back...Thank you, Suzanne Collins, for insisting that Buttercup's portrayal is true to the novels. Yes, it's a small detail. But it is only when Buttercup returns to District 12 looking for Prim that both the reader and Katniss finally grieve and come to terms with the loss of the beloved character.

Favorite moments in Catching Fire: Stanley Tucci as Caesar FlickermanFavorite moments in Catching Fire: Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

• Effie and Caesar, aka Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci. Their acting provided the perfect comic relief. If it weren't for the scenes these two played in, it would have been such a depressing movie. They both showcased the ridiculous and outlandish Capitol attitude of excess and egocentrism.

• "Always"...though we never know what the word is that Peeta says to Katniss as he stays with her in the novel Catching Fire (in this case, on the train rather than at her home after she injures her tailbone and ankle), we do get to hear him say it in the movie. Though I would have liked a little warmer bonding between the two in this scene and in prior scenes, I love that they included it because it tells me they won't leave it out in "Mockingjay Part 2." It's that one word that brings the old Peeta back from his highjacked state, and lets Katniss know that he IS still in there, he does still love her, she just has to help him find his way back; it's the word that tells her she can't kill him no matter how much he begs her to end his life. Bravo to Francis Lawrence for including this line.

• "Fire in the house!"...Claudius Templesmith's line shouted during the Opening Ceremony was one of the funniest moments for me. In fact, the banter between him and Caesar was perfection.

Favorite moments in Catching Fire: Sam Caflin as Finnick Odair

• Finnick Odair...It makes me wonder why anyone would have questioned the decision to cast Sam Caflin as Finnick. He was almost exactly as I pictured Finnick with his stunning smile and cocky attitude. When he offers Katniss a sugar cube, I was hooked.

• Cinna's farewell...You know it's coming, but nothing prepares you for the inhumanity of Cinna's punishment for transforming Katniss's wedding dress into a mockingjay. Just watch Katniss and you can't help feeling the injustice, helplessness, and fear as she enters the arena.

Favorite moments in Catching Fire: Lynn Cohen as Mags

• Mags...every scene that Lynn Cohen played in was perfect. When Mags meets Katniss for the first time, no words are needed. Her eyes show us all the emotion we need: she feels for Katniss, respects that she volunteered for her sister, and believes in her. Mags shows us how others see Katniss: the symbol of hope, the hope for change, the possibility that someday they can be free. Pretty deep when you consider she says it all without uttering a single word.

• Peeta's "death" in the arena...When Peeta hits the forcefield and Finnick saves his life, it's Katniss's reaction that is so stirring. Enough to affect even Snow's granddaughter. I love that we see Finnick look at Katniss strangely in that scene because it foreshadows the Mockingjay scene when he tells Katniss that he knew she loved Peeta (that it wasn't an act) when she thought Peeta was dead in the arena. To me, this shows such attention to detail by director Francis Lawrence. He knew he had to have Finnick react that way in order to pull off that Mockingjay scene.

Favorite Moments from Catching Fire movie: The depiction of the monkey mutts

• The monkeys...Oh. My. Word. They were incredibly disturbing. No, they weren't really orange, but that didn't bother me. This scene happens in the early morning, so it is still dark. And thank God it is. I think if we saw that scene in full daylight, it would have been even more frightening.

• The jabberjays...Again, a stunning and emotionally-terrifying scene. Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Caflin are convincingly tormented by the cries from their loved ones; Josh Hutcherson is equally remarkable trying to convince Katniss that they aren't real. This scene truly portrayed the psychological agony felt by the tributes.

• "There's no one left I love."...Johanna Mason (played brilliantly by Jena Malone) is every bit attitude and spunk as she is in the book. Her line about having no one left really digs deep.

• Beach scene...I loved the locket (and how this was foreshadowed when Effie says to Peeta, "This is the item we discussed..." tipping us off that they had a private conversation about it; it makes me love Effie even more that she got the pictures of Katniss's mom, sister, and Gale for Peeta). I loved how Peeta tried to convince Katniss that she should live. I just wish there was a little more to this scene.

Which leads me to my least-favorite moments. You can read those HERE. But you'll notice the list is much smaller than this. I really did like this movie and thought it was so much better than the first. I think you'll be satisfied with it as a sequel. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Sources--All references to and images from the movie and novel are credited to:
©2013"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.® http://www.lionsgate.com/
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ©Sep 2009, Suzanne Collins, publ. Scholastic Press978-0-439-02349-8 http://www.scholastic.com/home/
Buttercup: https://twitter.com/QuarterQuellOrg/status/389516132975394817/photo/1
Other images: Hunger Games Explorer - http://www.thehungergamesexplorer.com/us/

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