The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Rated 4.0

After a sloppy start, The Hunger Games franchise kicks into high gear with this solid, darker chapter. Jennifer Lawrence, looking a little more haggard and embittered, makes for a far more convincing war-torn survivor this time out. Her performance is great, as are the contributions of a bunch of new cast members including Jena Malone, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sam Claflin. The new look and feel of the series can mostly be attributed to new director Francis Lawrence and his cinematographer Jo Willems, who get rid of that dopey, baroque look of the first movie in favor of something darker. The plot involves Katniss and fellow survivor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) being forced into another Hunger Games where former victors must compete against each other. This installment has a lot more meat on the bone, and the action is easier to follow thanks to a much less frantic editing style. Francis Lawrence will direct the final two Hunger Games movies, and that's good news for fans.