Review - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Okay Tributes, it's that time again. The second in the series of Suzanne Collins books come to life hits the big screen this week. Tickets for the movie started selling back in early October, and have been moving fast ever since.

If you've read the books and are a fan, you will be thrilled to know that there is hardly any deviation from book to movie. What you read on the page and pictured in your head is very clearly executed (no pun intended) on film.

Jennifer Lawrence is back as our young heroine from District 12, Katniss Everdeen. She's just come back to the District after her unprecedented win at the Hunger Games. Now she and the other surviving Tribute, Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) are about to embark on their victory tour, but there's something wrong. Katniss' risk to keep them both alive might have sparked a revolution, and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is out to put an end to any rebellion, even Katniss'.

So the Quarter Quell is announced, and that means that Katniss, Peeta and winning Tributes from past years are heading back to the arena to battle it out. (At this point, if you have no idea what I'm writing about, stop reading. You have to go back and watch the first movie.)

The casting for the Tributes is fantastic! Take Jena Malone, for instance, as Johanna Mason. She's brash, she's smart, she's snarky, she swears and she gets naked in an elevator! (Well sort of, it's a PG-13 movie you know.) Fans of the current James Bond will recognize Jeffrey Wright as Beetee. Brit Sam Claflin provides some extra eye candy as Finnick Odair.

Because this film is so close to the book, there are slow spots. It drags a little getting us into the arena. Gail (Liam Hemsworth) is still hanging around, Peeta is acting like a wounded puppy, and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) is still boozing it up.

The production value on this film has gone up. From Katniss' practice field of digital enemies to the battle against snarling baboons in the arena, the effects are all incorporated seamlessly.

For the first-time viewer/non-book reader this is an emotional and entertaining journey that leaves you wanting more. The final book is being turned into two films due in 2014 and 2015, so there's still plenty more of Hunger Games in our future. For now, you can enjoy all 146 minutes of this version at theaters starting Thursday night.

You can read more reviews from Mary on her website, Cinema Cynic.