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Action/Adventure Comedy Movies Reviews

Review: Show Dogs (Edited Version)

Distributor: Global Road Entertainment

Director: Raja Gosnell

Writers: Max Botkin & Marc Hyman

Composer: Heitor Pereira

Starring: Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne, Stanley Tucci, Ludacris

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family

What should have been a light-hearted canine caper has instead been one of the most controversial movies of 2018. For those unaware of this film’s past, the uproar is about the original message Show Dogs unintentionally sent to children.

Max, a Rottweiler, is the hero of the film; a police dog that likes to work solo, and definitely doesn’t like partnering up or doing those typical ‘pet dog’ things like being patted. That is until his job requires him to go undercover as a show dog, and unfortunately for him, conformation competitions require his genitals to be inspected and touched by the judges. Max’s doggy mentor advises him to “go to a happy place” when this occurs, and the film shows this–during the final, climatic trial, Max mentally distances himself while a human touches his privates, to great success. It’s his character flaw that he successfully overcomes.

Yeah… This is a kids’ film! I hope you can see the problem here–it promotes sexual grooming! It’s baffling to think that despite films requiring hundreds of people involved in their creation, not a single person thought to bring up the issue. It released in the USA to negative reviews amongst parents and critics alike. Word spread, and where I live in Australia, parents, with the help of the Australian Christian Lobby petitioned to have the film pulled from cinema chains before Show Dogs was even released.

Hearing the criticisms, the studio had no choice but to retract the movie and rerelease a new edit, this time without the genital touching scenes. Though some reports I’ve read from the USA state that there are still some controversial sequences. In Australia, Show Dogs was held off from release until the next school holiday period. It has now finally arrived from across the Pacific, and I can’t tell whether I’m excited about it or not. I love dogs and films about dogs (or anything dog related), but this sub-genre is renowned for typically aiming for the dollar store bins. Yet Isle of Dogs demonstrated that talking canine films could be done well. So how much is Show Dogs’ negative press attributed to its past controversy? Or is it simply a bad film, doggy genitalia groping or not?

The film that I am reviewing is the one that was released in Australia, July 5th, 2018. I cannot comment on whether this version is different to the edited film that was re-released in the States a week after it was pulled by the studio.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: A Rottweiler has “anger issues,” frequently intimidating others and bites people in a comical fashion (i.e. sometimes on the bottom) throughout the film. A tiger mauls a person, though the actual act is done off-screen. They are shown later with bloodied scratches across their face. Several characters are almost chopped up by an airplane propeller. Gun violence–firing weapons but no hits. Fistfights between criminals and police officials.

Language/Crude Humor: H*ll and d*mn are said, and God’s name is used in vain. There’s an infrequent use of questionable dialogue, such as “grow some balls”, “stupid”, “B.S.”, “flip this bird” and some other puns, with one involving a “Weiner dog”. “Son of a…” is cut off. There are a few poop and fart jokes. A dog is seen scooting across the ground.

Drug/Alcohol References: There is a party scene where adults hold alcoholic-looking drinks. A dog jokes about clearing out the mini bar. One character requests a bag of catnip as payment.

Sexual Content: A male dog is given a bikini wax without prior knowledge of what was happening. There is some flirting between two dogs. A male dog is propositioned by a female dog; the owner suggests that the two should have puppies together.

Spiritual Content: There’s a Komondor in the film by the name of “Karma.” It frequently says zen-like sayings.

Other Negative Content: Several animals are kidnapped, as the film focuses on the black market animal trade.

Positive Content: The main character learns to treat others with respect, along with the importance of teamwork.

Review

Let’s address the big issue first, as that will determine whether you’re even going to entertain the idea of seeing this movie. Does this film still contain an underlying message of sexual compliance? Thankfully, no! The depiction and all discussion revolving around the unwanted touching of genitalia has been edited out of the film.

Two light references to the nether regions still remain. In one scene, Max, the Rottweiler, is surprised by a sudden bikini wax done during a grooming session. In another moment, towards the end of the film, Frank (Will Arnett) worries Max will bite him when he needs to grab his upper thighs in order to hoist him through a window. The latter gag feels under-established now that Max’s animosity about being touched has been removed. Yet both instances are nothing more than a quick joke; they’re not sexualized situations and kids won’t misconstrue it as such. Show Dogs no longer subliminally sends the message that sexual assault is perfectly normal.

While the film is no longer controversial, Show Dogs is still a chaotic mess from start to finish. This movie has a lot of problems, most of them related to an overly-complicated plot. This is obvious within the first five minutes. In order for the story to work, it merely has to introduce a man and a dog within the police force that haven’t partnered up before, to tackle a case that involves a canine conformation show.

Yet what should be a simple set up is horribly convoluted, as it tries to marry the NYPD’s dog squad with a foiled F.B.I. stake out, before then finding justification as to why both departments need to work together in a completely different location (Las Vegas). The action on screen is so manic within those first few minutes that an animated pigeon literally summarizes for the audience what has occurred thus far. While the contrivances of this plot can be forgiven due to it being a kid’s film, surely there are simpler ways to establish this narrative.

Yet it doesn’t slow down for the second or third act. Poorly paced, Show Dog tries to cram in all the tropes covered in Miss Congeniality minus almost twenty minutes of runtime. There are three pigeons that wish to join the police, a pug that idolizes Max’s “alpha” attitude, a romance with an Australian shepherd, a famous show dog that seeks retribution for being dumped by his owner, the burgeoning friendship between Max and Frank, and then Max’s character journey about trusting others… and this is all in addition to the main action that revolves around a stolen panda. For an hour and a half, there’s just a lot of stuff happening on screen.

It’s a directionless piece that doesn’t know when to find its moments. Sadly, the editors may have had a point when they claimed the genital groping scene was the climax of the story. It would be interesting to compare the two versions and see if the original had the same pacing issues. In its current form, it seems that Max doesn’t have many obstacles.

There are three challenges in the competition he must overcome: bizarre renditions of obedience, agility, and conformation trials. Yet despite his lack of training, Max blasts through each one with ease. The final challenge–a physical inspection performed by the judges is now heavily edited–seems ridiculously simple. It now looks like he’s just having a pat. Coupled with Max’s determination to get as far into the competition as possible in order to save the cutest little baby panda you’ll ever see on screen, it leaves the audience wondering why everything is a big drama when it’s clear that Max can handle it. There’s no hardship to humble Max’s behavior. He wasn’t a likable character from the beginning, and without seeing him struggle, what little personal growth we do witness seems artificial and shallow, as though he’s an alpha male that can now act a little bit nicer towards those he views as inferior.

Miss Congeniality, while not fantastic, is nevertheless a guilty pleasure to watch, mainly because it knew how to build up its plot and where to focus its time. It foreshadowed the upcoming challenges, so the audience understood the difficulty involved and the stakes stacked against the main character. It developed the fellow competitors, so we grew to love them at the same rate as Gracie, the F.B.I. agent.

Show Dogs doesn’t do this. What’s required in the competition comes as a surprise, and the supporting cast seems to pop in and out of the picture at random. The film would have done well to copy the story beats of an underdog sports movie, with rising tension, gripping strategy, and slower pacing during those key trials. It wants to do it–there is a montage (in an almost “even Rocky had a montage, MONTAGE” style)–but if it took what it was trying to parody on board a little more seriously, then I’m certain we’d have seen a bump up in quality.

Unsurprisingly, the best moments in Show Dogs are when the movie consciously slows down to take a breather. Will Arnett has fun in his role, yet despite at times awkwardly straddling both the comedic and straight man part, his interactions with Natasha Lyonne add a much-needed dose of sanity to an otherwise disjointed film.

Though it’s Philippe, an unhinged pampered papillon that steals the show. The mentor figure of the film, his crazed demeanor paired with shots of him lying on his back, cucumber slices over his eyes is hilarious (especially when you take into consideration that it’s a real dog posing in the shots). Though the audience’s attachment to this character is limited, no thanks to poor storytelling. His character journey does come full circle, but we are unable to fully appreciate it, as his backstory feels so rushed, busy and shoehorned in. The simple addition of a flashback sequence would have not only been hilarious but also would have provided some clarity regarding his personal vendetta and the world of a show dog.

While Show Dogs’ narrative storytelling skills are virtually non-existent, at least from a visual standpoint it’s a pleasing film. Real animals stand in as models while their mouths are animated. At a quick glance, the animation seems more cartoonish in style compared to the director’s previous work in Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which feels more restrained in comparison, but it still works and its execution is amusing.

Unfortunately, while the special effects may be strong (with an exception of a CGI tiger that looks weird), the same cannot be said regarding the film’s other technical elements. The film’s editing is choppy, though it’s hard to critique without knowing how much of that is a result of the molestation controversy. When it comes to the film’s sound recording and editing, a lot of poor choices have been made, which could provide an explanation for the film’s larger misgivings.

Show Dogs is one of those talking canine movies where the humans can’t understand what the animals are saying. Unfortunately, this means that the dogs will have conversations with each other at the same time as the humans. It’s ultimately an audible mess. Dialogue is delivered while someone natters in the background. Of course, this happens all the time in real life, but in the film world, it’s generally considered a no-no. This could explain Show Dogs’ inherent ‘busy’ feel; the eyes are already struggling to focus on the action due to the sharp editing to and fro between the humans and dogs, and now the ears have to consciously concentrate on the main conversation happening in the scene as well. It makes Show Dogs mentally exhausting to watch.

The film’s score thankfully captures the tone of the story, though it sadly sounds generic from time to time. The soundtrack is also interspersed with modern day pop songs. While that creative decision can be legitimized by the fact that there are party scenes in the film, the randomness of the selection feels like they were picked more so because they obtained the rights to play them, as opposed to their suitability for the story.

Show Dogs had the potential to provide biting wit on the ridiculousness of the “dog fashion world”, much like Zoolander or the hilarious mockumentary, Best in Show, but sadly what should have been a simple story is told badly. It’s overcomplicated and oddly overly stimulating to the point that even adults need to concentrate heavily in order to follow the plot. While this new edit has redeemed the film’s image issues, it now lacks some key storytelling elements that only a rewrite and reshoot can address.

As a result, it’s hard to recommend this film, as there are simply better choices out there when it comes to entertaining children for two hours. If you prefer an edgier kids’ film, then Peter Rabbit nails the style. For a story with more finesse, then there’s Incredibles 2 or Paddington 2. As such, the only reason to invest in this movie is if your child has an obsession with dogs and will watch anything canine-related. Even then, Show Dogs doesn’t compete with the classics of this odd sub-genre, like the Homeward Bound, Beethoven, and Benji series. This year has already produced some phenomenal dog films, such as Isle of Dogs and Pick of the Litter, the latter of which is a wonderful documentary suitable for children, which also introduces and teaches compassion towards those who are visually impaired.

There is some entertainment value to be found in Show Dogs, though it’s few and far between. It’s a film that ultimately comes across as barely contained chaos–some people like that style. If you do decide to see it, then be sure to keep watching throughout the credits, as there are bloopers and fun behind the scenes footage.

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Action/Adventure Movies Reviews Sci-fi/Fantasy

Review: Transformers: The Last Knight

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Ken Nolan
Cast: Mark Wahlburg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Rated: PG-13
First off, let me start by stating my unabashed love for this movie. In fact, I have loved every entry in the Transformer’s franchise to a varying degree. Taking it one step further, I love most of Michael Bay’s movies. Just like Chili’s and Taco Bell, I have never left a Michael Bay movie disappointed. You may be saying, “Well that’s a terrible example because both of those restaurants are poor or at most mediocre,” to which I will say that you are wrong. There’s an argument to be made for comforting mediocrity. So much so that I could make a strong argument that Chili’s is the greatest restaurant of all time, but that is a different conversation for a different time.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Very little actual blood and gore is shown. We see almost constant robots fighting using guns, swords and fisticuffs. The beginning sequence is of a medieval battle scene with people getting stabbed and impaled, but little to no blood or gore.
Language/Crude Humor: Several uses of s***, d*** and one barely audible f-word.
Spiritual Content: None.
Sexual Content: A female character wears a dress that is very fitting and reveals cleavage. A group of women, when talking about finding a date for someone, read dating ads with the terms “BBWs” and “dungeons” used. The same group of women listen in on what they think is two characters having sex.
Drug/Alcohol References: The Transformer Hound is constantly seen smoking a cigar. A character has a beer towards the beginning of the movie.
Other Negative Content: None.
Positive Content: Friendship, family, and loyalty play a large role throughout the film. Qualities such as chastity, loyalty, and courage are portrayed in a positive light.

Review

We pick up right where we left off after Age of Extinction. The Transformers are still considered enemies of the state and are being hunted and killed by the government. Optimus Prime still hasn’t returned from his spirit quest to find the creators of his race (Did Prometheus teach them nothing?) while Cade Yeager is a criminal in hiding who harbors and fixes any remaining Autobots he can find. Being a Michael Bay film, there are many more plot points, but they are too confusing and convoluted to get into in this review. All you need to know is that this the Michael Bay-iest of Michael Bay films, featuring: giant robots fighting, copious amounts of slow motion, and seizure inducing pacing.
This entire paragraph will be dedicated to one of the greatest actors of the last thirty years. A man who needs no introduction and shall hence forth be referred to by his given name, Marky Mark aka Mark Wahlberg. From his earliest days with the Funky Bunch, Marky Mark has always carried the kind of charisma and swagger that women want and men are jealous of. Our generation has been privy to watch this statuesque man have blossom as an actor in his early days with Boogie Nights to his later critically acclaimed roles in The Departed and The Fighter.
Unfortunately, Marky Mark is not immune to the occasional flop with the bad (Max Payne) and the awful (The Happening). As bad as The Happening was, it did help us finally recognize what had been under our nose, but above Marky Mark’s, this whole time: his eyebrows. Yes, that’s right. The best part of Marky Mark is his eyebrows. Able to tell stories and exhibit even the most complicated of emotions with a slight raise, this man has mastered what few could. And I am so proud to say that in this movie, his brows are doing some serious leg work, so to speak. So let’s raise a glass to yet another great performance from Marky Mark and the brows behind the man. Here’s to you.
Besides Marky Mark and his eyebrows, the acting is over the top as usual. Josh Duhamel returns as Col. William Lennox and does a respectable job bringing back the rough edge the franchise was missing. Among the remaining human cast, Anthony Hopkins is the only one worth mentioning. Old, wise, and sometimes strange, his presence brought some much needed pathos to the film. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention those rascally robots, the Transformers. Bumblebee continues to be the standout Transformer with his “little brother” antics and attitude that helps keep him fresh and entertaining. Optimus, like Bay himself, is left to his usual attributes: great leader, innate ability to monologue at any moment, and brazen love for the humans. John Goodman again brings his booming voice to Hound and helps add some personality to an otherwise bland Transformer.
The biggest selling point of any Transformers movie is going to involve robots fighting some more robots. Said fights will be shot using “epic” camera angles in legitimately epic locales. Up to this point, no Transformers film has failed at this. From the beautiful English countryside to on top of a giant underwater ship, Michael Bay knows how to stage fight scenes. And maybe this is part of the reason to blame for the Michael Bay hatred. Yeah his movies aren’t a gold mine of standout acting and exquisite writing, but it’s not like he’s Nickleback. He, unlike Nickelback, doesn’t deserve all the hate.
Hear me out on this one. If you are reading this review, odds are you have some vested interest in the Transformers franchise. It’s also likely that you have seen other Michael Bay movies. And like Chili’s and Taco Bell, you know exactly what you are getting. The man has been essentially making the same movie for the past twenty-five years. He has even recycled footage from his own movies! They are called Bay-isms because they are in every Michael Bay movie: convoluted plots, incredible action sequences, over the top acting, frenetic pacing, bad writing, cheesy humor, the feeling that every take is some sort of epic moment within an even bigger epic story, among other more controversial elements. 
To others, this may not be their cup of tea, but for a longstanding Michael Bay fan this was a great flick. Autobots, roll out!

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Bible Studies Christian Living

Bible Study: Transformers – The Last Knight (2017)

This Bible Study is for the movie, Transformers – The Last Knight. Download the printer-friendly document down below. You can then watch the movie with your Bible Study group (we recommend 2-15 people), and talk about the Christian values found in the movie. In this study, the discussion topic is about “the power of influence”.

 

This film has been rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo.

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BIBLE STUDY

 

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Action/Adventure Movies Reviews Sci-fi/Fantasy

Review: The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 2

mockingjay-part-2-final-posterDistributor: Lionsgate
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and Suzanne Collins
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rating: PG-13
I have anticipated this movie all year and I’ve seen it twice by the time this review has been written. The Hunger Games is a powerful series. I have long loved it since the books released years ago. The story has gripped me both in film and in books. It is misunderstood by many, but it has a compelling message and that’s what makes me love it the most. I would recommend checking out my the Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay Part 1 reviews before reading on.

Storyline

Since Peeta has been hijacked, Katniss has become bent on revenge against Snow. She is determined to avenge her loved ones and end this war once and for all. The rebellion is gaining the upper hand and now have access to the Capitol, making assassination possible. Meanwhile, Katniss has had heard rumors about President Coin, causing her to question whether after this war is over if  Panem will finally be a free country or only trade one tyrant for another.

6ef85e9f04e95e1c69323718e3605e8abd26de85-142769Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Though this movie has a lot of on screen violence, there is little to no gore. There is some severe bruising, a few minor cuts, some bullet wounds shown at a distance, and a character is shot by an arrow and there is some blood. Snow bleeds from his mouth which can be a bit disturbing to some. Civilians and soldiers are either shot or blown up, but there isn’t anything graphic shown. There are some muttations (creations of the capitol) that are bipedal lizard beings with no eyes and sharp teeth that try to tear people apart. The creatures themselves can be scary for younger and more sensitive viewers.
Language/Crude Humor: None that I can recall.
Spiritual Content: None.
Sexual Content: There are a few kisses but they are mild.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Snow and his inner circle toast with alcohol and Johanna takes some of Katniss’s morphling (similar to morphine).
Other Negative Content: Katniss is bent on a revenge for a time and she lies in her pursuit of it.
Positive Content: Many characters show strength, bravery, compassion, sacrifice, and love. I love how Finnick has such patience for Peeta in his condition. Positive sibling relationships are shown. Revenge is changed into cutting off the head of a snake to stop more killing. Peeta speaks to Katniss and says that instead of killing Snow for revenge she needs to do it to make the deaths of the people in the past films mean something, so they won’t have died in vain and as slaves of President Snow.


peetarevolutionmtv-1436189408-142770Presentation

While watching Mockingjay Part 1 in preparation for this movie on the night of the attacks on Paris, I realized how relevant this series is to our world now. When the Capitol bombed the District 8 hospital full of wounded men, women, and children, I cried not only for the fictional beings sheltering in that building, but the nonfictional ones in the Parisian city.
Mockingjay Part 2 carries on this relevance in its message. As its logline says: the revolution is about all of us. Our world is fraught with war, poverty, and terrorism, gravitating more into the western world in these recent times. We see ISIS killing with no lines, no care for if someone is a civilian or a soldier. This film shows that first hand. It makes you feel the sorrow of people in these war torn locations. That this is real. It is happening not just in the fictional Panem, but in the modern France, Nigeria, and even the United States.
I’ve seen people argue that dividing the last movie was a frivolous move, but I’m glad they did for it gives us time for the message to unfold more smoothly. The second film certainly had enough plot to keep it going and as a fan I enjoyed having more time with some of my favorite characters. Mockingjay Part 2 has a gripping plot and a different tone than the previous films. There are many jump scares in this one and it has more of a games feel than the Mockingjay Part 1 did.
Katniss goes on a bit of a downward character arch, but as Peeta begins to recover from his torture under the Capitol, he lifts her up and it’s encouraging to their relationship grow, not just romantically, but as fast friends through the good and the bad. Though the spotlight is almost solely on them, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), President Coin (Julianne Moore), President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and the many other characters are shown as well. All of them are very well acted. Donald Sutherland’s performance as Snow as he’s beginning to unravel is excellent as well as Jennifer Lawrence’s performance of the grief-stricken Katniss and Josh Hutcherson’s performance of traumatized Peeta.
Costumes and make-up were excellent. Effie even gets some new outfits. I especially love her last one with the icicles on her eyelashes. I also adore Katniss’s yellow dress in the last scene of the film.
The sets were amazing as we get to see up close and personal the war torn Capitol. The buildings and rubble create an air of devastation. Few places are unaffected by the rebellion such as President Snow’s greenhouse which is absolutely perfect as it is full of roses and antique statues. The underground of the Capitol is damp and creepy and reminded me of the metro underground in Paris. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was filmed there. The CGI was well done. Everything looked so real. The camera work was very good, though in some sequences where the camera is spinning it’s a bit hard on the eyes.
The score was moving and powerful, not as capturing as the other films, but I enjoyed it all the same and I will be buying it as soon as it releases like I have all of the others. I was especially delighted to see that the credits piece is Jennifer Lawrence singing “Deep in the Meadow”!


samclaflinexclu-142774Conclusion

Among all of the war movies with buildings blowing up and bad guys being mowed down by machine guns, this war movie stands out. War is brutal. It’s not happy or full of glory. It is deeply personal and horrific. This is a serious film and some people who saw it in the theaters with me viewed it as depressing, but though it is a solemn film, it has hope. It leaves you with a good feeling, but also a reality check. It is a satisfying ending to the series, especially for fans of the book. It brought tears of both joy and sadness to my eyes. I highly recommend it.
Categories
Action/Adventure Movies Reviews Sci-fi/Fantasy

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

1374808_647799361921597_137829211_nDistributor: Lionsgate
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt, and Suzanne Collins
Stars:  Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rating: PG-13
Catching Fire is my favorite of the bestselling Hunger Games series. Since the first trailer released, I was so stoked for this movie. The closeness to the book of the first film gave me hope that this one would follow in the Hunger Games’s footsteps and I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a joy to have one of my favorite books of all time made into such a compelling, loyal, and thought-provoking film.

Storyline

Though Katniss Everdeen may have won the Hunger Games, the ultimate game is far from over. With rebellion catching fire in the districts because of Katniss’s symbolic moments in the Games, the pressure is on to convince Present Snow she is more of an ally than a threat. When she is unable to convince Snow that her love sickness for Peeta compelled her to act out in the Games, Katniss and Peeta are both reaped for the 75th Hunger Games. They shall be different than any other games held because instead of fighting inexperienced children, Katniss and Peeta will fight seasoned Victors.

Katniss-hi-resContent Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Though Catching Fire is less violent than its predecessor, there are some notable scenes to be aware of. An old man is shot in the back of the head in front of a crowd. A character is whipped to the point his back is shredded meat. A man is beaten nearly to death and a woman has her throat bitten by an animal. Blood is shown on various wounds. There are several combat sequences that include stabbing, arrow shooting, and punching. Effects of poison gas and rabid mandrills may be frightening to some individuals.
Language/Crude Humor: Not much crude humor, but there is some swearing to note. Sh**, D***, and b**** are used once or twice each. There are two bleeped out f-bombs.
Spiritual Content: Nothing of note.
Sexual Content: Peeta and Katniss kiss several times. Partial nudity (such as Finnick only wearing a loin cloth). One character is implied to be fully nude, but no more than her bare back and her collarbones up are shone.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Haymitch drinks a lot. He’s nearly constantly a little tipsy. Some of the Victors are drug addicts, but no consumption of drugs is shown besides another character being given a painkiller for medical reasons.
Other Negative Content:  Not really any to speak of.
Positive Content: There are many positive elements to take away from the story such as sacrifice, trust, and endurance. Peeta is kind to everyone he can be and is there for Katniss no matter what. Katniss has a compassionate nature for people most neglect such as mentally unstable Wiress, mute Mags, and elderly Greasy Sae. She helps them when they’re injured and defends them when they’re threatened. Also, she has a touching relationship with her sister, Prim, continued from the first film.
The movie has many parallels to the downgrade of culture, alluding to behaviors of ancient Greece. The film shows the Districts in their poverty and toil, then it shows the Capitol with their oblivious and extravagant behavior. It proves as a cautionary tale for a rich country such as the United States.

peeta-largerPresentation

One of my favorite parts of Catching Fire is that the stakes are rising and more politics are coming in. The plot is constantly escalating with the rebellion and more pressure from President Snow. I love the unrest going on in the story as you’re seeing small bursts in the pipes as the Capitol system is breaking. The actions of the characters become more desperate, and the 75th Hunger Games is more dangerous than the 74th with stronger, faster, experienced, and smarter competitors.
So many moments in the movie moved me to tears. I cried a total of seven times the first time I saw it and five times on average any other time. The movie was so intense as well with this underlying feeling of dread, but with carefully placed humor primarily from Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) sprinkled throughout. Twists and turns in the story will keep you at the edge of your seat and there are tiny elements only readers of the books will catch.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) goes through quite a journey. She is dealing with her PTSD from the Games, her forced romance with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the pressure to protect her family. Jennifer’s performance in the role is fantastic. Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) have bigger roles and not just for romance.
The film welcomes new members to the cast such as Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) playing District 4’s sweetheart Finnick, Jena Malone (Contact) as District 7’s snarky Johanna Mason, Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction) as the mentally-challenged but genius Wiress, Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale) as the equally eccentric and brilliant Beetee, Lynn Cohen (Eagle Eye) as the mute but loving Mags, and Phillip Seymor-Hoffman (Capote) as the nefarious enigmatic gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Each actor does splendidly with their roles. It’s especially amazing to see Effie Trinket and her character arch from the oblivious Capitol fashionista to genuinely caring for Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta.
Trish Summerville does a fantastic job with the costumes, each one reflecting the the districts. Katniss’s and Effie’s outfits are especially stunning. We see these costumes in the myriad of settings filmed in Georgia (My home state. Woot woot!) and Hawaii. In this film, we see more of Panem as the characters travel from district to district. And the games are set in a tropical environment instead of a woodland one, giving a different, edgier tone. Seeing District 12 in winter made a great tone setter for the story. The cinematography is done well also with intimate views like with the first film. The visual effects were excellent. Francis Lawrence did his best to make them as realistic as possible.
The score is absolutely fantastic. I bought it as soon as it was available. It continues with the same themes as in the first film, but carries new ones as well for the new characters and environments.

Finnick-hi-resConclusion

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an amazing film. Many people write it off for its primary audience and popularity, but this franchise truly has so much depth to it. The second installment continues the legacy with its talented actors, gorgeous visuals, and themes that will keep you pondering. I highly recommend it.