"God, does anybody actually believe this?" Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) asks during "Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
"Everybody," replies Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson).
That is accurate based on the box-office records broken by "Catching Fire," sequel to "Hunger Games" (2012).
You are probably familiar with the storyline for "Hunger Games," based on the best-selling young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins ("The Hunger Games," 2008; "Catching Fire," 2009; "Mockingjay," 2010), where young people fight each other to the death televised to a worldwide audience.
In "Catching Fire," Katniss and her partner, Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) are brought back to face off against former winners in the "Quarter Quell," celebrating the 75th anniversary of the "Hunger Games."
"Hunger Games" moves well, with the standard set up and rivalries between characters, the foment of the residents of the Capitol with rulers, the requisite big-action set pieces, and computer-generated effects.
"Hunger Games" has some socio-economic references to the media, reality TV and government in an attempt to give some weight to the movie. Rebellion is brewing in the Districts of Panem.
Katniss and Peeta are told by their handler, Haymitch: "Your job is to be a distraction, so that people forget what the real problems are."
Katniss's romantic interest, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) tells her: "There's already talk in the mines. People want to fight."
"Hunger Games" is filled with soap-opera sentiments, eye-candy costumes, martial-arts type action and special effects.
Director Francis Lawrence ("Water For Elephants," 2011; "I Am Legend," 2007; "Constantine," 2005) capably directs the predicable screenplay by Simon Beaufoy ("127 Hours," 2010; Oscar adapted screenplay recipient, "Slumdog Millionaire," 2008; "The Full Monty," 1997) and Michael Arndt ("Oblivion," 2013; "Brave," 2012; "Toy Story 2," 2010; Oscar original screenplay recipient, "Little Miss Sunshine," 2006).
The material is lifted off the page because of excellent casting, starting with Jennifer Lawrence in the title role.
Jennifer Lawrence is one of those actors who you could watch in most any film. She has a porcelain doll-like face, large luminous eyes and pouty lips. More than this, Lawrence is so expressive. She uses her facial features as if she's unfolding a map to her emotions. She's also a very physical actor, lithe and spring-wound, perfect for a part that requires her to do wonders with a bow and arrow. She doesn't disappoint in "Catching Fire."
Over-the top costumes are a big part of "Hunger Games." Lawrence has some incredible Bob Mackie-inspired dresses, designed by the film character, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), which have her looking like Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (1963) or Cher on "The "Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" (1971 - '73). The film's costume designer is Trish Summerville.
The "Hunger Games" contestants' athletic attire is pretty cool too. However, no one can out-do the outfits of Effie Trinkey (Elizabeth Banks), the "Hunger Games" TV show commentator, who seems to be wearing a different frock (including a dress of Monarch butterflies now we know what happened to them) in each of her scenes. The credits for the makeup department are huge.
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Katniss's crush and love interest, has a hunky presence and can deliver a sense of strength very believably.
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Melark, Katniss's "Hunger Games" partner, has a Michael J. Fox meets James Caan visage, and creates a credible sidekick to Katniss.
"Hunger Games" is filled with actor pros.
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss's mentor, is his usual masticating wise guy.
Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the Capitol demagogue, invokes a regal splendor and his trademark sonorous voice.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, a "Hunger Games" game programmer, glides through scenes in his oily weasel mode.
Stanley Tucci, flamboyant in ponytailed wig and really white teeth, as the "Hunger Games" TV show host, looks like a cross between Liberace and Barry Manilow.
"Hunger Games" contestants include Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), Amanda Plummer (Wiress), Jena Malone (Johanna) and Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair).
The score by James Newtown Howard is all thundering drums, trumpet fanfares and choral vocals.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" should please fans of the books and films. The rest of us may be left out in the cold.
Nonetheless, filming is underway for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2," set for release in 2014 and 2015.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi; Run time: 2 hrs., 26 min.; Distributed by Lionsgate.
Credit Readers Anonymous: The credits for "The Hunger Games; Catching Fire" are so lengthy that three songs are heard during them, including "Atlas," performed by Coldplay.
Box Office, Dec. 13: The Friday the 13th weekend, winter preview snowstorm may have put the skids on movie-going, with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," opening at No. 1, with $73.6 million, not as big a pile as last December's $84.6 million opening for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
"Frozen" slid back to No. 2, with $22.1 million, $164.3 million, four weeks.
"Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas" opened at No. 3, with $16 million.
4. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $13.1 million, $356.9 million, four weeks; 5. "Thor: The Dark World," $2.7 million, $198.1 million, six weeks; 6. "Out of the Furnace," $2.3 million, $9.4 million, two weeks; 7. "Delivery Man," $1.8 million, $27.9 million, four weeks; 8. "Philomena," $1.7 million, $11 million, four weeks; 9. "The Book Thief," $1.6 million, $14.8 million, six weeks; 10. "Homefront," $1.6 million, $18.4 million, three weeks
Unreel, Dec. 20:
"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," PG-13: Ron Burgundy is back – nearly 10 years after the original "Anchorman" with his oozy charm, as are his sidekicks on the news team. Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell star in the comedy.
"American Hustle," R: A con man and his partner are forced to work for the FBI. David O. Russell directs Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the crime drama.
"Saving Mr. Banks," PG-13: Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney in the drama about the Disney Studio adaptation of "Marry Poppins." Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell also star.
"Walking with Dinosaurs 3D," PG: The animated family film is based on the BBC mini-series.
"Her," R: A lonely writer gets busy with his computer. Spike Jonze directs Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and Rooney Mara.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes