The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ★★★★★

2012's summer blockbuster, a certain Hunger Games, received rather glaring comparisons to gratuitously gory Japanese flick Battle Royale. Both novels and subsequent adaptations have a plot concerning unlucky teens fighting to the death in an arena, with natural obstacles and more. Plus, on top of all those conversation-starters, there's stark social commentary galore. Themes like the aftermath of war, death (well, obviously) and government-placed oppression take centre-stage in Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. However, unlike BR's mediocre sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is even better than the prodigiously good first installment. This time around, the prevalent themes are more mature, the acting is more assured and the political tautness that laced the first film now ups the ante considerably; it is now more important than the Games itself.

The events in Catching Fire take place a few months after the previous installment; Katniss Everdeen has now returned home safely after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Throughout the story, Katniss senses that a rebellion, against the oppressive Capitol, is simmering through the districts. However, when Katniss is yet again dragged into the arena, the rebellion catches fire.

Even if Catching Fire was a terrible movie, Jennifer Lawrence's vulnerable performance would still be a highlight of 2013. She omits the aforementioned vulnerability needed to portray a character like Katniss Everdeen, effortlessly, at that. She is more likeable than in the novel, and Lawrence plays on that. You can see why Peeta (a wimpy Josh Hutcherson) loves her as much as he does. She's gritty, terrified, untrusting and suspicious, loveable and realistic in one. Jennifer Lawrence is the best young actress out today. She's like a mini Meryl Streep!

This time around, there's also welcome, new additions to the cast. Jena Malone and the posthumously wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman shine in their respective roles. Unlike The Hunger Games' supporting characters, we care about these ones. Aside from Rue, who was there we really loved aside from Katniss and Peeta? Yet, in Catching Fire, I found myself caring about them all; Mags, a cute little elder whose odds were really never in her favour. Joanna Mason (Jena Malone), a suspicious and spunky starlet whose motives are never truly known until the jaw-dropping finale, among others.

I really love this movie. It improves on the first flick, it has amazing acting (J-Law for the win!), a slightly-above-average script, solid direction from series newcomer Francis Lawrence and the effects don't look so god-damn awful. It's an enthralling five-star blockbuster.

Watch it, and prepare to be blown away.