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The Odds Are Always in Your FavourEver seen it rain blood in a kids’ film before? How about a pensioner getting executed in front of his family? Or Lenny Kravitz being slapped in the face? The first Hunger Games caught flak because it dared to treat its YA audience like A’s – but things aren’t exactly looking any rosier in the sequel.Following the unwritten lore of movie trilogies, the middle chapter of Katniss Everdeen’s sci-fi survival story is darker, moodier, meaner and, yes, better than Part 1. Outgrowing its Battle Royale meets Twilight meets The X Factor comparisons, Catching Fire expands Suzanne Collins’ novel beyond the confines of the arena to tackle some seriously brutal truths – plugging gaps and sowing seeds for a two-part finale that will have to work hard to match its grit. And it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s performance that takes centre stage. Taking her post-Oscar fame publicly in her stride since she last picked up her bow, the 23-year-old actress has grown up as fast as her character. As mopey as the teenage love triangle almost gets, it’s the boys that do all the moping. Well on her way to becoming one of the greatest sci-fi heroines since Ripley, the avenger of District 12 is as undefined by her hidden vulnerability as she is by her inner strength; anchoring the series with an emotional realism that upstages everyone else in the film. True, most of them are stuck in roles that haven’t developed much since we last met them. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still an unlikeable wimp who cries every time he gets a paper cut, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is still a gormless hunk who doesn’t do anything, and Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are still hiding beneath candyfloss hair and panto outfits. It’s all change behind the camera too, with new director Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend) upping the…

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