Movie review – ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

Photo From Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

By Gigi LeFebvre

Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to ignore the hype that’s been radiating from the second movie installment of The Hunger Games franchise: Catching Fire. The trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, has made itself at home at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list since the first book was published. Now, its movies are setting up shop at the top of the box office. On opening night, the domestic box office totaled approximately $25 million, and the weekend of release brought it up to $136.1 million.

Many people complained and were put off by the first movie: from shaky camera shots to Liam Hemsworth’s brooding looks, or the grisly fact that twenty four kids were forced to fight to the death for entertainment as people watched. However, many may rest assured knowing that with a new director and a bigger budget that Catching Fire is a film you should not miss.

The movie takes place a few months after the events of the first movie. Katniss Everdeen, played by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, returns home after winning the 74th Hunger Games with her fellow tribute and fake lover Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson). The two of them then have to embark on the Capitol’s victory tour, where they visit all twelve districts. Katniss and Peeta won the games by attempting to eat poisonous berries. Many people in the Capitol saw this as just an act of love, while people in the districts saw the underlining meaning of defiance. This is what ignites the revolts and rebellions within the districts that Katniss visits during the tour. Katniss and Peeta then find themselves being forced to participate in the Quarter Quell, a special Hunger Games that takes place every 25 years. This time they are up against past winners of the Hunger Games from the other districts.

As a fan of the books, I saw The Hunger Games last year at the ungodly hour of 3:15 AM on the day it came out. So naturally, I then saw Catching Fire at 11:30 PM on the night before its release. Nevertheless, I was not disappointed, even though a scene I was anxious to see was cut out. Despite reading these books many times, I still found myself sitting at the edge of my seat thinking, “Run! Run! Run! Run! Run!”. Half of the movie is intense drama that leads up to thrilling action and suspense that doesn’t stop until the credits roll.

Fans of the books will enjoy not only the new actors like Sam Claflin (cast as Finnick Odair of District 4) and Jena Malone (cast as Johanna Mason from District 7), but the use of direct quotes from the books. I found that to be the most exciting thing. Even if you’re not a super involved fan or you haven’t read the books, you can still enjoy the story. The aesthetically pleasing scenery and graphics make this dystopian world all the more believable and real. The performances given by these talented actors and actresses are moving and powerful. Relatively obscure actors and actresses like Clafin will leave lasting impressions. I was exceptionally moved by Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of PTSD, which her character developed from being in the last games.

However, this movie is obviously not for everyone. There’s less blood and gore compared to the last movie, but there are scenes with loud explosions and noises that might give you a jolt. Unless you disapprove of violence and death, you shouldn’t have much to worry about with this movie. I recommend that you see it.

Featured activity – Highland Park Automatons

Every Thursday, the woodshop at Highland Park is filled with about twenty students programming and working with fuses, miscellaneous robot arms, and electrical cords. Other students are designing the team website, taking photos, preparing marketing speeches, and planning fundraisers. This organized chaos is just a typical weekly meeting for the robotics team.

Right now the Highland Park FIRST robotics team, the Automatons, is gearing up for build season: the time in which they will work on the robotics challenge that will be unveiled in early January. Each year, a different challenge is presented and teams must build robots over a two-month period that will be able to rival robots of other teams at the regional competition. Last year, the goal was to create a robot to throw Frisbees and climb. Frisbee throws were aimed into several slots and points were scored based on the difficulty of the shot. Climbing effectiveness of the robot was determined through height; the higher the climb the more points. Regarding the outcome of the competition, senior team captain Aaron D’sa says, “We got into the top half, which is way better than a lot of other teams. Our robot was simple enough where if something went terribly wrong, we would have an idea of where to fix it. Overall, the competition went pretty well.” The Automatons were able to build a great robot and advance to semifinals, but they hope for even more success in their upcoming year.

For now, the team is trying to hone in the skills that they will need to use later in the year. With the guidance of the robotics coaches, mentors, and dedicated parents, each team member is responsible for mastering as many lessons as possible from a set of illustrious binders known as the “lazy mentors” which contain all the keys to success in robot-building. “The team is learning how to put real-life examples to what they’re learning in their science, math, and engineering classes. It’s really a great application of their knowledge,” says Coach Lynn Ihlenfeldt.

The team is comprised of a diverse group of students of all different ages and experience levels in robot building. For some aspiring to work in a science, technology, engineering, or math career, it is a chance to sharpen technological skills, while for others it is a totally new experience. Co-Captain David White gives insight on building a robot without prior building experience. “It’s totally doable, I mean you can walk in with nothing and still build a successful robot in the end…For me, robotics is definitely providing more experience [in STEM].” Misha Prasolov is a programmer on the team. He says, “As a programmer, I usually brainstorm with the other programmers to figure out the best way to text or code the functions needed to make the robot do things. I like coding. I feel like it could be a really great profession.”

Something that a lot of students don’t realize is that there are many parts to the team beyond robot building. “There are lots of cool things you can do in robotics. A big part of it is doing outreach, marketing, designing and programming, as well as building the robot,” says Coach Lynn. The team also participates in volunteer work to give back to the community. In the past, they have mentored FIRST Lego League teams, been involved in robotics at the State Fair, and participated in showcases for young students interested in robotics like an event at the Mall of America. The team tries to give back to their community and be positive role models, especially for budding STEM students.

Robotics is an expensive activity due to the parts that are needed for building, along with entry fees for competitions. The business sector of the team includes several students who apply for grants and organize fundraisers. Jack McKenna, a member of the business team, encourages Highland Park students to help out in any way that they are able. According to Jack,  “The team really needs help from our school. Highland Park students can participate in fundraisers by doing normal things such as going to Starbucks and buying coffee or going to Chipotle and buying a meal. We hope to see everyone at some fundraisers later in the year!”

For more information, visit the team website: http://www.team2823.com/

Or connect with the team on Twitter @frc2823

Saint Paul School Board Recognizes Conference Champions

Three Highland Park teams were honored for their conference wins at the Saint Paul School Board meeting on Tuesday, November 12. The  girls’ varsity soccer team and the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams were recognized. Having three teams representing Highland Park at the ceremony is an outstanding accomplishment for the school and for all the students who worked to get there. Every student received a medal, was named in front of an audience, and shook hands with members of the School Board.

Principal Winston Tucker and Athletic Director Nancy Galligan were present to support the teams. Valeria Silva, the superintendent, congratulated team members and even stepped in for a photo with the girls’ cross country team!

Elowyn Pfeiffer, the Girls’ Soccer Team Captain and a runner for the Girls’ Cross Country Team, said in regards to soccer: “I’m very proud because everyone tried their hardest every single game and I think that’s why we took conference, because everyone was giving it their all.” In regards to cross country, Elowyn said: “Everybody worked really hard every practice, starting in the summer; the work they put in got us here.”

The event was publicized on a live stream by the Saint Paul Public School website.

For more information about the Saint Paul Board of Education, visit: http://boe.spps.org/home.html

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Photo Slideshow – Homecoming 2013

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