Water for Elephants

Review: 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' burns bright with fiery Katniss

Second movies in a series can be such a comfort: We already know the key characters, we have a sense of where the plot is going, we just have to hang on and enjoy the thrills. Which is what happens with "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

An effective piece of melodramatic popular entertainment that savvily builds on the foundation established by the first "Hunger Games" movie, "Catching Fire" layers in increased visual brio while remaining faithful to the essence of a trilogy popular enough to have more than 50 million copies in print.

That brio comes courtesy of director Francis Lawrence, who took over the series from Gary Ross. Though he's...