Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Now that The CW has canceled 90210 after five seasons, a question hangs over the heads of the actors who comprise the drama's hot, young ensemble: What next?
With their show's series finale airing Monday, May 13, the talented 90210 cast members have plenty of options ahead of them — especially since the decision to axe the show came in the thick of pilot season. The biggest (and best) idea at this point would be to capitalize on their CW fame and hop onto another show on the same network, either joining a recurring series or a new pilot. The CW loves to keep its actors in the family and recycle them across its different series (for which we are eternally grateful: If not for Cult, how else would we see the amazing Matt Davis every week after Alaric left us with tear-streaked faces following his Vampire Diaries death?). With that in mind, we've brainstormed some dream roles for each of the displaced 90210 kids. Here's what we came up with:
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AnnaLynne McCord has both the looks and attitude perfect to play a young, successful Manhattan woman in the '80s on The Carrie Diaries. Perhaps Carrie Bradshaw will need another mentor now that her first one is her boss at Interview magazine. Shenae Grimes has the sweet country girl act down pat (Annie was a nice girl from Kansas transplanted into Beverly Hills at the start of 90210), so maybe she can head to Bluebell, Alabama and befriend Hart of Dixie's Zoey Hart — the doctor's going to need a pal after her recent heartbreak thanks to Wade's infidelity. Matt Lanter's got the build and bravado to go up against Arrow's Oliver Queen in an action-packed fight, one that we are more than glad to witness. Especially if it's shirtless. But would he be a friend or foe to our favorite archer?
Jessica Stroup bears a certain family resemblance to Dillon Casey's Sean Pierce on Nikita, so she'd be perfect as one of the sisters he had to leave behind after he faked his death last week. Jessica Lowndes has the perfect dark looks to portray a vampire (either good or evil) on The Vampire Diaries — or the potential spin off series, The Originals. Michael Steger would be great in Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec's pilot The Tomorrow People, about young people who represent the next stage in human evolution. Tristan Wilds could check out Sera Gamble's pilot Company Town, a drama revolving around a scandal at a Naval base in Virginia.
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There are also other networks, though that's sometimes easy to forget between all the shirtlessness — why would you click anywhere else? Trevor Donovan has already signed on to guest star for three episodes on ABC Family's Melissa and Joey (in fact, his stint was announced mere hours after 90210's cancellation... now that's speedy, even by Hollywood's standards). Joining a show on a different network would give the actors a chance to build their fan base outside of The CW's target demo.
Of course, there's always the option to leave acting behind and fade away into obscurity... but something tells us these beautiful people will choose to stay on our TV screens one way or another. And that's right where we want them! What do you think the 90210 alums should do next?
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: Patrick Ecclesine/The CW]
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Joey McIntyre Heads to Beverly Hills: In today's '90s news, former New Kids on the Block-er Joey McIntyre will guest star on The CW's reboot of 90210. McIntyre will play a music manager who does business with Tristan Wilds' character, Dixon. It is scheduled to air in February of 2013, though this probably should have aired in 1993, replacing the words 'Tristan Wilds' with 'Brian Austin Green.' [EW]
Entertainment Tonight Nabs a Co-Host: Nancy O'Dell can breathe a sigh of relief — she won't be going at it alone anymore. CNN's Rob Marciano was named co-anchor of CBS' Entertainment Tonight today, as Mark Steines ended his 17-year tenure last July. [Deadline]
Michael Bay Gets Some New Neighbors: For once, Michael Bay plus aliens will NOT equal explosions. Bay is set to guest star on an upcoming episode of ABC's recently picked-up aliens-next-door comedy The Neighbors, as himself. He'll run into Jami Gertz's character (a human) at a club — but we're sure some extraterrestrial hijinks will ensue. [TVLine]
Matthew Lillard Tries Journalism: FX's pilot The Bridge keeps sounding better and better. They've already cast Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir as American and Mexican agents going after the same killer, and now Matthew Lillard has joined the cast as Daniel Frye, a cocky reporter who likes to paaarrrrtttaaayyy. Homeland's Meredith Stiehm and Hawaii Five-0's Elwood Reid are set to exec produce the pilot, and if it goes to series, Lillard will heavily recur. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Fringe Alum Gets Arrow-ed: My fellow Fringe-ies and Arrow lovers, rejoice! Lincoln Lee Seth Gabel has joined the Arrow cast as a “scary and nightmarish” super-villain modeled after the DC Comics character Vertigo. Now, Gabel will not be playing Vertigo himself — they're similar, but don't have the same name, and TVLine says Gabel's version will have a dark, Christopher Nolan-esque vibe. However, a new drug called Vertigo will pop up in the Sterling City streets, in Gabel's early 2013 debut episode. Our money's on Oliver Queen thinking this drug has failed his city. [TVLine]
Vampire Diaries and Arrow Unite: Well, their showrunners will, anyway. Julie Plec and Greg Berlanti — the showrunners behind TVD and Arrow, respectively — have teamed up for a CW remake of The Tomorrow People, a British cult classic from the '70s. The original featured several young people who represented the next phase of humanity, all possessing different powers, including the ability to teleport and communicate telepathically with each other. We imagine the CW version will feature more shirtless scenes than the original, and are very excited. [Deadline]
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[PHOTO CREDIT: DailyCeleb.com]
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.