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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Comedian Andy Dick has found love with actress-turned-reality TV star Jennifer Gimenez after bonding over their shared battle with sobriety. The actor, who is fighting to stay clean after 13 rehab efforts, befriended The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star in 2009 when he appeared on the first season of reality treatment show Sober House, which Gimenez helped to run.
Their friendship recently blossomed into romance and Dick, 47, admits he is smitten with the 41-year-old Blow beauty.
He tells America's Star magazine, "I love her to the moon and back! She is so supportive."
And it appears the feeling is mutual - Gimenez, who previously battled substance abuse issues, claims she has never been happier, saying, "I love Andy. He is amazing."
Joey Kovar, a castmember on the Hollywood-set season of MTV's The Real World, has died, according to TMZ. Kovar, 29, was discovered dead at a friend's home near Chicago, Ill., on Friday. According to TMZ, Kovar's family have attributed the tragic death to drug abuse.
Kovar's rep tells TMZ that the reality show star was discovered with "blood coming out of [his] ears and nose" by a friend on Friday morning.
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Midway through his Real World season, Kovar opened up about his struggles with drug abuse, and entered a 30-day treatment program, returning to the Real World house several episodes later. Kovar appeared on the 2010 season of VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, seeking aid specifically for his troubles with cocaine and ecstasy.
Jennifer Gimenez, former Celebrity Rehab star and facilitator of the KLEAN Treatment Center in Los Angeles, tells Hollywood.com, “My heart breaks for yet another one of our Celeb rehab/Sober House family members who has fallen victim to this disease. This disease does not discriminate; it only exists to see young, tenacious souls like Joey Cover lose to it. My prayers go out to his family friends.”
[Photo: Getty Images]