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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The names have been chosen, and the odds were ever in the favor of 11 actors who round out the rest of the cast of the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. Joining the ranks of Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland, these names were released by Lionsgate in one big fell swoop, quite the opposite of how they oh-so-slowly announced new additions such as Sam Claflin as heartthrob Finnick O’Dair and Jena Malone as lethal Johanna Mason over the past few months.
The new cast members (listed in full below) make up the rest of the (SPOILER ALERT) tributes who previously won their respective Hunger Games and will now be forced to compete again. This all-star version is for the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary of the Capitol’s defeat over the rebelling Districts and the resulting annual battle-to-the-death competition.
Catching Fire has already started shooting in Georgia this month, before moving to Hawaii to shoot the tropical arena in which the bloody competition takes place. The film will hit theaters next Thanksgiving.
The rest of the tributes:
James Logan: Tribute from District 5
Ivette Li-Sanchez: Tribute from District 5
Justin Hix: Tribute from District 6
Megan Hayes: Tribute from District 6
Bobby Jordan: Blight from District 7
John Casino: Woof from District 8
Elena Sanchez: Cecelia from District 8
Daniel Bernhardt: Tribute from District 9
Marian Greene: Tribute from District 9
Jackson Spidell: Tribute from District 10
Tiffany Waxler: Tribute from District 10
[Photo Credit: Lionsgate]
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Among the few things that were wrong with Michael Mann's Public Enemies was its interpretation of Charles Arthur Floyd, better known to historians and wannabe gangsters as Pretty Boy Floyd. The problem with the character was that he was barely in the film; relegated to an insignificant cameo of sorts with current it-boy Channing Tatum inhabiting the role. I'm glad that Universal's lackluster drama won't be the last we'll see of Floyd -- The Hollywood Reporter says that he's about to get his own film.
According to the trade, Wayne Kramer will direct the biopic about "The Robin Hood of the Cookson Hills” from Kevin Bernhardt's script with an eye on modernizing the tone of the story. Says Kramer: "My approach is to bring 21st century style and energy to Kevin Bernhardt’s meticulously researched screenplay without sacrificing the verisimilitude of the period or over-sensationalizing the characters themselves.” Sounds good, I think?
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how to feel about the project. Kramer's resume is spotty at best, having written and directed films like The Cooler and Running Scared (yay!), but also penning the dreadful Mindhunters (nay!). He's capable of making an exciting flick and that's what Mann forgot to do with his 2009 Dillinger biopic, so perhaps a little testosterone will go a long way for Pretty Boy.
Source: Risky Business