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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My, my, my, look at these big ole tidbitties! So many, for as far as the eye can see! For those of us not currently battling the ramifications of Sandy's wrath, today was filled with all sorts of information about your favorite stars, shows, and everything in between. So what are you waiting for? Dig in to the tidbits, they're just sitting here.
Chloe Sevigny to Kill at A&E: After being discharged from American Horror Story's Briarcliff Manor, Chloe Sevigny is set to star as Catherine—a justice-seeking detective who spends too much time working—in a new pilot for A&E. Called Those Who Kill and based off a preexisting Danish program, the show will revolve around Sevigny's Catherine and all the stress of old anger and sadness that weighs her down. The drama will find Sevigny’s character working alongside a forensic profiler who's yet to be cast. [EW]
Fred Willard Moves to Cleveland: Hang onto your hats, Cleveland, because Fred Willard has just booked himself a guest spot on TVLand's hit comedy Hot in Cleveland. Willard is set to play Dr. Thomas Hill, a war vet and grade-school flame of Mamie Sue, played by Georgia Engel. The episode will air in the later half of December. [THR]
Animal Practice to Close One Week Early: The show, which has been bullied by ratings and already cancelled by the network, has added an insult to its injury. NBC has decided to pull the last scheduled episode of the cancelled freshman comedy which was slated to air tomorrow night in order to make room for the storm-impacted Monday edition of The Voice. Poor Annie's Boobs (the monkey, you perverts!) [Deadline]
Sebastian Moves from Lima, Ohio to Beverly Hills: Kurt will certainly be happy about this one: Grant Gustin, also known as resident Glee/Dalton Academy bad-boy, Sebastian Smythe, has booked a multiple-episode arc the CW's 90210. He's set to play Campbell, a charming and good-looking college student from a wealthy and privileged background. So basically the same character from Glee, but the college years? Interesting! Gustin will have a multi-episode arc on the show. [THR]
[Photo Credit: DailyCeleb]
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