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 Monday before a presidential election is certainly filled with a lot of...noise. There are so many advertisements on TV, so many articles online, so much of everything—so it's easy to lose sight of what really matters. Your good friend, Television. Lucky for you, we here at Hollywood.com are always looking out for your good friend, Television. So to let you know what's going on in Television's life, we bring you today's TV Tidbits. Familiarize yourself with the intimate details of you good friend's life. It's the nice thing to do!
Battlestar Galactica is Back!: Universal Cable Productions has finally figured out a release date for it's long-awaited Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. For those not in the know, Blood and Chrome is a prequel TV movie. Instead of premiering first on TV (though that will happen in early 2013 on SyFy), it's instead premiering as 10 mini-episodes, lasting between 7 - 12 minutes each. The episodes will be released via YouTube, on a channel called Machinima Prime. The first episode will be released on Friday, November 9 (SO SOON!), with the remaining episodes popping up over the next four weeks. There's also a trailer (below)! Don't say we never did anything for you.
From The O.C. to HIMYM for Peter Gallagher: Looks like Peter Gallagher is set to set Ted straight (or something). The actor formally known as Sandy Cohen will be guest starring the cocky and aloof Professor Vinick, professor of architecture at Wesleyan University. Apparently Ted had some sort of weird repressed daddy issues that he projected onto Professor Vinick—whom he was always hell-bent on impressing. Will that dynamic repeat itself? Something tells us yes. The episode is tentatively scheduled to air December 17. [TV Guide]
Chuck Lorre Hates The Bachelor: Twitter wars: not just for pop stars! Apparently Two and A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory showrunner, Chuck Lorre had a few choice words for the creators of the reality show The Bachelor. After he called the reality program "idiotic" and bad for the institution of marriage, producers of producers of ABC's love competition shot back on Twitter. Choice remarks and zingers include producer Elan Gale's tweet "Two and a Half Men. Zero salient points" and host Chris Harrison even getting in on the game, saying "Love it when people expose their own ignorance!"Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! [THR]
Gilmore Girls Reunion Alert!: Amy Sherman-Palladino likes working with actors she knows—which is to say, former stars from her old show, Gossip Girl. That theory was further supported today with the show's newest casting announcement. Liza Weil, (better known as the neurotic perfectionist friend of Rory Gilmore, Paris) will guest-star on Bunheads, the ABC Family dramedy Sherman-Palladino is currently running. Weil will appear on a January 14 episode of the show as Milly, the sister of the very socially-awkward Truly. Apparently they're not on great terms. Family drama = good television, so bicker away, gals! [TVLine]
NCIS's Spin-Off, NCIS: LA Gets a Spin-Off!: Phew, that's a lot of spinning. I'm dizzy. NCIS (which was a spin-off of JAG)'s spin-off show, NCIS: LA is getting itself a spin-off baby of its very own. CBS is prepping an as-yet-untitled project from executive producer Shane Brennan. The show will feature new characters, but don't worry, they'll actually be introduced in a two-part episode of NCIS: LA later this season. The show will follow a small (and mobile) team of agents—forced to live and work together (and have their lives taped?), while they crisscross the country being super crime-solvers. [Deadline]
[Photo Credit: Machinima]
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