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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Sheryl Leach, the co-creator of hit children's show Barney & Friends, has been slapped with a lawsuit relating to her son's arrest for attempted murder earlier this year (13). Patrick Leach, 27, was busted after allegedly shooting Eric Shanks in the chest in January (13) outside the TV star's Malibu, California home.
He was charged with the crime and subsequently freed on $1 million (£625,000) bail, but his legal troubles are continuing to mount as Shanks is now demanding compensation.
The alleged victim is suing Patrick for assault and battery, while Shanks has also named his mum Sheryl as a defendant for negligence, insisting she should have prevented her son from ever owning a gun, suggesting he suffers from violent tendencies.
Patrick, who lives with his mother, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder charge, according to TMZ.com.
Patrick Leach was arrested in Malibu, California on 9 January (13) after allegedly shooting a 49-year-old man in the chest.
The 27 year old was released on $1 million (£625,000) bail, but sources tell TMZ.com that Leach was charged on Tuesday (05Feb13).
The unnamed victim is expected to recover from his injuries.
Sheryl Leach was one of the brains behind the popular U.S. children's show about the famous titular purple dinosaur and his pals.
Patrick Leach was taken in to custody in Malibu, California on 9 January (13) after allegedly shooting a 49-year-old man in the chest.
The victim, whose name has not yet been released, was treated at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and is expected to make a full recovery.
Leach is currently being held on $500,000 (£312,500) bond and cops are still trying to determine a motive, according to local publication The Acorn.
The 27-year-old suspect's mother is one of the founders of the popular U.S. children's show, about the famous titular purple dinosaur and his pals.