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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
S2:E3 There is no greater struggle than the struggle within. When a man is faced with evidence that completely shatters his notions of the world, it rocks him to the core. After all, you know yourself best. And when you start to question yourself, well then, what else can you possibly hope to believe in?
Thus Kenny Powers is shaken to his core. A lifelong lover of breasts, his latest girlfriend Vida severely challenges his taste with the simple swing of her hips. With that one little shimmy, the boob-man himself, Kenny Powers, the lover of ta-tas, the sultan of fun bags, the king of sweater puppies, melted and became an ass man.
And holy hell, can you blame him? Did you even see Ana De la Reguera’s ass? I mean, there is art and beauty and trust and then there is that ass. That thing is on a whole other level. It deserves every award ever. I was feeling a bit of a fever while watching this episode and then De la Reguera showed up and started stripping and I suddenly felt like I could run ten miles. I didn’t run ten miles because I would’ve had to stop looking at her bodacious bum, but I know I could have. No wonder he degraded into a cartoonish wolf. What living, breathing, red-blooded man wouldn’t? Hell, what open-minded woman wouldn’t?
Anyway, besides the ass from the heavens, some other stuff happened in this episode. Kenny had to set some personal boundary lines with Stevie when he found Stevie wearing his dirty thong. It's always best to have a roommate contract signed before things get awkward with your new roommate/stalker.
Then Kenny got pissed at his new team. To him, he single-handedly saved the entire organization from losing and being sent into the depths of hell. Is it too much to ask to be treated like a savior? And when they resoundingly said "no," he figured he has to convert them on his own.
He started a local promotion, in a situation very similar to the first season, but instead of a high end car dealership it is a new grocery store. And ever the cultural sensitive, Kenny showed up in traditional garb: a mariachi suit. Which really went over well for all his fans. Which happened to just be Vida. But seriously, if she were my only fan, I wouldn’t be complaining. They set up a date.
Stevie got a visit from Aaron, which felt a lot like it does when two of your ex-girlfriends meet and they don’t like each other (but the opposite is just as awkward. When they start to REALLY like each other, trust me). But prior to that we were treated to Stevie fixing the car seductively and wooing the rather plump neighbor. Get’em Stevie!
Kenny took Vida to a party on the owner’s yacht. She danced it up and the owner tried to talk to Kenny about the power of the booty and Kenny started to realize that he might just be over April, once and for all. And when the next scene happened and we got to see that bountiful bottom, April who?
The morning after found Kenny meeting Vida’s son which she had kept quiet about up until that point. At first Kenny wasn’t going to put up with that... who wants a used uterus? But the kid kind of grew on him.
Then we finally got Kenny back on the mound. Stevie had been pimping the game for Kenny, but the audience was not feeling it. Kenny was throwing strike after strike but they still cheered the deity as if he were a mere mortal. The cheerleaders weren’t even shaking their asses! So Kenny did what Kenny does best, which is stir shit up. And if the shit has to be stirred by throwing a ball into the opposing team’s dugout and causing a on field riot, then so be it. The crowd loved it at least.
Afterwards, Kenny and Stevie met up for the weekly story arch that runs through the entire season. Kenny was looking for someone and Aaron said he found him. But he played some willy tricks and runs off the ransom. All forty dollars of it. Kenny refused to talk about, but something tells me this will come up again in the remaining four episodes.
This really made Kenny think. And he’s finally ready for things to get serious with Vida and her son when they’re on a date at a carnival. So whether they like it or not, they’re getting the full Kenny Powers, motherfuckers! Which Kenny is now, apparently. But Vida seemed unenthusiastic about the change. Perhaps she was just fine with Kenny being emotionally unattached. Perhaps this too will come up again in later episodes. Perhaps their different reactions, while riding on the roller coasters, is some metaphor for how they handle life. Perhaps.
Or it could all just be an excuse to post this picture. Let’s be real here, this was a good episode, but this screen grab puts it on course to be one of the greatest episodes of television of all time. Enjoy.