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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Most of the time when I’m working you can find me sitting in a cubical, eating Skittles, and writing articles about the wide world of television. But sometimes, I’m the lucky girl in the sky-high heels who gets to attend red carpet premieres and network parties that are filled with so many pretty people that it almost hurts my eyes! Many of you know that the winter Television Critics Association is currently in full swing and for a TV enthusiast like me, it’s like I’m a kid in a candy store. But of course I have to do my best and be lady like, so my inner fan-girl feelings don’t frighten away the stars. Anyways, moving on! This week’s edition of Leanne’s Spoiler List is packed with juicy details from five phenomenal shows. I chatted with the lovely Naya Rivera of Glee to get Santana’s feeling on Bram, and gathered scoop on what’s next for Toby on Pretty Little Liars. I also hit up the premiere of Justified to find out what’s next for Harlan county’s biggest badasses and chatted with the stars of Suburgatory and Deception to snag spoilers from upcoming episodes. Read on for all the TV craziness below!
Glee: Is NYC Ready for Santana?
My Dearest Glee-bees: In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing every single cast member of Glee, except for the amazingly talented Naya Rivera. Every time I'd get close we'd run out of time. Sigh. However, on Tuesday night at the FOX semi-annual TCA all-star party, I was delighted to have the chance to finally talk with Rivera. Fun-Fact: She’s just as wonderful in person as you could imagine! And If you’re anything like me, then you desperately miss watching Santana singing on your TV screens each week. Well cheer up buttercup! Rivera told me that there is a lot coming up for our favorite fiery Latina. “She is actually doing big big things in the episode 'Diva' that we’re shooting right now.” Rivera says, “She gets to sing three songs. One of them is a Tina Turner powerhouse song, and then she has got some exciting news coming up. “ Hmm, any clue on what this “exciting news” could be Glee lovers?
Many fans are hoping that Santana will leave her cheerleading days in the past and move to The Big Apple with Rachel and Kurt to chase her dreams. So of course I made sure to ask if this brilliant idea could become a reality. The 25-year-old actress reveals, “I think it’s a very strong possibility.” All together now: Squee! And of course I couldn’t end our conversation without bringing up the newest couple to emerge in the Glee shipper-sphere: Bram — aka Brittany and Sam. Many people (this journalist included) can’t stand the idea of this new duo, so you can imagine my glee when Rivera told me how Santana feels about Brittany’s new beau. Rivera’s answer was short but sweet: “She hates it!” Any chance of a Santana/Sam smackdown? Rivera says with a coy laugh, “Maybe…” Well, my money is definitely on Santana!
2. Justified: Arlo Will Always Adapt
The FX hit Justified is finally back in our lives and if you missed Tuesday night’s season four premiere, you can catch up on all the Harlan drama right here! I had the pleasure of attending the Justified red carpet and premiere this past weekend where I chatted with the cast — and swooned over the handsomeness of Timothy Olyphant. (Hopefully he didn’t really notice when I caught a case of the fan-girl giggles...) One of my favorite characters is without a doubt Raylan’s law-avoiding father, so of course I had to talk with Raymond J. Barry about Arlo’s life behind bars this season. Barry says that just because Arlo is now in prison, it doesn't mean that he’s going to change his badass ways. “Arlo always has an ace up his sleeve," he says. "He’s a real survivor and he has very few tools except what he’s created for himself. No education, born in poverty — he learned how to survive as best he could, and if he’s in prison he’ll figure it out. That’s a whole other world, there’s a code of ethics and you learn how to do it.”
Barry also reveals that although Raylan is furious that Arlo took the fall for Boyd’s crime, their father/son relationship is not completely severed. Barry says, “They’re still talking. The thing is, Raylan doesn’t expect Arlo to change. It’s beyond that. And the environment is such that you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” Barry says that Raylan and Arlo have very similar characteristics, it’s just that they chose different paths in life: “He chose the straight and narrow — he’s a cop, right? He gets paid for that and I get paid for what I do.”
3. Suburgatory: Oooh Barracuda!
You all know how I feel about Surburgatory: Basically if I could hug this show I would never ever let it go. So when I chatted on the phone with the amazing Cheryl Hines last week, I was thrilled to learn about all the Chatswin craziness that is coming up. Everyone knows that Dallas Royce and Sheila Shay are not exactly besties — in fact they usually can’t stand each other. Well fans had better start making their Team Dallas and Team Sheila shirts pretty soon, because there’s a musical battle headed to Suburgatory. Hines explains, “Well there is an episode coming up where George decides to star a garage band with the guys in the neighborhood. And you know Dallas thinks it’s very cute and George says no, it’s just a guy thing and we’re in the garage so we’re just playing with the guys.”
Of course, when is Dallas ever going to let a man tell her what to do? And then the trouble begins: “I walk in and Sheila Shay is signing “Barracuda” with the boys, and she’s really good! She basically tells me that I don’t need to be there and be the Yoko Ono of the group.” Oh snap! Hines continues, “So no we’re not making cookies together quite yet.” Looks like we still have a long way to go before we’re going to see Dallas and Sheila hanging out at the Chatswin Country Club together. At least there are going to be plenty of hilarious episodes in the meantime!
4. Deception: Not Just a “Who Done It?” Drama
Deception is the newest high-class murder mystery drama to hit NBC, and while it is very similar in tone to last year’s Revenge, it is still going to be a fun primetime soap opera to get hooked on. Especially because of the oh-so handsome Wes Brown, who dazzles in his scenes as Julian, the brother of the recently murdered deceased Vivian. I caught up with Brown at NBC’s TCA party earlier this week, and learned that he loves his character just as much as I do! “The Julian character — I mean, what’s not to love? He’s this mega-rich playboy who is a little too smart for his own good. It’s an intriguing character to play, and he’s nothing like myself in real life.” (Side-Note: Yep, that’s true. For example, Brown drives a Prius, not an Aston Martin like Julian. Hooray for the environment!)
The actor says that audiences are going to have fun trying to figure out all the mysterious of this Monday night drama. “I can’t wait for fans to see how much more there is to the series other than just the whodunnit of Vivian Bowers. To those who have only seen the pilot, there is so much more in the first season, and you’re going to be hooked.” Brown concludes, “All I can say is it’s an absolute roller coaster of a series.” If it’s anything like Revenge’s first season than you can bet I’ll be ready to watched every week at 10 pm sharp!
5. Pretty Little Liars: Terrifying Toby!
Pretty Little Liars is one of those shows that has it all: an always intriguing plot, hot boys, and wardrobe-inspiring fashion choices. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled Spencer’s shoes or Aria’s necklaces…) Now that the drama of Rosewood is back for the second half of season three, I sweet-talked my way into snagging some details from Executive Producer Oliver Goldstick. Fans were shocked Tuesday night, with a terrifying Toby fully embracing his black hoodie in the opening of the episode. That dark look in his eyes as he chased a skateboarding Lucas down the street was beyond intense, but Goldstick reminded me that we’ve seen that look once before. “I want you to look back. I wrote the third episode in the series and Toby was coming down that hallway when he returned to Rosewood, and that’s the same look on his face.”
Goldstick says fans need to think back to when we first met Toby, and why the four friends were so scared of him. “He was somebody who had a lot going on that he wasn’t revealing, and there’s a lot of mystery to this character," he says. "His relationship with Jenna, we’ve never met his parents — we don’t really know what goes on inside that house, and so we’ve always kept him as sort of an enigmatic character for a reason. I think now is the time to pay it off." Many fans like me are hoping that Toby is only pretending to be a member of the A Team in order to protect the liars and his lady love Spencer. However, when I suggested this speculation to Goldstick, the EP was quick to shoot it down. “Well that’s a fine theory, but I think you’re going to find in the next couple episodes that he may have been on this A side the whole time — and may have been infiltrating the pretty little liars. That’s what is more shocking and more devastating for our girls and especially Spencer. We explore that more in this season with this infiltration. It wasn’t the A Team, it was them.“ Nooo! Say it ain’t so, Toby!What do you think Santana’s “exciting news” will be on Glee? Looking forward to a new season of Justified? How do you think Spencer will feel when she finds the truth about Toby? Tell me everything in the comments below!
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The Get Carter star grew up in poverty in London before striking it rich thanks to his hugely successful acting career.
But the kind-hearted actor has never forgotten his roots and reveals he has turned his back on a number of luxury items, even swapping a gold Rolex watch for a plastic timepiece, because he thinks it sends the wrong message during the financial downturn.
He tells Britain's The People newspaper, "I used to drive a Rolls (Royce) and all that but they were just too ostentatious for this world now. I had to get rid of them. It didn't feel right to be all showy when there are people scraping and scrimping to feed their loved ones. I just get driven around in a Lexus which you wouldn't look at twice - it's just grey. I still have the Rolex but I leave that in a drawer and wear this cheap black plastic one instead. It does the job.
"I'm very fortunate I live in fantastic luxury but it doesn't mean I should forget where I come from. I've seen both sides - rich and poor. That's why all that bling has gone. I don't need all that."
Let's give a big hand to the two newest members of the Mile High Club. Yes total strangers Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) hook up during an otherwise quiet flight from L.A. to New York City. Heck the two don't say a word until they bump into each other at the baggage claim. "Blah blah it's ruined " Emily moans the second Oliver opens his big mouth. How sweet. How could they not be soul mates? So what if they share nothing in common aside from a mutual attraction? The bashful Oliver's an aspiring Internet entrepreneur eager to marry the perfect woman live in a beautiful house and drive the flashiest car. The outgoing Emily's an actress with less talent than Paris Hilton and a thing for lousy musicians and writers. So why do director Nigel Cole and screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch insist on making this lousy love match? They even drag this dead-end romance from the late 1990s to today as Oliver bets Emily $50 that he will have the life he desires in just seven years. Predictably absence makes the heart grow fonder and whenever they cross paths--from a day in New York City or a night in L.A.--they fall more in love with each other. Of course there's always something preventing them from making a commitment. Yawn. By the time Oliver and Emily decide it's now or never they've grown so whiny and wearisome you won't care whether they spend the rest of their lives together or apart.
Kutcher promises to slip on his tighty whities and model again for Calvin Klein if A Lot Like Love reigns supreme at the box office. Sorry girls that won't happen. But Kutcher does flash a little flesh when he drops his drawers for Peet. Otherwise he doesn't display much of anything else in his most wretched offering since My Boss's Daughter. If ever Kutcher wanted to prove he can inject a little charisma or personality into an underwritten role A Lot Like Love offers him his greatest opportunity. But he blows it. Or maybe he's not capable of doing anything other than getting so flustered he can barely spit out his words as he does in all his witless comedies. Kutcher's Oliver Martin is as bland as his name and as dull as his line of business. This makes it tough to believe Emily--in the form of the spunky Peet--would even think twice about pursuing a relationship with this drip. Then again the relentlessly grating Emily isn't exactly a prize catch negating Peet's efforts to give A Lot Like Love a little pungency. You have to pity Peet: she so willingly participates in one farcical flop after another--from Whipped to Saving Silverman to The Whole Ten Yards--that she's dangerously close to ruining what was never really a particularly promising career.
Ever cleaned out the back of your car and found a soundtrack CD you forgot you bought? Those CDs always boast great pop songs that you never hear on the radio anymore. But no matter how many times you listen to the songs you can't remember the film that accompanied the soundtrack. That's A Lot Like Love: terrific soundtrack lousy movie. To lazily evoke a sense of time and place director Nigel Cole leans heavily on well-worn hits from the late 1990s and early 2000s by Smash Mouth and Third Eye Blind. That would be all well and dandy if Cole at least injected A Lot Like Love with some comic pizzazz. For a film told over the course of seven years A Lot Like Love moves slowly awkwardly and uneventfully. Perhaps Cole left his sense of humor back in England where he directed the screwy Saving Grace and the plucky Calendar Girls. Or maybe he's more comfortable chronicling the misadventures of middle-aged women than the bed-hopping antics of self-involved twentysomethings. He gets so desperate for laughs that he makes Kutcher and Peet spit water at each other during a dinner eaten in silence. But the most grating moment sadly recalls Say Anything's sweet and touching climax: rather than blast Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes from a boom box a guitar-strumming Kutcher instead serenades Peet with an unfunny off-key rendition of Bon Jovi's "I'll be There For You." OK so maybe not every song on the soundtrack deserves another spin.