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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S1E6: Last night on The X Factor, the 100 remaining contestants were split into groups and given the challenge of learning a song which they had to perform in front of the judges together in five hours time. Some cracked under the pressure, while others rose above the expectations and proved that they were star material. So tonight we picked up right where we left off by watching the remaining groups strut their stuff with the help of vocal coaches, stylists, and choreographers. And after all the ensembles tried to sing their way to safety, the judges had to make some tough decisions - more cuts had to be made.
Once they dwindled the acts down even further, the remaining 64 contestants were presented with one more final challenge: they were given a list of 35 songs and had to choose whichever one they wanted to perform in front of 3,000 people. Oh, and they only had 15 hours to prepare. By the end of the night only 32 acts remained and the judges were finally assigned which category they would mentor for the rest of the competition: boys, girls, over 30's, and groups. So who were the 32 contestants chosen and which judge got assigned what group?
Find out below!
The Girls: Caitlin Koch, Tora Woloshin, Simone Battle, Drew Ryniewicz, Rachel Crow, Jazzlyn Little, Melanie Amaro and Tiah Tolliver.
The Boys: Brennin Hunt, Brian Bradley, Skyelor Anderson, Nick Voss, Tim CIfers, Phillip Lomax, Marcus Canty and Chris Rene.
Over 30s: Elaine Gibbs, Tiger Budbill, Leroy Bell, James Kenney, Josh Krajcik, Christa Collins, Dexter Goodman, and Stacey Francis.
Groups: the Stereo Hogzz, 2squared, 4Shore, The Brewer Boys, Illusion Confusion, The Anser and two groups composed out of those who were initially rejected as soloists.
As for the judges:
Nicole will be mentoring the Over 30s group, L.A. was assigned the boys, Paula is working with the groups, and that leaves Simon with the girls.
So what do you think? Do you think the girls have an edge with Simon as their mentor or is it an even playing field? Which judge would you have wanted? Next week we'll journey into the judges homes where they will help their groups get ready for the live shows!