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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After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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This weekend, news broke that Daisy Lewis will be joining the cast of Downton Abbey for the upcoming fourth season. According to the Daily Mail, the 28-year-old British actress will play the live-in nanny to baby Sibyl and may be a potential love interest for the heartbroken widower Tom Branson. Upon seeing a picture of Daisy Lewis, a question arose in our minds: Why is it that so many of the female staff members at Downton Abbey are redheads?
[Note: Spoilers about from here on out.]
First, we have Gwen Dawson, the lovable housemaid played by Rose Leslie (aka Ygritte, for all you Game of Thrones fans). Gwen was a kind, respectful servant, but her boldness — a quality intrinsic in gingers — shone through when she secretly took a correspondance course in typing and left Downton to pursue her dream of being a secretary.
Then, there's Ethel Parks, the outspoken housemaid who replaces Gwen's replacement. Like her red hair, Ethel certainly is fiery. She makes it clear that she resents her position at Downton Abbey after working as the head maid at a smaller estate. Ethel's passion leads her to hard times, however, as she becomes pregnant as the result of an affair with the later deceased Major Charles Bryant. Fired from Downton and working as a prostitute, she struggles to support her baby Charlie and ultimately has to make the heartwrenching decision to send him to live with the wealthy Bryant family.
Lastly, we can't forget Mrs. Beryl Patmore. This ginger cook is one tough cookie. As she shouts orders at Daisy and prepares lavish meals for the Crawley family, Mrs. Patmore makes it clear that she runs this kitchen. But she's also not afraid to show her softer side, acting as a caring mentor to her young assistant cook (and much of the staff).
So, there you have it — the growing lineup of Downton Abbey gingers — but we still have not yet begun to answer the question: Why all the redheads? Maybe it's a total coincidence. Or maybe Irishman Branson has a liking for pretty gingers. Or maybe the fact that red-haired women are relegated to servile positions in this show is a sort of perpetuation of gingerism, à la South Park's "Gingers have no souls" saying. Or maybe Daisy Lewis won't even be a redhead on the show. After all, the Crawleys' cousin Lady Rose is blonde, but Lily James, the actress who plays the rebellious teen, has naturally dark hair. As for now, all we can do is speculate.
What will Daisy Lewis bring to the saga of the Crawley family and the staff of Downton Abbey? We'll have to wait and see.
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Hole frontwoman Courtney Love is suing her boyfriend's ex-wife. Her claim? That she's being stalked.
In the lawsuit, Love claims that Lesley Barber, the ex-wife of Geffen Records exec Jim Barber, allegedly tried to mow her down with her Volvo and threatened to burn her house down during a "20-month campaign of stalking."
The incident involving Barber's Volvo resulted in an injury to Love's foot when Barber ran over it with her car. The alleged attack on June 4 cost Love an acting part in the sci-fi thriller "John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" and her $500,000 payment.
BRIDGING THE GENERATION GAP: Will the Material Mom and the queen of teen pop really get to sing together? That's what Sonicnet.com is reporting. According to a source familiar with the project, Britney Spears and Madonna will hit the studio in May. Spears' next album is scheduled to be in stores by early summer, meaning their collaboration may be included in the project.
Both singers have publicly praised each other. Spears has said that Madonna has taught her how to express herself, while Madonna has said she supports Spears' efforts. Yeah, OK.
Meanwhile, the two are going up against each other in the Best Female Pop Performance category at this year's Grammy Awards.
BEATLES ARE NO. 1: The Beatles' landmark album, "Revolver," has been named the greatest rock 'n' roll album of all time, according to a survey of musicians and critics conducted by VH-1.
Thirty years after the band broke up, they're still topping the charts with the release of "1," a compilation of the Fab Four's 27 No. 1 hits. The Beatles also dominated VH-1's survey with a total of five albums making the list. They included "Rubber Soul" (No. 6), "Abbey Road'' (No. 8), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'' (No. 10) and "The Beatles,'' better known as the White Album (No. 11).
Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones also had five albums on the top 100 list. Seven other bands had three of their albums on the list, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix. Others to make the list included Nirvana's "Nevermind" (No. 2) the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" (No. 3) and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" (No. 4).
Music and documentary footage of artists on the list will be shown in a five-hour special, "100 Greatest Albums of Rock & Roll,'' airing on VH-1 Jan. 15 through Jan. 19.
BUSTED! Rapper Vanilla Ice was arrested in Florida for allegedly attacking his wife during a domestic dispute, the Associated Press reports. Police say the musician, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, placed his hand over his wife's mouth to shut her up. Van Winkle admits to pulling out some of her hair, but he says that was to keep her from jumping out of their truck while they were driving on Interstate 595.
The rapper, 32, was released Wednesday and released from Broward County Jail the next day on $3,500 bail. Prosecutors have 21 days to file charges.
"We had a heated argument,'' he said. "That's about it. It's not that big of a deal. I would never hit my wife or any girl or anything like that ... I love my wife, I love my kids, my life's fine, everything's good, no hitting, no drugs.''
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