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
The pre-votes are in, and we finally have the nominee list for the 2014 People's Choice Awards thanks to the People's Choice blog. And man, oh, man is it a hefty list.
With a total of 58 categories, the awards show covers music, movies, and television with categories from "Favorite Action Movie Star" to "Favorite TV Anti-Hero" to "Favorite TV Bromance." This year's top contenders are Glee (with 8 nods), Katy Perry (5 nods), and Sandra Bullock (5 nods). And don't worry about Bullock's Gravity co-star George Clooney feeling left out — the two of them snagged a nod for "Favorite Duo." (You already know what we think about their magical pairing.)
We've got the entire list of nominees for you... have fun scrolling!
Favorite MovieDespicable Me 2Fast & Furious 6Iron Man 3Monsters UniversityStar Trek Into Darkness
Favorite Movie ActorChanning TatumHugh JackmanJohnny DeppLeonardo DiCaprioRobert Downey Jr.
Favorite Movie ActressGwyneth PaltrowJennifer AnistonMelissa McCarthySandra BullockScarlett Johansson
Favorite Movie DuoChris Pine & Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Into Darkness)Jennifer Aniston & Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers)Robert Downey Jr. & Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3)Sandra Bullock & George Clooney (Gravity)Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy (The Heat)
Favorite Action MovieFast & Furious 6Iron Man 3Star Trek Into DarknessThe WolverineWorld War Z
Favorite Action Movie StarBrad PittChanning TatumHugh JackmanRobert Downey Jr.Vin Diesel
Favorite Comedic MovieGrown Ups 2The Hangover Part IIIThe HeatInstructions Not IncludedWe’re the Millers
Favorite Comedic Movie ActorAdam SandlerBradley CooperChris RockJames FrancoZach Galifianakis
Favorite Comedic Movie ActressEmma WatsonJennifer AnistonMelissa McCarthySandra BullockScarlett Johansson
Favorite Dramatic MovieCaptain PhillipsGravityThe Great GatsbyLee Daniels’ The ButlerPrisoners
Favorite Dramatic Movie ActorChanning TatumChris HemsworthHugh JackmanLeonardo DiCaprioRyan Gosling
Favorite Dramatic Movie ActressAmy AdamsEmma StoneHalle BerryOprah WinfreySandra Bullock
Favorite Family MovieDespicable Me 2Monsters UniversityOz the Great and PowerfulPercy Jackson: Sea of MonstersThe Smurfs 2
Favorite Horror MovieCarrieThe ConjuringHansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersInsidious: Chapter 2Mama
Favorite Thriller MovieA Good Day to Die HardThe CallNow You See MeRed 2White House Down
Favorite Network TV Comedy2 Broke GirlsThe Big Bang TheoryGleeHow I Met Your MotherModern Family
Favorite Comedic TV ActorChris ColferDarren CrissJesse Tyler FergusonJim ParsonsNeil Patrick Harris
Favorite Comedic TV ActressJane LynchKaley CuocoLea MicheleMelissa McCarthyZooey Deschanel
Favorite Network TV DramaChicago FireThe Good WifeGrey’s AnatomyNashvilleParenthood
Favorite Dramatic TV ActorJim CaviezelJosh CharlesKevin BaconMark HarmonPatrick Dempsey
Favorite Dramatic TV ActressJulianna MarguliesMariska HargitayPauley PerretteSandra OhStana Katic
Favorite Actor in a New TV SeriesAndy SambergJonathan Rhys MeyersJoseph MorganMichael J. FoxRobin Williams
Favorite Actress in a New TV SeriesAllison JanneyAnna FarisMing-Na WenRebel WilsonSarah Michelle Gellar
Favorite TV Crime DramaBonesCastleCriminal MindsThe MentalistNCIS
Favorite Competition TV ShowAmerica’s Got TalentDancing with the StarsMasterChefThe VoiceThe X Factor
Favorite Cable TV ComedyAwkward.Cougar TownHot in ClevelandMelissa & JoeyPsych
Favorite Cable TV DramaDownton AbbeyPretty Little LiarsSons of AnarchyThe Walking DeadWhite Collar
Favorite Premium Cable TV ShowCalifornicationGame of ThronesGirlsHomelandTrue Blood
Favorite Cable TV ActressAngie HarmonClaire DanesCourteney CoxLucy HaleMaggie Smith
Favorite TV Anti-HeroDexter Morgan (Dexter)Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones)Norman Bates (Bates Motel)Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead)Walter White (Breaking Bad)
Favorite TV BromanceBlaine & Sam (Glee)Ryan & Esposito (Castle)Sam, Dean & Castiel (Supernatural)Sheldon, Leonard, Howard & Raj (The Big Bang Theory)Ted, Marshall & Barney (How I Met Your Mother)
Favorite TV Gal PalsCaroline & Max (2 Broke Girls)Lily & Robin (How I Met Your Mother)Meredith & Cristina (Grey’s Anatomy)Penny, Bernadette & Amy (The Big Bang Theory)Rachel & Santana (Glee)
Favorite On-Screen ChemistryCastle & Beckett (Castle)Damon & Elena (The Vampire Diaries)Derek & Meredith (Grey’s Anatomy)Emma & Hook (Once Upon A Time)Kurt & Blaine (Glee)
Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV ShowBeauty and the BeastOnce Upon A TimeSupernaturalThe Vampire DiariesThe Walking Dead
Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV ActorAndrew LincolnIan SomerhalderJared PadaleckiJensen AcklesStephen Amell
Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV ActressEmilia ClarkeGinnifer GoodwinKristin KruekNina DobrevTatiana Maslany
Favorite TV Movie/MiniseriesAmerican Horror StoryBehind the CandelabraThe BibleSharknadoThe White Queen
Favorite Daytime TV Host(s)Ellen DeGeneresKelly Ripa & Michael StrahanDr. Phil McGrawRachael RaySteve Harvey
Favorite New Talk Show HostArsenio HallBethenny FrankelJenny McCarthyQueen LatifahRoss Mathews
Favorite Late Night Talk Show HostConan O’BrienDavid LettermanJimmy FallonJimmy KimmelStephen Colbert
Favorite Streaming SeriesArrested DevelopmentBetween Two Ferns with Zach GalifianakisHouse of CardsLosing It with John StamosOrange Is the New Black
Favorite Series We Miss Most30 RockBreaking BadDexterFringeThe Office
Favorite New TV ComedyBrooklyn Nine-NineThe Crazy OnesDadsThe GoldbergsThe Michael J. Fox ShowThe MillersMomSean Saves the WorldSuper Fun NightTrophy Wife
Favorite New TV DramaMarvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.BetrayalThe BlacklistDraculaHostagesOnce Upon a Time in WonderlandThe OriginalsReignSleepy HollowThe Tomorrow People
Favorite Male ArtistAviciiBlake SheltonBruno MarsJustin TimberlakeMichael Bublé
Favorite Female ArtistBritney SpearsDemi LovatoKaty PerryP!nkSelena Gomez
Favorite Breakout ArtistAriana GrandeAustin MahoneIcona PopImagine DragonsLorde
Favorite Pop ArtistBritney SpearsBruno MarsDemi LovatoJustin TimberlakeKaty Perry
Favorite Country ArtistThe Band PerryBlake SheltonCarrie UnderwoodLady AntebellumTaylor Swift
Favorite Country Music IconAlan JacksonGeorge StraitTim McGrawToby KeithWillie Nelson
Favorite Hip-Hop ArtistDrakeJay ZKanye WestLil WayneMacklemore & Ryan Lewis
Favorite R&B ArtistAlicia KeysCiaraJustin TimberlakeRihannaRobin Thicke
Favorite BandImagine DragonsMaroon 5One DirectionOneRepublicParamore
Favorite Alternative BandFall Out BoyImagine DragonsMumford & SonsMuseParamore
Favorite SongJust Give Me A Reason (P!nk feat. Nate Ruess)Mirrors (Justin Timberlake)Radioactive (Imagine Dragons)Roar (Katy Perry)When I Was Your Man (Bruno Mars)
Favorite AlbumThe 20/20 Experience (Justin Timberlake)Bangerz (Miley Cyrus)Based on a True Story… (Blake Shelton)Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke)To Be Loved (Michael Bublé)
Favorite Music VideoBest Song Ever (One Direction)Heart Attack (Demi Lovato)Just Give Me A Reason (P!nk feat. Nate Ruess)Roar (Katy Perry)Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)
Favorite Music Fan FollowingBritney Army (Britney Spears)Directioners (One Direction)KatyCats (Katy Perry)Little Monsters (Lady Gaga)Lovatics (Demi Lovato)
We're impressed you read the whole list.
The 40th annual show will be hosted by 2 Broke Girls stars Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings on CBS on Jan. 8 at 9 PM. Final voting ends on Dec. 5.