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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Since Christmas is less than a week away, I wanted to do something special for my fellow TV fanatics. So I gathered up scoop for 6 fantastic shows, stuffed ‘em in an article, and wrapped it all together with a big sparkly bow. This is way better than a candy gram you guys! (Sorry Glenn Coco.) This week’s edition of Leanne’s Spoiler List features exclusive Arrow scoop from the loveable Seth Gabel, upcoming details from the all-knowing Vampire Diaries boss Julie Plec, and hilarious Happy Endings dish from the cast. I also threw in some stocking stuffers from the premieres of Suits, Bunheads and Shameless!
Plus, for the first time ever I answered one of your Twitter questions! I think I’d like to make this a regular thing so don’t forget you can request scoop on your favorite shows using the hashtag #LeannesList. Remember, I give extra point for alacrity and effulgence. Happy Holidays TV Lovers! 1.Arrow: Starling City Pill Pusher
You all know that I love me some Arrow — and that’s not just because Stephen Amell is the closest thing to a perfect human being since Hunter Parrish. Arrow is smart, creative, thrilling, and has a vast repertoire of comic book characters that spice up every episode. (Granted the closest I’ve ever come to a comic book is through the cast of The Big Bang Theory, but hey, I’m sure they’re great!) One of the most highly anticipated Arrow villains is without a doubt Count Vertigo, and what makes it even more exciting is the fact that beloved Fringe alum Seth Gabel will be bringing the antihero to life.
Gabel — who first appears in episode 12, entitled “Vertigo” — explains, “It’s a definite adaptation to this darker, more realistic world that is “Vertigo.” And instead of being an Eastern European count as is depicted in the comic, I am a street thug drug kingpin who doesn’t have superpowers.” The actor continues, “But the superpowers that the character has in the comic book are manifested in the form of the drug called Vertigo, which I push on the citizens of Starling City.” Oh! This is gonna be good, I can tell.
Fans of The CW freshman hit know that Oliver is not particularly focused on the petty street crimes of his city — however, it seems that The Count’s drug dealing might hit a bit too close to home. When I pressed for details, Gabel revealed that The Count would not just be sharing scenes with Arrow/Oliver. Could this be connected to Thea and her drug habits? Gabel was sly with his answer, saying, “Hmm, it’s possible but I can’t say for sure.” I’m just going to go ahead and say with Thea’s less-than stellar track record, I would not be surpised at all if she went on a little superhero drug binder. (P.S. I am in no way obligated to tell you that Gabel’s movie Allegiance is now available on VOD, in theaters on December 28th in New York and January 4th in Los Angeles. Just thought you’d like to know.)
Bunheads: A Gilmore Girls Guest Star!
Bunheads is one of the cutest shows to have ever graced our TV screens, and the fact that reminds me so much of Amy Sherman Palladino’s first great love Gilmore Girls is just icing on the cake. I don’t usually like to admit this, but one of the reasons I wanted to become a journalist is because of Rory Gilmore. So yes, Gilmore Girls will always have a special place in my heart. So you can imagine my squeals of delight when I was watching the Bunheads winter premiere and saw a familiar Stars Hallow face. Remember TJ (Michael DeLuise)? Well, he’s back and more magical than ever! A few months ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with the legendary Sutton Foster to discuss the Bunheads finale, and we gushed on our shared loved of all things Gilmore Girls (Psst! You can check it out right here!). Now I was able to chat with the iconic Broadway legend about what fans can expect from the show’s Jan. 7 premiere. When we last saw Michelle, she had just maced her entire class minutes before their big Nutcracker finale, and she left the hospital full of shame despite the adorable "Oh captain! My captain!" salute the girls gave her. So where is Michelle after the summer jump? “I’ve left Paradise and I’m living in Vegas on a friend’s couch," Foster says. "And working in Henderson, Nevada as a magician’s assistant in a casino. Everyone is kind of at a standstill." I can safely reveal that Michelle does indeed make it back to Paradise, but it does take quite a bit of coaxing, and one adorably sweet video. Foster explains, "It takes several forces to get Michelle to come back, and I think it all boils down to people seeing greatness in Michelle that she actually has to offer that even Michelle doesn’t believe in." But Hubbell does...
3. Suits: Handsome? Party of Two?
Dapper, dashing, and damn he’s sexy. There’s just something about a man in a suit that puts a smile on a girl’s face and daydreams in her head. Luckily, I was able to catch up with my favorite stylish twosome in the Suits winter premiere. When we first see the Pearson Hardman gang for the second half of Season 2, the mood in the office is — how shall I put this? — tense, to say the very least. Morale is less than stellar following the big partnership civil war, especially for Louis. (He was on the losing side of that fight, remember?) With Mike still reeling from the death of his grandmother, the case he and Harvey tackle in the premiere hits especially close to home. Mike lost his parents when they were hit by a drunk driver, so the fact that he's defending a teenage driver who killed a man and fled the scene doesn't exactly sit well with him. But not to worry Suits-lovers! It's not only gloom and doom — there's still room for a little levity thanks to Donna and Louis' romantic tryst with the spunky Sheila Sasz. (Say her name out loud. Laugh. Repeat.) Oh and bee tee dubs, Suits returns to our lives on Thursday, Jan. 17.
4.The Vampire Diaries: Mystic Falls Magic
After last week’s Christmas massacre, many fans (myself included) are dying to know what’s in store for the second half of Season 4. Not only did executive producer Julie Plec reveal an obscene amount of details to Holywood.com about Klaus and the cure, she also shed some light on our new oncam eye-candy Professor Shane. Plec says that the all-knowing teacher will continue to be a major presence in the second half of the season. “We'll definitely learn a lot more about Shane's agenda — the why, the where, and the how, the who — over the next couple of episodes.” We do know one thing for sure: Professor Shane is one super shady guy. He is currently teaching Bonnie — aka the most boring character of the season (come on you know it’s true!) — about a new type of magic called Expression. For those of you that are still in shock over the death of Mayor Lockwood, let me remind you: Expression is an unnatural form of witchcraft that requires the use of 12 human sacrifices in order to channel a darkness that is even worse than black magic. What’s most curious is the fact that Professor Shane helped get those 12 hybrids slaughtered/sacrificed, so does this mean that Expression becomes even more powerful? Plec explains that almost all of the answers that we need have already been revealed, “If you look back from the beginning of the season and sort of connect all the dots we've given you so far you can probably piece together quite a lot of the story.” Looks like this is a perfect excuse to binge-watch the first nine episodes again over our holiday break!
5. Happy Endings: Best News Ever!
Yes, it’s true that Happy Endings has without a doubt one of the quirkiest and most all around awesome casts on TV, but there is one person who is the hilarious cherry on top of a perfect sundae: Derrick. For those of who don’t know who Derrick is, I’m sorry but I don’t think we can be friends. (D-R-A-M-A. Drama!) Sigh. Okay, fine, watch this. Amahzing, right? Now that you all understand the perfection of Derrick, I am beyond excited to tell you that he’s coming back! A few months ago I visited the set of Happy Endings, and was overloaded with fantastical details of what’s to come — and now I can finally spill! One of my favorite people in this world, Adam Pally, reveals, “Derrick has a fun story line with me where I'm having trouble finding my gay identity, and Derrick takes me through the gay underworld on kind of a gay vision quest.” We’ve seen Max in the past as a bear — no, I’m, serious — but Pally says that our favorite freeloader is now evolving. “He was a cub, but the years are passing…. he's not quite a bear anymore, so he's gotta figure it out.” Casey Wilson adds, “Not quite a bear, not yet a woman.”
Another giggle-worthy episode that’s coming up features the best co-dependent girl and gubby (gay hubby) relationship on TV. Fans will soon be treated to an episode that Pally describes as “Penny and Max’s Requiem For a Dream storyline.” Wilson explains, “There's a real funny story coming up with us… Penny's coaching Max on how to not call a guy too much if you don't want to call him, and how to lose weight, which is to take NyQuil and drug yourself around 4pm so you sleep through the night. So you don't call anyone and you lose weight. And they become NyQuil addicts and never leave the apartment. And we think we look great.” Just you wait, NyQuil-ing is now going to be one of the hottest dieting trends of 2013. “I like when they treat Max and Penny like girlfriends," Pally says. "That to me is some fun stuff.” Well, to me, anything this show does is “fun stuff,” but I think that’s enough Happy Endings gushing for one day. Moving on!
6. Twitter Question: @NotATherapist What do you have on Shameless or House of Lies?
Eenie meenie miney… Shameless! Confession: I love this show. Like almost to an unhealthy level. When I watch it I suddenly feel like I’m just as much of a badass as the Gallaghers, and at any moment I’ll break a beer bottle and threaten to stab someone with it. But then I remember that I’m 5’3”, from Orange County, and have a Sprinkles cupcake subscription.
The Season 3 premiere of Shameless is filled with everything we’ve been missing these past 6 months: crazy characters, hilariously crude plotlines, and dead naked guys. (Oh yes, you read that last one correctly.) It’s been 137 days since the Gallaghers have seen their pathetic patriarch Frank, and it seems like Debbie is the only one who is desperate to see him. Jimmy is now a Rachel Ray-watching, cookie-baking Mr. Mom, but a visit from his past could ruin his chaotically perfect life with Fiona. Lip and Ian get into a inhaler-inducing chase with the police, and Veronica and Kevin are performing a racy and racist new web show. Madness! Also, get excited for one of the most exciting battle robot competitions you’ve ever seen.
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—Additional reporting by Sydney Bucksbaum and Jean Bentley
[Photo Credit: The CW, ABC Family, ABC, USA Network, Showtime]
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Since the 1960s, we've stuck with the Jackson family through thick and thin. From the era of "I Want You Back" and "ABC," through the more controversial years to follow, we've kept the iconic clan on our radars invariably; we simply cannot get enough of them. As such, it's more than likely that you've at least heard about the recent heat amounting between the family members in regards to the will of the late Michael Jackson and the custody of his children, Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., 15, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 14, and Prince Michael Jackson II, 10. Many of Michael's siblings have alleged that his standing will is a fake, created by attorneys John Blanca and John McClain; you can read the siblings' letter to the lawyers here, courtesy of E! Online.
Here is a quick breakdown of the recent events that have surrounded the Jackson family:
On Sunday, July 22, it was reported that Katherine Jackson, mother of Michael and legal guardian of his children, had gone missing from her mansion in Calabasas, Calif.
RELATED: Police Respond: Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson's Mother, Reported 'Missing'
On Tuesday, July 24, it was revealed that Katherine had been at a spa in Arizona — reports are that Katherine was taken there by her children Rebbie Jackson, 62, Jermaine Jackson, 57, Randy Jackson, 50, and Janet Jackson, 46, who agreed that the act was "doctor's orders." On the same day, an occurrence of alleged battery was reported at the Jackson mansion when Katherine's children Jermaine, Randy, and Janet arrived at the residence, with a television crew not far behind. Also on Tuesday, Katherine's son Marlon Jackson, 55, engaged in a tearful interview with The Insider, explaining that he did not know where his mother was, adding, "Whatever doctor is saying, 'I can't talk to my mother,' you call me."
On Wednesday, July 25, Randy appeared on Good Morning America to explain the Tuesday incident at the mansion. He said that he had stopped by the mansion with his siblings to visit Michael's children and explain to them that "they could talk to and visit with their grandmother whenever they want." He further explained that the altercation arose when security denied the siblings admission into the home, stating that they were taking orders from lawyers Blanca and McClain. Also on Wednesday, California courts afforded legal guardianship of Michael's three children to TJ Jackson, 34, son of Michael's brother Tito Jackson, 58.
RELATED: Michael Jackson's Family: Police Called for Feud at Matriarch Katherine's House
Also on Wednesday, Katherine expressed her grief over losing custody of the children in a statement to ABC News: "I am devastated that while I've been away... my grandchildren have been taken away from me, and I'm coming home to see about that." Katherine continued on to defend her own children, who had been accused of manipulating her. "I am here today to let everybody know that I am fine and I am here with my children, and my children would never do a thing to me like that, holding me against my will," she said. "It's very stupid for people to think that."
On Friday, July 26, TMZ reported that Katherine and TJ would file for joint guardianship of the children.
RELATED: Jackson Family Drama: Nephew Named Guardian, What's Going On? — VIDEO
The latest bits of news seem to confirm that the family is operating as a unit in harmony. While initially, speculation was that the Jackson siblings were acting against the wishes of Katherine, she has come to her children's defense and is pleased, according to her attorney Perry Sanders, to engage in a joint guardianship arrangement with TJ. After all this mess, it seems like all of the Jackson adults are on the same side.
Of course, there are a lot of holes in the story. Marlon's apparent lack of involvement in his siblings' choice to take their mother to the Arizona spa seems to breed suspicion and confusion. But this could be chalked up to a simple miscommunication. Still, many issues stand. Is Michael Jackson's will a fake? Will the siblings continue to contest its validity? There are sure to be new developments soon, so keep your ear to the ground.
[Photo Credit: Wenn]
Earlier today it was reported that TJ Jackson (Tito's son), was named temporary guardian of the late singer Michael Jackson's three children Wednesday.
In the unfolding saga that seems to be the Jackson family, it was declared that Katherine Jackson (Michael's mother) was being kept against her will from seeing the children and, making her unable to fulfill her guardian duties. Confused yet? Well, it doesn't help that reports from members of the family all seem to confuse rather than clarify--they all say something different. But it all becomes part of an even bigger picture, as drama unfolds about Michael's will.
RELATED: Police Respond: Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson's Mother, Reported 'Missing'
It seems as though some allege the will is fake, or a forgery--in it, the children are given Michael's estate control exclusively. But the date Jackson allegedly signed the will, he was in New York, not California where his executors live. Suspicious! The will stated that upon Katherine Jackson’s death, her portion of the estate passes to Paris, Prince, and Michael Jr., leaving Michael's father and siblings with nothing.
Is this a power-play to gain control over the estate and therefore Michael's money? Not so, says L.A. Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff. Merely an injunction to make sure the kids are properly taken care of, though they say different. Jackson's daughter Paris took to Twitter, saying "8 days and counting . something is really off , this isn’t like her at all .. i wanna[sic] talk directly to my grandmother!!," adding fuel to the fire that something more else is going on here. So naturally, the aunts and uncles decided to stop by the house and start videotaping their talking to the kids on camera phones. (Because that is a very normal way to interact with your family!)
RELATED: Michael Jackson's Family: Police Called for Feud at Matriarch Katherine's House
To further propagate (though seemingly unintentionally) the confusion, Michael's brother Randy went on Good Morning America to explain that this was all just to tell the kids that they can see their grandmother whenever they want. What? So are they against the children or the executors here, or the will? Check out Randy's conversation below:
RELATED: Pepsi Is Taking Michael Jackson on Tour: Hologram Next?
So now we are left to wonder...is Katherine OK? Why haven't the kids seen the person that is allegedly their guardian? Are they (or Katherine) being manipulated by the executors? Or by the aunts and uncles? Is this all part of a storyline to some secret reality show we don't know they're filming? Only time will seemingly tell. It seems as though once the will's authenticity is invalidated (or not), the rest of the story will unfold. In the meantime, TJ Jackson will be making all decisions involving the kids until this whole situation is sorted out.
What do you think about the unfolding Jackson drama? Are you worried for Michael's kids or Katherine Jackson? Let us know in the comments.
[Image Credit: WENN]
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The man-child: a staple character for modern comedy and notoriously known for being played one-note. They get the laugh they get out.
But turning the lovable goofball or zoned-out knucklehead into something more is no easy task—which makes Paul Rudd's work in Our Idiot Brother that much more impressive. Rudd's Earth-friendly farmer Ned (the closest thing to a new Lebowski we've seen since the original) finds himself down on his luck after being entrapped by a police officer looking for pot. After a stint in jail he abandons his rural hippie commune for the big city to take shelter with his three sisters. Unfortunately for Ned his three siblings Liz (Emily Mortimer) Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) are as equally displaced and confused from the ebb and flow of life—albeit with severely different perspectives of the world.
Liz struggles to put her kid in private school and keep her marriage to documentary filmmaker/scumbag Dylan (Steve Coogan) intact. Miranda claws her way to the top of Vanity Fair's editorial staff and shuns her flirtatious neighbor (Adam Scott). Natalie stresses over her commitment issues with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) leaving little time or patience for Ned's bumbling antics. Sound like a lot of plot? While the manic lives of Ned's sisters click symbolically with his journey to get back on his feet it makes for one sporadic narrative.
Like a series of vignettes Our Idiot Brother never gels but when director Jesse Peretz finds a moment of unadulterated Nedisms to throw up on screen the movie hits big. Whether it's Ned teaching his nephew how to fight accidentally romancing his sister's interview subject or infiltrating his ex-girlfriend's house to steal his dog Willie Nelson the movie relies heavily on Ned's antics and its smart to do so. But thin throughlines for its supporting don't hold a candle to Rudd doing his thing.
And its a testament to Rudd's versatility—the man has done everything from Shakespeare and raunchy Judd Apatow comedies after all—that makes the movie watchable. Rudd gives dimensionality to his nincompoop character allowing darker emotions to creep in when necessary. There's a point in the film when Ned gives up fighting for his type-A sisters' affection and it's some of the best material Rudd's ever delivered. But like one of Ned's lit joints Our Idiot Brother can quickly fizzle out leading to plodding plot twists and sentimental conclusions. Mortimer Banks and Deschanel are great actresses—here they drift through their scenes and come out in the end changed. Because they have to.
Our Idiot Brother tries to take the Apatow model to the indie scene and comes through with so-so results. Only Rudd's able to find something to latch on to to build upon to warm up to. In an unexpected twist it's the man-child who seems the most grown up.