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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Newlyweds Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon have celebrated their nuptials by throwing a party--at a theme park.
The couple married in a secret sunset ceremony at Carey's home in the Bahamas last month.
But the pair was keen to celebrate their marriage with family and friends who could not make the ceremony--so they threw a party at Los Angeles theme park Six Flags Magic Mountain on Tuesday night.
According to Web site TMZ.com, the park was closed to the public at 6 p.m. and reopened to guests including Will Smith and Stevie Wonder.
Carey arrived two hours later in a black Rolls Royce to join her new husband at the party.
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There really is no accounting for taste, especially in the minds of youngsters. Will Smith and his summer box-office disappointment "Wild Wild West" grabbed three awards at Nickelodeon’s 13th annual Kids’ Choice Awards taped Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Smith won three orange blimps for favorite song ("Wild Wild West"), favorite song from a movie (ooh … guess the song) and favorite male singer.
Rosie O'Donnell (who emceed the event) and Adam Sandler each won two awards. O’Donnell, in fact, picked up the highest honor of the evening, the Hall of Fame Award for her humor and charity work.
Other orange blimp winners included the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa Joan Hart and Mandy Moore.
And in a surprise career move, Robert De Niro (yes, Robert De Niro) presented an award, as did LL Cool J, 98 Degrees, Carly Pope and Leslie Bibb from the WB’s "Popular" and Mel Gibson.
GARBO’S SECRETS INTACT: Historians unsealed more than 100 letters and other correspondence between Greta Garbo and Mercedes De Acosta on Saturday, but anyone hoping that rumors of a lesbian love affair between the actress and her socialite friend would be confirmed are likely to be disappointed. Garbo's grandniece, Gray Reisfield Horan, told the Associated Press, "I see nothing that refers to a liaison … I don't think there's much here to back it up. I only knew her to be interested in men." The items were unsealed 10 years after Garbo’s death, as she requested in her will. Garbo’s estate won’t let the media quote the letters, but it’s possible the letters may be published in a book.
LATIN SIZZLE: Actors Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz, along with singers Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera, were among the Hispanic performers who were honored Sunday in Pasadena, Calif., at the fifth annual American Latino Media Arts Awards.
ALMA kudos also went to Latin tube talents Hector Elizondo of "Chicago Hope," Wilson Cruz of "Party of Five" and Laura Ceron of "ER."
Ten musical performers were recognized, including the Backstreet Boys, Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan (with 'N Sync), Enrique Iglesias, Mariah Carey, Rage Against the Machine and Santana. Martin nabbed the male entertainer of the year award for shaking his bon-bon while Lopez, also of bon-bon fame, and Aguilera, of future bon-bon fame, received awards for female entertainer and new female entertainer, respectively.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MOUSE: Disney has paid horror director Clive Barker an advance of $4 million against nearly $8 million for all movie and ancillary rights to four unpublished fantasy novels he is writing. Collectively, the books carry the tentative title ``The Abarat Quartet.''
BLAME CANADA: Actor, Canadian and former Julia Roberts fiance Kiefer Sutherland joined thousands of protesters in Calgary, Alberta, on Saturday to protest plans to privatize some of Canada’s public health care system. Perhaps he was worried about his own benefits, since his acting career has apparently gone into cardiac arrest.
MURDOCH HAS CANCER: Doctors are planning several weeks of radiation treatment for Fox media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In a statement published by Murdoch's newspapers over the weekend, a spokesman said: "His doctors have told Mr. Murdoch the prognosis is very good. ... He has no intention of changing his work schedule."
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: All it takes to own the pair of ruby red slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" is a whole lotta of cash. A pristine pair of slippers made for Judy Garland will be sold to the highest bidder May 24 by Christie's auction house, and collectors estimate the pair could fetch $750,000. Also available are the Cowardly Lion's "Oz" costume, a Rolls-Royce from the James Bond classic "Goldfinger" and Christopher Reeve's Superman capes and body stockings.