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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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True love: something that for a long time seemed only reserved for fairytales — until ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette series came around. Finally! Regular people (who are very attractive and vetted through a long and involved casting process) could find fairytale love! Love that was real and true, just like in the movies!
...at least, that's what we all hoped. But, it turns out, televised matchmaking doesn't work out so well. The Bachelor/Bachelorette couples who remain happy in love are in the minority (to say the least), and the recent breakups of Jef Holm and Emily Maynard as well as Ben Flainjk and Courtney Robertson are just icing on the cake. Who would've thought, right? How is it possible that hand-picked attractive people from around the country going on extravagant dates can't find true love over the course of six weeks? It's shocking, really.
Don't believe us? Check out the numbers and über-fancy statistics, below.
The Bachelor Relationship Rundown
Bachelor Season 1:
Alex Michel and Amanda Marsh — Broke up after 10 months. The beginning of the reinvention of love.
Bachelor Season 2:
Aaron Buerge and Helene Eksterowicz -— Broke up 5 weeks after the finale. Woops.
Bachelor Season 3:
Andrew Firestone and Jen Schefft — Broke up 7 months after the finale. No spare tires for this relationship!
Bachelor Season 4:
Bob Guiney and Estella Gardinier — Broke up 1 month after the finale. What about Bob, indeed!
Bachelor Season 5:
Jesse Palmer and Jessica Bowlin — Broke up 1 month after the finale. It's hard to make a relationship work when your names are THAT similar.
Bachelor Season 6:
Byron Velvick and Mary Delgado — Broke up after 5 years. They became engaged in November 2004 and, while they did endure some domestic squabbles, they didn't officially end their relationship until December 2009.
Bachelor Season 7:
Charlie O'Connell and Sarah Brice — Broke up after two attempts at making it work: May 2005 - September 2007 (28 months), then again November 2008 - April 2010 (19 months). Total: 47 months together; certainly nothing to balk at!
Bachelor Season 8:
Travis Stork and Sarah Stone — Broke up after 1 month, probably because of all the stork jokes.
Bachelor Season 9:
Lorenzo Borghese and Jennifer Wilson — Broke up after 2 months, which makes zero sense because this guy was A REAL-LIFE PRINCE so, like, Happily Ever After was guaranteed, I thought! Isn't that in the Ye Olde Royal Contract?
Bachelor Season 10:
Andy Baldwin and Tessa Horst — Broke up after 4 months. Guess he wasn't a total Baldwin.
Bachelor Season 11:
Brad Womack chose NO ONE because he hates everyone.
Bachelor Season 12:
Matt Grant and Shayne Lamas — Broke up after 2 months. Lorenzo Lamas reportedly weeped for years.
Bachelor Season 13:
Jason Mesnick and Melissa Rycroft — Broke up at the reunion.
Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney — Got together at the reunion (yikes!) and married in February 2010. They're still together and expecting a baby! Mazel!
Bachelor Season 14:
Jake Pavelka and Vienna Girardi — Broke up after 3 months, and were totally casual and not-at-all mean about it (haha just kidding it was the ugliest break-up on TV maybe ever)!
Bachelor Season 15:
Brad Womack and Emily Maynard — Released an official "we broke up" statement after 3 months (though reports say it ended much earlier).
Bachelor Season 16:
Ben Flajnik and Courtney Robertson — Broke up after 7 months, when Ben realized that the entire planet really didn't like his decision-making skills..
And the Bachelorettes — How Did the Ladies Fare?
Bachelorette Season 1:
Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter — Married for 8 years and counting! With kids! What a bunch of weirdos.
Bachelorette Season 2:
Meredith Phillips and Ian McKee — Broke up after 1 year. Does anyone remember this season?
Bachelorette Season 3:
Jen Schefft and Jerry Ferris — Broke up 3 weeks after he proposed. Woops!
Bachelorette Season 4:
DeAnna Pappas and Jesse Csincsak — Broke up after 4 months, probably because Jesse's last name was really hard to spell.
Bachelorette Season 5:
Jillian Harris and Ed Swiderski — Broke up after 1 year, probably because she was Canadian.
Bachelorette Season 6:
Ali Fedotowsky and Roberto Martinez — Broke up after 15 months. And, somehow, Roberto did not become the next Bachelor (sorry, Sean Lowe, sure you'll be great).
Bachelorette Season 7:
Ashley Hebert and JP Rosenbaum — Engaged with plans to marry (on live TV! The way it was meant to be done, obviously) in December of this year after 14 months. Hooray for them!
Bachelorette Season 8:
Emily Maynard and Jef Holm — Broke up after 5 months and lots of marionette fights.
Failed relationships: not just for the normals anymore! So what have we learned from all of this? Well, namely it seems like Brad Womack has a terrible track record but loves television. And so does his second-go-around winner/ex-fiancée, Emily Maynard. (Maybe those two crazy kids were meant for each other after all!)
After compiling the numbers and doing a little bit of Bill Clinton's favorite thing (no, not ladies — dirty minds, all of you!), arithmetic, we have put together this handy guide for understanding love, Bachelorstyle.
Here Are Some Fancy Math Facts:
Mean Length of Relationships:13.6 months
Median Length of Relationships:4 months
Mode Length of Relationships:1 month
Analysis:So while the marriages and successes may have thrown us off a bit (13.6 months: what are these people, monogamists?), it generally seems to be that 4 is every bachelor and bachelorette's lucky number. Unless they're one of the five couples who only like quickie, one-month-long relationships.
It seems that the one thing we cantake away from this is that we, as a nation, need to completely rethink our definition of "true love." Obviously, these very attractive and well-groomed pseudo-celebrities know what true love is: they were on a TV show and are good-looking! Duh! So, maybe we should reevaluate what true love really means. If all of these love experts have relationships with an average shelf-life of 1 - 4 months, maybe that's how long true love really lasts! Maybe we've been fooled all of this time by the movies, the Disney princesses, the happily ever afters. Maybe true love can only last a brief period of time (I mean, forever is like, so many years).
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.