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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Hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz is determined to help embattled pal Dmx get his career back on track by focusing all his efforts on completing the rapper's new album. The Party Up (Up In Here) hitmaker, real name Earl Simmons, has struggled to stay out of legal trouble in recent years and was arrested earlier this month (Nov13) for the fourth time in 2013 alone, after he was pulled over at an airport in South Carolina for driving on a suspended licence. He was also charged with driving without insurance and driving an unlicenced vehicle.
The arrest occurred as DMX prepared to fly to New York for a comeback appearance with Beatz on U.S. daytime programme The Wendy Williams Show, but the interview and performance was subsequently scrapped.
Beatz has now spoken out to assure fans the rapper, who has previously struggled with drug issues, is doing well, and he insists the follow up to 2012's Undisputed will be worth the wait.
He tells MTV's RapFix Live host Sway, "Everything is DMX for me right now. It's my main focus because it's what started everything...
"He's been going through a lot of different things but... he's DMX! He's good; he's in good vibes. But wait until y'all hear this music though - y'all gon' really know how he is. We working hard on that and I can't wait. I can't wait (sic)."
Embattled rapper Dmx has scrapped plans to appear on America's The Wendy Williams Show following his Monday night (04Nov13) arrest after missing five different flights producers had booked for him so he could feature on Wednesday's (06Nov13) episode. The Party Up (Up In Here) hitmaker, real name Earl Simmons, was scheduled to sit down for an interview with Williams on Tuesday (05Nov13), but the New York-based gig had to be postponed by 24 hours following his arrest in South Carolina.
He was freed on bail hours after he was booked for charges of driving on a suspended licence, driving without insurance, and driving an unlicensed vehicle, but he reportedly kept changing his mind about travelling to Manhattan for the show and repeatedly snubbed the plane and car arrangements that had been made for him.
Williams claims he then demanded TV executives cover the costs for a former lover to fly to the Big Apple too from her home in Florida - but that plan fell through as well and he never made it onto a plane.
Explaining the drama on Wednesday's show, she said, "We made not one, two, three, four, (but) five plane reservations for that man to come up here from South Carolina and he missed all five flights...
"And then he's got this baby's mother. He's got 13 kids... One of the baby's mothers lives in Florida with one of his kids. Well X said he wasn't coming to New York unless we now, all of a sudden, fly his baby's mother up here so that I guess they can have a visitation backstage."
She added, "I like DMX... We were accommodating, we bought the plane tickets for the baby's mother, she missed the flight... and showed up at the airport randomly the next day to get on the plane. No telephone call, nothing, like she could just use the (previous day's) tickets or something..."
She then gave him until Friday (08Nov13) to honour the commitment - but it appears DMX has other plans.
A statement released by his representative early on Wednesday reads: "Due to recent media scrutiny, DMX will not be appearing on The Wendy Williams Show this week. The team apologises to his fans who were anticipating his performance but we are holding off on interviews and focusing on making music and organising a world tour."
Rapper Dmx was forced to postpone a TV appearance in New York on Tuesday (05Nov13) after he was arrested in South Carolina on Monday night (04Nov13). The Party Up (Up In Here) hitmaker, real name Earl Simmons, was scheduled to appear on The Wendy Williams Show, but his plans hit a snag after he was busted at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, where he was due to board a flight to the Big Apple, for the fourth time this year (13).
Police took him into custody and booked him for driving on a suspended licence and without insurance, and driving an unlicensed vehicle.
He was released three hours later on $1,335 (£890) bond, but the delay left producers of The Wendy Williams Show scrambling to reschedule his interview and performance for Wednesday (06Nov13).
Addressing the drama on air on Tuesday, host Wendy Williams explained, "DMX was supposed to be here... DMX is not even out of South Carolina... You know why he was at the airport? He was on his way to Wendy...!"
The talk show presenter then turned serious as she expressed her concerns for DMX, who has endured a troubled few years spent in and out of jail for a string of various offences, ranging from drug possession and driving under the influence to speeding and animal cruelty.
She said, "I'm not surprised by any of this because sometimes, when people are going through a lot, they neglect certain responsibilities, like renewing your driving licence... This is not this man's fault, this man needs help... I'm holding out hope everybody, not just for him coming on our show, but for him to get it together in general. DMX, you are loved."
Rapper/actress Lil Mama is convinced Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes was watching over her as she portrayed the tragic star in a new Tlc biopic after experiencing a series of spooky incidents on set. The Waterfalls hitmaker was killed in a car crash in 2002 and Lil Mama is bringing her back to life on TV for Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, alongside Keke Palmer as Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas and Drew Sidora as Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins.
They shot the film earlier this year (13) and Lil Mama, real name Niatia Kirkland, was left spooked by what she believes was the spirit of Left Eye.
She tells U.S. talk show host Wendy Williams, "Stuff was knocking over on set and every time I did a dark scene, an ambulance would pass by, or a siren, and then it (production) had to shut down and I'd get these really deep moments to think right before I shoot (sic).
"Drew and I shot a scene and she was like, 'Did you notice that every time you shoot a dark scene this happens?' And I looked at her and said, 'Yes.'"
Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story airs on VH1 in America on Monday (21Oct13).
Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas almost missed out on finding fame with Tlc after she was booted from the band early on in the R&B stars' careers. The Waterfalls hitmakers' manager, Perri 'Pebbles' Reid, has long been rumoured to have dropped Chilli from the group's line-up after falling out over behavioural issues - and now the singer has confirmed the claims.
Usher's ex-girlfriend suggests she had been coming on too strong to producer Dallas Austin, who she went on to date, prompting Pebbles to take drastic action.
She tells U.S. talk show host Wendy Williams, "I got kicked out. At first I was told I was suspended, and then I'm thinking, 'But I really got kicked out', they were trying to replace me and... in order for me to get back in, I had to agree to go to therapy, because growing up without my dad probably made me loose or something, but I was in love with Dallas at the time."
The band's rise to fame has since been turned into a TV movie, titled Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story, which is due to premiere in the U.S. on Monday (21Oct13).
Chris Brown has become Perez Hilton's latest Twitter foe after the celebrity blogger took aim at the singer during a U.S. TV appearance on Tuesday (08Oct13). Hilton appeared to taunt the R&B star early on Tuesday when he took to the micro-blogging site to alert fans to tune in to The Wendy Williams Show, where he planned to discuss a candid interview Brown had recently given to Britain's The Guardian newspaper, in which he revealed he lost his virginity at the age of eight.
He wrote, "I hope @ChrisBrown doesn't watch! I'm talking about him on the @WendyWilliams show today and I'm going in!!!"
His Twitter post didn't go unnoticed by Brown, and he hit out at Hilton with a series of insults directed at both Hilton and TV host Wendy Williams.
In a series of insulting messages, the singer wrote, "Thanks for the publicity. Your insecurities are manifested by your hatred. Princess Perez and wicked witch Wendy. Flunkies!
"Can't take advice from 2 buff chicks when one can't stand to look at herself without plastic surgery and the other is forever on his period."
Hilton, who is openly gay, took the rude words in his stride and instead corrected Brown's nickname for the blogger, firing back, "That's Queen Perez! BowDown (sic)."
Former child star Marie Osmond was scared into staying slim during her stint on 1970s variety show Donny & Marie after allegedly receiving threats about her weight from TV producers. The Paper Roses singer reveals her lifelong weight struggles began when she was guilt-tripped into shedding 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) as a teen in order to keep the show on the air and was told to keep the threats a secret from her family and her co-star, brother Donnie Osmond.
She tells U.S. talk show host Wendy Williams, "I weigh about 125 pounds right now, and I'm the same height I was (when) I was 14 years old when I started doing Donny & Marie... but I was about 103 pounds and I had producers take me out into parking lots and threaten me to never tell my parents and said that 200-and-something people's jobs were on my back and they were gonna cancel the show if I didn't drop 10 pounds... I didn't tell anybody about this... I got down to 93 pounds. (It was) totally crazy."
Osmond, now 53, admits her weight problems prompted her to try out every diet fad available, until she found healthy eating programme Nutrisystem, for which she is now a spokesperson.
She says, "I've been on every diet, from where you drink lemon water for three days, yeah, I've done it all. Finally you get smart and you realise that the only way to really lose weight is to eat food! Be healthy."
Actress and TV host Wendy Williams has postponed her Broadway debut after falling ill with a sinus infection. The star was due to start playing Matron 'Mama' Morton in hit show Chicago on Tuesday (25Jun13), but she will now take to the stage on Friday (28Jun13) to allow herself time to recover from the illness.
Producer Barry Weissler tells BroadwayWorld.com, "Wendy is one of the most delightful and energetic talents to have graced our stage in a while. She came down with a minor sinus infection... but thankfully she's working with a fantastic team of doctors and specialists, and I'm happy to report that she'll be back in fighting shape very soon."
Williams will play to audiences at New York City's Ambassador Theatre until 11 August (13).
Cher has been encouraging her son to lose weight by handing over $1,000 (£645) for every two pounds (0.9 kilograms) he drops. Chaz Bono has lost more than 43 pounds (19.5 kilograms) by embarking on a new healthy diet and exercise regime, and recently revealed he wants to lose another 40 pounds (18 kilograms).
Cher is keen to see her son succeed, so she has been offering a monetary reward for every pound dropped.
In a post on Twitter.com, the Believe hitmaker writes, "I'm paying him 1K a lb. 2 (to) lose weight... So he has made $65,000!"