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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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Moesha star Yvette Wilson lost her battle with cervical cancer Thursday, according to reports.
The 48-year-old actress, who played Andell Wilkerson on the UPN sitcom, was also known for her roles in big screen comedies like Friday and House Party 2.
Her Moesha co-star Shar Jackson was one of the first to break the sad news on Twitter: "I wanna thank all my tweeties for their prayers but god has chosen to take my sister Yvette home."
After her death, other stars tweeted their memories and condolences:
"#RIPYVETTEWILSON Great actress from "Moesha" & "The Parkers" She was truly beautiful inside & out. You will be missed. Love & Light." — Gabrielle Union "R.I.P Yvette Wilson (Andell From The Parkers). She recently lost her battle with cancer. Life is short, so cherish yours." — Lauryn Hill
"R.I.P: Yvette Wilson who is the character Andell on Moesha & The Parkers. She passed away tonight after battling cervical cancer." — Will Ferrell "God bless u Yvette wilson. Tears in my eyes. Keep God laughing." — Jamie Foxx "Yvette Wilson always a sweetheart... Need a moment. Y'all join me in my twitter moment of silence respecting a beautiful funny lady & friend." — Marlon Wayons
"Rip Yvette Wilson...thank u for many years of laughs from Moesha & The Parker's." — Niecy Nash
"RIP Yvette Wilson." — Russell Simmons
"Good Morning. Prayers for the family and friends of Yvette Wilson who died of Cervix Cancer this morning." — Countess Vaughn
"Heartbreaking News: Yvette Wilson, 48, Andell from "The Parkers" & Stand Up Comic loses her battle with Cancer." — Loni Love "RIP 2 my first TV love and friend in a real way Yvette Wilson." — Ricky Harris More News on Hollywood.com HBO Apologizes For George W. Bush's 'Cameo' in 'Game of Thrones' 'Dallas' Premiere: We Found a Gusher! 'Common Law': Michael Ealy's Smarter Than The Average FBI Agent — EXCLUSIVE CLIP The 'Magic Mike' Boys Finally Get Naked — TRAILER
Actress Shar Jackson is mourning the death of her former Moesha co-star Yvette Wilson.
The 48 year old, who played Andell Wilkerson in the U.S. sitcom, lost her battle with cervical cancer on Thursday (14Jun12), according to reports.
Jackson had earlier this week (11Jun12) asked Twitter.com followers to pray for her pal, writing, "Everyone plz (please) send prayer and light to my sister and best friend Yvette Wilson."
She confirmed Wilson's passing on Thursday by tweeting, "I wanna thank all my tweeties for their prayers but god has chosen to take my sister Yvette home."
Wilson, who had roles in Friday and the House Party franchise, had also experienced kidney failure.
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Nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards are out and some of our favorite Hollywood stars received some well-deserved nods including the likes of George Clooney who's up for Best Actor in The Descendants and Michelle Williams who's competing for Best Actress in My Week With Marilyn. This doesn't really come as much of a surprise given that they received similar praise at this year's Golden Globes, but it will be interesting to see how they'll fare alongside their competitors. Brad Pitt is also up for Best Actor for his role in Moneyball, while Viola Davis (The Help) and the legendary Meryl Streep (The Irony Lady) will be running against Williams in the Best Actress category. So much talent, but only one can win per category. Which celeb do you think stands the best chance of taking home the highly coveted Oscar? - Oscars
Now that the Heidi Klum and Seal split has been confirmed, it's time to start speculating on everything else concerning their crumbling marriage. Seal is still wearing his wedding ring and of course people want to know why. When the singer appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Tuesday, he explained the reason, saying, "I am still wearing my ring. I think it's just pretty much a token of how I feel about this woman. We have eight years. Eight wonderful years together. Just because we have decided to separate doesn't necessarily mean you take off your ring and you're no longer connected to that person." He also added, "Will we wear the rings for the rest of our lives? Who knows? But right now it feels really comfortable on my hand, so I have no intention of taking it off anytime soon." Translation: I'll remove it as soon as I meet someone else. - US
Speaking of failed marriages, let's talk about one that didn't even get the chance to start. Yesterday it was reported that Aretha Franklin called off her engagement to Willie Wilkerson...only three weeks after they announced their plans to get married. That must be some sort of Hollywood engagement record, right? (Probably not). Anyway, apparently things were just going a little too fast for their liking and Franklin released a statement, saying, "Will and I have decided we were moving a little too fast, and there were a number of things that had not been thought through thoroughly. There will be no wedding at this time." I guess Aretha knows what's best. - US
For all concerned parties, Tracy Morgan is on the mend from his little hospital visit at Sundance. The actor tweeted about his health scare, saying: "Superman ran into a little kryptonite. The high altitude in Utah shook up this kid from Brooklyn." In my book, if you're healthy enough to tweet then things are really looking up. Glad to see he's feeling better. - Twitter