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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Record label executives representing artists including The Rolling Stones and The Beatles are suing a U.S. radio giant in a battle over royalty payments. Representatives for Sony, Universal, Warner and independent label ABKCO, which controls much of the Rolling Stones' early music, have filed a lawsuit targeting American subscription station Sirius XM over allegations they are owed millions of dollars.
In the lawsuit, the record label bosses claim the radio station has been airing music dating from before 1972 without permission - U.S. copyright regulations do not apply to songs recorded before that date, but the executives allege the tracks are protected by state law, according to the New York Times.
The publication reports the legal paperwork was filed at Los Angeles Superior Court in California on Wednesday (11Sep13) and names the Beatles and The Rolling Stones as artists whose music has allegedly been used improperly without compensation, as well as the Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and the Supremes.
The record companies are seeking unspecified damages and a judgement about the licensing of recordings made before 1972.
A number of stars have released statements backing the action, including Dionne Warwick, who says, "Classic tracks recorded before 1972 are an important part of American culture and an important (part) of Sirius XM's programming. The great artists played on the '40s, '50s and '60s stations should be treated with respect and properly compensated as Sirius XM is required to do, so I am asking Sirius XM not to Walk On By and do the right thing!"
Judy Collins adds, "It is disgraceful, unfair, and probably criminal that Sirius XM is stealing monies due to me and other performing artists. Performers should be paid their fair share of the royalties from their songs."
Now that Jessa is temporarily out of the picture on Girls, space has been freed up to get to know some of the other characters again (or get to know them in a new light), as well as introduce some new ones.
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The focus on Hannah has never shifted out of view on the show, but we've also never seen her deal with her OCD. The series has made mention of it before, and we've even seen small traces of it, but we've never witnessed it actually play out. Triggered by the stress of Adam still calling her, her looming book deadline, and her parents visiting (if Girls has taught us anything over the past two weeks, it's that our parents drive us bonkers, even when they are delightfully played by Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker) Hannah slips back into her OCD, which includes obsessively counting her steps or the the times she opens her doors and repeating the same phrases.
There's been a lot of things that have broken my heart on Girls, but perhaps none more than this storyline. It was hard to watch Hannah face the terrible reality that mental disorders are a lifelong struggle, and that it not only has a major impact on those who suffer from it, but those who love them. (Hannah's softie of a father Tad so clearly wants to save or fix his daughter, but can't). Lena Dunham handled the issue marvelously (the actress/writer tweeted that she suffered from OCD as a child) and whether or not Hannah's OCD will stay at the surface, or become stagnant again, we know that she is not someone defined by her mental disorder. For someone desperately trying to find her place in the world, that's one thing she can be sure of.
If Hannah's bout with OCD made her a more compassionate character (her struggles through high school would make even the biggest Hannah hater have a heart), Marnie's story line this week did the exact opposite. Marnie has been a point of contention for even the biggest Girls defender, but her showing up at Charlie's office after she found out he was an overnight success for an app he created, ("Support from me or for me?" he quipped under his breath when she said she was there for support) then having the gall to complain that he's not broken enough, was unforgiveable. When Marnie confesses that her own dream is to be a singer, (we knew she was a musical theater kid, but where on Earth did this come from?) it's not that she's a mediocre crooner that leads me to believe this won't be a viable option, but her sh**ty attitude about what's "fair" in this world. Charlie had every right to create an app to tune her out, as a Girls fan I'm going to try and do the same.
While the show seemed hell bent on making Marnie insufferable, they did the exact opposite with Ray and Adam. While Ray has shown traces of being a decent human being before, I've never quite bought Adam's brutal honesty as charms. Also, he stole someone's dog and then abandoned Ray in Staten Island with said dog that he stole. He's a basket case. Yet, almost magically, Adam transformed into a sweet, charming, dreamboat after set up with the daughter of someone he met at AA (the beyond-great Carol Kane, who deserves her own show about a mother in AA who sets her daughter up on dates). While out with the attractive, equally charming Natalia (Shiri Appleby) Adam is funny, loose, and flirtatious (not in a sketchy way) — and he somehow resembles a sane, functioning adult.
RELATED: Lena Dunham Now Apologizing For Things She Didn't Do
Where has this guy been all along? Did he hide that guy from Hannah? H admitted during his AA speech that he didn't like her from the start, but she grew on him and he liked having her around, leading me to believe both of them liked the idea of each other more than each other. Has this all been an act? He's barely capable of any normal human interaction, yet he becomes a swoon-worthy first date? I have a feeling making him like this is just to set the table for a possible reunion with Hannah, but this is still someone who did some deeply troubling things to her during their relationship.
RELATED: 'Girls' Recap: Book Deals and Boy Talk
Speaking of flawed relationships, Shoshanna and Ray hit another roadblock that stems from their wildly different personalities and general outlook on the world. She, the bubbly eternal optimist, and he the smug, sarcastic realist, didn't go to a party together ("I'm a 33-year-old man," he argued after they were invited to a party from her friend Radhika, who guilted her for being missing in action all summer, "It's creepy for a college senior to go to a college party") and it set the stage for something terrible when she went to the party alone. Frustrated by her relationship and intrigued by a handsome stranger, our dear, sweet Shosh made out with a doorman. Now, her actions were inexcusable, but this relationship was doomed from the start, and this could be the thing that shifts her from naive twenty-something to adulthood. I hate to say it, but I like this new Shosh so much more.
Some of the other highlights and best lines from the latest episode of Girls, "It's Back":
- "Where is she? What is she wearing, is it linen? What language is she speaking?" - Shoshanna, wondering about Jessa.
- "You make me wanna cry, and I've never met you."- Ray, after Shoshanna's friend Radhika calls roller blades "vintage."
- Ray not liking how Shoshanna improperly uses air quotes, as a crutch to hide behind in conversations. (Hey, don't feel bad, Shosh, Joey on Friends did that, too!)
- Adam's perfectly charming phone call ("This is a f**king land line?!") to Natalia. Seriously, who is this guy? I've yet to meet him on this show.
- Judy Collins cameo! Between her and Carol Kane, this might be the best cameo-filled episode of Girls to date.
- "You can't dress like a magician's assistant forever"- Ray, to Marnie.
- Shoshanna's fake name that she gives the sexy doorman is... Shanna.
What did you think of last night's episode of Girls? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
[Photo credit: HBO]
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
"I remember when I first saw her, everybody wanted to look like her when she did A Date With Judy. All my friends, we all wanted the big eyebrows and black hair and the beauty mark. I kept a scrapbook on her, which is why it was so fascinating for me, a few years later in Hollywood, to meet her in the make-up room." Joan Collins looked up to style icon Dame Elizabeth Taylor.
A Visa television commercial calculated to lure tourists back to Broadway is
likely to do just the opposite, a number of theatrical producers and press
agents have told the New York Post. The spot is a montage of numerous
behind-the-scenes images of theater life, accompanied by Judy Collins
plaintively singing "Give My Regards to Broadway," in which she slightly
changes the closing line to : "Give my regards to Broadway/And tell them
I'll be back before long." (The original words, "And say that I'll be there
e'er long.") One publicist told the New York Post: "It's like a
memorial service for Broadway. We're trying to tell people we're open for
business now, and this says, 'We'll be back soon.'" Another said: "It's a
beautifully filmed dirge."
Looks like Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst could've used some voice management classes for the Anger Management tour. Durst injured his vocal chords just three shows into the tour, which includes Papa Roach, Eminem and Xzibit on the bill. Doctors say his vocal chords are swollen.
Durst says he started going hoarse on Tuesday during the show. He's hoping to be in shape by Thursday.
WHAT A BASTARD: ODB is MIA ... again! The often-cuffed member of the Wu-Tang Clan known as Ol' Dirty Bastard decided that he no longer wanted to stay at a Pasadena drug treatment facility and simply bailed, SonicNet reports. He was ordered there by the court after violating his probation but bolted on foot while he was being taken to the L.A. Criminal Courthouse for an update report with a judge.
A warrant has been issued for his arrest. Officials say the 31-year-old rapper, whose real name is Russell Tyrone Jones, could face jail time as a result of his latest stunt.
A CALL FOR COLLINS: Whoops! Her bad. Judy Collins thought she was getting a singing gig to help ease the tensions in the Middle East when she got a call from a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Oh, he wanted her to sing all right, but the gig was for honoring Harry Belafonte at a ceremony. Doh! She accepted anyway and sang "Scarlet Ribbons" at the tribute last week.
"STRONGER" VIDEO NOT READY: Oops! She's gonna be a little late. Teen pop queen Britney Spears' latest video for her single "Stronger" wasn't ready for it's world premiere on Monday on MTV, sending the music cable channel scrambling to fill the slot. Representatives for Spears say the much-hyped video is stuck in post-production and won't be ready for another week.