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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We all have guilty pleasures. For some of us, it’s HGTV’s do-it-yourself home improvement shows. For others, it’s marathoning sitcoms like Arrested Development or Modern Family on online sites like Netflix from the comfort of our beds. And still for others, it’s the romantic entanglements found in old soap operas that keep us replaying them time after time. Well, earlier this year, Prospect Park’s The Online Network revealed that they would be rebooting two of our most loved soaps: All My Children and One Life to Live. And Wednesday, the network announced all of the cast members participating in both shows.
For All My Children, the following stars have been announced as members of the cast: Sal Stowers as Cassandra Foster, Eric Nelson as AJ Chandler, Denyse Tontz as Miranda Montgomery, Jordan Lane Price as Celia Fitzgerald, Ryan Bittle as JR Chandler, Eden Riegel as Bianca Montgomery, Cady McClain as Dixie Cooney, Ray MacDonnell as Dr. Joe Martin, David Canary as Adam Chandler, Heather Roop as Jane McIntyre, and Francesca James as Evelyn Johnson. Previously announced members include Darnell Williams as Jesse Hubbard, Debbi Morgan as Dr. Angela Hubbard, Vincent Irizarry as Dr. David Hayward, Lindsay Hartley as Cara Martin, Jordi Vilasuso as Griffin Castillo, Jill Larson as Opal Cortlandt, and Thorsten Kaye as Zach Slater.
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And this is who you can expect to see on One Life to Live: Robert Gorrie as Matthew Buchanan and Laura Harrier as Destiny Evans. These stars join the previously announced members (Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord Buchanan, Robin Strasser as Dorian Lord, Tuc Watkins as David Vickers, Robert S. Woods as Bo Buchanan, Kassie DePaiva as Blair Cramer, Jerry verDorn as Clint Buchanan, Florencia Lozano as Tea Delgado, Melissa Archer as Natalie Buchanan Banks, Hillary B. Smith as Nora Buchanan, Kelley Missal as Danielle Manning, Josh Kelly as Cutter Wentworth, and Andrew Trischitta as Jack Manning). Recurring actors include: Sean Ringgold as Shaun Evans, Shenaz Treasury as Rama Patel, and Nick Choksi as Vimal Patel.
New 30-minute episodes of both series will be launching each day of the week on Hulu.com, where content generally can be viewed for free. The episodes will also be available on iTunes.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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The daytime gang came out strong tonight to serve up its 39th Emmy Awards ceremony, with nary a mention of the of the earlier murder-suicide that occurred late last night at the Beverly Hilton--where the awards were taking place. The show started off with a very lost Anthony Geary, having trouble finding the stage after a sing-songy intro between Oscar the Grouch and Anderson Cooper.
So let's get down to brass tacks and talk winners and losers, alligators, dry skin jokes (Thanks, Bethenny Frankel), and THE Susan Lucci!
Almost as a parting gift to the legacy of Regis Philbin, Live! With Regis & Kelly won several trophies in their respective categories. General Hospital was the big winner of the evening, bringing home several of the biggest trophies of the evening--including Outstanding Drama Series. But enough of us yammering on; check out the full list below of the biggest winners (winners are bolded) and the ones who shocked 'em all at the awards.
Outstanding Drama Series
All My Children (ABC)
Days Of Our Lives (NBC)
General Hospital (ABC)
The Young And The Restless (CBS)
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
Crystal Chappell, as Dr. Carly Manning Days Of Our Lives (NBC)
Debbie Morgan, as Angie Hubbard All My Children (ABC)
Erika Slezak, as Viki Lord One Life To Live (ABC)
Heather Tom, as Katie Logan Spencer The Bold And The Beautiful (CBS)
Laura Wright, as Carly Corinthos Jax General Hospital (ABC)
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Maurice Bernard, as Michael “Sonny” Cointhos, Jr. General Hospital (ABC)
Anthony Geary, as Luke Spencer General Hospital (ABC)
John McCook, as Eric Forrester The Bold And The Beautiful (CBS)
Darnell Williams, as Jesse Hubbard All My Children (ABC)
Robert S. Woods, as Bo Buchanan One Life To Live (ABC)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Bradford Anderson as Damien Spinelli (General Hospital, ABC)
Matthew Ashford as Jack Deveraux (Days of our Lives, NBC)
Sean Blakemore as Shawn Butler (General Hospital, ABC)
Jonathan Jackson as Lucky Spencer (General Hospital, ABC)
Jason Thompson as Patrick Drake (General Hospital, ABC)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Melissa Claire Egan as Annie Chandler (All My Children, ABC)
Genie Francis as Genevieve Atkinson (The Young and the Restless, CBS)
Nancy Lee Grahn as Alexis Davis (General Hospital, ABC)
Elizabeth Hendrickson as Chloe Mitchell (The Young and the Restless, CBS)
Rebecca Herbst as Elizabeth Webber (General Hospital, ABC)
Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series
Eddie Alderson as Matthew Buchanan (One Life To Live, ABC)
Chad Duell as Michael Corinthos (General Hospital, ABC)
Chandler Massey as Will Horton (Days of our Lives, NBC)
Nathan Parsons as Ethan Lovett (General Hospital, ABC)
Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series
Molly Burnett as Melanie Layton (Days of our Lives, NBC)
Shelley Hennig as Stephanie Johnson (Days of our Lives, NBC)
Christel Khalil as Lily Winters (The Young and the Restless, CBS)
Jaqueline Macinnes Wood as Steffy Forrester (The Bold and the Beautiful, CBS)
Outstanding Talk Show — Entertainment
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Syndicated)
Live With Regis And Kelly (Syndicated)
The Talk (CBS)
The View (ABC)
Outstanding Talk Show — Informative
The Dr. Oz Show
Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host
Giada De Laurentiis, Giada At Home
Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless
Nate Berkus, The Nate Berkus Show
Paula Deen, Paula's Best Dishes
Sandra Lee, Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
Outstanding Culinary Program
Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction
Giada At Home
Guy's Big Bite
Outstanding Game Show Host
Ben Baily (Cash Cab, Discovery Channel)
Todd Newton (Family Game Night, The HUB)
Wayne Brady (Let's Make A Deal, CBS)
Meredith Vieira (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Syndicated)
Outstanding Talk Show Host
Anderson Cooper (Anderson, Syndicated)
Dr. Mehmet Oz (The Dr. Oz Show, Syndicated)
Regis Philbin, Kelly Ripa (Live with Regis and Kelly, Syndicated)
Rachael Ray (Rachael Ray, Syndicated)
Dr. Lisa Masterson, Jillian Michaels, Dr. Andrew Ordon, Dr. Jim Sears, Dr. Travis Stork, Wendy Walsh (The Doctors, Syndicated)
Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show
Cash Cab (Discovery Channel)
Let's Make A Deal (CBS)
Wheel of Fortune (Syndicated)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (Syndicated)
Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program
America's Court with Judge Ross
Judge Joe Brown
Last Shot with Judge Gunn
We the People with Gloria Allred
Oustanding Morning Program
Good Morning America (ABC)
Today Show (NBC)
Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team
All My Children (ABC)
Days of Our Lives (NBC)
General Hospital (ABC)
The Young and the Restless (CBS)
Oustanding Children's Animated Program
Curious George (PBS)
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (Nickelodeon)
Peep & The Big Wide World (American Public Television)
Penguins of Madagascar (Nickelodeon)
Sid the Science Kid (PBS)
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series
Dakota Goyo as Josh (R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour The Series, The HUB)
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph as Abby Cadaby (Sesame Street, PBS)
Kevin Clash as Elmo (Sesame Street, PBS)
Caroll Spinney as Big Bird (Sesame Street, PBS)
Lifetime Achievement Award
What did you think of this year's awards? Anyone you were surprised or happy to see recognized? Let us know in the comments!
[Image Credit: HLN]
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The mood was somber and celebrity little more than a means to an end when tonight's telethon, America: A Tribute to Heroes, was shown on every major network and most of the major cable channels. There was no audience applauding; there was no audience, period, except those at home. There were no introductions; that wasn't the point, as celebrity speakers made clear throughout the night by telling the stories of the many heroes who lost their lives and saved the lives of others.
To commemorate Sept. 11, a day that could easily be thought of as "the day the music died," talented and famous faces came together for an evening of songs, stories, and yes, the occasional call for contributions.
The speeches tonight came in all varieties, all impassioned, some tearful, others awkward. A clearly nervous Jim Carrey spoke of Winston Churchill, then told the story of heroes who saved a woman by carrying her down 68 flights of stairs. George Clooney spoke of John Perry, a New York City policeman who'd filed his retirement papers the morning of Sept. 11, but heard of the tragedy and went to help. He never came back, Clooney said.
Cameron Diaz told stories of teachers who saved children at schools near the World Trade Center. Robin Williams talked of a hero who'd saved lives in the 1993 bombing and again this time, only last Tuesday he didn't make it out himself. Jimmy Smits spoke of police heroes, "cops who are willing to sacrifice their lives in an instant, for people they do not know." Julia Roberts spoke tearfully of heroes at the Pentagon, and the flying of the flag and the applause that greeted it.
Kelsey Grammer, who lost a co-worker aboard one of the flights that crashed, quoted words of strength from John F. Kennedy. Clint Eastwood talked gruffly of a day that would live in infamy.
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Calista Flockhart, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ray Romano, Jane Kaczmarek, Sela Ward, Chris Rock and Dennis Franz also spoke.
With some of the biggest names in music on the bill, America: A Tribute to Heroes was bound to be good. Bruce Springsteen opened with a candlelit acoustic performance of "My City of Ruins." Willie Nelson closed the two-hour event with "God Bless America," backed by an all-star cast of celebs who had been manning the phones all night. Does it get any better than that? Cut the album; give the proceeds to charity. We're there.
Of course, there were those who pointed out the reason for the event in their songs. Stevie Wonder, who followed The Boss, sang, "Love's in Need of Love Today," with the rather pointed line, "Don't delay, send yours in right away." Wyclef Jean's version of "Redemption Song" was peppered with cries of "Brooklyn" and "New York City" and "we've got to full-fill that book," which he sang while pointing to the phone bank.
The much-maligned Mariah Carey sang the only song she could under the circumstances, "Hero," of which she said, "When I wrote this song," she said, "it had a lot of meaning for me, and tonight it has even more meaning." Well said.
U2 appeared from London. Billy Joel tossed off a powerful rendition of "New York State of Mind" with a firefighter's helmet perched atop the piano. Faith Hill, Enrique Iglasias, Alicia Keys, a bearded and shaggy Tom Petty (with requisite Heartbreakers), a cowboy-hatted Neil Young performed as well. The Dixie Chicks were spot on, and Dave Matthews did an impressive solo acoustic tune.
Jon Bon Jovi did "Living on a Prayer"; Sting dedicated his performance of "Fragile" to a friend who died in the attacks. Sheryl Crow performed, and Paul Simon sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, James Woods, Meg Ryan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Ben Stiller, Penelope Cruz, Danny DeVito, Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Benicio Del Toro, Cindy Crawford, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Brad Pitt, Sally Field and other famous faces were seen answering phones at the telethon bank or singing backing vocals on the finale of "God Bless America."
The stars also took the time to make a point about the evils of racism and hate. Several Arab children spoke of the tragedy and its affect on their lives, then Will Smith appeared on stage, with Muhammad Ali, whom he'll be portraying in the forthcoming Ali.
"It was hate, not religion that motivated the attacks," Smith said.
Then Ali spoke. "I'm here because of the troublin' thing that happened the other day. I'm a Muslim, and I've been a Muslim for 20 years…. I think people should know the real truth about Islam. You know me, I'm a boxer…and a man of truth, and I wouldn't be here defending Islam if it was really like the terrorists made it look…. Islam is peace."
Later in the show, Lucy Liu said "America's greatest enemy is hatred itself."
The telethon was Hollywood's effort to generate contributions for the September 11th Telethon Fund, which is administered by the United Way and guaranteed to be distributed 100% to the victims of the terrorist attacks on America last week and their families.