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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NBC recently announced its lineup of shows for the 2012-2013 season, and now ABC is unveiling its nine new shows getting the green light. The shows, which are set to air on the Walt Disney Company's network, include everything from a comedy starring Reba McEntire to a drama series from The Shield's Shawn Ryan. Here is a rundown of what you can expect.
Malibu Country Starring Reba McEntire
Sounding very similar to her 2001 CW series, Reba, Malibu Country stars Reba McEntire who is left to raise her kids after her husband turns out to be cheating on her. In the ABC comedy, she leaves behind her hometown of Nashville and takes her kids and her mom, played by Lily Tomlin, to California where she will attempt to resurrect her signing career. McEntire is executive producer of the series which also features Sara Rue, Julietta Angelo, Justin Prentice, Jai Rodriguez, and Owen Teague.
Last Resort Starring Andre Braugher
From The Shield's Shawn Ryan comes a nuclear drama series about a U.S. submarine crew who are on the run after refusing orders to launch their missiles. The team takes refuge on an island where they try to declare themselves as a nuclear nation. Felicity's Scott Speedman, Autumn Reeser, Daisy Betts, and Daniel Lissing also star.
How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life Starring Sarah Chalke
In a show that should have been called TMI, Sarah Chalke plays the lead in the comedy about a recently divorced single mom who moves back home to live with her mother and father — two people who don't know the definition of the word boundaries. The series is based on the life of creator Claudia Lonow (of Accidentally on Purpose) and features Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett as Polly's parents.
Nashville Starring Connie Britton
Not to be confused with Malibu Country, this hour-long series centers on Connie Britton, who plays a Nashville music star whose career is on the decline, and Heroes' Hayden Panettiere as an up-and-coming singer. The two battle it out on and off the stage in a series of schemes and backstabbing so cruel it would make Taylor Swift cry. Eric Close, Powers Boothe, Jonathan Jackson, Robert Wisdom, Sam Palladio, Charles Esten, and Clare Bowen also star.
Family Tools Starring Kyle Bornheimer
In Family Tools (previously Comeback Jack, Red Van Man, White Van Man) Kyle Bornheimer plays Jack Shea, the unluckiest guy you'll ever meet. After a string of failed careers — he left the Army after accidentally shooting someone, and left the Police Academy after accidentally shooting himself — Shea heads home to take over the family handyman business after his dad is diagnosed with a heart condition and forced to hang up his tool belt. Offering advice from a safe distance is his Aunt Terry (played by Leah Remini). The ensemble comedy is from Bobby Bowman (Raising Hope, My Name Is Earl, Year Dear, Family Guy) and Mark Gordon (Grey's Anatomy, Criminal Minds).
Zero Hour Starring Anthony Edwards
ER's Anthony Edwards returns to the small screen to star as Hank Foley in this thrilling series. He plays a man who spent 20 years solving conspiracies as the editor of Modern Skeptic magazine, only to find himself in the middle of one of the most intriguing conspiracies in human history. His wife — who gets the drama started when she is kidnapped from her antique clock shop — is played by The Real World's Jacinda Barrett.
666 Park Ave.
Based on the book by Gabriella Pierce, this sci-fi drama takes place in an apartment building most New Yorkers would die for. Though careful what you wish for. This Upper East Side building features a string of real-life characters, played by Dave Annable, Rachael Taylor, Lost's Terry O'Quinn, and Vanessa Williams — as well as a cast of supernatural forces, which endanger the lives of everyone in the building. This sure-to-scare series is from Alloy Entertainment (The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl).
In a new twist on The Sopranos, Red Widow (previously Penoza) features an ordinary California housewife (played by Radha Mitchell) who enters the family business of organized crime after her husband is brutally assassinated. No longer able to deny what her family does for a living, she delves head-first into the risky business in order to protect her family. The hour-long thriller is penned by Melissa Rosenberg, screenwriter of the Twilight franchise.
Everyone's neighbors are a little weird, but the residents of this gated New Jersey community are out of this world. Literally. When the Weavers (played by Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito) move their three kids to an exclusive part of town, they quickly realize that their fellow residents are actually aliens. This new comedy costars Isabella Cramp, Clara Mamet, and Max Charles.
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Photo Credit: WENN.com
Top Story: Johnny Depp To Manage Crew of Oompa Loompas
Johnny Depp has been offered the role of Willy Wonka in director Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a Warner Bros. remake of Mel Stuart's 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This will be the third reteaming for Depp and Burton, who previously collaborated on Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. According to Variety, talks could potentially break down between the studio and Depp's UTA reps, since the commercial success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl gives the actor an upper hand in the negotiations. The adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic is being produced by Michael Siegel, who manages the interests of the author's estate, and Plan B partners Brad Grey, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. A script for the pic is in the works, but Warner Bros. has moved carefully over the years to prep the remake; Dahl adapted his novel for the original Willy Wonka movie but wasn't content with the result.
Production Resumes on Raymond Set
Production resumed Tuesday on CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond following the return of co-stars Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle, who had called in sick the day before. Co-star Patricia Heaton also was out sick several days last week, but the actress did report to work Tuesday, Reuters reports. The show's set has been rocked by the deadlock between producers and Emmy-winning co-star Brad Garrett, who has demanded a raise before he returns. Garrett was subsequently written out of next month's premiere episode.
Plastic Surgeons Snippy About Nip/Tuck
The FX network's hit drama Nip/Tuck, which follows two plastic surgeons who run a successful practice in Miami, is apparently getting under the skin of real life plastic surgeons. Dr. Leo McCafferty, chair of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery's public education committee, claims the show perpetuates the belief that all plastic surgeons do is stretch skin and stuff breasts rather than work with burn or accident victims. "The specialty is a medical specialty that deals with real medical issues," McCafferty told the AP. Maybe so, but according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, some 6.6 million people had cosmetic plastic surgery last year, with most popular procedures being nose reshaping, liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery and facelifts. Last week, Nip/Tuck was the 11th-ranked cable show.
The Fab Five Head to Miami
The Fab Five from Bravo's hit reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy will guest star as themselves on an episode of the NBC comedy Good Morning, Miami in the show's upcoming second season, Reuters reports. In the scene, Carson Kressley, Thom Filicia, Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas and Jai Rodriguez will meet Dylan and Jake in New York, where the couple moves, and will transform their little studio apartment into a nice living space. The episode is set to air Oct. 7 and will also feature guest appearances from Good Day Live's Jillian Barberie and Beverly Hills, 90210 alum Tiffani Thiessen.
Harrison Ford Guests at Deauville Film Fest
Harrison Ford will be the star guest at next month's Deauville Film Festival in France, The Associated Press reports. The 61-year-old actor will promote his latest action comedy Hollywood Homicide. Other stars expected at the festival, which honors American cinema, include John Cusack, Ed Burns, Charlize Theron, Ridley Scott and Jessica Lange. Ten films will compete for the Jury Prize, while another 15 will be shown out of competition, including Hollywood Homicide, American Wedding and Woody Allen's Anything Else. The 29th annual Deauville fest runs from Sept. 5-14.
Erik Estrada Sues Production Company
Former ChiPs star Erik Estrada filed a lawsuit Monday against White Tiger Films for $75,000, claiming the studio reneged on paying him when it decided against making a proposed movie, the AP reports. According to the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, the 54-year-old actor was set to appear in Four Corners of the Mafia and was to receive $25,000 a day for three days' work, regardless of whether the movie was made. The provision is standard in many actors' contracts to prevent them from losing income after committing to a failed film project.
Magician David Blaine Reveals Next Stunt
For his next stunt, magician David Blaine will suspend himself from a crane in a small Perspex box for more than six weeks. According to the BBC, Blaine will have no communication for the duration of the stunt and his only source of nourishment will be a tube supplying him with water. The event will start September 5 on the banks of the River Thames in London and end October 19. This will be Blaine's first UK stunt. Britain's Sky One TV will air a live telecast of Blaine gong into the box and then again exiting. His past stunts have included standing on a 100-foot-high pole in New York City for 35 hours and encasing himself in a six-ton block of ice for three days.
Role Call: Hip-Hop Director Eats Up Jelly Beans
Grammy-nominated hip-hop video director Chris Robinson, whose recently helmed the video for Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams' "Beautiful," will direct Jelly Beans for Warner Bros. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project is described as a music-oriented feature set in an Atlanta roller-skating rink in the vein of