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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From her very first scene as Sue Sylvester on Glee, Jane Lynch established herself as one of television’s greatest powerhouses. She demanded that we acknowledge her existence whenever she marched into a scene, and that’s no easy feat when you consider how much eye candy and over-the-top theatrics that is on that show. Within the first few episodes it was obvious that even though Glee is a show about how difficult it is for teenagers to discover and express their own identities, Lynch skillfully managed to portray the important message that sometimes, adults don’t really have life figured out that much, either. And so because her witty and enthusiastic personality translates so well on television, Lynch was chosen to host the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.
Jane Lynch was born in July of 1960 and raised in Dolton, Illinois. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in theatre from Illinois State University, she then went pursued her Masters in Fine Arts in theatre from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Afterwards, she moved to Chicago and spent the next ten years performing at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and traveling with the world famous improvisational group, The Second City. But it wasn’t until 1988 that she got her first film role, playing Ms. Lindstrom in Vice Versa. And then in 1993 she played a doctor who knew Harrison Ford’s character in The Fugitive. Over the course of the next ten years she appeared on countless television shows, including Friends, Felicity, Two and a Half Men, Weeds, Boston Legal, The L Word, Gilmore Girls, Psych, Monk, Arrested Development, Dawson’s Creek, and The New Adventures of Old Christine.
However, Lynch’s popularity soared once Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin came out in 2005. In the movie she played SmartTech’s manager, Paula, who takes a particular liking to Steve Carell’s character of Andy, and offers herself up as his “fuck buddy.” In an NPR interview, Lynch explained how she became a part of the movie, and she said, “I have Steve Carell’s wife, Nancy Walls, to thank for [getting me the role]. It was a man’s part and she said, ‘Steve, you have too many men in your movie – you should audition Jane for the part.’” Lynch’s profoundly hilarious scene of serenading Carell’s character lead to her appearing in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, For Your Consideration, Role Models, and Julie & Julia.
Lynch expanded upon her esteemed career in television when she appeared on the first season of Starz's Party Down in 2009. The show revolved around a catering company in Los Angeles and depicted a group of six people who unenthusiastically served food at rich people's parties to earn money so they could pursue their other agendas. Though it developed a cult following, critics panned it and it was ultimately canceled after its second season. But luckily enough for Lynch, she only witnessed the good times because shortly after she finished filming the first season, she was cast as Sue Sylvester on Glee (which, of course, we all know was a tremendous hit). The first episode premiered on May 19th, 2009, and the season went on to earn nineteen Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe awards, and fifty-seven other awards. Two of those honors went to Lynch herself, and she capped off the year with both a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
And with that's how Jane Lynch finds herself with the duty of hosting this year's Emmy awards. In fact, she's double-booked herself! In addition to making sure all the show's transitions are smooth and all the music cues are adhered to, she's also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Emmy! Which is good because either way, she'll be a winner on Sunday night.
Think Johnny Depp would be interested in a role? Variety reports Paramount Pictures plans to make a big-screen version of 21 Jump Street, the popular late-'80s TV series that launched Depp's career and gave the then-fledgling Fox network its first youth audience boost. The film treatment, to be written by series co-creators Stephen J Cannell and Patrick Hasburgh, focuses on a group of 20-something undercover cops who return to high school to crack down on drug dealers roaming the hallways. The series also starred Peter DeLuise, Holly Robinson Peete, Dustin Nguyen and Richard Grieco.
Frances Bay, the 83-year-old character actress who was struck by a car Thursday, was listed in critical condition Saturday at a Los Angeles hospital after having part of her right leg amputated. Bay, who has appeared in more than 50 films including Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Planner, also suffered from head injuries due to the accident in which a 17-year-old driver struck her going 30 miles per hour. No charges have been filed as yet.
Paula Poundstone has taken the first step in getting her children back. An appeals court granted the comedian her first unsupervised visit with her three adopted children since she lost custody 17 months ago in her child endangerment case, Reuters reports. She has been visiting the kids, now in a foster home, with a court-appointed monitor nearly every day.
Jethro gets in on some casino action. Max Baer Jr., the actor who played the dumb but lovable Jethro Bodine on the popular '60s show The Beverly Hillbillies, has signed a deal to produce hundreds of penny slot machines featuring the show, AP reports. If this works out, Baer, 64, looks to expand the Hillbillies franchise by coming up with grocery items such as Elly May's buns and Granny's lye soap. Yee-haw!
Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) will direct Warner Bros. Pictures' Strangers, an update of the Patricia Highsmith novel Strangers on a Train. The story, which in 1951 got classic treatment from the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, centers on a tennis pro embroiled in an ugly divorce who wants to kill his wife. He ends up meeting a man on a train who wants to kill his father, and the two make a pact to swap murders. Only one, however, has the guts to carry it out.
The Emmy-nominated miniseries Dinotopia, a fantastical story about dinosaurs and humans living and conversing compatibly, will become a TV series on ABC. The 13-episode series will begin airing Thanksgiving and will be geared toward the young viewing audience that made the miniseries so popular. Meaning, the T. Rexes will still devour humans, they'll just do it off-camera.
Chris Robinson, the lead singer of the Black Crowes who left the popular rock band to pursue a solo career, is now promoting his debut album New Earth Mud. Robinson, 35, who is married to actress Kate Hudson, told Reuters, "I'm not looking for an easy life."
Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and Alicia Keys were on hand Saturday in Cape Town, South Africa, to perform for MTV's Staying Alive Concert and to voice their indignation over the lack of support for the AIDS epidemic currently ravaging Africa. "I don't think you see enough of this story in your face," Combs told reporters. MTV will broadcast the concert globally Dec. 1 as part of a 90-minute World AIDS Day special .
PASADENA, Calif., July 25, 2000 - Members of the Television Critics Association have now been holed up in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for two weeks eating catered food, drying hands on warm restroom towels, and never fearing to ask the tough questions. On Monday, it was The WB's turn to show off their new fall schedule additions, so the tough questions mostly dealt with the "Felicity" haircut controversy.
For the record, no one who appears on camera at the WB will ever cut his or her hair again.
The day started off fast when the entire cast of the new sketch comedy show "Hype" came out in character and ripped the place up. Cast member Frank Caliendo then returned later in the day to wake us up with what could have been 15 minutes worth of stand-up material, condensed into a blistering five-minute set. Co-producer and SNL veteran Terry Sweeny billed the show as "Laugh-in 2000." If the talent is any indication, "Hype" might just live up to its name.
"Drew Carey" producer Bruce Helford offers a welcome repackaging of Nikki Cox in "Nikki," a (somewhat) innovative comedy that features big dance numbers in each episode (it's funnier than it sounds). Helford later assured us that big song and dance routines will be back in vogue this fall.
Former "Beverly Hills 90210" producer Darren Starr is offering a clever comedy-within-a-drama in "Gross Pointe," a show about the actors of an Aaron Spelling-like night-time soap. Starr was grilled about the controversial decision to change a certain character that was similar to a certain person who may or may not have gotten a role because her father produced the show. Starr's best answer was his first, "who are you talking about?"
At the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" Q-and-A with Melissa Joan Hart and her mother-producer Paula Hart, we learned in no uncertain terms that "Caroline Rhea (absent with a broken toe) is under contract and cannot be spared" if she were to be offered Kathie Lee Gifford's chair next to Regis in the morning. So, put that one to bed.
Of all the new WB shows, watch for "Gilmore Girls," a warm, earthy, dramatic comedy sure to win a strong following. It's interesting how the world is populated by lots of single mothers, yet they are still a rarity on TV. Gilmore Girls" might change that.
Finally, considering last year's after-party got out of hand (word was the WB's young stars got a little too rowdy), this year the network decided to rein things in and go a little classier at the Il Fornaio restaurant in Old Town Pasadena. All the stars politely mingled with the journalists (having learned these parties are just supposed to look like fun, not actually be fun) to lob out a few more crucial sound bites about Keri Russell's hair, then left early (perhaps to party somewhere else).