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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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S2:E8 Jersey Shore last night was a repeat of the episode that aired last Sunday, before MTV’s Chertacular VMA’s. We were introduced to a new character, Uncle Nino, who everyone referred to as “OG,” which stands for “original guido,” just as he should be because when someone asked him to borrow his lighter to light their cigarette, he said, “Yeah sure, but it’s like a broad: you can use it but you gotta bring it back.” COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE!
But the episode started with us learning Vinny slept with Angelina, which meant Angelina is Snooki’s sloppy seconds. This caused a piece of 101-layered lasagna to develop and come between Angelina and Snooki, and she barely had any time to cut into it before Vinny’s family arrived with broccoli rabe, loaves of bread, and bottled water. She’s the Jeff Probst of Jersey Shore!
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The Situation learned Angelina slept with Vinny, even after she spent all her time telling everyone how ugly he is and how she’s going to wrap him in a rug and tape him in and roll him off into a garbage dump like Richard Gere did to Oliver Martinez in Unfaithful. He asked if Angelina had told José (the guy who keeps giving Angelina Fossil watches and who she keeps not sleeping with) about her exploits with Vinny, and as prescribed, she had not! But it wasn’t because she didn’t want to! It was because whenever she did want to, she put pillows in front of her face and all her opportunities were ruined!
So Vinny’s mom safely established herself as the caterer for the next Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies, because last night she proved that job would be about as difficult as putting together a midnight sandwich for her son’s girlfriend who’s having trouble sleeping. The feast started with pasta, and then everyone went to their corners and digested it. Then, they went back to the table to eat meat, roasted peppers, vegetables, then went back to their lounge chairs and beds and slept and did things they would have done if they had more bathrooms in the house. Finally, they went back to the table and had some Yodels. It was like Kevin Smith sent them a gift because he couldn’t be there.
After those lessons in family and feeding, our education continued when everyone went to the club and Pauly D. talked about his and The Situation’s efforts to get laid. They had two girls they knew were DTF, so they were put “on the backburner.” They also scouted out two other girls, BLONDE GIRLS, who weren’t as sure a DTF, but were prettier. Never before has a greater conflict existed outside of developing the Spider-Man musical. They decided to bring the prettier ones back to the house, and Angelina brought home ANOTHER guy, Alex, who wasn’t going to get any more excitement out of Angelina than he did when he pointed out how she stepped on a caterpillar on her way home.
So. Pauly explained The Situation’s tactic is to come on strong and aggressive, which in turn, makes Pauly’s girl happy she’s not with him. All of a sudden, The Situation’s girl got up and told her friend they were leaving because they both had boyfriends. After they left, they decided to call all the girls they knew, in hopes of getting laid at 6:30 in the morning. Finally, Pauly D. called one of his friends and asked her to come over with one of her hot friends. She DID in fact come over, but she DID not in fact bring a friend, because she explained all her friends were grenades. At least she was thoughtful enough to not set him up
Back at the club, The Situation went up to José and asked if Angelina had “told him” yet. Naturally, she hadn’t and naturally, José started pestering her to tell him. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she took him to a pizza place, put on her sunglasses at night, and told him she slept with Vinny. He was not pleased, but he didn’t seem like he was running to get away from her, either.
The episode ended quite tragically, actually. Vinny and Pauly D met their dream girls and decided to ask them out on a real date, which has never happened in the history of Jersey Shore.
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After both of them agreed to meet up with the guys, Pauly D and Vinny went to get some clothes, some flowers, their hair cut and picked up their laundry in anticipation of wining and dining these women. But a few hours before the date, Vinny’s lady called him and said she didn’t want to go. SHE JUST SAID SHE DIDN’T WANT TO GO! LIKE IT WAS AN APPOINTMENT WITH A SHRINK! Vinny was quite heartbroken.
Thankfully, next week's episode looks like it has more Snooki and less of "the sweet guy with the mom and the family gets heartbroken by a dancer."
Jersey Shore - MTV Shows