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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Former football star O.J. Simpson has criticized the media for its coverage of Paris Hilton's prison sentence.
The socialite was readmitted to jail on Friday at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood, California, to finish the 45-day sentence she began earlier this month--after a judge reversed the decision to allow her to complete the sentence under house arrest.
But Simpson, who in 1995 was acquitted of the murders of his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, believes the media circus surrounding Hilton's jail sentence was over the top.
He says, "When Paris Hilton was going to jail last week, more people knew about that than knew that we were sending people into space that day.
"It has replaced what is real news. There was always a place for it, but it was (gossip writer) Rona Barrett. Now it is the equivalent of Edward R. Murrow reporting it today."
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Jiminy Glick is a local TV news personality in Butte Montana. You know the type--an entertainment reporter who mostly interviews homegrown talent but occasionally jets to Hollywood to hobnob with the big wigs. Glick doesn't quite make it that far. His assignment is the Toronto Film Festival and he makes the trip with his wife Dixie (played with ferocious white trash bravery by an unrecognizable Jan Hooks) and his oddly silent twin boys Matthew and Modine (named after their father's favorite actor). Although Glick is a no-name a fact he's completely oblivious to his fortunes change when after falling asleep during a screening he unwittingly gives the atrocious movie a glowing review. Through a chain of events he becomes the hottest thing as stars line up to grant him interviews. Through an even more bizarre chain of events Glick gets caught up in a murder mystery as well after waking up in bed with an interview subject who has been stabbed. Before he knows it he is embroiled with the starlet Miranda Coolidge (Elizabeth Perkins) her daughter Natalie (Linda Cardellini) and her boorish Eurotrash husband Andre (John Michael Higgins).
Glick despite being a glutton is an acquired taste. He almost defies description--one part clueless star struck Hollywood wanna-be one part jaded interviewer. Short introduced Glick on his short-lived daily talk show before he was spun off in into his own series on Comedy Central. But the movie deftly shifts Glick's origins to the Midwest to make him more of a fish out of water. Stuck in the insular dated Hollywood of Rona Barrett and Tom Snyder Glick will often interrupt his guests if not correcting them on the details of their own lives if they don't gibe with his notes. Case in point he confidently asserts that Steve Martin is Jewish as a lead-in to a line of questions. And thankfully Short has called upon his friends in the improv and sketch comedy world to fill out Jiminy Glick's cast of characters who serve him well. John Michael Higgins most notable for his contributions to Christopher Guests' improv epics Best in Show and A Mighty Wind is a standout. Perkins and Cardellini (Velma of Scooby-Doo fame) are an appropriately brittle Hollywood mother and daughter. And not enough can be said of Hooks' turn as the repulsive Dixie a spot-on embodiment of confused Midwest entitlement. Rounding out the cast is DeRay Davis as Mario "Fa Real" Green a rapper turned movie actor and Corey Pearson as a stuck-up rising star who grants Jiminy that first interview.
Short and his writers must have feared that Glick would run out of things to do if he wasn't embroiled in a good old-fashioned murder mystery. It's the kind of noir that seems to lend itself to Hollywood perhaps loosely inspired by the likes of Sunset Boulevard but here the creaky storyline only grinds things to a halt. Maybe it just doesn't feel right since the story takes place in Canada and besides Glick is no sleuth. The plot seems like all boring business and you can't wait to get back to Glick doing what he does best. As far at the direction goes it can either be part of the fun with quick cuts hilarious non-sequitors and great timing--or it can get out of the way to let the comedian work his magic. For the most part the director Vadim Jean uses the latter technique. He keeps it all low-key and lets Short do his thing. That said--and maybe it's the drab overcast Toronto setting--the movie looks made for television.