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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
It's not often one hopes that Jim Carrey revisits his work in Batman Forever. His Eternal Sunshine tour de force? Absolutely. (Why doesn't he do more stuff like that and Truman Show?!) His pre-digitally-hitting-on-Emma-Stone-weirdness days? Please. His Dumb & Dumber-era fame? God or Hollywood willing we may get a taste of that again.
But the widely panned Batman Forever? Probably not so much. (Though, in its defense, at least it's not Batman & Robin and Carrey was actually a pretty fun Riddler). Of course, fans haven't really been given a reason to hope to see the 50-year-old slap on some green spandex for a superhero flick until now.
According to Deadline, Carrey is being courted to appear in Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall as The Colonel, a character who "helps galvanize the team of misfit superheroes assembled to fight evil." Hollywood.com reached out to Carrey's rep and Universal for a statement regarding the report, but did not immediately get a response.
This is where "stunt casting" could pay off in a big way. Not only is Carrey reportedly a big fan of the original Kick-Ass (who wasn't?) but it's been far too long since the actor has been able to let loose in the same manic way he did in the 90s that isn't in a standard mainstream comedy (Yes Man, Fun with Dick and Jane) or kiddie-friendly fare (Mr. Popper's Penguins, A Christmas Carol).
With the exception of the Stone blunder and the unforgivable How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Carrey seems to be one of the 90s superstars fans want to see and has the chance for a comeback. Hence — if this news turns out to be true — why this is such a brilliant move on Universal's part.
Putting Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages did that movie no favors (the Broadway adaptation earned a measly $38.5 million at the U.S. box office) and talk of putting Mel Gibson in The Hangover Part II for a cameo aroused more discomfort than excitement. (Director Todd Phillips ultimately decided to pass on Gibson for the hit sequel.) It's that very reason Carrey hasn't had even close to the same level of personal missteps that Cruise and Gibson have that make him a wise choice. We miss the Gibson and Cruise of the 90s for entirely different reasons than we miss Carrey.
Another reason why Carrey may want to get back in the fight for the Kick-Ass sequel: look what wonders the "stunt casting" of Drew Barrymore in Scream did for both her career and the appeal of that film. Barrymore was in the horror hit for all of ten minutes, but her turn in it was unforgettable and the attention the film got helped Barrymore launch the second wave of her career. (She followed up Scream with other 90s favorites The Wedding Singer, Ever After, and Never Been Kissed).
While Carrey has projects on his horizon, a role in the eagerly anticipated Kick-Ass 2 could be just the thing to jumpstart a comeback. Or, at the very least, another much-needed MTV Movie Awards acceptance speech.
[Photo credit: DailyCeleb.com]
Kick-Ass 2 is Happening: 3 Hurdles The Movie Will Face
Jeff Daniels Sparks Dumb & Dumber 2 Rumors: Where Have We Heard That Before?
Jim Carrey Out Of Dumb & Dumber Sequel?
The Lethal Weapon star was seen giving singer/songwriting Lanfranconi a neck massage in full view of onlookers as they dined at Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro at The Grove shopping centre in Los Angeles on Monday (20Aug12).
Lanfranconi, who moved to the U.S. from her native Italy in 2007, was photographed enjoying a stroll will Gibson after their meal.
Gibson split from Russian pianist Oksana Grigorieva in 2010.
This African-American variation on The Family Stone subscribes to the notion that Christmas is not really the most wonderful time of the year when it comes to visiting relatives. So don't expect much peace and goodwill to be found when the Whitfields gather together for their first Christmas dinner in four years. The six siblings who spend the holidays at the California home of family matriarch Ma’Dere (Loretta Devine) all harbor a dark secret or a hidden agenda. Take Quentin (Idris Elba). He owes two very pissed-off bookies $25 000. Homemaker Lisa (Regina King) wants to sell the family business to fund her unappreciative husband's (Laz Alonso) latest get-rich-quick scheme. Kelli (Sharon Leal) doesn't want Lisa's no-good husband getting his grubby paws on Ma’Dere's hard-earned money. But what does this young professional want that Lisa has? A family of course. Claude (Columbus Short) spends his alone time on the phone to a mystery woman he’s nervous about introducing to Ma’Dere. Mel (Lauren London) doesn’t care what her family thinks of her boyfriend—she just wants to make out with him without being caught. Michael (Chris Brown) nicknamed Baby for obvious reasons fears that following his dream to be singer will break Ma’Dere's heart. She hasn't gotten over her ex-husband leaving her to pursue his music career. While it's down to Ma’Dere to keep the peace she has own her issues to resolve regarding Quentin and her loving relationship with longtime boyfriend Joe (Delroy Lindo). Yes Brown sings. Not once but twice as we treated to his Michael Jackson-flavored R&B. Don’t be surprised if his rendition of “This Christmas” ends up on holiday compilation CDs for decades to come. Brown's a natural on stage but he relies too much on his megawatt smile and undeniable charm when trying to hold his own against old pros Devine and Lindo. Still that's probably more than enough for the adoring fans who would love to "Kiss Kiss" Chris Brown under the mistletoe. Luckily This Christmas doesn't lean too heavily on Brown for director Preston A. Whitmore II's assembled a terrific cast of African-American actors Tyler Perry could only hope to snag for one of his trademark morality plays. Building upon his breakthrough role as a devoted father in Perry's Daddy's Little Girls Elba shows he's just as effective playing a imperfect son unable or unwilling to connect with his mother. He also proves to be a worthy adversary to Lindo who carries himself with quiet dignity during every family crisis. Devine is the very personification of motherly love—she never comes across as a shrill stereotype like Perry's no-nonsense Madea. There's plenty of fun to be had watching tough cookies King and Leal lock horns. And sparks fly between Leal and ER's Mekhi Phifer whose noble firefighter makes Kelli quickly forget she's all business and no pleasure. Saddled with a subplot with no significant payoff Short does the best he can under the worst of circumstances. Thanks to Whitmore's light but assured touch This Christmas makes a silky smooth transition from comedy to drama. Whitmore maintains the perfect balance between the humor and tension that makes dysfunctional family relationships both compelling and difficult to watch. He never lets things get too outrageously nasty; you don’t believe for a minute that the Whitfields—a very likable bunch to boot—won’t overcome their differences before Christmas dinner is served. When they do kiss and make up This Christmas thankfully doesn't get overly gushy. But Whitmore does take refuge in the obvious at times. You just know someone's dying to crack a “ho ho ho” joke about Kelli being wooed by a Santa-outfitted Phifer or that Lisa's going to go all Waiting to Exhale on her husband's Cadillac Escalade. At least the inevitable family dance off is a blast to watch. Too bad Whitmore the screenwriter also burdens Whitmore the director with too many characters to pay attention to and too many loose ends to tie up. Really who would miss Mel? And why is Claude so worried how his family will greet the love of his life when this purportedly taboo romance raises nothing more than eyebrows when all is revealed? Still for all its faults This Christmas remains a warm and engaging examination of family dynamics at a time of great stress and celebration. There are worse ways of spending the holidays than sitting down to Christmas dinner—or boogieing down to vintage Kool & the Gang—with the warring Whitfields.
Top Story: Mel Eyes Maccabees Flick
Mel Gibson, currently riding high with his religious film The Passion of the Christ, expressed interest in a film adaptation of the Maccabees' story, Reuters reports. The story of the Maccabees, and the oil that magically lasted eight nights when it should have lasted only one, took place 200 years before the events Gibson depicts in The Passion. Given how The Passion was received by many religious groups, especially Jewish organizations that found the film anti-Semitic, any film made by Gibson about the Maccabees would no doubt cause rancor once more. Said Gibson on an ABC radio show, "The Maccabees family stood up, and they made war. They stuck by their guns and they came out winning. It's like a Western." In response Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman commented, "The last thing we need in Jewish history is to convert our history into a Western."
Passion Sparks Marital Argument
Melissa and Sean Davidson of Statesboro, Ga., became so embroiled in their post-screening discussion of The Passion of the Christ that they were forced to call the police on one another, leading to mutual charges of simple battery, AP reports. Melissa suffered wounds to her arm and face, while Sean sustained a scissor wound and was left bereft of his shirt. The pair started fighting over the age-old theological question of whether God the Father was a real person or a figurative construct. Melissa, expressing a sentiment surely no one would disagree with, admitted that getting into the fight was "the dumbest thing we've ever done."
Sex Charges Against R. Kelly Dropped
All 12 charges against R&B singer R. Kelly, stemming from a videotaped incident in which he allegedly has sex with a fifteen-year-old girl, have been dropped by a Tampa, Fla., judge, AP reports. Last week a judge ruled that photographs depicting R. Kelly were seized illegally by detectives in the case. Rather than contest the ruling, prosecutors in the case opted to abandon their case against the recording artist. Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is still set to stand trial in Chicago on 14 counts of child pornography.
Stewart Asks Friends for Recommendation Letters
Martha Stewart, in an effort to win leniency when her sentence is handed down this June, is asking more than 100 friends to write of good experiences they've had with her in the past, AP reports. In the letter, dated Mar. 15, Stewart requests those writing letters to "…include any memorable experiences you have had with me to explain the basis of any expressed opinion(s)." Stewart was recently convicted of four felonies including obstructing justice and lying to the government about the sale of 3.928 shares of ImClone stock. Her broker Peter Bacanovic was also convicted.
Mercedes McCambridge Dies
Mercedes McCambridge, who won a supporting actress Oscar for her turn as Sadie Burke the bleak political drama All the King's Men and voiced the obscenities that spewed from Linda Blair's mouth in The Exorcist, passed away today at the age of 85. McCambridge was also featured in such classics as Giant, Touch of Evil, and A Farewell to Arms (for which she received a best supporting actress nomination). Director William Friedkin picked McCambridge to voice The Demon in The Exorcist due to her vocal skills which Orson Welles also praised, calling her "the world's greatest living radio actress," when they worked together during his early career in radio. In 1987 McCambridge suffered the loss of her son John, who killed himself after shooting his wife and children.
Hepburn Possessions To Be Auctioned
Some of Katharine Hepburn's most noteworthy possessions, including a signed photo of Humphrey Bogart and letters from lover Howard Hughes, will go on sale at Sotheby's auction house in June, AP reports. Also up for sale are the wedding gown she wore to her 1928 nuptials to Ludlow Ogden Smith and a lock of her baby hair. Hepburn, who lived to see Meryl Streep surpass her record for most Academy Award nominations (Hepburn was nominated 12 times and amassed four Oscars in her six-decade long career), died last year at the ripe old age of 96. Sales from the auction are expected to total $1 million.
Child Custody Case Against Jackson Denied
Lawyer Gloria Allred filed papers in a Los Angeles County court to have Michael Jackson's three children removed from his custody, but was turned down by county officials, The Straits Times reports. Allred, who does not represent the children, says she will now take the case to a juvenile court. Allred had previously filed a similar case against Jackson in Santa Barbara court last year before the singer relocated to Beverly Hills. Jackson will soon stand trial on seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child under 14 and two counts of giving an intoxicating agent to a minor.
No Love for Real World in Philly
Looks like there will be no cheese-steak sandwich dinner for the latest housemates on MTV's seminal reality show The Real World, AP reports. The show, which changes location every season, stars "seven strangers picked to live in a house" and have their lives taped, was set to start taping in Philadelphia later next month before labor disputes nixed the plan. At issue were non-Union workers hired to spruce up Seaman's Church Institute in Philly's Old City, which was to serve as the living quarters for the septet. Union leaders in the City of Brotherly Love picketed outside the Institute prompting MTV to withdrawal its show from the city. "After considerable evaluation, we are disappointed to announce that Bunim/Murray productions has decided not to shoot The Real World in Philadelphia," a spokesperson for Bunim/Murray, the company that has produce