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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Mark Wahlberg has blasted pampered actors who compare shooting war films to fighting in real combat zones, insisting they have no idea how difficult life in the armed forces really is. The actor is on the promotional trail for his new film Lone Survivor, the big screen adaptation of soldier Marcus Luttrell's account of his Navy SEALs mission in Afghanistan in 2005.
Wahlberg plays Luttrell, while Taylor Kitsch, Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster play his comrades, but The Fighter star is adamant their experiences on set were nothing compared to the reality of being at war.
Speaking at the AFI Fest film festival in Los Angeles on Tuesday (12Oct13), he said, "For actors to sit there and talk about 'Oh, I went to SEAL training'? I don't give a f**k what you did. You don't do what these guys did. For somebody to sit there and say my job was as difficult as being in the military? How f**king dare you, while you sit in a make-up chair for two hours.
"I don't give a s**t if you get your a** busted. You get to go home at the end of the day. You get to go to your hotel room. You get to order your f**king chicken. Whatever the f**k it is... I've done the movies where I talk about...'God, I trained for four and a half years and I was The Fighter' and f**k all that. It really means nothing. I love Marcus (Luttrell) for what he's done and I'm a very lucky guy to do what I do and I'm proud to have been part of it, but it's just so much bigger than what I do."
Wahlberg later apologised for his rant, adding, "I'm sorry for losing my s**t."
U.S. reality TV star Brandi Glanville is regretting comments she made on a talk show after upsetting a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills castmate with affair gossip. Actor Eddie Cibrian's ex-wife Glanville made the wild claim that model-turned-reality TV star Joanna Krupa had romanced socialite Yolanda Foster's ex-husband on TV show Watch What Happens Live on Monday (11Nov13), and immediately wished she had kept her mouth shut.
To make matters worse, Glanville accused The Real Housewives of Miami star Krupa of sleeping with Foster's ex, Mohamed Hadid, while they were still married.
Glanville stated, "Joanna had sex with Mohamed. It was one of many affairs... But Mohamed and Yolanda are great now."
Krupa fired back via Twitter.com, writing, "No wonder her husband left her," referencing the end of her marriage to Cibrian, who has since wed singer LeAnn Rimes.
Glanville was prepared to defend her accusation, and said, "Well, Mohamed did tell me that her p**sy smelled. It's true! I'm not lying...! Sorry, b**ch. I win!"
Hadid then also chimed in with a tweet of his own, insisting, "That's a lie. I never spoken (sic) to @BrandiGlanville in any way about Joanna. Brandy (sic) is such a scum and a foul mouth (sic)."
Hadid supplemented the tweet with a post to his ex-wife, who is now married to songwriter David Foster, and wrote, "I love you mother of my children and my best friend. U (sic) know I don't have a foul mouth and I would never use words to brandi (sic)."
On Tuesday (12Nov13), Glanville expressed her remorse over her comments, and took to Twitter to write, "My morning is ruined. I'm crying and going back to sleep... It was not my intention to hurt anyone last night, I spoke my truth when asked a question - fought back when attacked I love @YolandaHFoster."
Former New York mob boss John Gotti, Jr. is recovering from a stab wound after becoming involved in a fight in Long Island, New York. The retired head of the Gambino crime family was reportedly trying to break up an altercation between two strangers in the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy on Sunday night (10Nov13) when he was struck in the stomach.
He was admitted to a local hospital for treatment, although details about his condition were unknown as WENN went to press.
Police have now launched an investigation into the incident, reports the New York Daily News.
The life of the 49 year old, who claims to have turned his back on the mob in 1999, is set to be the subject of an upcoming crime drama starring John Travolta as his father, who died behind bars in 2002.
Ben Foster was previously attached to portray Gotti, Jr. in Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, but it is not yet clear if he is still onboard.
Joe Johnston is set to direct the project, which will also feature Sir Anthony Hopkins and Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, as Gotti's spouse Victoria.
Actor Maulik Pancholy has opened up about his sexuality, revealing he is gay. The 30 Rock and Weeds opened up to editors at Out magazine after learning he had made the publication's annual Out 100 list of gay stars.
He says, "I just celebrated my nine-year anniversary with my partner. It feels like a nice time to be celebrating something like that..."
Out magazine outed Pancholy, who has played gay characters on Weeds and U.S. comedy show Whitney, last year (12), but his new interview with the monthly marks the first time he's spoken about his sexuality publicly.
Australian pop star Cody Simpson has reportedly struck up a romance with the stepdaughter of legendary record producer David Foster. The 16 year old has been linked to Gigi Hadid, whose mother is model-turned-reality TV star Yolanda Foster, who wed her songwriting husband in 2011.
Simpson and Hadid, who is also carving out a career as a model and has appeared alongside her mother on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, reportedly began dating earlier this year (13) after initially starting out as friends.
A source tells Usmagazine.com, "They've been friends for a while, it turned romantic this year. They are very adventurous and like to party with friends. It's very easy between them."
Actress Minnie Driver is hoping to become a mother once again, insisting she will adopt or foster a child to avoid physical exhaustion during pregnancy. The Good Will Hunting star, who is already mum to five-year-old Harry, admits she longs to add to her brood through adoption because she does not want to experience physical change during pregnancy ever again.
She says, "I wasn't ready to have children until I did but I wish I had two or three more. I probably wouldn't (do it again) naturally because I'm put off by being pregnant and fat for a year and being exhausted for four years. I would adopt or foster. When Henry's at big school I hope to do that."
Top Australian comic Hamish Blake is set to be a dad. The radio and TV star announced the happy news that his wife Zoe Foster is pregnant with their first child in his usual wacky style - by posting a picture of himself half-naked in a bath posing as a foetus in a sonogram scan.
Sharing the snap on Twitter.com, he writes, "Having baby with zotheysay! First ultrasound pic. Looks like me! Same undies! #prouddad"
He also confirmed the news on his hit radio show on Friday (01Nov13) with Andy Lee, saying, "I'm having a baby with Zo. That's a bit of big news."
A singer chosen by Nicole Scherzinger to compete on Britain's The X Factor was hospitalised after suffering a nasty fall backstage during the live show on Sunday (20Oct13). Wannabe pop star Abi Alton stumbled down a flight of stairs after being voted through to the next round of the talent show. She was stretchered out of the studios in London and taken to a nearby hospital.
She was checked over by doctors before eventually being released in the early hours of Monday morning (21Oct13).
Taking to Twitter.com, Alton writes, "out of hospital and thankfully there is no serious damage. Thanks for your lovely messages, im sure (I) will be right as rain in no time."
The 19 year old was the second hopeful to be hospitalised this weekend (19-20Oct13) - pregnant SeSe Foster, a member of Gary Barlow's group Miss Dynamix, was rushed to a medical facility after falling ill hours before Saturday's show (19Oct13).
Katy Perry and Robin Thicke both performed on Sunday's episode in front of judges Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne, Take That star Barlow and music manager Louis Walsh.
Actress Natalie Portman has launched a contest for teenage girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math. The Oscar winner's own love of science prompted her to sign on to her role as astrophysicist Jane Foster in Marvel's Thor: The Dark World, and now she wants to encourage other young women to become involved in the field through the comic giant's Ultimate Mentor Adventure.
The competition's finalists will have an opportunity to conduct interviews, participate in experiments and interactive events, as well as meeting inspirational female figures in the sciences.
A film short about the girls' experiences will be shown prior to the opening day screening of Thor: The Dark World.