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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Photos of baby animals will always be the catnip of the Internet. After all, who can resist tiny porcupines and baby puffins? Not since our collection of safari trading cards were we this excited about the animal kingdom.
So in between the oohing and awwing, Buzzfeed released this helpful video to educate yourself on the terms for these squee-inducing creatures. Learn how to differentiate your Goslings: one is a feminist meme, the other a fuzzy goose. See what a real puggle is, and not some crossbred lapdog. Also we much rather carry around a group of kittens (called a kindle) than some boring old e-reader on our next flight.
So if you're ever having a rough day, take a minute to listen to the sounds a baby porcupine makes and it will make everything better.
DJ Pauly D just landed a new gig: becoming a father.
According to E!, Former Jersey Shore cast member welcomed a baby girl today. The DJ is reportedly "very excited" and "has always wanted kids." Pauly D did not have a previous relationship with the mother of the child, but he is looking forward to building a relationship with her.
Pauly D is the second Jersey Shore alum to bring a baby into the world after Snooki gave birth to baby Lorenzo in 2012. Regarding Snooki's baby, Pauly D told People in an interview last year, "I want to be Uncle Pauly and I want to be a part of that baby's life, because Snooki is one of my best friends now, and I'd love to be with her when she's delivering the baby, and I'd love to babysit." It looks like Pauly D just got an upgrade in responsibility.
We imagine the first things Pauly D picked up on the way to the hospital were an Ed Hardy onesie and baby’s first tanning bed, obviously just the sort of things every baby needs.
Britain's leading comedy stars including Rowan Atkinson, Simon Pegg and Stephen Fry have paid tribute to British funnyman Mel Smith following his death on Friday (19Jul13). The 60-year-old comedian passed away at his home in north-west London after suffering a heart attack, according to his agent Michael Foster.
The news has sent a shockwave through the U.K. comedy scene and a number of Smith's friends and co-stars have expressed their grief in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Smith's longtime collaborator Griff Rhys Jones, who worked with him on Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O'Clock News, says in a statement, "I still can't believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He had a relish for it that seemed utterly inexhaustible. He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent."
Mr. Bean star Atkinson also worked with the late funnyman on Not the Nine O'Clock News, and Smith directed his 1997 movie Bean.
He says in a statement, "Mel Smith - a lovely man of whom I saw too little in his later years. I loved the sketches that we did together on Not the Nine O'Clock News. He was the cast member with whom I felt the most natural performing empathy. He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen... I never thought he was given enough credit for this success. I feel truly sad at his parting."
Stephen Fry adds, "Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead from a heart attack. Mel lived a full life but was kind, funny and wonderful to know."
Simon Pegg hails Smith as his inspiration, adding in a post on Twitter.com, "Sad to hear about Mel Smith. His influence on contemporary British comedy both as a performer and producer is impossible to calculate."
Pegg's longtime collaborator Nick Frost also mourned Smith's loss in a post on Twitter.com, while tributes have come in from Hollywood actor Jamie Bell, who called his death a great loss to British comedy, along with Richard E. Grant, James Corden, Matt Lucas, director Duncan Jones, and Peter Serafinowicz.
Smith was one of the leading lights of British comedy throughout the 1980s and he also teamed with Griff Rhys Jones to found TalkBack Productions, a TV company which produced popular comedies including Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show and I'm Alan Partridge.
He also worked as a writer and director, helming movies including Bean and 2001's High Heels and Low Lifes.
His movie appearances as an actor included roles in The Princess Bride and National Lampoon's European Vacation.
"They are worse than heroin in my experience. It's like having the telly on all day. There's no let-up. (The users) never get that rest, contemplation." British rocker Mark E. Smith is baffled by the modern obsession with smartphones.
Cult British rocker Mark E. Smith has laid in to the current crop of leading bands such as The Killers and Mumford & Sons, comparing them to accountants and corporate shareholders. The Fall frontman admits he struggles to understand modern rock groups and was left even more baffled when he met two of the biggest bands on the planet at an awards show.
He tells Radar magazine, "Even pop, rock, it's all very miserable right now. Everyone I meet says that to me. All that I hear is that it's s**t. Old people, young people, taxi drivers: (they all say) there's just nothing there...
"The occasions I go to award shows, they're just a bunch of s**ts. You sit next to The Killers, and it's like, am I on the wrong f**king train here? No, really. Talking about shares and stuff. Mumford & Sons, it's like sitting next to Ernst and Young."
"I think it's disgusting that someone like Hugh Grant can dictate what newspapers say." The Fall rocker Mark E. Smith is sickened by a campaign to reform the British press, which is spearheaded by actors Grant and Steve Coogan.
Cult British band The Fall were commissioned to pen a song for hit vampire movie Twilight - but the track was shelved as it was too scary for the creepy franchise. The group's frontman Mark E. Smith has revealed the producers of the hit teen films held talks with the group's representatives with a view to the band writing a song for the soundtrack to one of the movies in the series.
But when The Fall delivered their bizarre effort - a track consisting mainly of a two-note riff with Smith shrieking and grumbling over the top - it was quickly kicked into the long grass.
Smith tells Radar magazine, "Our publisher got this deal with that film Twilight. They said they'd give us $50,000 to come up with a song. So I said, I'll give them some horror... (But) they don't know anything about horror, do they? It might frighten the children. But it is frightening, isn't it? I've fulfilled my bargain with Satan...
"There's no way they're going to put that in Twilight. But if they were good, they would. Orson Welles would've done it. It's horror. Their horror is some (young) guy... wandering through a forest with his eyes glazed."
The tragic passing of Chris Kelly, one half of the '90s hip-hop duo Kris Kross, is bound to weigh on the hearts of his fans. Just a glance at the statement released by Kelly's performing partner and friend Chris Smith, via E!, is enough to conjure up a steady flow of tears:
"Chris Kelly was my Best Friend. He was like a brother. I love him and will miss him dearly. Our friendship began as little boys in first grade. We grew up together. It was a blessing to achieve the success, travel the world and entertain Kris Kross fans all around the world with my best friend. It is what we wanted to do and what brought us happiness. I will always cherish the memories of the C-Connection."
But what's just as important as our sensitivity to the death of a beloved artist is our celebration of his life and work. The 1990s had legions of fans entertained by Kris Kross' upbeat, wholesome, good-natured songs — cheerful hits about bus rides to school and heavier numbers about the dangers of crime and violence. The young duo's career gave us a handful of memorable entries, and we've rounded up some of our favorites in honor of "Mac Daddy" Kelly and his work with friend and fellow artist, "Daddy Mac" Smith:
"I Missed the Bus"
"Warm It Up"
"Live and Die for Hip Hop"
"It's a Shame"
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Actress Betty White has topped a new poll to find America's most appealing celebrity. The 91 year old beat Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, Adele and Dame Maggie Smith in the E-Poll Market Research's annual 'appeal' list.
White has previously topped the list twice before.
Morgan Freeman, Carol Burnett and Olympian Gabby Douglas also made the top 10.