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
C.M. Wiggins/WENNOne of the few artists to transcend the punk pop scene of the early '00s, Avril Lavigne has gone from sk8er girl to reflective singer-songwriter to peppy cheerleader and back again during an impressively enduring eleven-year career. In the week she releases her self-titled fifth studio effort, here's a countdown of her albums from worst to best.5. Under My SkinLargely produced by Don Walker (Linkin Park), the nu-metal tinged Under My Skin was an attempt to establish Lavigne's serious artiste credentials. But while "Nobody's Home" remains arguably her greatest single, it suffered from both a whiney self-obsessive streak and a distinct lack of any humor.4. Goodbye LullabyAn album of two halves, Goodbye Lullaby began as a fairly pedestrian glossy rock affair before settling down into a far more interesting and introspective collection of songs inspired by and co-written with ex-husband Deryck Whibley.3. Avril LavigneAn entirely regressive but still consistently enjoyable listen, Lavigne's new record sees the Canadian unapologetically trying to cling onto her youth with a series of faux-rebellious anthems which suggest she's got a major case of Peter Pan syndrome.2. The Best Damn ThingPerhaps learning from the mistakes of her previous effort, Lavigne hooked up with hitmaker Dr. Luke and embraced the world of bubblegum pop on a record crammed full of 'guilty pleasures,' most notably the lead single, "Girlfriend," which sounds uncannily like the Rubinoos' power pop classic "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."1. Let GoAbly assisted by production factory The Matrix, 2002's Let Go was a highly accomplished debut which combined melodic Alanis Morissette-esque rock and bratty punk-pop with relatable lyrics which perfectly encapsulated those angst-ridden teenage years.
Peter Gabriel's lost home video footage from the 1986 Amnesty International A Conspiracy Of Hope U.S. tour has been unearthed and restored for an upcoming DVD. The rocker kept his video camera running on plane and bus trips from venue to venue and backstage, capturing candid moments with tourmates like Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and U2, but he thought he'd lost the footage when he was approached by RELEASED! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998 producer Martin Lewis, who was putting together a visual celebration of the star-studded Amnesty International Concerts.
Lewis tells WENN, "Peter Gabriel was obsessive with the camera but when I asked if I could use the footage he told me it (camera) had got nicked (stolen) and he had no idea where the footage was.
"I found some of the tapes in a barn in upstate New York and then set about condensing and restoring his footage from the 10-day 1986 tour into a three-minute film to be included as an extra segment for the package.
"It was amazing. I had read that the musicians on the tour staged an impromptu jam session in a Ramada Inn in Atlanta, Georgia. That was there and there were 11 minutes of U2 jamming with members of Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed's bands."
The six-disc DVD box-set and two-disc companion CD will be available from 5 November (13) and features performances at the human rights organisation's groundbreaking musical events throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It includes concert footage featuring U2, The Police, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman and Alanis Morissette.
Footage gathered from the last four superstar-studded Amnesty International concerts and tours have been digitally restored for release on a new 17-hour DVD/CD box set, which will hit the market next month (Nov13). Music historian Martin Lewis, a co-creator and co-producer of the human rights organisation's iconic A Secret Policeman's Ball concerts in the U.K., has painstakingly collected 12 hours of concert footage from two Amnesty shows in Chile (1990) and Paris (1998), the 1986 A Conspiracy Of Hope U.S. tour and 1988 Human Rights Now! world tour, which featured Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel and Sting, for the package. He has also unearthed and shot five hours of bonus material, including Gabriel's never-before-seen tour video and new interviews with the Sledgehammer hitmaker, Sting and Springsteen, among others.
The six-disc DVD box-set and two-disc companion CD, titled RELEASED! The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998, will be available from 5 November (13) and also include concert footage featuring U2, The Police, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Youssou N'Dour, Tracy Chapman and Alanis Morissette.
The release coincides with the 25th anniversary of the six-week, five-continent Human Rights Now! world tour, headlined by Springsteen, Sting, Gabriel, Chapman and Youssou N'Dour
Lewis tells WENN, "Musicians innately understand key components of human rights such as freedom of expression. It's at the heart of what they do.
"The rock music community has been spectacular in its support for Amnesty. These concerts broke new ground in galvanising audiences to become involved. They fused cause and content in an inspirational way. It's been an honour to work with Sting, Bruce, Bono, Peter and the other artists in restoring and producing these concerts for home release."
Sting adds, "Amnesty in my opinion, is probably the most civilised and civilising of human organisations. It uses the writing of letters or the commerce of ideas and opinion to change the world rather than a gun or an army or an air force. And that seems to be very civilised to me. And that seems the only way that we will get positive change in the world. And so Amnesty's a fantastic flagship for that idea. I feel very proud of my association with it. And it's ongoing."
And Gabriel states: "The world is a much better place for knowing that Amnesty's around it. There's still an amazing amount more work that needs to be done... that must be done. But Amnesty International have made an extraordinary start."
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Longtime American actor Richard Dreyfuss is making a brief return to television this summer with a multiple-episode guest appearance on Showtime's peripherally pot-based comedy series Weeds. Dreyfuss will be playing an unexpected character from Nancy Botwin's past.
This season sees Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) and family on the run after Shane (Alexander Gould) killed Pilar (Kate del Castillo) with a croquet mallet at the end of the fifth season. In order to avoid the Mexican FBI, the police, and the cartels, the Botwins have to pack up, ditch their cell phones and IDs, and take to the road.
Dreyfuss, who is best known for his turn as the titular music teacher and father of a deaf son in the inspiring Mr. Holland's Opus (1996), will join a slate of previously announced Weeds guest stars, including Linda Hamilton, Peter Stormare, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, as well as returning guest stars Alanis Morissette and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
The sixth season of Weeds premieres August 16th at 10PM on Showtime.
The self-proclaimed King of Pop, Michael Jackson, joined with ex-President Bill Clinton to raise money for the Democratic National Committee's voter registration effort to the tune of $2.7 million. Jacko treated the 1,400 people in the crowd at the Apollo Theater to a brief performance before Slick Willie addressed the adoring throng. Tony Bennett and the punctuation-challenged k.d. lang also performed.
Matt Damon, following in the footsteps of thesps such as Nicole Kidman, Kevin Spacey and Daryl Hannah, will star in a West End (London) theatrical production. Damon, Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix will take over the lead roles from Hayden Christensen (Star Wars), Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin in This Is Our Youth.
Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, 66, is getting divorced for the sixth time. According to a press release, Lewis and his wife of 17 years, Kerrie, have split amicably.
In the Biz
Criminals, beware: Sgt. Joe Friday is making a comeback to the small screen. Dick Wolf, the brains behind TV's successful Law and Order franchise, is reported to write the pilot and serve as executive producer for an updated primetime version of Dragnet.
The producer/director of last year's charity gala America: A Tribute to Heroes and Not Another Teen Movie, Joel Gallen, is in final talks with MGM to handle--and perhaps helm--Romantic Comedy, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Gallen is also the creator/producer of the MTV Movie Awards.
The View's Meredith Vieira is the frontrunner to host the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Los Angeles Times reports. Vieira, a former reporter for 60 Minutes, has allegedly been pursued by other networks to boost other struggling projects, most notably CBS' The Early Show.
Peter Jennings may want to rethink his retirement strategy. According to Daily Variety, an insider says Jennings, host of ABC's World News Tonight, should be expecting a drop in pay from his current salary of $10 million per year, although another insider was cited as saying a pay freeze, not cut, would be in effect.
Ozzy is a bona-fide hit! While bat-biting shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne's music career may be on the wane, his TV career is on the rise. Tuesday's showing of The Osbournes drew 7.8 million viewers, the most ever for an MTV series in its 20-year history. The numbers also give rise to ABC's demise: MTV's viewer tally matched that of Sunday's The Practice re-run.
Speaking of ABC, it seems the alphabet network is ready to test the audience loyalty of surprise hit The Bachelor. Having risen to number 15 among 18- to 49-year-old viewers, ABC is airing a two-hour special on Thursday night, opposite such ratings stalwarts as NBC's Friends and CBS' CSI. Apparently, Enron's bigwigs have found themselves new work as TV execs for ABC.
Four new series--The Elite; I, Detective; Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice; and Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman--have been ordered by Court TV for primetime airing, starting this summer. All four revolve around criminal investigations and forensics, the staples of already-popular TV shows Law and Order and CSI.
Pop diva Jewel, full name Jewel Kilcher, sustained a broken collarbone, broken rib and contusions when she was thrown from a horse Wednesday, The Associated Press reports. Atlantic Records co-president Ron Shapiro said Jewel is an experienced rider and was vacationing at her boyfriend's ranch south of Dallas, Texas, when the accident occurred. Jewel will have to cancel a scheduled promotional tour for her new album and may miss a European tour slated to start May 10.
Rockers Alanis Morissette and John Mellencamp have no such health worries. Their respective North American tours were announced to start May 1 and July 3.
Also according to the AP, comedienne and talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell has been awarded the 2002 Montblanc Arts Patronage Award for her tireless efforts in encouraging the public to experience and patronize live theater. Each year, the Montblanc Cultural Foundation awards 10 individuals in 10 countries an honorific of $15,000 for their respective charities, based on their efforts to advance culture and arts.
Singer-actress Courtney Love is being sued for failing to pay more than $40,000 in rent for a Vancouver home she rented while working in the on the film 24 Hours, The Associated Press reports. Love was to pay owner Peter Ashby $26,500 for a period from April 20 through June 7, with a $15,000 deposit. In a statement, Love said the agreement was subject to her approval of the home, which she had not seen. The singer and her daughter moved out after one day, saying the mansion was too big and had too many stairs. She has asked the court to dismiss the legal action.
Radio personality Garrison Keillor had surgery Wednesday for a common valve repair and is expected to make a full recovery, AP reports. Keillor, 58, has hosted A Prairie Home Companion on Minnesota Public Radio since the show began airing in 1974. Keillor also is the author of several books and hosts the daily five-minute radio show The Writer's Almanac.
Charlton Heston and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury are trying to save the Cinerama in Omaha, Neb., from demolition, AP reports. The Indian Hills Theater was built in 1962, but costs to renovate it would be too high. The Methodist Health System bought the bankrupt theater and intends to turn it into a parking lot for its nearby nursing college. Kirk Douglas, Janet Leigh, Patricia Neal and film critic Leonard Maltin also have joined forces to save the theater, which is still capable of showing films on its 70-foot-wide, curved, floor-to-ceiling screen.
Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is in talks to star in a modern Cinderella tale by director John Hughes, Variety reports. Hughes will write and produce the romantic comedy for Revolution Studios and could begin filming in 2002. Lopez will play a young dreamer who gets a job as a chambermaid in a luxury hotel, meets a British chap and falls in love. Hilary Swank was originally set to star in the project.
Musicians Moby, Beastie Boys, Alanis Morissette, the Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty, Trey Anastasio, Jackson Brown and James Taylor have formed a coalition named the New Power Project to urge the president to develop a more responsible energy policy, Rolling Stone magazine reports. The group plans to use their tours and Web sites to educate listeners about oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic Wildlife Refuge and renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy. They also will circulate petitions to be sent to congress and the Bush administration. More information is available at www.saveourenvironment.org.
Rapper Eminem and Australian Prime Minister John Howard are involved in a war of words, BBC News reports. The feud erupted after the rapper's first show in Melbourne, Australia, when he joked to an audience that he wanted to buy a house and move to the continent, but that he didn't think the prime minister would like it. Howard warned that Eminem was still on probation and could be thrown out by immigration ministers. He has publicly said he does not like Eminem's music or lyrics, and the illusions to violence that are involved in his performance.
Mark Wahlberg wants to help inner-city youths stay out of trouble, AP reports. On Thursday, Wahlberg announced that the Mark Wahlberg Foundation would raise and distribute funds to youth service programs. The actor credits the Col. Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in the Boston's Dorchester neighborhood for helping him turn his life around.
Volume.com will feature an exclusive webcast of a Mos Def benefit concert with Jack Johnson, starting July 27. Filmed at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, features Mos Def and his new group Jack Johnson with members of Living Colour and P-Funk and includes performances of Ms. Fat Booty and Umi Says. Information and registration for the exclusive webcast is available at http://www.volume.com/mosdef. The concert will be available online through August.