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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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Another one bites the dust. Bachelor and Bachelorette fans are so used to that phrase when it comes to the relationships that form on the show. But on Sunday night, Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum became the third couple out of 24 to tie the knot. During a two-hour special, The Bachelorette: Ashley and J.P.'s Wedding, the cameras followed Ashley and J.P. as they planned their wedding with celebrity wedding planner Mindy Weiss, tasted cake, tried on dresses, and finally said "I do" in front of all their guests. But while their wedding basically seemed to come right out of the pages of Brides magazine, there were also some moments, that well, to be quite honest, just seemed down-right awkward and out of place for a wedding special.
These are the 10 weirdest moments from Ashley and J.P.'s wedding special:
1. A Dog Fitting. While we got to follow Ashley for the final fitting of her gown at Randi Rahm's design studio, the cameras also captured another fitting. Ashley and J.P. decided that they wanted their teacup Yorkie, Boo, to take part in their wedding, so Boo had to get dressed for the occasion. Their wedding planner put together a special dog-dress fitting for Boo. And one dress even cost $7,500. That's more expensive than most brides' gowns!
2. Stage Sweepers. Plenty of content is needed to fill the minutes of a two-hour wedding special, but did ABC really have to capture the people sweeping the stage over and over again? Whenever a cut of host Christ Harrison appeared where he was introducing the next scene, set up for the wedding was going on in the background — and you could clearly see the people sweeping the stage where Ashley and J.P. would later say their vows. Why!?
3. The Announcement. Okay, it's well known that the bride's parents are usually the ones who front the bill for the wedding, but Ashley's parents lucked out as ABC paid for the whole shindig. But while they didn't have to worry about writing a huge check, it's still odd that Ashley and J.P. selected a date for the wedding without even consulting their parents first. They instead held a cocktail party in New York City to inform their families of when the wedding would take place after the decision was already made. Even their families were thrown off by this, thinking that maybe the couple would announce that they were pregnant or something else. It was just odd.
4. Bachelor Host Hosts the Wedding. Chris Harrison is famous for hosting 24 seasons of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor and two seasons of Bachelor Pad, but who knew this guy had a second job? During the special, it was surprising to learn that Harrison is licensed to officiate weddings. And he did just that for Ashley and J.P., making them husband and wife. But of course he had to deliver a long, personal speech about himself before it even got to talking about the couple. Selfish, if you ask me.
5. Bridal Breakfast. Bridal breakfasts and/or brunches usually happen the day before a wedding or even the week before. But, Ashley had hers the day of her ceremony.
Next Up: Silly Kisses, Guest Seating Charts, and Awkward Encounters
6. Kiss Rehearsal. While we didn't get to see Ashley and J.P.'s wedding rehearsal, the cameras did spend a long five minutes capturing Ashley and J.P. practicing the type of kiss they wanted to do on the altar. Ashley wanted one long kiss, and J.P. wanted two smaller ones. So, they insisted on experimenting to figure out which would be best. Get a room, guys!
7. Wacky Wedding Guests. Do Ashley and J.P. have any other friends besides the people who have participated in The Bachelor shows before? During the ceremony, the cameras only focused on catching the Bachelor people — including Trista Sutter and Ryan Sutter, Ali Fedotowsky, Roberto Martinez, Sean Lowe, Molly Malaney, Emily Maynard, Jason Mesnick, and more — in the audience, and forgot about the rest of the couple's guests.
8. Ex Encounters. Rumors are circulating that former Bachelorette star Ali Fedotowsky and her ex-fiance Roberto Martinez got it on during Ashley and J.P.'s big day. And during the TV special, it was quite interesting to see the two exes sitting next to each other and basically flirting up a storm. Could their romance be sparking up again?
9. The Next Bachelor's Prime Seating. During a recent conference call, Ashley told reporters, "I've never met Sean Lowe [the new Bachelor]." This conference call took place after her wedding had already taken place. And guess what? Sean attended Ashley's wedding, even scoring prime seating in one of the first few rows. It's quite possible that Ashley never spoke to him on her big day — but it's still very awkward that he was sitting with the other guests acting like he was a close, personal friend of the couple.
10. Out of Place "I Dos." Chris always tries to be different, but did he really have to have Ashley and J.P. say "I do" before reading their vows? That was just a very out of place lineup. Usually the vows are read first, then the "I dos" are said before the rings are placed on the bride and groom's fingers. Not so this time.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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