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
Marvel lovers: meet your newest addition to the Captain American 2: The Winter Soldier team! From a double-crossing Hamptonite to a big-screen leading lady, actress Emily VanCamp is definitely one to watch.
According to Deadline, VanCamp — star of ABC's hit drama Revenge — is in talks with the Marvel Studios to join the newest superhero sequel. Once the deal has closed, VanCamp will star opposite super-hunk Chris Evans. The buzz around the blogosphere is that the Revenge actress is set to join the blockbuster as Sharon Carter, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and potential love interest for Captain America (Evans). Carter is the niece of the original film’s Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
RELATED: 'Captain America 2' Scores 'Arrested Development' Director
Although many of the movie's details are being kept hush-hush, it appears that unlike the first flick, which took place during World War II, the sequel will be set in the modern world. Captain America 2 does not have a set start date just yet, but the film is scheduled to hit theaters April 14, 2014.
Do you think VanCamp will be a good addition to the team? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: ABC]
You Might Also Like:
Biden? Ford? Surprisingly Hot Young Pics of Politicians
Who Wore This Crazy Hat?
Stars Who Changed Their Look After Love
Revamped Pride and Prejudice: It seems like Jennifer Love Hewitt’s world now revolves completely around Lifetime programming. The busty brunette is currently teaming up with the ladies’ cable network to develop Darcy’s Town—a modern twist on the literary classic Pride and Prejudice. Sheryl Anderson (Charmed) has been tasked with writing the upcoming drama, which is said to be set in a small town in Virginia. Here’s hoping that the future Elizabeth Bennet’s acting skills will make Jane Austin proud. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Comedy Central Sends Out The Save-The-Dates: Web-clip lovers rejoice! Daniel Tosh’s hit series Tosh.0 will return for a fifth season Tuesday, Feb. at 10 PM. In addition, a whole slew of newbies are set to join the Comedy Central mix. Here’s the breakdown: Nick Kroll will debut his sketch comedy series Kroll Show Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 10:30 PM while Roast comic Anthony Jeselnik launches his take on the week’s worst news in The Jeselnik Offensive premiering Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 10:30 PM. Ben Hoffman’s sketch/man-on-the-street hybrid series The Ben Show debuts at 10 PM Thursday, Feb. 28, followed by Nathan Fielder's docu-reality series Nathan for You at 10:30 p.m. Rounding out the male-heavy programming is lady comedian Amy Schumer with her new program Inside Amy Schumer premiering Tuesday, April 30 at 10:30 PM in which she will be exploring the perils of sex and relationships. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Mommy Dearest: Comedy master Chuck Loore is looking for a few good moms. The showrunner is currently expanding his relationship with CBS with a new multi-camera half-hour pilot bluntly tittled, Mom. Loore co-wrote the comedy with two member of his Two And A Half Men team, executive producer Eddie Gorodetsky and story editor Gemma Baker and is aiming to launch the show in the fall 2013 schedule. Mom will center on a single mom (crazy right?!) who is newly sober and trying to pull her life together in the Napa Valley. [Deadline]
The Newest New Girl: Move over Zooey Deschanel, there’s a new new girl coming to the loft, and something tells us she’s a lot less neurotic that you are. Disney darling Brenda Song has been cast in a recurring role on the FOX comedy as the newest love interest. But just who will be sharing scenes with the Suite Live on Deck star? Lamorne Morris—aka Winston—will soon meet Song’s character Daisy, an extremely competitive and determined girl who dislikes quitters. We’re happy about this news as long as Song doesn’t clap her hands and scream, “Yay me!” every other minute. [EW.com]
Discovery Goes Scripted: Following the success of Discovery Channel’s hit docu series Gold Rush, the network is hoping to strike it rich with Klondike—their first is a specific gold rush that took place in 1895. Klondike (also known as delicious ice-cream bar) was a specific gold rush that took place in 1895. Written by Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring, Klondike centers on childhood friends Bill and Epstein in the story of six strangers and their collective fight for survival and wealth in a small frontier town. [Deadline]
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: DailyCeleb]
TV Tidbits: 'Castle' Stages Shiny 'Firefly' Reunion, '30 Rock' Nears the End
TV Tidbits: 'Up All Night' Nabs New Showrunner, MTV Heads to 'Washington Heights'
TV Tidbits: Jennifer Love Hewitt Dips into Polygamy, Peggy Will Return to 'Mad Men'
From Our Partners:
Lea Michele Calls Her Breasts ‘My Prizewinners’
Kim Kardashians Best Bikini Moments (PHOTOS)