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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Update: Ritchie's publicist confirms to Hollywood.com that "Guy Ritchie and his longtime girlfriend, model Jacqui Ainsley, recently became engaged."
Madonna's ex-husband Guy Ritchie is getting ready to make an honest man out of himself again. The 44-year-old screenwriter, producer, and Sherlock Holmes director is engaged to his 30-year-old model girlfriend Jacqui Ainsley, People reports. "They're over the moon in love," a friend of the couple says.
Besides the engagement, the couple will also be celebrating another bit of exciting news soon when they welcome their second child together. Ritchie and Ainsley, who have been dating for two years and already have a son, Rafael, are expecting their new arrival in about six weeks. The baby will also join Ritchie's sons Rocco, 12, and David Banda, 7, from his previous marriage to Madonna, 54.
At least his very public divorce didn't turn him off of marriage for good. Ritchie, who's yet to officially confirm the news, has said of his first foray into husband-hood and his Powerball-like settlement: "I'm glad I made money...And I'm glad I got married." See, everyone, romance does still exist — sort of?
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat. [Photo Credit: Getty Images] More: Stacey Dash, 'Clueless' Star, Slammed for Supporting Mitt Romney Christina Aguilera's New Album Cover Bares It All Debate Advice for Obama from Hollywood's 7 Most Inspirational Coaches From Our Partners:Mila Kunis Goes Topless for Esquire Cover, Crowned Sexiest Woman Alive — PHOTOS(Celebuzz) Kendra Wilkinson’s Son Hank Hospitalized After Passing Out(Celebuzz)
Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way partner Jennifer Killoran and Double Features partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher have acquired screen rights to "The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America," the 2003 non-fiction book by Erik Larson. For the project, DiCaprio will play Dr. HH Holmes, a serial killer Deadline calls "the 19th Century equivalent of Hannibal Lecter."
Holmes is believed to have murdered anywhere from 27 to 200 people at a time when the city of Chicago was enthralled with hosting the World's Fair of 1893.
Per Deadline, DiCaprio has long been interested in the notorious killer. Back in 2003, when Tom Cruise optioned the Larson book with the intention to play the killer (with Kathryn Bigelow and Christopher Kyle coming aboard to direct and write), DiCaprio set up a rival project. When the book rights came available again, Appian Way and Double Features acquired it from Paradigm on behalf of lit agency Black Inc.
Says the Heat Vision blog, the plan now is to find a writer or a writer-director to help nail down the vast story, then move to setting it up.
The project's not set up at a studio, notes Variety. Appian Way has a first look deal at Warner Bros.
Source: Hollywood Wiretap