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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Hopefully by now your DVRs have recovered from all the use they got during the whirlwind of May finales, so now all that's left to do is sit back, and wait for fall (because, let's face it, summer TV shows really just can't compare). And while the next few months are sure to be somewhat grueling, dedicated TV junkies can take comfort in knowing we don't have to completely go cold turkey.
The big networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and CW) have graciously released several trailers for upcoming pilots, giving viewers a taste of what's to come next fall. So just in case you missed a few during the Upfronts craze a few weeks back, Hollywood.com has provided a variety of must-see clips from the various networks to help determine which shows you plan on tuning in for when fall premiere season comes around. So without further ado...
The series is an upcoming American musical drama, starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, who play two country singers looking to pursue their dreams in the music business.
The show follows the story of the crew of a rogue nuclear submarine and features an all-star cast that includes Andre Braugher, Bruce Davison, The OC's Autumn Reeser and Felicity's Scott Speedman.
666 Park Avenue
This show looks to be a supernatural freakout that stars Lost alum Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams as a devilish married couple.
Next: More ABC Fall Pilots.
The half-hour show will center on Reba McEntire's character, who moves from Nashville to Malibu, Calif. in an attempt to resurrect her music career, after discovering her rock-star husband was cheating on her.
In hopes of providing a better life for his wife and three kids, Marty (played by Lenny Venito) move out to a New Jersey gated community called Hidden Hills, where they realize that their neighbors are...well...a little different.
How to Life with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)
In case you couldn't tell by the title alone, this new comedy stars Sarah Chalke as a single mom who moves back in with mom and dad...possibly forever.
This show will follow the story of Jack Shea (Kyle Bornheimer) who puts his own dreams on hold in order to take over his family's handyman business from his father.
The series stars Radha Mitchell as Marta Walraven, a housewife from Northern California, who must continue her deceased husband's work in organized crime in order to protect her family.
This show will revolve around White Vincent (Michael Nyqvist), the editor of a skeptics magazine, as he's pulled into one of the most compelling conspiracies in human history.
Love has never been so complicated...
Next: NBC Fall Pilots.
The New Normal
Ryan Murphy serves up a brand new comedy that centers around two gay dads and a baby mama. Oh yeah, this one's a must-see.
Matthew Perry will star as a cheeky sportscaster who tries to move on from loss and finds comfort from the members of his mandatory group-therapy sessions. Could we BE anymore excited?
Justin Kirk stars as Dr. George Coleman, an animal-loving veterinarian who despises the pet owners.
The series picks up 15 years after the world loses all different forms of electricity (TVs, phones, lights, planes, what have you) and shows you how humans have adjusted. But the big question still remains: why did this happen?
Guys With Kids
This show, created by Jimmy Fallon, stars Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger as three thirty-something-year-old men who must deal with being fathers despite having not grown-up yet themselves.
Next: CBS Fall Pilots.
This show is a period drama which takes place in the 1960s and is based on the true story of Ralph Lamb — a rodeo cowboy-turned-longtime Sheriff of Las Vegas. Giddy-up!
The series follows the story of two best friends, Charlie (David Krumholtz) and Louis (Michael Urie), whose friendship seems to reflect that of a weird married couple. Plus, it comes from the creators of Will & Grace.
Made In Jersey
Starring Janet Montgomery, this legal drama centers around a working-class woman who uses her street smarts to compete with her colleagues at a top New York law firm.
This show is a contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) and his partner Watson, who's now a lady and played by Lucy Liu.
Next: FOX Fall Pilots.
The Mob Doctor
Former My Boys star Jordana Spiro is heading back to Chicago for this mob drama as a young thoracic surgeon who’s forced to juggle her career and her life-long debt to the South Chicago mob.
Kevin Bacon stars as an ex-FBI agent, Ryan Hardy, who’s hot on the trail of a master serial killer (James Purefoy), who has created a cult of serial killers which must also be stopped.
The Mindy Kaling Project
This show stars Mindy Kaling as an unlucky-in-love doctor, dealing with the daily work-life balance. It's probably no Office, but it might just be the next best thing.
Ben & Kate
The story mostly focuses on the relationship between two siblings: Ben (Nat Faxon) and Kate (Dakota Johnson), who happen to be polar opposites (think freewheeling brother meets uptight sister).
The Goodwin Games
The comedy stars Becki Newton (of Ugly Betty fame) and Scott Foley (of Felicity) as a brother and sister whose father left his fortune to them under some (presumably) steep terms.
Next: CW Fall Pilots.
The Carrie Diaries
AnnaSophia Robb will star as New York's most popular fictional style-icon, Carrie Bradshaw, who struggles with everyday teenage life in Connecticut -- until she meets her "first love", Manhattan.
Stephen Amell stars as Oliver Queen, who is just your average, everyday billionaire playboy until he survives a violent shipwreck and re-emerges as The Green Arrow.
Beauty and the Beast
This will be a contemporary reboot of the 1980s series, starring Smallville's Kristin Kreuck as Detective Catherine Chandler, and Jay Ryan as Vincent — a presumed-dead doctor who gets a little beastly when he's mad.
Former Vampire Diaries star Matt Davis will play an investigative reporter Jeff Sefton, who goes from a no-nonsense blogger to a full-out investigator when his brother mysteriously goes missing.
Mamie Gummer (you've probably heard of her mother, Meryl Streep) will star as Emily Barnes, a fresh out of med school intern at Denver Memorial Hospital, who soon learns that hospital life is remarkably similar to high school — where she was a certified nerd.
2012 Fall TV Pilots
Networks! Which Shows Are Canceled, Renewed, and Endangered?
The CW Says Goodbye To Ringer and Secret Circle, Hello To Carrie And More
Fox's 2012 Series Pickups: Kevin Bacon, Mindy Kaling, and the Mob
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.