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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No, not talking about recently MIA actors Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, we’re talking about aliens. After Men In Black 3, we were oh-so worried that it was going to be years before extraterrestrials graced the big screen again. (Side note: The previous sentence may have been laced with extreme sarcasm)
When a man is murdered in an Ohio Coscto, Evan (Stiller) a do-gooder with an obscene amount of hobbies, decides to form a neighborhood watch to catch the killer. Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) make up the delightfully dysfunctional watch team, matching jackets and all.
Hollywood.com caught up with the always-hilarious Will Forte at the star-studded red carpet premiere of The Watch on Monday night. In the R-rated flick, Forte takes on the role of Sgt. Bressman, a small town cop who instantly steals every scene with his Super Troopers-esque persona.
Although the team becomes local heroes in the movie (spoiler alert!), Forte admits he doesn’t think the comedic quartet would be much help in his own neighborhood, “I would not feel like the neighborhood was going to be watched very well. I wouldn’t feel comfortable, but I guess I would feel better then nobody watching at all.” Ouch! Here that guys?
When asked who in the film is most likely an alien in disguise, Forte gave a surprisingly honest answer, “God, I hate to say it but probably myself… Sometimes I just eat stuff that doesn’t agree with me and I don’t know if that’s just natural biological functions or if there is something inside of me that’s growing and is going to take over my body and take over ultimately the United Sates of America and then the world.”
On a more realistic note, Forte, who is best known for his eight season stint on Saturday Night Live, was ecstatic to learn that friends Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader have all been thrown into the mix for potential Emmy wins this fall. The MacGruber actor exclaimed, “I wish them nothing but the best, they’re so deserving of a win! I’m very happy they got nominated and I could see them all winning they’re so good, so funny and they really deserve it.”
Make sure to catch The Watch in theaters this Friday, July 27!
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[Photo Credit: WENN.com]