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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Robin Thicke has ruled out the prospect of performing with Miley Cyrus again, insisting their raunchy routine at the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony was a one-off. Cyrus made headlines in August (13) when she hit the stage in latex underwear to perform a saucy 'twerking' routine with Thicke to his hit track Blurred Lines, and footage of the raunchy stage show became an Internet sensation.
Both stars are expected to appear at the upcoming MTV Europe Music Awards in the Netherlands on Sunday (10Nov13), but Thicke has now confirmed there will be no repeat performance with Cyrus.
He made the revelation in an interview with U.K. talk show host Alan Carr, who asked whether fans could hope for another racy duet and Thicke replied, "Oh no, no no no... No no, definitely no, definitely not."
The singer also revealed that although the VMAs performance was planned, he had no idea Cyrus would don such a raunchy outfit, adding, "You know the only difference was she didn't wear that outfit in rehearsals, so it never seemed as bad, it seemed more playful. And to us, there was no sexuality between us, it was all silliness and fun, it was like throwing a party at your house and being silly."
Soul superstar Adele has promised to sue Tinie Tempah if he ever releases a foul-mouthed rap she recorded during a studio session. The Rolling in the Deep hitmaker joined the British hip-hop star as he worked on a track with Labrinth for his new album Demonstration.
During one session, Adele decided to get behind the mic and spit some explicit verses - before warning her pals against ever making the track public knowledge.
Speaking to U.K. chat show host Alan Carr, the rapper says, "Adele helped me pick some of the songs for the album. She has a rap. She was with me and Labrinth in the studio when he recorded Earthquake.
"Nobody really knows this. She recorded a rap and she told us that if we ever played it to anyone she would sue us. So when you talk to her next, ask her about the rap. It is really filthy as well."
The interview will air in Britain on Friday night (01Nov13).
The Wire star Tray Chaney is launching an anti-bullying hip-hop campaign in his native Maryland. The actor, who played drug dealer Poot Carr in the U.S. TV series, has penned a rap song, titled Mike Bully, and he hopes to perform it at several high schools in the state to bring awareness to bullying. Chaney is planning to extend the initiative to include a safe sex campaign.
Pop star Britney Spears showed off her saucy side on U.K. TV on Friday (18Oct13) as she strutted around a studio wielding a whip in a raunchy comedy skit. The singer appeared on talk show Alan Carr: Chatty Man to promote her new single Work B**ch!, and delighted the audience by agreeing to reprise the whip-brandishing character she plays in the track's sexy music video.
Carr told Spears his lazy staff members needed scolding, and she giggled and played along with the joke as he handed her a whip and led her backstage.
The funnyman told her, "The b**ches who work on Chatty Man, they've been slacking off, they don't give a s**t anymore. They need a kick up the a**e!"
Carr guided Spears around the studio and made her playfully whip his writers, make-up artist and even his own boyfriend and grandmother.
Spears later revealed she had private whip lessons before shooting her latest video, adding, "We had a whip instructor come in and actually show me how to use it and to bring it around the back of my head. If you do it the wrong way, you can actually hurt yourself and cut yourself with it. It's really powerful, they're really strong."
Pop superstar Britney Spears saved her millions by taking a shopping trip to a London budget store. The Toxic hitmaker, who is a big fan of discount stores, made a quick visit to a branch of cut-price shop Poundland to buy matches earlier this week (begs14Oct13).
In an interview with U.K. chat show host Alan Carr, Spears says, "I went (to Poundland) today and got matches, they're actually this little, they're like the tiniest matches you've ever seen in your life."
The star also insists she was able to hide her identity by wearing a disguise, adding, "Usually I have glasses on and no one recognises me, I just go in and I'm really into what I'm doing, I get into it and it's really fun."
On Tuesday (15Oct13), the singer turned her back on luxury transport by taking a ride in a double-decker bus for a press conference.
Spears is in London to promote her upcoming album Britney Jean and her two-year Las Vegas residency, which is due to start in December (13).
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe took a tip from Renee Zellweger for his new movie Kill Your Darlings and selected songs perfect for every scene. Director John Krokidas worked with his leading man on the playlist to help the young actor get into character as Allen Ginsberg.
The moviemaker reveals, "It's a method we borrowed from the actress Renee Zellweger, where we picked a song for every scene. We talked about the objective and then I had to pick a song that he had a personal connection to and we thought fit the scene.
"He would listen to the music right before we went on set. A lot of the songs that I picked ended up being in the movie. I got to hire the composer who worked with so many of the bands that were in my playlist as I wrote and made the film.
"The song that's in the closing credits, Don't Look Back Into the Sun by The Libertines, was a song that was important to me because I saw the central relationship between Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr not too dissimilar from the singer and the guitarist in that band (Pete Doherty and Carl Barat), who had historically a very close emotional and volatile friendship which ultimately informed their music."
Daniel Radcliffe preferred not having his own trailer on the set of low-budget Allen Ginsberg biopic Kill Your Darlings because it forced the cast to hang out together and bond in between takes. The former Harry Potter star portrays the late poet in the new independent drama alongside Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac and Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs, and he admits the minimalist set helped the actors to build up a rapport which only added to their onscreen chemistry.
He tells U.S. breakfast show Today, "We didn't have trailers on this one, but that actually did a great thing because it meant all the actors just hung out in green rooms and we got to know each other really, really well in a way that you don't always on films...
"It's my least favourite thing that I hear actors say, when they go, 'Film sets are so boring, you have to wait in your trailer all the time.' I'm like, 'You don't have to, you can actually go on set and engage with people if you like!'"
Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Cross and Kyra Sedgwick also star in the movie.
Madness frontman Graham 'Suggs' Mcpherson sent BBC producers into a spin last year (12) after arriving for a live performance dressed as disgraced TV presenter Sir Jimmy Savile. The band was preparing to play on Jools Holland's music show in October (12) when Suggs stunned executives by showing up sporting leisurewear, huge jewellery and a cigar - all trademarks of the shamed broadcaster.
Producers were thrown into a panic as Savile had been unmasked as a serial paedophile following his death in 2011. It has since emerged he sexually abused 450 victims, including 30 children, many of them during his time working at the BBC.
Suggs was ordered back to his dressing room to change before the band was allowed to perform.
Explaining the incident to U.K. chat show host Alan Carr, Holland says, "You'll probably edit this out but when Suggs came on Later, he had to be stopped from coming on the live version because he'd changed into a tracksuit with a gold chain and a big cigar."
Suggs, who also appeared on the talk show, added: "If only I had kicked them all (abusive celebrities) up the b**locks when I had the chance, it would be a different story."
Miley Cyrus has blamed Internet trolls for creating unnecessary controversy over her raunchy performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last month (Aug13). The former child star became headline news after she took to the stage with Robin Thicke to perform his hit track Blurred Lines at the ceremony in New York, sparking debate with her provocative dance moves and nude-coloured latex costume.
Cyrus now insists she felt frustrated with the Internet chatter in the days after the incident, insisting too many critics hide behind the anonymity of social media to lambast her online.
In an appearance on U.K. talk show, Alan Carr: Chatty Man, she says, "It really is nothing to do with me or what I did, people just like to rile each other up, it's just crazy... I think it takes a lot of courage to go out and do what I did and all the people that like to talk about it, they're sitting behind their computers, anonymously, and saying what they want to say.
"And I obviously say and do what I feel in front of everybody so I kind of expect the same respect back. If you're going to say something, say it to my face or say it with your name on it, don't say it behind my back and sit behind your computer."
The 20 year old goes on to insist the pair did not deliberately set out to grab headlines at the VMAs, adding, "That was the one night you could really go for it, it is really about celebrating your video and even Robin's video, I mean what did you expect, if you look at our videos together you know we are not going to come out and do the hokey pokey (hokey cokey)... I didn't really think anything about it until the next morning when the world was going crazy about it."
Cyrus also shrugged off criticisms made by fellow pop stars, saying, "It wasn't really about the competition or what other people think, it was really more about expressing yourself as much as you can, and really celebrating your video."