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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Mexican actor/singer Christian Chavez's ex-boyfriend has been granted a restraining order against the star following their arrest last month (Apr13). Chavez and his former partner Ben Stewart-Kruger were taken into custody in California after they were involved in an altercation.
They were booked on felony charges but the Los Angeles District Attorney has declined to prosecute the couple due to a lack of evidence.
After the incident, Stewart-Kruger filed documents in court asking a judge to grant him a protective order against Chavez, claiming he tried to kill him during their bust-up.
In documents, he writes, "(Christian) attacked me, broke down bathroom door, armed with knife, attempted murder (sic)."
A judge has granted him a temporary restraining order, which prohibits the star from coming within 100 yards of Stewart-Kruger, according to TMZ.com.
Mexican actor/singer Christian Chavez has escaped domestic violence charges following an altercation with his boyfriend. The Rebelde star and his partner Ben Kruger were arrested in California on Tuesday (30Apr13) after they were allegedly involved in a violent dispute, which left both men with visible injuries.
They were booked on suspicion of felony charges but the Los Angeles District Attorney has declined to prosecute the couple due to a lack of evidence.
The case is now in the hands of the police, who will continue to investigate the incident, according to TMZ.com.
Mexican actor/singer Christian Chavez was arrested on Tuesday (30Apr13) after an alleged altercation with his boyfriend in California. The Rebelde star and his partner Ben were taken into custody after cops were called to a home in Beverly Hills, according to TMZ.com.
Reports suggest both men had visible injuries and they were booked on suspicion of felony domestic violence.
The Los Angeles District Attorney has yet to decide whether to prosecute.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has lost his battle with cancer. The politician died during the afternoon on March 5. He was 58 years old.
The announcement was made by Chávez's vice president, Nicholas Maduro, who was very emotional as he released a statement alongside Venezuelan politicians and military leaders, according to BBC News.
Chávez's career was marked by constant controversy since he the time he took up the post of Venezuela's president in 1998, and in October, Chavez earned another six-year term in office. However, in December of 2012, his years-long battle with cancer once again reared its head and he retreated from public view to Cuba where he sought further medical treatment.
At the time of his retreat, Chávez named his vice president, Maduro, as his successor.
[Photo Credit: Ariana Cubillos/AP Photo]
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The politician underwent his fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba last month (Dec12), and on Sunday (30Dec12), Vice President Nicolas Maduro issued an update on Chavez's condition.
Maduro spoke in a televised address from Havana shortly after visiting the president. He said, "Several minutes ago we were with President Chavez. We greeted each other and he himself referred to these complications. The president gave us precise instructions so that, after finishing the visit, we would tell the (Venezuelan) people about his current health condition. President Chavez's state of health continues to be delicate, with complications that are being attended to, in a process not without risks."
Hollywood actor Sean Penn showed his support for his friend by flying to the country last month (Dec12) to attend a candlelit vigil in Bolivia on the day before Chavez's operation.
The Oscar winner made a surprise appearance at the gathering in La Paz, which was held as Chavez undergoes his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba.
Taking the stage in a Venezuelan flag T-shirt, Penn told the crowd, "He's one of the most important forces we've had in this planet. And I'll wish him nothing but that great strength he has shown over and over again. I do it in love, and I do it in gratitude.
"I just want to say, from my very American point of view, of my friend President Chavez: it is only possible to be so inspiring as he is, as a two-way street. And he would say that his inspiration is the people."
The Oscar winner has not been shy in voicing his support for Chavez's government, despite the fact the President is not considered an ally to the U.S.
Penn is also in Bolivia this week campaigning for for the release of incarcerated businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has spent 18 months behind bars for money laundering. Ostreicher's supporters are upset there was no trial before the businessman was jailed.
If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
The Lethal Weapon star struck up a friendship with the politician years ago and he joined in the party this weekend after Chavez emerged triumphant in the closest race of his 14 years in office.
In video footage captured by local TV station Noticiero Digital, Glover can be seen embracing and playfully sparring with Chavez, who is battling cancer, moments after news of his victory broke.
Glover isn't the President's only fan in Hollywood - actor Sean Penn and director Oliver Stone have also previously voiced their admiration and support for the controversial world leader, who has landed another six years as the head of state.