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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British pop star Cheryl Cole turned 30 in style with a wild night out in Las Vegas over the weekend (29-30Jun13). The former Girls Aloud star headed to Sin City on Saturday (29Jun13) with her dancer boyfriend Tre Holloway and her bandmates and best pals Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts.
Cole's entourage hit the city's top haunt Hakkasan and danced the night away to a set by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, who previously teamed up with the singer on her track Call My Name.
On Sunday (30Jun13), the day of her birthday, Cole hosted a lavish pool party at a private home in Malibu, California, where models in mermaid costumes lounged next to the water and guests played around in a giant inflatable ball.
After being inundated with congratulations messages from fans on Twitter.com, Cole tweeted, "Awwww!!! Thank you all so much for my birthday wishes... you are the sweetest!!!!!!"
Whether you were watching from the comfort of your home with envy/relief that you weren't there or dancing amongst the thousands of sweaty and unbearably trendy music fans (including spotted celebrity attendees like Josh Hutcherson, Katy Perry, Fergie, Emma Roberts, Aaron Paul, Joe Manganiello, Joshua Jackson, Vanessa Hudgens, Colin Hanks, Paris Hilton, and David Hasselhoff) that made the pilgrimage to Indio, California, the first weekend of the 2012 Coachella was one that had to be seen to be believed. With a powerhouse line-up that included the likes of Radiohead, Pulp, Gotye, Florence + the Machine, The Black Keys, Santigold, Feist, and Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, whose cameo-filled set (including, yes, the late Tupac Shakur) has everyone talking, here's the best and the worst of what Coachella has had to offer so far.
Blame it on Friday the 13th that Coachella's first day (April 13) got off to a soggy start when the festival grounds were hit with rainstorms, but that still didn't dampen the spirits of eager concertgoers. Friday's eclectic line-up ushered in buzzed-about sets from Neon Indian, M83, The Arctic Monkeys, and the aforementioned Pulp, who have reunited to play their first shows in the United States since 1998. (Before heading westward to Coachella, the Brit rockers played two sold-out shows in New York City last week.)Watch Pulp's Coachella performance of their crowd-pleaser "Common People" below:
The high energy from Friday's sets spilled over into Saturday, whose headliners Radiohead wowed festival-goers for nearly two hours with a set list that included "Karma Police," "Bloom," and "Paranoid Android" (their entire concert is available to watch on YouTube in case you missed it) capped off a day that included solid turnouts from Bon Iver, David Guetta, Kasabian, and Community star Donald Glover (better known to the rap community as Childish Gambino) who performed with a broken foot during his set. Watch his NSFW "You Know Me" performance with special guests Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown:
But there was no hip hop performance more talked-about (or any other set, for that matter) than when rap legends Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg late Sunday night. While earlier standouts had included a fresh-off-their-SNL debut Gotye and a surprise performance from Rihanna during her "We Found Love" collaborator Calvin Harris' set, the introduction of hologram Tupac (move over, Will.i.am) closed out the first weekend of Coachella in a most unbelievable fashion.
Towards the latter end of their 23-song set, which featured appearances from the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent, and Wiz Khalifa, Coachella's most unexpected guest, a hologram of the late Tupac Shakur took to the stage to perform "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" alongside the rap superstars. A voice used for the video game-like image of the Shakur, who died in 1996, addressed the crowd, "What the f**k is up Coachella?" before beginning the song. Innovative? Tasteless? More fodder for conspiracy theorists? Watch the the resurrection of Tupac as a hologram from Sunday night's Coachella below and decide for yourself:
It's hard to imagine how, or what, will top hologram Tupac Shakur when the music acts from this past weekend are scheduled return on Friday for the festival's second weekend. But at this point, when it comes to Coachella it's probably best to expect the unexpected. Were you at Coachella this weekend or did you watch from home? Will you be heading to this weekend's concerts? Which performance(s) blew you away and which ones were you underwhelmed by? Did hologram Tupac trip you out? Seriously though, what just happened? Sound off in the comments section!
[Photo credit: YouTube]
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A bull broke country singer/actor Lyle Lovett's right leg in two places and fractured his thumb Wednesday at his uncle's farm in Klein, Texas, near Houston, Reuters reports.
Said to be in "good condition" after an emergency operation at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Lovett will be "back out there playing shows before you know it," says his tour manager, James Gilmer.
The 44-year-old Lovett and his uncle, Calvin Klein (no, not that Calvin Klein), were in a cattle pen with the bull they've raised since it was a calf when it struck them, according to Gilmer.
While Lovett received the brunt of the damage, Klein suffered minor rib injuries.
Lovett, who was once married to actress Julia Roberts, is a three-time Grammy winner and has starred in such films as The Player (with Roberts), The Opposite of Sex and upcoming film The New Guy.