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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There is a part of all of us children of the '90s (and by that, I mean anyone who enjoyed the '90s in any capacity) that screamed harder than Buddy the Elf finding out Santa is coming when we heard the Spice Girls were going to bring the wonder of platform shoes and pop music perfection to the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremonies. Now, with only a day to go until the fearsome fivesome take to the international stage, our nostalgia is firing on all cylinders. We can't take it. It almost makes us wanna... wanna... zigazig ha.
And because we're all stuck with a permanent loop of "Say You'll Be There" in our heads in anticipation, Hollywood.com staff decided to go whole hog... or spice rack. Behold, all the wonderful Spice Girls memories you thought you forgot.
"Playing" Spice Girls -Abbey Stone "My friends and I loved reenact Spice Girls music videos at recess. Unfortunately, I always got stuck being Baby Spice. Damn you, blonde hair!" Sigh... Reluctant Fandom -Matt Patches "I was forced to see Spice World during a father-sister-brother movie outting where my sis got to choose the movie. At that point, it was the worst day of my life — until Spice World's chase bus chase scene after which it became the best day of my life." Slam Your Body Down, The Party's All Around... on Nintendo -Brian Moylan "Do you remember The Spice Girls video game? I do! But now I wish I could forget all the time I spent making my own video and learning their dance moves on Super Nintendo. Oh, the '90s." Never Forget -Marc Snetiker "I guess this isn't too great of a story, but my best friend's AIM screenname has "Spice" in it, so I've subconsciously thought of the Spice Girls almost every day for the last eight years."
The Spice Girls "Spoke to Me" -Michael Arbeiter "I never knew much about popular music. All I ever listened to for the first ten years of my life was my dad’s copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. But when the Spice Girls made an appearance on All That, I realized that they were all right. They appeared as themselves during a Mrs. Fingerly sketch (one of my favorite recurring bits), spouting their wisdom and parodying their own personas. They were in on the joke. They were out to have fun. This spoke to me." The Life-Long Fan -Shaunna Murphy "My favorite was maybe my parents letting me cut school with my cousins Erin, Sam, and Christie (because Erin was in town from New York) to see Spice World. The theatre stopped the film mid-way because we all had our feet on the seats. We were the only ones there. A giant add just popped up saying 'please remove your feet from the seats.' We did, and were thus able to continue watching. Then there was the time in 2007 when they did the reunion tour and we entered the lottery, and we were all eating at Veselka and got the email that it was our turn to go online and pick our seats and we started screaming and threw cash on the table and ran home like we were Kenyan." Fandom to the Point of Losing Your Mind -Kelsea Stahler "I too "played" Spice Girls with my friends and was always forced into the Baby Spice role. All I wanted was to be a little cool. Couldn't I be Posh Spice or Ginger Spice for once? And one day, I did earn the privilege, the glory, of taking on the Ginger Spice role, but only after I "proved" my fandom by learning the entire "rap" section of "Wannabe" by heart and losing my tiny little mind pestering my parents until I collected every last Chupa Chups Fantasy Ball Spice Girls lollipop. At that point, I was clearly a worthy Spice Girls fan to be Ginger Spice, but still not with it enough to play Posh "Is my skirt too short" Spice and it haunts me to this day." The Mega Fan Who Puts the Rest of Us to Shame -Kate Ward "For some, the Spice Girls represented the morally corrupt hyper-sexualization of women. For others, the Spice Girls represented the empowering hyper-sexualization of women. But for a 10-year-old Minnesotan like me — unaware that "slam your body down and wind it all around" wasn't referring to breakdancing —the Spice Girls represented nothing more than hip, colorful, 2-D versions of Barbie dolls. And though I couldn't play with them, I made sure to memorize Spice's liner notes, in which each member of the band had a page dedicated to their signature and their signature look that would later define them up to this day. (I still remember the order: Posh — whose red-tinted page hosted my favorite tune, "Say You'll Be There" — Baby, Ginger, Sporty, and Scary.) But it wasn't enough that my CD player constantly spun hits like "Wannabe," "2 Become 1," and "Love Thing" (but not "Something Kinda Funny," the album's clear weak point) — my four friends and I decided to use our perfect number to our advantage on October 31, 1998. Strangely forced to play the Ginger of our fivesome for Halloween — considering the one friend who insisted on being Posh was a redhead while I had straight brown hair — I scrapped together the clothes in my closet my 13-year-old self most represented Geri Halliwell: A white tee-shirt and black miniskirt. Clearly, I was not Spice Girl material (where could one find a British flag tube dress in the Midwest?!) and would never boast their rad wardrobe, but I made up for it later that year when I convinced my mother to buy me a pair of 6-inch platform shoes. Sure, I wore them approximately 1.5 times before I realized how ridiculous I looked (and they weren't so practical on the Minnesotan ice), but I made sure to channel my favorite band in other ways: With girl power-fueled confidence… and plenty of Chupa Chups. Strawberry Cream FTW!"
What's your favorite Spice Girls memory? Sound off in the comments!
More: Spice Girls Might Reunite For Summer Olympics in London Olympics Roundup: Final Days, a First, and The Spice Girls Unhappy Hour: Eight Ways Pop Culture Gave Us Reason to Drink on August 11