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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With Christmas less than a week away, it's time to get pumped and anticipate all that is to come -- a delicious feast, holiday carols, office parties (free food!), family bonding, and presents galore! There's a reason it's called the most wonderful time of the year and personally I can't wait any longer to get the festivities in motion. So in the spirit of the gift-giving season, the editors of Hollywood.com thought it would be fun to decide what our favorite celebrities should get each other for Christmas. And with their insanely hectic schedules, I'm sure they'll be grateful for our help.
Gwyneth Paltrow Should Give Martha Stewart Her Cook Book
When she’s not acting, Gwyneth Paltrow spends her time writing on her website, GOOP, which gives us strict instructions on what to “make,” “go,” “get,” “do,” “be” and “see.” It guides us and teaches us how we can live more luxurious lifestyles, and Paltrow writes her newsletters under the impression she’s doing the world a big nice favor by helping everyone experience life the way she does. However, at times it seems like she doesn’t realize how few of us actually care which kind of cashmere is the best kind (and how useless a lot of her expertise really is), and so I would have Gwyneth give her new cookbook, “My Father’s Daughter,” to Martha Stewart, so Martha Stewart can take one look at it and give Gwyneth one of her infamous “are you kidding me with this?” glances and Gwyneth can realize she should relax a little bit with all the making, going, getting, doing, being and seeing. – Hannah Lawrence
Anderson Cooper Should Give Donald Trump The Giggles
Anderson Cooper made headlines this year for succumbing to uncontrollable laughter during a segment of his show on CNN. Footage of the incident immediately went viral, and the idea of someone so respected in his field suddenly losing control of himself because of a joke that HE made was completely wonderful. It brought a little bit of joy back into our lives! And so this Christmas, I would have Anderson Cooper give Donald Trump a tape of his laughing breakdown because Trump really needs to relax a bit and stop complaining about everything so much. And I suspect just one dose of Cooper laughing for a good two minutes straight will be enough for Trump to decide to lighten his daily load a bit, and go back to just telling everyone how he graduated from the Wharton School of Business when he didn’t. – Hannah Lawrence
Rob Lowe Should Give Angelina Jolie His Friendship
Not only is Rob Lowe an exceptionally handsome man, but he's also an accomplished writer. Earlier this year, the actor wrote a memoir "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," which describes the highs and lows of his personal and professional lives in a compilation of stories that he -- you guessed -- only tells his friends. It's actually a really interesting read as far as autobiographies go and something I would recommend to anyone who wants to get to know Rob a little bit better. And since Angelina Jolie recently admitted she's sort of lacking in the friends department, I would have Rob give her a copy of his book for Christmas, as a way to make her feel more closely connected to someone other than Brad. I mean, if I understand the title correctly, once you read Rob's stories, you instantly become his friend, right? And since J-Aniston lovers still think she's to blame for the downfall of Jen's marriage to Brad, I'd say she could use all the friends she can get. And what better friend to have than good old Rob! – Kelly Schremph
Charlie Sheen Should Give Justin Bieber A Goddess
Everyone will remember 2011 as the year of Charlie Sheen's epic meltdown. Sure, there's the royal wedding and that whole Kim Kardashian joke of a marriage, but nothing compares to Sheen's career-destructing tirade. So for this Christmas, I would have Mr. Sheen give Justin Bieber the one thing he once held in such high regard: a goddess. A few months ago, Bieber experienced his first-ever paternity lawsuit, making the pop singer realize just how sneaky and untrustworthy some women can be. So the goddess would be a perfect way to remind him that not all women are bad. In fact, some are loyal, constantly nurturing and even somewhat heavenly (I guess). And maybe this transaction actually happening! It would explain why Charlie was tweeting at Bieber to call him a few weeks back, causing him to accidentally post his cell number to the social media site. They were just trying to schedule the goddess drop off location. Mystery solved! – Kelly Schremph
Daniel Craig Should Give Kris Jenner a Clue
The actor was quoted railing against The Kardashian family in the January issue of GQ. He said, “I think there's a lot to be said for keeping your own counsel. You can't buy it back. You can't buy your privacy back. 'Ooh, I want to be alone. 'F**k you. We've been in your living room. We were at your birth. You filmed it for us and showed us the placenta, and now you want some privacy?” Jenner responded with a publicized cry for his immediate apology. Craig would certainly give Jenner a clue (if it was possible), and explain that just because your family is famous from one amply-bottomed daughter's sex tape with Ray J, doesn't mean you are safe from completely valid opinions from people who are actually famous for a craft. –Kelsea Stahler
Jon Hamm Should Give Henry Cavill Dapper Don Draper Style Tips
Many of us had hoped that Jon Hamm would land the role as Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel, but alas Henry Cavill will don the super suit. And while Cavill has no shortage of good looks or charm, he’s still quite British and Superman is a quintessentially American hero. While those angered at Cavill’s Britishness will have to deal with it, perhaps Hamm could give Cavill a leg up on winning over any dissenters by taking a book out of his Don Draper-esque style guide. We all remember Cavill as the sexy playboy alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ King Henry on The Tudors, but just imagine him waltzing onto the set of a Late Night show when Man of Steel hits theaters in 2013, promoting his latest role while looking like a modern day Don Draper. No one would be able to resist him. – Kelsea Stahler
Adele Should Give Demi Moore Her Album 21
Even though 21 debuted back in January, Adele continues to dominate 2011, picking up "Best of the Year" awards thanks to her soulful voice and collection of emotional tracks. The singer spun a bad break-up into music that people everywhere can't help but connect with—so much so, even the folks at Saturday Night Live owned up to their obsession. So what better way for Demi Moore to cope with her recent (and very public) divorce then a few uplifting jams courtesy of Adel?. Moore's never held back interacting with her fans and if there's anything the masses can relate to, it's the heartbreaking relatability of 21. – Matt Patches
RuPaul Should Give Kate Middleton Queen Advice
This year, the world fell in love with Kate Middleton, the daughter of former flight attendants who lived the real life fantasy of a Royal Wedding. While Middleton's a lovely lady with a keen fashion sense, I'd love to see her inject a little sass into the royal dealings when she becomes queen alongside her husband, Prince William. To help her out, I want RuPaul to package all the seasons of her show Drag Race into one how-to guide to school Middleton in what it takes to be a real queen. Boxing Day will never be the same. – Matt Patches
Tom Cruise Should Give Taylor Lautner the Keys to the Fighter Jet
Taylor Lautner is for all intents and purposes a young Tom Cruise. They're both handsome, always smiling, and, as far as the interviews lead us to believe, stuck somewhere between this world and one far, far away. So much does Lautner remind me of Mr. Cruise, that I think he should actually start taking the man's movie roles. Sure, he could ease into the mix by being Cruise's trainee in the next Mission: Impossible, or something like that. But I have a better idea: I think Tom should just give Lautner the keys to the fighter jet, prop the helmet on him, and call him Maverick. In other words, Tom should give Lautner his role in Top Gun. When they remake the movie...and obviously they're going to remake the movie...I think Tom should hand-write his recommendation for young Taylor Lautner to step in as the star of the film. Some might scoff at the idea, but it'd really be the next best thing to just...watching the original again. And maybe a little Robert Pattinson as Ice Man? No, no, that's going too far. – Michael Arbeiter
Hugh Jackman Should Give James Franco His Powers
In recent times, James Franco has made some unique choices in terms of what projects to take. From a role on General Hospital to teaching a class about himself, the young actor has made it very clear that he is striving to be a master of all fields, a creative visionary, the man who can do it all. But of course, this is impossible. No man on Earth has so much talent that he can excel at any task, no matter how extravagant or minuscule, no matter how commonplace or obscure. In short, nobody is perfect...except, of course, Hugh Jackman. There is literally--and I mean LITERALLY--nothing that Hugh Jackman can't do that wouldn't warrant a nationwide surge of applause immediately thereafter. And so, to the young ambitious Franco, who attempted to follow in Jackman's footsteps with a Hathaway-adjacent Awards Show hosting gig (albeit one that wasn't quite as celebrated), I implore Jackman to, at least for a little while, lend his powers away to Franco. Franco is a charming guy, and a good actor, but he longs to be so much more. You're the only one who can help him, Hugh. Just take some time off from serenading the gods, breathing life into the springtime and giving people everywhere a reason to get up in the morning. Give Franco your magical talents...just for a little while...and see how far he takes them. – Michael Arbeiter
If a major motion picture studio gave you $50 million to make the movie of your choice what would it be like? If you’re producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost it’d be a loving lampoon of geek culture and an homage to the films of the Spielberg/Lucas revolution but nostalgia is both an advantage and disadvantage in director Greg Mottola’s Paul.
Pegg and Frost star as a pair of nerds from across the pond who fulfill lifelong dreams when they fly to San Diego for the annual Mecca of nerdom Comic-Con. The doofy duo extend their trip to tour America’s extraterrestrial hot spots including Area 51 where they pick up an unexpected alien hitchhiker on the run from the proverbial men in black. Across the country they go getting into trouble picking up more passengers and building bromantic bonds as the little green man Paul inches closer to his escape from planet Earth and the shadowy government official who has been exploiting his knowledge of the universe since he crash landed in Wyoming over 60 years ago.
Fan-favorite filmmakers since 2004’s Shaun of the Dead Pegg and Frost have been making geek chic for years now and continue to create identifiable roles for themselves while finding humorous ways to write their like-minded friends into their movies. Their collection of wacky characters is charming if incredibly derivative but for better or worse they are the heart and soul of the film. Jason Bateman Kristen Wiig Bill Hader and Jo Lo Truglio turn in fun performances but I expected a bit more from the Jane Lynch David Koechner and Sigourney Weaver cameos. Still Seth Rogen’s vocal performance as Paul adds significant layers to an already adorable alien and enlivens the adequately rendered CG character.
The comedy is surprisingly sweet and doesn’t bite like Mottola’s Superbad though there are enough religious jabs and signs of anti-establishment fervor to call it mildly subversive. Lack of laughs isn’t the issue here; lack of originality is. Mottola is too dependent on pop-culture references and inside jokes pertaining to E.T. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind so much so that the film ultimately becomes a parody of itself as its storyline mirrors that of Steven Spielberg’s massive 1982 blockbuster (in this world the movie mogul actually consults the incarcerated alien for inspiration for his beloved family film). While these nods are all amusing they’re not enough to carry the film and Mottola/Frost/Pegg offer little else. At its worst Paul will give you a reason to revisit those classic sci-fi staples and remember the good old days. At best it provides a few mindless chuckles and gives you good reason to give the geek next to you a great big hug.