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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Stars! They're just like us! Most notably, they rant about politics in 140-character blurbs on Twitter. So it's no surprise following Barack Obama's win, that Hollywood had enough opinions to keep Fox News busy for the next four years. But which side were Hollywood's brightest (and, let's face it, dimmest) stars celebrating for or ranting against? Who's red (in the face) and who's blue? Read below to see how (some NSFW) celebrities are reacting to four more years of Obama!
We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are. Thank you. -bo— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
Wow, great day! Open the champers! Whoo hoo - let's make sure we win the popular vote too - congrats @barackobama !! #election2012— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) November 7, 2012
A shirtless Mitt Romney just kicked in the doors at a Boston Starbucks."Give me the urn!THE ENTIRE URN!"— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) November 7, 2012
Well Done America.We knew you'd get it right.#ObamaWins— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) November 7, 2012
I can't stop crying.America died.— Victoria Jackson (@vicjackshow) November 7, 2012
I JUST GOT OFF STAGE IN COLUMBIA!! CONGRATULATIONS MR. PRESIDENT @barackobama We are so proud to be American tonight! YES!!! YES! YES!!— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) November 7, 2012
To commemorate Obama's victory, I'm having a tea party.— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) November 7, 2012
Ahhh the part of the election coverage when middle aged women bop to Aretha Franklin— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) November 7, 2012
Put one in da air for the Prez!!!! Our dear Obama!— Rihanna (@rihanna) November 7, 2012
Wow. There you go AMERICA!!!! PRESIDENT OBAMA IS OUR 44th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!— Aubrey O'Day (@AubreyODay) November 7, 2012
So happy right now. Congratulations @barackobama. Whenever you want, I will make out with you at a seriously discounted rate.— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) November 7, 2012
We Did it !!!!!!!!!!TEAM OBAMA !!!!!YES!!!!! Thank u to all who supported !Xoxo— Lil' Kim (@LilKim) November 7, 2012
Fox Noose— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers21) November 7, 2012
Not sure what's bigger: Obama winning or Boulder students legally smoking pot now— Josh Gad (@joshgad) November 7, 2012
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) November 7, 2012
DONE AND DUSTED!!!— Katy Perry (@katyperry) November 7, 2012
Dear @barackobama, we did our part. Now please do yours. #GodBlessAmerica— Adam Shankman (@adammshankman) November 7, 2012
FOX NEWS just projected MCCAIN as the winner. then we heard gunshots...— kurt sutter (@sutterink) November 7, 2012
The TeaParty lost big tonight. Perhaps Republican’s can govern and join in rebuilding this country.— Mark Ruffalo (@Mruff221) November 7, 2012
That's what happens when you fuck with Sesame Street.— Adam Levine (@adamlevine) November 7, 2012
"Obama for real They gotta put your face on the five-thousand dollar bill"— krysten ritter (@Krystenritter) November 7, 2012
it is written. FORWARD! instagr.am/p/RtxTKlri4j/— Zachary Quinto (@ZacharyQuinto) November 7, 2012
Top of the Empire State Building shines with BLUE! Congratulations @barackobama on four more years. #USA— David Boreanaz (@David_Boreanaz) November 7, 2012
:oD— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) November 7, 2012
Now lets work together!!! USA all the way!— Danny DeVito (@DannyDeVito) November 7, 2012
#Obama is re-elected Our American President. So Proud.— Pauley Perrette (@PauleyP) November 7, 2012
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well done, America #OBAMA2012 #OBAMAUSA @barackobama #POTUS #GOBAMA— Eliza Dushku (@elizadushku) November 7, 2012
of course a sore loser #mitt he can't believe he isn't getting his way spoiled little boy.— Sandra Bernhard (@SandraBernhard) November 7, 2012
The good news is the promise of continued massive unemployment among young people.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) November 7, 2012
Romney "only wrote a victory speech."Fortunately, he's had at least a year's practice completely making shit up.— Dan Harmon (@danharmon) November 7, 2012
No matter who you voted for, if you voted, I'm proud of you. And, tomorrow, we all get back to work making this country great!— Christopher Gorham (@ChrisGorham) November 7, 2012
Yahoooo!FOUR MORE YEARS!— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) November 7, 2012
MITT Says Obama Has Not Won OHIO.Awwwwwwwwww Sheeeeeeeeeeet.Here We Go,Last Minute Shenanigans,Tomfoolery And Skullduggery,Monkey Business.— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) November 7, 2012
Well, back to the drawing board!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Our country is now in serious and unprecedentedtrouble...like never before.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Our nation is a once great nation divided!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Hopefully the House of Representatives can hold our country together for four more years...stay strong and never give up!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
House of Representatives shouldn't give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
[Image Credit: WENN]
Nate Silver and Tuxedo Cat Predict the Election
Melissa Joan Hart Chooses Romney: What, Like We Care?
The Election in Pop Culture: What Will the Next Four Years Bring?
From Our Partners:
Channing Tatum to Be Named Sexiest Man Alive by ‘People’ (REPORT)
Real Beach Bodies: 20 Celebrities of All Ages and Sizes (GALLERY) (Celebuzz)
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
"Sorry if my snoring bothered you."
Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D) but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope he was asleep.
I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.
Try as he might there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice played by Milla Jovovich and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies there's not enough plot to make it work.
We don't go to video game movies for plot of course but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.
It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old "And then she woke up!" trick which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas like Alice and Anderson himself we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole.