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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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If there was any doubt that the seventh season of Dexter was going to be a big one, they were put to rest at the Comic-Con panel tonight. Lucky for you, Hollywood.com's own Shaunna Murphy was on the scene to get all the killer details.
Fans were treated to several exclusive insights on where the show takes our beloved serial killer, his lovelorn step-sister Deb, and his toddler son Harrison. It should go without saying that major spoilers are awaiting you if you choose to read on!
Attending the panel this evening were cast members Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Jennifer Carpenter (Deb), and guest star of Chuck fame, Yvonne Strahovski (newcomer Hanna). Also on hand were executive producers Sara Colleton and Scott Buck.
So what are we in for next season? As we mentioned before, a big part of the season will deal with Deb's knowledge of Dexter's dark passenger — well, at least she knows he killed Colin Hanks. Fans were treated to two minutes from the opening of the season, which picks up right where we left off all those months ago: Travis is on the table dead, and Deb cannot deal with what she's seeing. Dexter lies to her (of course) and tries to explain that he'd come to do one more forensics sweep. Deb is clearly not buying it, as she continues to mention the fact that he was wrapped just-so in plastic. The scene ends with Deb calling the police while Dexter screams "no!" You can check it out here:
So where does this leave us? With a lot to unravel, apparently! Carpenter told the audience that "this is the first year where I [as Deb] have felt lost...there's no compass. I've never moved with such uncertainty through every line; through every 'f**k' and bad word. In a weird way, the tables feel like they've turned: I'm the one that's trapped in my f***ing head." This uncertainty and instability is a continued thread throughout the season, as both Dexter and Deb have to deal with the repercussions of Dexter's son Harrison getting older.
Michael C. Hall explained it thusly: "As Harrison gets older and grows more receptive, it becomes a dicier propostion every day. The fact that someone who is also one of Harrison's guardians, Deb, has a sense of what she's dealing with, that changes things as well. But Harrison is still an individual." So what does this mean for adorable little Harrison? Will he start to sense his father's evil deeds? Will Deb feel a need to protect him or take him away from his father? Looks like Dexter may have to finally, actually figure out a way to shield his son from his own handiwork.
But that isn't the only thing that's shifted: it seems as though Deb's confidence in her position (at work, and now over Dexter) does not waver (even if her emotions go on a roller-coaster): "If anything, it's not that she's shying away from the power that she has. She actually needs it. Its the one card she has to play."
Also bringing some mysterious power to the table is new guest star Yvonne Strahovski. Her character Hanna has a dark past (or does she mean...dark passenger?!) that must somehow come into play this season. Strahovski explained that she plays "a woman who is a woman of mystery with a dark past. She meets Dexter, and helps him with an investigation." That's all you're going to get, though. Mystery and intrigue abound!
Towards the end of the panel, things got more lighthearted. There was a joke that this will be an "all bath salts season" because the show takes place in Miami (the same place where the gruesome cannibal-tinged murder took place earlier this year. Florida, man!), as well as something that seemed to be a jab at Jennifer Carpenter's cooking skills. At one point a fan asked about the biggest lie Hall had ever told. "That was delicious," was his response. There were some side-eye/death stares then exchanged between Hall and Carpenter, causing a raucous laughter to emit from the crowd.
Fans were also treated to a season 2 trailer for Homeland, Showtime's other award-winning hit show. There was a brief discussion surrounding the state of the characters on the upcoming season — as well as an announcement that the show will return to the Middle East. At the end of season 1, fans were devastated when the eternally beleaguered Carrie Mathison Claire Daines underwent electroshock therapy. This season will dedicate some time to putting the pieces back together, according to producer Howard Gordon.
So there we have it! Another panel down: are you happy with what you learned about the upcoming season of Dexter, or did you wish you knew more? Let us know in the comments below!
Additional reporting by Shaunna Murphy.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: SHOWTIME]
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