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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The actor and Brian Hargrove will stage the musical in New York next year (12) after wowing critics during its stint at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey.
Pierce admits he relished directing the production, about the highs and lows a bride and groom experience on their wedding day.
In an appearance on U.S. morning show Live! With Kelly on Monday (12Dec11), Pierce explains, "I directed a brand new musical. We did it out of town. We're actually going to bring it to Broadway in the fall. It's called It Shoulda Been You. It takes place during a wedding.
"The nice thing about directing is that you tell people what to do, then you go home. It could have been stressful but it wasn't... What I did was I put together an amazing group, a great cast but also the designers and the tech people and all that... I had a great time."
The Bridesmaids star wed Hargrove in 2005, but the marriage ended four years later and they have remained tight-lipped on the reasons for the split.
Wiig is now dating actor/producer Brian Petsos and they live together in New York City - but she won't be walking down the aisle again anytime soon.
She tells Britain's Stella magazine, "I probably won't ever get married (again), it's not something that I would want to do. (In Bridesmaids we were careful) to not send the message that you need to get married.
"I think women put that pressure on themselves, maybe even more than society does, but, if you're the single girl at the wedding, you know someone is going to ask you when you're going to get married."
Gay actor David Hyde Pierce has blasted California lawmakers for threatening the legality of his marriage.
The former Frasier star and his longtime partner, TV writer/director Brian Hargrove, took advantage of last May's legislation allowing gay marriage and exchanged vows in a low-key ceremony in October.
The law was overturned in November and gay marriage was once again illegal.
Lawmakers in California's Supreme Court considered cancelling any marriages that took place during the six months they were legal -- but decided to allow them to stand when they upheld the ban on Tuesday.
Hyde Pierce is pleased that his marriage still stands but is furious it was taken out of his own hands.
He fumes, "Twenty-five years and we got married last October. Here's the thing: Brian and I always kept it low-profile, and we got married very quietly, last October 24th and we thought it was fine, and then suddenly the state of California said it's not (legal) and what we thought was a very private, personal decision turned out not to be.
"So now we find out we are still married legally, but... it's like, 'Oh great, we made the cut!'
"It was a very angry-making feeling both in November when it was taken away from me and also this past Tuesday when I'm sitting in front of my TV thinking, 'Gee, I hope the Supreme Court thinks it's OK for us to be married.' Well it's none of your business!"
Gay leaders in the state now plan to take their fight to federal court.
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Former Frasier star David Hyde Pierce has revealed he is gay, after keeping his sexuality secret for decades.
The actor, who played Dr. Niles Crane in the long-running sitcom, has always refused to talk about his personal life, despite rumors about his sexual orientation.
But the 48-year-old has allowed his long-term partner Brian Hargrove's name to be mentioned in an interview on CNN.com.
In a paragraph carefully buried in the article, the journalist writes, "Pierce got to Los Angeles in the early 1990s when his partner, actor-writer-producer Brian Hargrove, wanted to write for television."
Pierce's spokesperson has since confirmed Hargrove is the star's partner.
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