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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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
One of the greatest TV Tropes to behold is tortuous and often unrequited love. Just like in life, one character pines for another, or sometimes both characters unknowingly pine for each other. Since they’re easily some of the most relatable aspects of any TV series, this Valentine’s Day we celebrate the greatest unrequited love stories in TV history. Even if the couple finally gets together, it’s the journey through unrequited territory before they get together that makes the eventual romance so rewarding.
Desmond David Hume & Penny Widmore of Lost
For regular readers of this column, it’s no secret that I was a huge Lostie right up until the head-scratching finale. One of the biggest reasons I watched Lost was the ballad of Desmond and Penny. When we first meet Desmond, he’s pushing a button in the Hatch to save the world. As flashbacks eventually reveal, Desmond was preparing for a race around the world to prove to Penny’s father, Charles Widmore that he was worthy of his daughter’s affections. What seemed to be nothing more than a backstory about unrequited love turned into a game-changer for the entire series, as the “Not Penny’s Boat” scene is one of Lost’s most heartbreaking moments. The heartache would continue in and episode called “The Constant” in which Desmond’s “flashes” between 1996 and Christmas 2004 begin and he realizes Penny is his constant. The episode is widely regarded as Lost’s finest hour of television and it aired - not coincidentally - two weeks after Valentine’s Day.
Luke Spencer & Laura Webber of General Hospital
Talk about unrequited love stories. Luke and Laura are daytime TV’s most recognizable couple and certainly the breakout stars of General Hospital. But before their wedding attracted nearly 30 million viewers and (reportedly) gifts from Princess Diana, their story would begin far too violently for my tastes, as theirs is essentially the story of a woman falling for her drunken rapist. For you younger readers out there, ask your mother or aunt and they’ll likely tell you that they forgave Luke Spencer’s actions just as Laura did. I know it’s a bitter pill to take, but in the zany world of Soap Operas, this somehow works. The encounter has since been rewritten to be more of a seduction than an attack, but for GH fans, it didn’t seem to matter and no matter how many times their love falters and they are broken up, Luke and Laura always seem to find a way back into each other’s arms.
Jim Halpert & Pam Beasley of The Office
Sure, they’ve been happily married for several years now, but admit it: The Office was at its best when these two were pining for one another. The first few years of the series saw Jim pining for Pam and vice versa in many ways, but first Pam had to rid herself of her Jerk Store boyfriend, Roy. Jim has it so bad for Pam that he moved to the Stamford branch to alleviate the pain of seeing her every day. Jim even tried to date Scranton co-worker, Karen. But as we all know, Roy and Karen were sent packing and the big moment finally occured in the Season 3, in an episode called “The Job” and the sweetest couple on TV was finally joined, with Jim admitting he bought an engagement ring a week into their dating. A collective “aww” was heard round the world. To keep the romantic tension going (at least a little bit), it would take Big Tuna another year to muster up the stones to pop the question.
Milhouse Van Houten & Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons
Matt Groening’s answer to Charlie Brown has always been Milhouse. And always pulling that proverbial football of a heart out from under him has been his best friend’s little sister, Lisa. You would think that after harboring a hopelessly devoted crush for almost 25 years,the poor guy would take a hint, but Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten just keeps soldiering on. When Lisa gave up her first crush, Nelson, Milhouse rejoiced with newfound faith when Lisa told him her next crush could be anyone. Considering in most of the Simpsons’ flash-forward episodes, Milhouse is finally with Lisa, it’s no wonder the kid won’t give up.
Jimmy Chance & Sabrina Collins of Raising Hope
The newest show on our list allows for Jimmy and Sabrina’s unrequited affections to remain unknown. If you haven’t seen Raising Hope yet, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Jimmy pining for Sabrina is played up for some good jokes, as his folks, Virginia and Burt, often make fun of the poor guy’s inability to open up to Sabrina and tell her the truth. Of course, it was revealed in a flashback episode that when Jimmy used to dress up as an emo-Goth kid, she had the hots for him. But alas, it was not to be and Jimmy grew out of his dark overlord phase and Sabrina never knew it was him and still doesn’t. Despite the wrinkle of Sabrina’s boyfriend, the two still spend a lot of time together, with Sabrina teaching Jimmy about the world and being a surrogate mom to Hope. It’s only a matter of time before these two consummate.
Spike & Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Before True Blood’s Sookie, every vampire on TV had it bad for Buffy. Punk vamp Spike was supposed to be different. The guy had come to Sunnyvale with his vampire girlfriend, Drusilla, and was genuinely sickened by the fact that his former friend, Angel, had feelings for a slayer. After losing Dru and having “nightmares” about her, Spike is forced to admit that he’s in love with Buffy, who despite initiating violent and seductive meetings will have no part of a real relationship with Spike. Despite being turned down, Spike remained a loyal right hand to Buffy in the final seasons of the show, even sacrificing himself to close the Hellmouth in the series finale. When Buffy finally declares her love, Spike glibly replies, “No, you don’t, but thanks for saying it.”
Samuel “Screech” Powers & Lisa Turtle of Good Morning Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell
Yes, I refuse to not acknowledge that Saved by the Bell was once a series called Good Morning Miss Bliss and was supposed to be vehicle for star Haley Mills. (Iif anyone remembers Zack introducing stories from when he, Lisa, and Screech were in Middle School, they are from that show.)Anyway, for any awkward teen who ever pined for the one of the nicest, sweetest, cutest girls in school, it’s easy to understand the pains of unrequited love. If you’re Screech, puberty hits, hormones are racing, and there’s Lisa Turtle looking cute beyond belief. Like many teenage boys falling for their first crush, you’d be powerless to her charms as well.
Every supernatural creature in the world & Sookie Stackhouse of True Blood
Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, shape-shifters, lions, tigers, bears – if you’re a supernatural male and you live in Bon Temps, odds are you have got it bad for one Sookie Stackhouse, and usually that ain’t good. Heck, most times, it usually leads to the end of the world until Sookie and her pals stop it. Sweet fairy blood notwithstanding, Anna Paquin does play Sookie with a certain bit of adorable bravado; she’s sexy and she knows it. And at its heart, True Blood is the ultimate female wish fulfillment fantasy –and correct me if I’m wrong, ladies. It’s a show about a girl who literally entices every eligible good looking male around her to protect her and gladly die for her. Oh, and they all have six- to eight-pack abs.
Carmela Soprano & Furio Giunta of The Sopranos=”3”>
These poor mob wives, they just have nothing to do but sit around all day while their husbands are out with all kinds of mistresses. Carmela Soprano had to put up with Tony’s philandering ways for years and barely said a peep about any of them. But when Carmela laid eyes on the tall, dark Italian man, Furio, she developed feelings for the dashing, sensitive mobster. The sentiments between the two were mutual, however they never consummated their love – after all, they’d both be dead if anything ever happened. When Furio caught Tony in the act, he belived Carmela deserved better he almost shoved Tony into helicopter blades. Not being able to contain his feelings, Furio packed up and left New Jersey for his native Naples. Carmela on the other hand, revealed her feelings for Furio to Tony in Season 4’s explosive finale, “Whitecaps.” =”3”>
What couples are your favorite tumultuous love stories? Do you think the chase is better than the catch, or can you not wait for your favorite lovebirds to get together and be happy? Leave your opinions in the comments and follow me on Twitter @CouchForceOne. Happy Hallmar – err, I mean Valentine’s Day!