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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Gunman James Holmes, 24, walked into a packed Aurora cinema shortly after the beginning of the venue's first screening of blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire, killing 12 film fans and injuring 59 others.
Celebrities across the world have taken to blogs and websites to comment on the killing spree and now Captain America Evans, Motley Crue's Sixx and Kings of Leon star Followill have offered their thoughts.
Followill writes, "My thoughts & prayers go out to those affected... Such a senseless & cowardly act," while Sixx adds, "Breaks my heart hearing the news about the shooting's (sic) in Aurora, Colorado. My prayers and thoughts go out to the families and victims."
And actor Evans is still trying to understand why someone would want to kill innocent people watching a movie: "what the hell is happening?? my heart is completely shattered. all of my thoughts and prayers are with the people of aurora."
Meanwhile, The Roots star Questlove takes aim at the parents of the baby caught up in the tragedy, tweeting, "Why was a 3 month old at a midnight premiere?"
Tributes to the victims have also been tweeted from Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi, rockers Chris Daughtry and Hayley Williams, Janelle Monae, Russell Simmons and dance music star Moby, who asks, "what is wrong with us? too tragic and heartbreaking."
The massacre took place at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, in the town of Aurora, near Denver, where a masked man wearing body armour entered the cinema through an emergency exit and set off tear gas or smoke bombs before opening fire in the packed auditorium.
Early reports suggested 14 people had died, but officials have since confirmed the death toll is 12. Up to 50 others, including four children, have been injured.
The atrocity has stunned America, and U.S. leader President Obama released a statement which read, "Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado... We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family."
At a rally in Fort Myers, Florida later on Friday, Obama held a moment's silence for the victims and told the crowd, "We're gonna stand by our neighbours in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time. Such violence, such evil is senseless, it's beyond reason, but while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living.
"The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers, they were husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours, they had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled."
A string of shocked stars took to Twitter.com on Friday to express their outrage at the shootings, and to pass on their condolences to those involved.
Eva Longoria writes, "My heart goes out to all the people affected in the Aurora, CO shooting. May God be with that town and their families."
Whoopi Goldberg adds, "A mad man has shattered lives forever in Colorado. To everyone who helped folks get to safety in that theatre THANK YOU for your bravery."
Paramore singer Hayley Williams, who was watching the film at a different cinema, tweeted, "In shock reading about what happened at the theater in Aurora, CO... Could have been any of us. My heart is heavy for everyone affected."
Film director Kevin Smith writes, "My heart goes out to all the families of the victims in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. F**king horrific."
Billy Ray Cyrus also took a moment to reflect on the tragic news, adding, "Oh no! Just woke up and turned on the news... Praying for victims. So sorry and sad."
In the wake of the incident, bosses at Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, have cancelled the movie's French premiere in Paris on Friday night (20Jul12).
A spokesperson for the company says, "Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."
Suspect James Holmes, 24, has been taken into custody over the shootings.
The television industry was rocked today when news broke that entertainment legend and staple of TV history, Dick Clark, has passed away at the age of 82. While plenty of Clark's fans are shaken, some of his colleagues have gone to Twitter to release 140-character tributes for the icon. From here's how Clark's celebrity fans and colleagues — including Ryan Seacrest, Snoop Dogg, Denise Richards, and more — are morning his loss.
Ryan Seacrest: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life."
Denis Leary: "Dick Clark dead. Okay so now I'm starting to get a little more concerned about all this 2012 Mayan shit"
Gloria Estefan: "Not 2 many people actually deserve the term "legend", Dick Clark embodied it & never lost his humility or humanity. We will miss him!"
Joan Rivers: "Very sad to hear about Dick Clark. What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end. He will be missed!"
Kevin McHale: "Dick Clark, what a a legend. Changed TV & Music forever. You will be missed Mr. Clark!"
Loni Love: "Dick Clark 1929-2012 Thanks for helping black artists to get the exposure they needed so we could ALL enjoy their music!"
Seth Green: "So saddened by Dick Clark's passing- an innovator, a legend, a man who believed in the greatness of humans. #ThankYou"
D.L. Hughley: "RIP Dick Clark worked with him on New Years Rockin Eve and TV Bloopers always a class act!#TeamDl"
Comedian Doug Benson: "Dear Coachella, a Dick Clark hologram should introduce the Tupac hologram this weekend.#RIPBandstandMan"
Comedian Dave Holmes: "Worked with Dick Clark a few years back. Dude did it ALL: wrote cue cards, moved lights, called shots. An inspiration and a very nice guy."
Russell Simmons: "Dick Clark was eternally young. No matter what culturally phenomenon was happening, he always embraced it. RIP..."
Paramore's Hayley Williams: "RIP Dick Clark. Will think of you every NYE."
Denise Richards: "My heart goes out to Dick Clark's family and loved ones.... we lost a legend.. #RIPDickClark"
Patton Oswalt: "'I finally get to apologize to GG Allin for never having him on Bandstand.' -- Dick Clark's last words. #rip"
Jenny McCarthy: "RIP dick Clark. You were amazing to work with. U will be missed. Xxxoo"
Matthew Morrison: "A sad day as we have lost Dick Clark, an American Icon. You will be missed."
Snoop Dogg: "REST IN PEACE to the DICK CLARK!! U were pioneer n a good man!! Thank u sir"
Isaac Hanson: "Dick Clark was a Rock 'n' Roll Radio/TV icon with an influence on pop culture for more than 50 years. Rest in peace. -ISAAC"
Lance Bass: "Farewell to one of my all time idols Dick Clark- genius pioneer in music/television and just a great guy! You will be missed!" More: Dick Clark Dies at 82 Why There Will Never Be Another Dick Clark Dick Clark's Best TV Moments