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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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Ladies and gentlemen, werewolves and fairies, vampires and shifters: Welcome to the Season 6 Premiere of True Blood. The waiting sucked, but it's finally over… And can you believe we've already been glamoured for six seasons?! Woah.Although it's felt like a Vampire-lifetime since we last were sucked into the blood-ridden town of Bon Temp, the first episode of the season, directed by vampire Bill himself (Stephen Moyer), doesn't skip a heartbeat, and starts up in the gory mess we last found ourselves in: some whacky sh*t going down at The Authority's headquarters. Now let's discuss all those bloody little deatails.
Meet Male-Lilith Bill!After Bill guzzles the whole effing vile of goddess Lilith's blood, he's left as a puddle of bloody goo. Gross! Just when we think Bill's a goner, he is reborn as a fang-bearing male-Lilith (Jason calls him a "naked evil Superman"). The emergence of Lilith-ified Bill sends Eric and Sookie running for refuge. The troubled-trio of Nora, Jason, and Tara, who relinquished Pam and Jessica from the Authority's jacked-up jail, are looking for a way out of the brewing chaos at The Authority, too. Before a blood-drenched and naked Bill can create a blood bath, Eric and Sookie roll up with perfect timing for the rest of their buddies to jump in their car and zoom the hell out of the fire-blazing Authority compound.
R.I.P. Speaking of fleeing from the Authority, Luna and Sam are on a rescue mission to save Emma (who Reverend Newlin had kidnapped to be his little were-pup), but chaos ensues when Luna involuntarily shifted from her disguise as Reverend Newlin to her gorgeous self. We teased that the Grim Reaper was coming for one of the beloved True Blood castmates, and it's here we find out who's saying adios.
The last time Luna shifted, it almost marked her death, but she had the not-so-bright idea to do it again…completely blanking on the fact that maybe you shouldn't try the same sh*t that almost killed you the last time around. Just how Sam's brother Tommy died after shifting too many times, Luna's fate was no friendlier. It was a total tearjerker watching Luna die as Sam promised to look after her Emma. Sam then turns to Lafayette (who's like the best dude to chill with when you need a proper cheering up sesh) for help on hiding Emma now that shifter community has been exposed on live television. Ruh roh!
There's a New Sheriff… Well, Governor In TownGovernor of Louisiana, Truman Burrell, holds a press conference declaring that despite the human's superb Southern hospitality towards the vamp population, the recent spike of human lives lost calls for a new vampire curfew to be enforced and all vampire run businesses to be shut down. Gov. Burrell later sneaks a meeting with a True Blood company executive to form a silent partnership. He claims he'll give the company a bottling facility free of charge for the sake of simply giving vampire's sustenance other than feeding off humans, but eh, we don't really believe that's your sole motivation, Governor. It doesn't seem like a full-scale war vs. vampires is too far down the line. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife! They Grow Up So Fast!After Sheriff Andy Bellefleur knocked up fairy lad Mirella, she left him high and dry with four fairy babes. Considering Andy is nowhere near father of the year status, Arlene and Terry help out with raising the kiddies. Right when you think there are still normal problems in Bon Temps like learning how to change a diaper, Andy's babies drastically sprout from babies to toddlers. Wowza! Full-blood fairies grow up damn fast!I Summon TheeUpon escaping the Authority and Bill mayhem, the crew, comprised of Sookie, Eric, Nora, Pam, Jess, and Tara, (who desperately need a shower since they are decked out in blood) try to make a game plan… but instead tensions rise: Jess get's pissed after hearing Nora suggest that if Bill has indeed resurrected as Lilith, Bill must die. Before Jess can angrily storm off, Bill summons her, which induces some serious torment. Sookie escorts Jess to Bill's mansion where bloody footprints are all over the place - someone seriously needs to call a cleaning service.
Bill is just chilling on the porch until Eric and Nora charge in. Bill leaps but before he can properly attack Eric, Sookie stabs her once beloved! What a twist! This new Bill can clearly take a few stabbings though, he just yanks the wooden stake right out like it was merely a toothpick. So, Bill's no longer just your average run of the mill vamp. (We even learn he has telephonic power. Like what!?) In a powerful scene, Sookie tells Bill that the ole vamp she once knew and loved isgone, and she wants Lilith-y Bill nowhere near her or her pals. Unlike Sookie, Jessica's allegiance to her maker runs strong and she defends Bill and relentlessly sticks by him. (Cue the Pussycat Dolls tune Stickwitu).
I Want My Old Life Back!Eric walks Sookie home and they have a heart-to-heart about Sookie staking Bill to save Eric. They share an intimate moment reminiscing over Sookie's innocent days as the simple Merlott's waitress in the white dress. Eric even does Sookie the courtesy of putting the rights to Sookie's home back in her name. But all the sucking up doesn't seem to cut it, and Sookie ends up rescinding Eric's exclusive invite to her home in an effort to reclaim her once non-vampire filled life.Nothing Wrong With a Three WayAlcide, who's all amped up on V, which is so not the "live above the influence" Alcide we know and love, emerges as the new werewolf to beat. But before he can properly take on the title as packmaster, he first inherits the flesh a.k.a. chows down on the former packmaster's arm, which doesn't sound appetizing in the slightest. And with a werewolf promotion, comes benefits… sexual benefits! After a breathtaking a** shot of Alcide in all his naked glory, he starts aggressively hooking up with one werewomen, Nicole, before Rikki barges in for a little Ménage á Trois action. Besides all the sharing and caring in the works, Rikki makes sure to remind Alcide she's his number one biotch! Fiesty, mama!Farewell Fangtasia With a rift between Pam and Eric since Pam feels completely replaced by Eric's baby sis Nora, Tara tries to steal Eric's spot in Pam's heart… but Pam's not really down with Tara taking the spotlight. Government guards bust into Fangtasia to shut down the vampire joint in accordance to Governor Burrell's order. Tara tries to come to Pam's rescue, proving herself to be a loyal protégé, but winds up getting herself shot in the chest. Oh snap! What's with Tara always having the ultimate level of worst luck? Get In, Loser! Jason's gone cray ever since he accidentally was blasted with a fairy ray and started seeing his dead parents, who he learned were killed by a vampire, Warlow, Lilith's original progeny. Jason hitchhikes after he can no longer tolerate chilling with Sookie and her vampire gang and getting "brain-rapped". Before you think why the f*ck would someone pick up Jason, whose perfectly sculpted jawline is soaked in blood, we soon understand that this isn't just any driver.
Jason, who can't keep his mouth clamped, learns from the eerie driver that Sookie can't hide from Warlow, whose haunted Sookie since we learned last season that Sookie contractually belongs to Warlow. For once in his life, dumb*ss Jason is clever and questions the driver for knowing Sookie's name before he even mentioned it. The creepy driver then mutters "Who the hell do you think I am, Jason?" Jason then fires at the driver thinking he must be Warlow. But then poof! The driver disappears into thin air. So is he Warlow? Is he flat-out a magician? Or is he something else?
Three Girls, One BillJust like Jason, Bill is seeing things! Bill has a quick chat with Jess before her bedtime, which convinces us he still has the heart that Sookie (and we) once fell for... but we are instantly reminded that male-Lilith is no longer plain old Bill. Bill starts hearing whispers and chattering and soon enough faces three blood-lathered Lilith-women that sprint towards Bill and wiggle themselves inside his body…. and we're left with Bill gasping, and me yelling "what the f*ck!"
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