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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You were probably too busy looking up the big words, or screaming at Dawson's bangs to notice these celeb cameos the first time you watched Dawson's Creek, but now that we're 15 years passed the original air date, let's take a look back at all the famous folk who walked the hallowed halls of Capeside High and hooked up with Katie (err, Kate?) Holmes. Michael Pitt as Henry ParkerBefore he was all gangsta on Boardwalk Empire, Michael Pitt was featured on season three as Jen's sappy, budding, young boyfriend. He allegedly left the show because he felt the role wasn’t challenging enough.Ken Marino as Professor WilderYou know him for his deadpan humor in We’re the Millers, Wanderlust, Party Down and Children's Hospital, but before hitting his comedic stride, Ken Marino waxed poetic as Joey's naughty English professor during season 5. They may have made out.
Seth Rogen as pot-smoking college kidIn a role he was born to play / has only ever played, he “porks” (his word, not ours) Joey’s roommate, Audrey (Busy Phillips – his former Freaks and Geeks co-star) during the show’s last season.Scott Foley as jock Scott Foley shines as a dim quarterback who took Jen on a date – forcing Dawson – who was also pining for her - to do some epic soul searching (for the seventh time that episode).Ali Larter as Kristy
Best known for her bangin' whipped cream-covered bod in Varsity Blues, (also Heroes and Legally Blonde), Ali Larter steals Pacey's heart as a popular chick who's out of his league (poor thing). Rachael Leigh Cook as Joey’s proxyThe She’s All That star (seriously, where has she been since then?) plays Joey in one of Dawson’s masturbatory movies (Season 2, Episode 13). He’s so meta.Jane Lynch as Mrs. WitterAs Pacey’s uber-religious, disparaging mother (we don't see the resemblance either) the incomporable Jane Lynch got practice for her role on Glee. (Season 4, Episode 12).Chad Michael Murray as Charlie Todd
This soapy darling's dimples had already appeared on Gilmore Girls and would go on to star in One True Hill after his stint on the fifth season of Dawson's. He plays a collegiate cad who sleeps with Jen and then has a miniature affair with Joey after she performs with Charlie's band “Aggressive Mediocrity" in a moment that's almost as cringey as when she performs "On My Own" during season one.
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First there was Sonny and Cher, then Donny and Marie, followed by The Captain and Tennille. Could fellow Canucks Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen be the next big musical duo? I'm going to go out on a (maple tree) limb and say probably not, but that doesn't preclude them from trying. Bieber and Jepsen released a sneak preview of a duet that will appear on Jepsen's upcoming album on Wednesday. The song, called "Beautiful," is a sugary sweet jingle about loving someone perfectly. "You're not trying to be perfect, nobody's perfect, but you are to me," the two sing.
Okay, so there's something strange about this. While I will not go so far as to say that Justin Bieber "discovered" Jepsen — she had already appeared on Canadian Idol and released a successful debut album — he certainly did introduce her music to the American masses. Therefore, there's a degree of sense involved with the two recording a duet. I mean, if I were a rising pop star I would cling to Justin Bieber's coat tails for dear life. But did the duet have to be a love song?
Maybe it's ageist of me, but hearing Jepsen, 26, and Bieber, 18, sing about falling in love (presumably with one another) is icky. It also rings a bit false. In all of their appearances together, there has never been one iota of chemistry between the two stars. And we, as listeners, are supposed to buy that they are in love? I can hear the naysayers now, "But it's just a song! It's not real!" I know this. I also know that when I listen to this song, I hear two parts grafted together. It's hard to picture Jepsen and Bieber in the same room together, let alone serenading one another.
Bieber and Jepsen's voices, both adorably raspy, compliment one another and, I said before, a duet is only logical. But I don't think a cutesy ditty was the best way to go about this. A playful show of one-upmanship would have better suited their relationship. Not to mention, Jepsen's smash hit single "Call Me Maybe" took off not just because of its catchy hook, but because its lyrics were clever and original. The song is charming in its slightly deprecating self-awareness. "Beautiful," however, lacks the subtlety and cheekiness we love in "Call Me Maybe."
Instead of pouring on the sugar, Jepsen and Bieber should have added a little sauce. This song thoroughly scrubs Jepsen's already squeaky-clean persona of all character and its blandness ensures that this new duet will have none of the cross-over appeal of "Call Me Maybe." On the bright side, 27 million Beliebers are sure to love it. Take listen to "Beautiful" below — and tell us what you think.
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
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The Coen brothers could be adding a third Writers Guild of America Award to their impressive trophy case next month if they can nab best original screenplay for their quirky comedy Burn After Reading. The WGA, who announced their nominees today, presented Joel and Ethan Coen with best adapted screenplay last year for No Country for Old Men and best original screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.
Rounding out the contenders this year are Dustin Lance Black for Milk, Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Tom McCarthy for The Visitor and Robert Siegel for The Wrestler.
The WGA’s best adapted screenplay noms include Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with story by Roth and Robin Swicord; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight with story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, based on the stage play; Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon, based on his stage play; and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire.
WGA members will meet simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles for the award ceremony on Feb. 7.
Burn After Reading, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Focus Features
Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Written by Woody Allen, The Weinstein Company
The Visitor, Written by Tom McCarthy, Overture Films
The Wrestler, Written by Robert Siegel, Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord; Based on the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures
The Dark Knight, Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer; Based on Characters Appearing in Comic Books Published by DC Comics; Batman Created by Bob Kane, Warner Bros. Pictures
Doubt, Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, Based on his Stage Play, Miramax Films
Frost/Nixon, Screenplay by Peter Morgan, Based on his Stage Play, Universal Pictures
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, Written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker, InterPositive Media
Chicago 10, Written by Brett Morgen, Roadside Attractions
Fuel, Written by Johnny O'Hara, Greenlight Theatrical / Intention Media
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Screenplay by Alex Gibney, From the Words of Hunter S. Thompson, Magnolia Pictures
Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics
Dramatic Series Dexter, Written by Scott Buck, Daniel Cerone, Charles H. Eglee, Adam E. Fierro, Lauren Gussis, Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, Tim Schlattmann; Showtime
Friday Night Lights, Written by Bridget Carpenter, Kerry Ehrin, Brent Fletcher, Jason Gavin, Carter Harris, Elizabeth Heldens, David Hudgins, Jason Katims, Patrick Massett, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, John Zinman; NBC
Lost, Written by Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan; ABC
Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC
The Wire, Written by Ed Burns, Chris Collins, David Mills, David Simon, William F. Zorzi, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos; HBO
30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC
Entourage, Written by Doug Ellin, Jeremy Miller, Ally Musika, Steve Pink, Rob Weiss; HBO
The Office, Written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Anthony Farrell, Brent Forrester, Dan Goor, Charlie Grandy, Mindy Kaling, Ryan Koh, Lester Lewis, Paul Lieberstein, Warren Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Aaron Shure, Justin Spitzer, Gene Stupnitsky, Halsted Sullivan; NBC
The Simpsons, Written by J. Stewart Burns, Daniel Chun, Joel H. Cohen, Kevin Curran, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, Dan Greaney, Reid Harrison, Ron Hauge, Al Jean, Brian Kelly, Billy Kimball, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, David Mirkin, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore, William Wright; Fox
Weeds, Written by Roberto Benabib, Mark A. Burley, Ron Fitzgerald, David Holstein, Rolin Jones, Brendan Kelly, Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, Matthew Salsberg; Showtime
Breaking Bad, Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Patty Lin, George Mastras, J Roberts; AMC
Fringe, Written by JJ Abrams, Jason Cahill, Julia Cho, David H. Goodman, Felicia Henderson, Brad Caleb Kane, Alex Kurtzman, Darin Morgan, J.R. Orci, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Zack Whedon; Fox
In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Meritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO
Life on Mars, Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Becky Hartman Edwards, David Wilcox, Adele Lim, Bryan Oh, Tracy McMillan, Sonny Postiglione, Phil M. Rosenberg, Meredith Averill; ABC
True Blood, Written by Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Nancy Oliver, Chris Offutt; HBO
Episodic Drama - any length - one airing time
“Don’t Ever Change” (House), Written by Doris Egan & Leonard Dick; Fox
“Double Booked” (Burn Notice), Written by Craig O’Neill & Jason Tracey; USA
“Gray Matter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Patty Lin; AMC
“Pilot” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan; AMC
“Pilot” (Eli Stone), Written by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim; ABC
“There’s Something About Harry” (Dexter), Written by Scott Reynolds; Showtime
Episodic Comedy - any length - one airing time
“Believe in the Stars” (30 Rock), Written by Robert Carlock; NBC
“Cooter” (30 Rock), Written by Tina Fey; NBC
“Crime Aid” (The Office), Written by Charlie Grandy; NBC
“Crush’d” (Ugly Betty), Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally; ABC
“Succession” (30 Rock), Written by Andrew Guest & John Riggi; NBC
“Vote for This and I Promise to Do Something Crazy at the Emmys” (My Name is Earl), Written by Greg Garcia; NBC
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Black Christmas is a nihilistic evolution from the 1974 horror flick in which a solo good guy or girl always survive. It is also an exceedingly gruesome frenetic update of the original with distributor Dimension mandating a second cut of the film after the first wasn't bloody enough much to director Glen Morgan’s chagrin. In 2006's version a jaundiced sickly boy Billy is born to an abusive household. He learns to hate Christmas when his alcoholic mother murders his father on the holiday. Predatory spirit lingers in the building 30 years later now a refurbished sorority house. At least one killer is terrorizing the girls who are snowed in for the holiday. Billy meanwhile is a killer Santa locked in a sanitarium across town and is pining to escape. The sorority girls soon run for their lives. Surely you're not expecting The Departed--please the bigger the horror caricature the better. Michelle Trachtenberg as sorority sister Melissa is as adorably nymphish as we remember from TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The 21-year-old actress last seen in the Chad Lowe indie Beautiful Ohio does her first horror film and delivers several one-liners eligible for a Razzie Award. As disposable eye candy 20-something actresses Crystal Lowe and Jessica Harmon have been elevated from extra status for their seeming acting inability. Up-and-comer Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Bobby) sports her native North Carolina accent for presumed "Method" purposes playing the good-hearted Southern simpleton as though she's on Dawson's Creek. It's a good thing former Dawson's star Oliver Hudson is here as the jerky Kyle so unpredictable and malicious we don't know--or care frankly--if he's the killer or not. Why couldn't Katie Holmes have done this film instead of becoming Mrs. Tom Cruise? Glen Morgan seems to be a troubled man. Besides his work with Crispin Glover and an army of rats on Willard Morgan has with Black Christmas successfully captured a homicidal mother reproducing with her 13-year-old. It’s sick more so even than the college cuties whose brains are splayed across the garbage bags used to suffocate them. Early death scenes have effective comic punctuation similar to the irreverent Final Destination 3 which incidentally Morgan co-wrote produced and assistant-directed. But Black Christmas unfortunately devolves into a dark and troubled mud puddle. Cohesion is scrapped for sleekness. The movie has a violent loud erratic pulse but cinematic fluency evaporates after about 45 minutes. Even horror afficianados will likely tire at the insipidity.