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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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
One thing that far too many entries of zombie-related media do not seem to get is that walkers aren't the only issue you've got to deal with in a zombie apocalypse. There's also the little pain in the neck that is other people. Luckily, our trusty AMC series The Walking Dead understands this concept.
Season 2 of the phenomenal Robert Kirkman adaptation will take the group, consisting of Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son (Chandler Riggs), Rick's spouse-stealing best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal), the group's mystical patriatch Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), grieving sister Andrea (Laurie Holden), token racist Daryl (Norman Reedus) and spirited pizza boy Glenn (Stephen Yuen) to new levels of in-fighting, distrust and disloyalty. Where the camp was a place of sanctuary last season, it may now present an even greater danger than the zombies themselves.
Or it'll be a close second. They are, after all, zombies. The Walking Dead returns to AMC with a 90-minute premiere on October 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Click the picture to check out the Walking Dead season 2 gallery!
Mad Men looked set to dominate the night, going in with 19 top nominations, and it continued its winning streak for the best drama title for the fourth year in a row.
But the stars of the period drama didn't fair so well - Jon Hamm was a four-time loser for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series - Kyle Chandler claimed that prize for his role in Friday Night Lights, while Julianna Margulies beat the likes of Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Kathy Bates (Harry's Law) to take home the female equivalent for her turn in The Good Wife.
Meanwhile, Modern Family started the Emmys as they planned to go on - TV husband and wife Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen kicked off the celebrations by walking away with the acting honours for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Comedy Series.
The hit programme went on to earn accolades for writing and directing before being crowned best comedy at the end of the event.
It was a good night for the Brits too - Kate Winslet was named Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for Mildred Pierce, while Downton Abbey's Dame Maggie Smith claimed the supporting actress in a miniseries or movie title.
Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee) were already winners before the red carpet at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre was even rolled out - they were honoured at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend (10Sep11) in the Outstanding Guest Performance in a Comedy Series category.
Awards host Jane Lynch opened the show with a song-and-dance sequence featuring Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy and the cast of Mad Men, while Andy Samberg's comedy rap trio The Lonely Island, featuring crooner Michael Bolton and R&B singer Akon, and rapper/actor LL Cool J, were among the musical acts providing the entertainment in between awards at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre.
The main list of winners at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards is as follows:
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series: Jim Parsons - The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series: Melissa McCarthy - Mike & Molly
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series: Kyle Chandler - Friday Night Lights
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series: Julianna Marguiles - The Good Wife
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Barry Pepper - The Kennedys
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Ty Burrell - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Julie Bowen - Modern Family
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: Peter Dinklage - Game Of Thrones
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Margo Martindale - Justified
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Guy Pearce - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie: Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Justin Timberlake - Saturday Night Live (Host)
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Gwyneth Paltrow - Glee
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Paul McCrane - Harry's Law
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Loretta Devine - Grey's Anatomy
Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family
Outstanding Drama Series: Mad Men
Outstanding Miniseries Or Movie: Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Animated Programme: Futurama
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: The Kennedy Center Honors
Outstanding Reality Programme: Deadliest Catch
Outstanding Reality-Competition Programme: The Amazing Race
Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series: Steven Levitan and Jeffrey Richman - Modern Family (Episode: Caught In The Act)
Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series: Jason Katims - Friday Night Lights (Episode: Always)
Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Julian Fellowes - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Rich Blomquist, Wyatt Cenac, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliot Kalan, Josh Lieb, Sam Means, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Outstanding Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: David Boone, Matt Roberts, and Mo Rocca - 64th Annual Tony Awards
Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series: Michael Alan Spiller - Modern Family
Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series: Martin Scorsese - Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special: Brian Percival - Downton Abbey (Masterpiece)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series: Donny Roy King - Saturday Night Live (Host: Justin Timberlake)
Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special: Lonny Price - Sondheim! The Birthday Concert.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Top Story: Model Jenna Survives for $1 Million
Twenty-one-year-old swimsuit model Jenna Morasca was named CBS' Survivor: The Amazon's newest millionaire after the final ballots were tallied and announced during the live finale Sunday. Morasca beat runner-up 33-year-old restaurant designer Matthew Von Ertfelda, who won $100,000. She told The Associated Press that in December she returned home to Pittsburgh from her adventure expecting that the sealed vote had gone Von Ertfelda's way: "He embodies everything a survivor is. He's an amazing guy." "But I'm so proud of myself," she added, "and happy that I won." What does she plan to do with the money? Pay school loans and take her mom on a vacation, Morasca told AP. "Then we'll see if there's anything left."
Cruise Bids Fond Farewell to New Zealand
After wrapping his latest film The Last Samurai in the Taranaki province of New Zealand, Tom Cruise, who spent four months there with his two children, admitted to a local New Zealand radio station he was going to miss the locale, AP reports. "I'm going to miss the fish and chips, we're going to miss our Friday night McDonald's you know, we are going to miss the beach at night," the actor said.
Moore Released From Hospital
Roger Moore, best known for playing James Bond in seven movies during the '70s and '80s, was released from the hospital Friday after being fitted for a pacemaker to control normal heart rhythm, AP reports. Moore, 75, collapsed last Wednesday during a guest cameo in the Broadway comedy The Play What I Wrote but was able to finish the show.
Romano Stays On for $50 Million
Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano will soon be known as the highest-paid actor in television. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Romano has agreed to do an eighth season of his Emmy-winning sitcom, which will net him nearly $50 million. The comedian will be making about $1.7-$1.8 million per episode, surpassing the record of $1.6 million held by Frasier's Kelsey Grammer.
NBC Slates Six New Shows for Fall
After much gnashing of teeth, NBC has chosen six new shows--three comedies and three dramas--to fill out their fall schedule. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network has made 13-episode orders for untitled Tracy Morgan and Whoopi Goldberg comedies and an adaptation of the BBC ensemble comedy Coupling, as well as an untitled Las Vegas drama starring James Caan, an ensemble legal drama with Rob Lowe, and the dramedy Miss/Match starring Alicia Silverstone.
Osbourne Says So Long to Sony
Rocker Ozzy Osbourne has decided to part ways with Sony Music after 23 years--and he is taking his daughter Kelly with him. Business Wire.com reports wife Sharon is negotiating the separation deals for Ozzy and Kelly, who signed with Sony in 2000, and said in a statement, "We've had 23 great years together. We've shared many great successes, but sometimes you have to search out fresh blood to get fresh ideas which is a philosophy that every record company, especially Sony, understands."
Three Men Caught RentingIllegal Military Props
Two ex-soldiers and a third man who run a thriving Hollywood props shop have allegedly been caught falsifying Army documents to gather weapons and military gear to rent to the movie industry, the Los Angeles Times reports. One of the props, an Army mechanic's toolbox, was used in the 1997 film McHale's Navy, according to a 16-count federal indictment filed in March. Named in the complaint were former Army Sgt. Matthew Robert Anderson, former Army Reserve Capt. Steve Goyen and Jared Jeffrey Chandler, who allegedly falsely claimed to be an Army Reserve sergeant.
Carol Channing Weds Childhood Sweetheart
Eight-two-year-old Carol Channing, best known for originating the part of Dolly in the musical Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, married her childhood sweetheart, 83-year-old Harry Kullijian, in San Francisco, Calif. Sunday. Reuters reports the two were once an item when they were in junior high, but when Kullijian found out Channing wanted to see him after all these years, he admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle, "I thought she was dead." He then added, "She still had the same spark. I just knew it was the right thing to do."
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.