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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Aw, another year? Really? More taxes, annoying celebrity Instagram photos, and Taylor Swift boyfriend scandals? That's not what we signed up for when we totally bought into that Mayan Apocalypse thing, universe. We just don't know if we can take another Swifty break-up. We'd take the Rapture any day.
Still, there are some legitimate reasons to be excited that we made it out okay, even without John Cusack's help. From the return of a beloved, quirky sitcom to one of the most badass blockbuster concepts ever, behold our top 10 reasons to be excited for 2013:
Pacific Rim: Pacific Rim is a Guillermo del Toro-directed sci-fi thriller, where the likes of Jax from Sons of Anarchy (Charlie Hunnam), Stringer Bell from The Wire (Idris Elba), and Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Charlie Day) team up to create giant, man-controlled robots to fight the alien monsters who sprouted from a crack in the ocean. If you're not already peeing yourself, we can't help you.
Man of Steel: What our world needs most — even more than its own Superman — is a good movie about Superman. After the disastrous Superman Returns incident of 2006, we were hesitant when it was announced that Henry Cavill (The Tudors) would put on the suit for yet another remake. But when we learned that Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark... you get our drift) would produce, and when the stellar cast assembled, we felt better. Then the trailer came out, and now we're just ridiculously excited.
Star Trek Into Darkness: We really enjoyed the franchise's first go-round back in 2009, and having J.J. Abrams back at the helm — as well as American Horror Story baddie Zachary Quinto as Spock — gives us confidence for the sequel. Oh, and Benedict Cumberbatch plays the villain, so there's that.
NEXT: Small-screen wondersReally Good TV
The Following: We've already seen the pilot for the new Kevin Williamson drama, which stars James Purefoy as a behind-bars serial killer with a terrifying worldwide following (get it?) and Kevin Bacon as the FBI agent who has no choice but to stop him. It. Is. Terrifying. Also, it's unlike anything you've ever seen on network TV. Do give it a shot — unless you enjoy sleeping at night.
Arrested Development: New episodes of Arrested Development seven years after its cancellation? Come on! This must be an illusion, Michael. But it's true — production began last summer, and 12-15 episodes (featuring cameos by beloved guest stars like Liza Minnelli, Henry Winkler, Mae Whitman, and Judy Greer) will premiere on Netflix early this year. But one major question remains — whatever happened to Steve Holt?
Bates Motel: A weekly look into the relationship between Psycho's resident psycho (Norman Bates) and his mother, starring the kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Freddie Highmore) and movie star Vera Farmiga? Sounds pretty cool. Add some enticing trailers and the fact that it's produced by Lost guru Carlton Cuse, and we're sold.
The Americans: FX has proven itself to be a go-to network for quality drama (we're talking to you, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and American Horror Story), and the idea of a show about Cold War KGB agents posing as everyday Americans is pretty awesome — especially when you throw in Keri Russell as the main agent, who is in an arranged marriage with another agent (Matthew Rhys). Oh yeah, and they have kids who have no idea that their parents could be activated at any second.
NEXT: From the page to the screen (finally)
Our Favorite Books, As Movies
The Great Gatsby: “He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.” Sigh. We love you, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and we're hoping that Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Baz Luhrmann and co. do you justice. If not, that'd be a bigger crime than hitting Myrtle with a car.
Ender's Game: Here's a reason to stick around until November: A big-screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card's devastating sci-fi novel Ender's Game! The story of a brilliant boy whose childhood is stolen when he's picked to save the world from aliens has been haunting parents and kids alike for generations, and we can't wait to see what director Gavin Hood can do with it.
World War Z: Sorry, Walking Dead — we love you, but Max Brooks' World War Z is arguably the greatest work of zombie fiction in the land. The things human beings will do for survival — and they ultimately do survive — when faced with fear, abandonment, and uncertainty are explored via multiple eyewitness accounts told to a U.N. employee in the novel. The film is taking a different approach — the U.N. employee (played by Brad Pitt) isn't trying to explore the catastrophe after the fact, he's the tried and true action hero trying to save the day. We like the first idea better, but are excited to see what Marc Forster has done with the source material.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: FOX, Warner Bros. (2)] MORE:Apocalypse Nowish: How Movies, TV Think the World Will End 10 Unanswered Pop Culture Questions We NEED to Figure Out Before the World Ends The 20 Best Movies of 2012 (and the 5 Worst) You Might Also Like: 20 Hottest Bikini Bodies of 2012: Kim Kardashian and More! Best Movie & TV Ugly Criers of 2012: PICS
Steven Spielberg is a director who is never satisfied with convention. Where other directors may pat themselves on the back for having one film released within a calendar year, in 2011, Spielberg decided to release two films...within the same month…and within one week of one another. With The Adventures of Tintin, Spielberg assembles a crack team of voice actors to bring his mo-cap animated adventure to life. But War Horse is live-action, requiring arguably more acting talent—as there is not the possibility of one actor doubling up and providing multiple voices. Luckily Spielberg, who is a bit of a workhorse, and has wrangled quite the impressive ensemble for War Horse. Here are a few names from the credits with whom we think you should get better acquainted:
Emily Watson’s face may be familiar, even if her name escapes you. Watson has been flexing her well-toned action muscles for well over a decade. Her breakout performance was as the titular matriarch in 1999’s Angela’s Ashes, based on the international best-selling novel by Frank McCourt. Since then, this British actress has turned up in films such as Gosford Park, Punch-Drunk Love, Red Dragon, and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Emily Watson has been nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Angela’s Ashes and one for the 1996 Lars von Trier film Breaking the Waves. Waston will next be seen in Little Boy, costarring Sean Astin and Kevin James, which interestingly takes place during WWII; War Horse taking place during WWI.
Tom Hiddleston was not a name readily on anyone’s lips, but within a two-year span, Hiddelston is well on his way to becoming a household name. Hiddleston appeared as villainous Norse god Loki in Marvel Studio’s big screen, big budget adaptation of their hero Thor. Hiddleston displayed great talent as the rogue god and proved to be quite the foe for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Adding to his already banner year, Hiddleston also turned in a fantastic performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Hiddleston will be reprising the role of Loki next year, when he takes on several heroes at once in Joss Whedon’s highly anticipated The Avengers.
Not too long ago, a major cinematic franchise saw its storied saga come to a dramatic conclusion. That franchise was of course that of boy wizard Harry Potter, based on the unstoppably popular series of novels by author J.K. Rowling. David Thewlis has been a part of the eight-film Harry Potter series ever since the third installment Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He played Remus Lupin, confirmed lycanthrope and lifelong friend of Harry’s father James and his faithful devotion to protecting young Harry made him one of the most beloved characters of the franchise. Along with his fantasy work, Thewlis is a long-time collaborator of British auteur Mike Leigh, starring in both Life Is Sweet and Naked. This year, the actor also appeared in Roland Emmerich's Shakespeare mystery Anonymous.
In terms of British actors, Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the most exciting rising talents working today. While Robert Downey Jr. may occupy the current cinematic position of Sherlock Holmes, Cumberbatch owns, and I mean (owns) the role on the BBC series Sherlock. In addition to his incredible portrayal of one of popular fiction’s greatest detectives, Cumberbatch has appeared in films such as Atonement, Four Lions, and this year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Next year, and then the year after, Cumberbatch will be appearing in Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth: The Hobbit.
Probably the most obscure name on this list is Toby Kebbell—but he is definitely an actor worth knowing. In 2004, Toby burst onto the scene with a powerhouse performance in Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes, Kebbell’s feature film debut. Kebbell played a sweet-natured, mentally handicapped man tortured by a group of local thugs to the point that he ends his own life; the man’s older brother, played by Paddy Considine, subsequently taking revenge on the thugs. This film is a true gem that I can’t recommend highly enough. Kebbell also appeared as Johnny Quid in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla as well as landing roles in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Next spring, Kebbell will play Agenor in Wrath of the Titans.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Mel Gibson has settled a lawsuit with the screenwriter of his religious epic The Passion of the Christ.
Benedict Fitzgerald, who co-wrote the 2004 film, filed suit against the actor/director in 2008, maintaining that the superstar had cheated him out of millions of dollars in potential earnings.
He alleged that he was only paid $75,000 and had to borrow hundreds of thousands from Gibson to cover his expenses. The Passion of the Christ went on to gross an estimated $600 million worldwide.
Fitzgerald claimed he should have been paid a fee more in line with the true cost of the movie, and asked a judge to force Gibson to come up with the accounts.
The matter was settled on Monday, reports TMZ.com. No details were released.
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
MORE NEWS: Applegate Sitcom Cancelled
Mel Gibson has appealed to a Los Angeles judge to grant a privacy motion in his legal battle with the co-screenwriter of The Passion of the Christ, in a bid to keep financial records about the 2004 film secret.
Benedict Fitzgerald is suing Gibson, who directed the controversial religious epic, over accusations he cheated the screenwriter out of millions of dollars in potential earnings.
He claims Gibson engaged in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit" by telling him he was working on a project with a budget of between $4 million and $7 million.
Fitzgerald alleges he was only paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson to cover expenses. The Passion of the Christ went on to gross an estimated $600 million worldwide.
In a court motion filed on Tuesday, lawyers working for Gibson and his Icon Productions company--which is also named as a defendant--are seeking to seal the movie's financial information, and only allow Fitzgerald's attorneys access to them.
Gibson's appeal comes just days after he filed papers asking a judge to dismiss the fraud allegations filed against him by Fitzgerald.
The two parties are due to meet in court for a hearing on June 20.
COPYRIGHT 2008 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Mel Gibson has filed legal papers asking a judge to dismiss a fraud allegation filed in a recent lawsuit by the co-screenwriter of his religious epic The Passion of the Christ.
In his lawsuit, Benedict Fitzgerald claimed Gibson, who directed the controversial 2004 film, engaged in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit" by telling him he was working on a project with a budget of between $4 million and $7 million.
Fitzgerald claims he was only paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson to cover expenses. The Passion of the Christ went on to gross an estimated $600 million worldwide.
However, in legal documents filed on Tuesday, Gibson claims Fitzgerald had to know The Passion of the Christ's budget due to the extensive publicity the film attracted.
The actor/director, who is named as a defendant alongside his Icon Productions company, also claims Fitzgerald waited too long to file his suit and hasn't offered an adequate explanation for the delay.
A hearing is set for June 20.
COPYRIGHT 2008 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Mel Gibson stands accused of fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices in a lawsuit filed by the co-screenwriter of his religious epic The Passion of the Christ.
Benedict Fitzgerald accuses Gibson, who directed the controversial 2004 film, of engaging in a "chronic and conspiratorial pattern of deceit" by telling the writer he was working on a project with a budget of between $4 million and $7 million.
Fitzgerald claims he was only paid $75,000 and that he had to borrow $200,000 from Gibson to cover expenses, reports People.com.
The Passion of the Christ went on to gross an estimated $600 million worldwide.
The lawsuit, filed on Monday, reads: "Gibson preyed monetarily on Ben, taking advantage of his unbridled enthusiasm for the project and with full cognizance of Ben's fundamental personal and spiritual beliefs."
COPYRIGHT 2008 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.