Summit Entertainment's Highlander reboot is starting to look like the moors of Scotland, and by that I mean uninhabited by people. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was most recently attached to direct, but he left in November 2012. Now Ryan Reynolds has left the project as well. Reynolds was attached to play Connor MacLeod, an immortal Scottish swordsman forced to confront the Kurgan, a brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled "Prize."
Art Marcum and Matt Holloway wrote the Highlander reboot, while Noah Oppenheim penned the most recent draft. Melissa Rosenberg also took her turn with the script in 2011. Justin Lin was originally attached to direct in September 2009, though he exited the project in August 2011 to focus on Fast and Furious 6.
Leaving the film won't hurt Reynolds, as he'll soon begin filming Tarsem Singh's thriller Selfless, which FilmDistrict will release on Sept. 26, 2014. He also stars opposite Jeff Bridges in Universal's R.I.P.D and voices the title character in Turbo, which DreamWorks Animation opens July 17. And his exit might actually help the reboot. When it eventually finds a new director, he or she will have more freedom with the vision for the film without being stuck with another director's casting choice.
In the end, there can only be one Highlander star — until he leaves, that is. Then there will be a different one.
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Talk show guru Oprah Winfrey has decided to cut back on her book club recommendations, which have been known to send a book straight to the Top 10 best-sellers list, because she is finding it more difficult to find books she can rave about. "It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share," Winfrey said in a statement on her show Friday. "I will continue featuring books on The Oprah Winfrey Show when I feel they merit my heartfelt recommendation."
Winfrey has also decided to cut back on traveling because she says she doesn't feel safe, recently postponing a trip to South Africa to promote the launch of her magazine, O. "My instinct says things aren't right in parts of the world. All parts--and to get from my part to your part, I'd have to travel over other parts," Winfrey told a South Africa newspaper Sunday Times.
Is it him or isn't it? Two-time Grammy winner R. Kelly is having to answer questions about allegations that he appeared in a sexually explicit videotape with a minor that is being sold illegally across the country and on the Internet. The R&B artist denies all claims but Chicago police are investigating. Meanwhile, some radio stations in the Chicago area are boycotting the singer's music.
Tony-winning actress Jane Alexander and her husband, director/producer Edwin Sherin, are taking up teaching positions at Florida State University in the fall as part of its Eppes Professor program, which invites high-profile professionals to join the academia.
John Ashcroft may be the U.S. attorney general, but his first love is music. To prove it, he is scheduled to make an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, during which he may sing a few songs for the audience. Letterman has been poking fun at the attorney general recently, showing clips of Ashcroft singing his own song, "Let the Eagles Soar," at a theological seminar in North Carolina. The Late Show segment is being taped Tuesday, AP reports.
Following on the heels of the successful Carol Burnett Show reunion special which aired last year, TV nostalgia will reign again when CBS airs a Mary Tyler Moore Show retrospective May 13 during the all-important "sweeps" month. The special will star members of the old cast, including Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod and Betty White.
Actor/singer Harry Belafonte will receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's lifetime achievement award. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter, told AP, "Mr. Belafonte has been a great role model, possessing not only professional gifts and talents, but he also reflects the gift of social sacrifice and political consciousness that has helped African Americans in their struggle."
Roy Huggins, writer/producer of TV classics such as Maverick and The Fugitive, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., of natural causes. He was 87. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Adele Mara, and their three sons, Thomas, John and James.
The Producers Guild of America bestowed its top honors on the musical extravaganza Moulin Rouge Sunday night at the 13th Annual Producers Guild Awards. The wild Rouge--about a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub and produced by Martin Brown, director Baz Luhrmann and Fred Baron--is also nominated for an Academy Award. PGA best picture winners have gone on to win the Oscar nine out of 12 times.
Other winners of the evening included NBC's The West Wing, winning best television drama, HBO's Sex and the City, winning best television comedy, and HBO's Band of Brothers, winning best television movie, miniseries or other long-form television.
Grammy winner Alicia Keys, Luther Vandross, Gerald Levert, India.Arie and comedian Cedric the Entertainer will kick off this year's Essence Music Festival at New Orleans' Louisiana Superdome. The three-day event starts July 4, while other performers such as Mary J. Blige, Al Green and comedian Steve Harvey will take the stage over the course of the festival.
Roger Moore, the suave '70s and '80s James Bond, will be taking on a new role in his next film--an over-the-top gay man. The 74-year-old actor will appear in the Cuba Gooding Jr. comedy Boat Trip, about two straight guys who end up on a gay cruise, due out this summer. Moore told the Associated Press he hopes his performance "will make the audience raise their eyebrows a little bit." Sounds like a good bet.
Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai is getting another Hollywood treatment from Miramax Films and MGM, Variety reports. The classic Japanese epic about a small village hiring seven samurai to protect them from thieving bandits was remade into 1960's The Magnificent Seven, starring Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein described Samurai as "the mother of all 'guys on a mission' movies."
In the world of celebrity boxing matches (yes, apparently there is one), ice-skating terror Tanya Harding, who had her opponent Nancy Kerrigan's knee smashed prior to the 1994 Olympic trials, will fight Paula Jones, the first woman to accuse former president Clinton of unwanted sexual advances in 1991. Harding was supposed to have fought Amy Fisher, the young girl who shot her lover's wife in 1992. But no can do. It's Jones and Harding all the way. Fox Television will air the match March 13.
After the South African premiere of Ali, South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela praised the legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali as being one of the people he most admires. Mandela told Reuters, "He (Ali) brought a new kind of legend to boxing, and I am very happy indeed to be here to join you in paying tribute to my hero and the hero of millions right across the seas."
President Bush and leading politicians were treated to an evening of entertainment Sunday to showcase American pop culture. The gala event, held at the legendary Ford's Theater and hosted by Frasier's Kelsey Grammer, had an all-star line-up, including performers such as Stevie Wonder and David Copperfield.
U2 lead singer Bono met with White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to discuss African debt relief in his ongoing campaign against Third World poverty. He has been trying to get Washington to drop the debt of some of the world's poorest nations for many years and has been using the success of his band's music to help the effort. U2 just won four Grammy awards, including record of the year.
A documentary about the hard-rock band Metallica is looking to be as juicy as Madonna's Truth or Dare. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have been trailing the band since last April, while the band was in the studio cutting a new album. Since filming began, however, traumatic events have shaken the band, including the departure of bassist Jason Newsted after 14 years this past January and lead singer James Hetfield's rehab woes. No release date has been set.
Pop star Will Young, the 23-year-old singer who was discovered on the reality-based TV show Pop Idol, has sold more than a million copies of his first record in a week, making it Britain's fastest-selling single ever. The single "Anything Is Possible/Evergreen" has sold 1,108,269 copies. Who is Will Young, you ask? Guess we'll get to know more about Will soon enough.
In regard to the death of a teenager at a Sydney, Australia, concert Jan. 26, 2001 where Limp Bizkit and other bands were playing, Alexander Murdoch MacLeod, Limp Bizkit's tour manager, blames the concert venue for being understaffed and poorly managed. At an inquest into the death of 15-year-old Jessica Michalik, who was caught in a rush to the stage and suffered a heart attack, he told the court he thought the staff was insufficiently trained for a crowd breakdown.