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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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
When award season rolls around there’s only one show that no one in Hollywood wants to be a part of ... the Annual Razzie Awards. The only competition honoring the best of the worst in film.
Even the biggest stars can’t dodge the occasional stinker and this year Mike Myers’ was no different. His summer flop The Love Guru received seven nominations, including worst picture, worst actor and worst screenplay for Myers. Ouch!
Myers shouldn’t feel too bad, Paris Hilton didn’t fair much better with nods for worst actress and worst screen couple for Hottie and the Nottie and worst supporting actress for Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Hilton’s Hottie and the Nottie will also compete for worst pic alongside The Love Guru, The Happening, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and spoof flicks Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans.
The 29th Annual Razzies, determined by the 687 members of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, will be announced Feb. 21, the morning before the Academy Awards.
And the nominees are:
Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans
The Hottie and The Nottie In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
The Love Guru
Larry the Cable Guy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Mike Myers, The Love Guru
Al Pacino, 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill
Mark Wahlberg, The Happening and Max Payne
Jessica Alba, The Eye and The Love Guru
Cameron Diaz, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton, The Hottie and the Nottie
Kate Hudson, Fool's Gold and My Best Friend's Girl
The entire cast of The Women (Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith and Meg Ryan)
Uwe Boll, 1968 Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Postal
Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer for Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Tom Putnam, The Hottie and the Nottie
Marco Schnabel, The Love Guru
M. Night Shyamalan, The Happening
Worst Supporting Actor
Uwe Boll (as himself), Postal
Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia!
Ben Kingsley, The Love Guru, War, Inc. and The Wackness
Burt Reynolds, Deal and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Verne Troyer, The Love Guru and Postal
Worst Supporting Actress
Carmen Electra, Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Paris Hilton, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Kim Kardashian, Disaster Movie
Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Leelee Sobieski, 88 Minutes and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans (jointly) - written by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
The Happening - written by M. Night Shyamalan
The Hottie and the Nottie - written by Heidi Ferrer
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale - screenplay by Doug Taylor
The Love Guru - written by Mike Myers & Graham Gordy
Worst Screen Couple
Uwe Boll & any actor, camera or screenplay, 1968 Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Postal
Cameron Diaz & Ashton Kutcher, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton & either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore, The Hottie and the Nottie
Larry the Cable Guy & Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy & Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Worst Rip-Off, Prequel or Remake
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans (jointly)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
MORE NEWS: Next...Obama the Musical?
For bringing in 35 million viewers for its season finale and being television's most popular show, Friends and NBC claimed the prize of top network for the 2001-02 television season. CBS finished a solid second, with its show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the second most-watched show on the air, while ABC and Fox followed in third and fourth place, respectively.
Jerry Lewis returned home Tuesday after staying overnight at a hospital, where doctors made a routine check on a device that Lewis had surgically implanted April 8. The device, called Synergy Neurostimulation System, has helped eased chronic back pain Lewis has been suffering from years of pratfalls. He told the Las Vegas Sun that it has left him pain free for the first time in 30 years.
Actress Jenny McCarthy gave birth to a boy, Evan Joseph Asher, on Saturday. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and is the first child for McCarthy and her husband, director John Asher.
Wasting no time since announcing his departure from Saturday Night Live, funny guy Will Ferrell is set to star in a new film, Action Newsman. He'll play an egotistic local news anchorman threatened by an ambitious female newscaster who, unlike his character, has mastered journalism.
Annette Bening will star in a remake of the Disney film Freaky Friday. The story is about how a mother and her rebellious tomboy daughter, secretly wishing for each other's lives, switch bodies for a day. The original 1976 film starred Barbara Harris as the mother and a young Jodie Foster as the daughter.
In the Biz
Yet another thing the strange Michael Jackson is obsessed with: Sky News reported the Gloved One announced in Cannes that he'll be producing and starring in the film Wolfed, playing a werewolf. He's been fascinated with werewolves since seeing John Landis' 1981 film An American Werewolf in London and got to play one when Landis directed Jackson's music video to the hit song "Thriller."
Director Woody Allen filed a lawsuit last May against his former producer Jean Doumanian, claiming she cheated him out of $14 million in profits, and now Doumanian's lawyer says Allen has overstated what he is owed. According to The Associated Press, Doumanian's lawyer, Lee A. Armstrong, claimed he received a document from Allen's lawyer asking for only $2 million. Allen's camp denies the mix-up, saying Armstrong's "characterization of the document was completely false and uninformed."
Sony Pictures has picked up the rights to yet another Marvel comic-book hero: Ghost Rider. This superhero, named Johnny Blaze, makes a pact with the devil to save someone he loves, but the deal goes awry (as deals with the devil tend to do). Blaze, now embodied with superhuman powers, transforms into a ghost rider to try to reclaim his life, love and soul.
Quickly becoming a powerhouse producer in Hollywood, the multitalented Ice Cube has signed up to produce the comedy feature Race under his CubeVision banner. The film is a fish-out-of-water story about a black cab driver who gets involved in a stock-car race. Ice Cube will not be starring in this particular venture.
Looks like the rash of TV nostalgia shows will finally be tapering off after the May sweeps. According to AP, several TV executives have admitted that they may have overdone it with the clip-filled specials on such shows as The Cosby Show, M.A.S.H., The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Laverne and Shirley. Think so?
Pop-punk band Blink-182 will be making a guest appearance on the 300th episode of The Simpsons this fall. The show has Bart moving out of the Simpson house and into his own apartment, where the band and pro skater Tony Hawk are his neighbors. The episode will air next season.
You can't kill the Dead, man. That's right, the surviving members of The Grateful Dead will be jamming for the first time since lead singer Jerry Garcia died in 1995 of a heart attack, according to the AP. They will perform a two-day concert in East Troy, Wis., Aug. 3-4.
Variety reports producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Black Hawk Down) will be receiving the Albert R. Broccoli Award of Excellence at this year's Cinema Expo in June. Past recipients included producers Saul Zaentz, Brian Grazer and Claude Berri.