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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Who doesn't want to go back to the 90s? The love for all things neon. The height of video game technology... wait, are we already there? And now comes word that the beloved Disney Channel series, Boy Meets World is going to hit our TV sets again.
TVLine reports that the show's creator Michael Jacobs (you might remember him from our cast roundtable) has already begun casting for the project, titled appropriately enough, Girl Meets World. The new show will follow the daughter of the series stars Cory Matthews (played by Ben Savage) and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fisher).
So, it got us thinking. What other blasts from the past shows would we love to see revived, and just as importantly, what would they be about?
Thanks to The CW we're saved the trouble of having to come up with new storylines for Beverly Hills, 90210 (as the spin-off show is already in its fifth season). Saved by the Bell had more spin-offs than we had Nintendo games. The College Years and The New Class, anyone? And Sex and the City will return to TV with a prequel series, The Carrie Diaries. But what about old favorites like Party of Five, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?
(Insert Wayne's World dream sequence sound effect here.)
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996)
When we last left the Banks family, all the children had grown up and were leaving the nest: Hillary and Ashley to New York, Carlton to Princeton, and everyone's favorite British butler Geoffrey back home to England. The only one remaining in California was Will. Since the show is based loosely on Will Smith's life, it would only make sense to continue his life story. And just like in his real life, his kids are his main focus. Couldn't you just see Willow and Jaden playing a pair of siblings living the high life in The Golden State? Though that might make the show less of a series and more of a reality show.
Since Joey — the show's attempt at continuing the series — was merely a blip on our radar, we can feel free to come up with our own ideas. Season 10 – which ended eight years ago — finally gave us the ending we had all been wanting: Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Ross (David Schwimmer) were together, Monica (Courteney Cox) and Ross (Matthew Perry) saw their wish for kids come true, Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) was married, and Joey (Matthew Perry) was, well, Joey. It's easy to say we would be happy if the show picked up with Rachel and Ross and their life as a little family, but we would miss the rest of the Central Perk gang. This might be the one show where you can't beat the original, and any attempt at a remake would be almost as ridiculous as Hypercolor T-shirts. What were we thinking?
Party of Five (1994-2000)
Who can remember the show Time of Your Life, which followed Sarah (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her big move to New York City? Okay, us either. Moving on. The original show — which followed the Salinger family — had so many crazy story lines (cancer, alcoholism, domestic abuse...) we don't think there is anywhere left for it to go. However, we would be up for a reunion show. Scott Wolf, Neve Campbell, Jeremy London? That has ratings gold written all over it.
What do you think? Any shows from the 90s you'd love to see get a second chance? Tell us in the comments section below.
[Photo Credit: ABC (11)]
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
As you might have guessed, the BAFTA ceremony was this weekend and a bunch of British films won. Of course this was bound to happen. I'd give it to my home team, too. The results don't necessarily determine the outcome of the Oscar's in two weeks, but it does confirm that there are a lot of great films competing this year. The King's Speech was easily the big winner, taking home Best Film, Actor, both Supporting Actor awards, British Film, Original Screenplay and Music. Inception and Alice in Wonderland, as the only other slightly British films in Hollywood, took most of the technical awards for Production Design, Hair & Make Up, Visual Effects, etc. And when the Brits didn't have a clear domestic winner, I like to imagine they begrudgingly handed them over to David Fincher, Natalie Portman, Toy Story 3 and the lot.
Best Film- The King’s Speech
Director - The Social Network - David Fincher
Leading Actor - Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
Leading Actress - Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Supporting Actor - Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech
Supporting Actress - Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
Adapted Screenplay- The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
Original Screenplay - The King’s Speech - David Seidler
Animated Film - Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkrich
Outstanding British Film - The King’s Speech
Film Not In The English Language - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer - Four Lions - Chris Morris (Director/Writer)
Cinematography - True Grit - Roger Deakins
Editing - The Social Network - Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter
Production Design - Inception - Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat
Sound - Inception - Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick
Special Visual Effects - Inception - Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb
Make Up & Hair - Alice In Wonderland - Valli O'Reilly, Paul Gooch
Original Music - The King’s Speech - Alexandre Desplat
Costume Design - Alice In Wonderland - Colleen Atwood
Short Film - Until The River Runs Red - Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis
Short Animation - The Eagleman Stag - Michael Please
The Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award (voted by the public) - Tom Hardy
Even as the world stood still on Tuesday to watch the swearing-in of President Barack Obama -- and the festivities that surrounded it -- Sundance has been heating up with a bevy of deals concluded and more on the way.
Among them: Sony Pictures Classics picked up North American rights to Lone Scherfig's An Education while IFC Films took U.S. rights to Tommy Wirkola's Nazi zombie horror film Dead Snow, Lionsgate bought rights in North America and the U.K. to James Strouse's The Winning Season.
On Monday night, Fox Searchlight bought worldwide rights to Max Mayer's Adam, which it hopes to turn into the next Once.
In other Sundance doings, interest is also swirling around the well-reviewed Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor film, I Love You Phillip Morris. Summit is said to be circling that film while other pics driving interest include The Cove, World's Greatest Dad, Spread, Amreeka and Push.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter opines that romantic comedies are the new subgenre at Sundance. Films like Adam, Phillip Morris, Jay DiPietro's Peter & Vandy, Greg Mottola's Adventureland, the Michael Cera-film Paper Heart and 500 Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel have been generating a lot of feel-good buzz.
"There's been such innovation in really simple love stories this year," fest director Geoffrey Gilmore said. "For 20 years, everything stayed the same, and then suddenly we have a half-dozen films dealing with different approaches to being in a relationship."
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A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.