Director/producer Jeffrey Pollack has died at the age of 54. The Above the Rim filmmaker was found dead on the Greenbelt trail in Hermosa Beach, California on Monday (23Dec13).
Pollack was reportedly jogging when he collapsed and passed away.
An autopsy to identify his cause of death is pending.
Pollack began his Hollywood career in 1993, when he wrote, produced and directed drama Above the Rim starring rapper Tupac Shakur.
He went on to direct Booty Call starring Jamie Foxx in 1997 and Lost & Found with David Spade in 1999.
He also helped to create Will Smith's hit U.S. TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with business partner Benny Medina, with whom he formed a management and production company called Medina/Pollack Entertainment.
The firm was later renamed Handprint Entertainment with clients including Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Tyra Banks, before closing down in 2008.
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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After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
Five young people obsessed for various reasons with last year's low-budget blockbuster "The Blair Witch Project" venture into the same spooky Maryland woods where the film was shot. Hey it was only a movie right? It's not like there's any truth to all that complicated mythology on the Web site! The misguided youngsters barely have time to set up their video equipment however before enough weird things start happening to make them wish they'd been fans of "Scream" instead.
In a movie this messed up it's hard to tell if any of the five unknowns in the lead roles can act or not. Jeffrey Donovan is offbeatly intense as the group's mentally disturbed guide - or is he just confused by the script? Tristen Skyler and Stephen Barker Turner playing a couple writing a book about the "Blair Witch" phenomenon pull off a few of the film's more convincing moments. Kim Director and Erica Leerhsen are generally harder to buy as a Goth fashion victim and a practicing Wiccan/witch's rights activist respectively.
Making an unpromising debut as a feature director acclaimed documentarian Joe Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper") delivers a dragging unengaging dud likely to pop up on many "worst of 2000" lists. Gone is the home-video realism and refreshingly simple storytelling that made the first "Blair Witch" such an authentically scary experience. Berlinger takes the series back to the slick look and feel of standard Hollywood fare packing "Book of Shadows" with laughable melodrama and unbelievable plot twists that are only frightening if you happen to own stock in Artisan Entertainment. The surprise revelations in the last act are so incomprehensible that when Donovan's character screams "This makes no sense!" it's enough to bring the house down.