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
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
Wizan died of natural causes after a long illness on Monday (21Mar11) in Westlake Village, California.
He began his career at top talent agency William Morris and helped to guide the careers of actor/director Sydney Pollack and moviemaker Robert Altman, before moving into film production.
His movie credits include 1970s pictures Junior Bonner with Steve McQueen, Jeremiah Johnson with Robert Redford, and Robert Wise thriller Audrey Rose.
Wizan also worked on 1984's Romancing the Stone and 1992 action comedy Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!, as well as the film adaptations of James Patterson's Alex Cross book Kiss the Girls (1997) and its 2001 sequel Along Came a Spider - the producer's final shoot.
He is survived by his wife Melanie, a son and a daughter, and two step-sons.
The Coen brothers could be adding a third Writers Guild of America Award to their impressive trophy case next month if they can nab best original screenplay for their quirky comedy Burn After Reading. The WGA, who announced their nominees today, presented Joel and Ethan Coen with best adapted screenplay last year for No Country for Old Men and best original screenplay in 1997 for Fargo.
Rounding out the contenders this year are Dustin Lance Black for Milk, Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Tom McCarthy for The Visitor and Robert Siegel for The Wrestler.
The WGA’s best adapted screenplay noms include Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with story by Roth and Robin Swicord; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight with story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; John Patrick Shanley for Doubt, based on the stage play; Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon, based on his stage play; and Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire.
WGA members will meet simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles for the award ceremony on Feb. 7.
Burn After Reading, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Focus Features
Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Written by Woody Allen, The Weinstein Company
The Visitor, Written by Tom McCarthy, Overture Films
The Wrestler, Written by Robert Siegel, Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Screenplay by Eric Roth; Screen Story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord; Based on the Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures
The Dark Knight, Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer; Based on Characters Appearing in Comic Books Published by DC Comics; Batman Created by Bob Kane, Warner Bros. Pictures
Doubt, Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley, Based on his Stage Play, Miramax Films
Frost/Nixon, Screenplay by Peter Morgan, Based on his Stage Play, Universal Pictures
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based on the Novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, Written by Stefan Forbes and Noland Walker, InterPositive Media
Chicago 10, Written by Brett Morgen, Roadside Attractions
Fuel, Written by Johnny O'Hara, Greenlight Theatrical / Intention Media
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Screenplay by Alex Gibney, From the Words of Hunter S. Thompson, Magnolia Pictures
Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures Classics
Dramatic Series Dexter, Written by Scott Buck, Daniel Cerone, Charles H. Eglee, Adam E. Fierro, Lauren Gussis, Clyde Phillips, Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, Tim Schlattmann; Showtime
Friday Night Lights, Written by Bridget Carpenter, Kerry Ehrin, Brent Fletcher, Jason Gavin, Carter Harris, Elizabeth Heldens, David Hudgins, Jason Katims, Patrick Massett, Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, John Zinman; NBC
Lost, Written by Carlton Cuse, Drew Goddard, Adam Horowitz, Christina M. Kim, Edward Kitsis, Damon L. Lindelof, Greggory Nations, Kyle Pennington, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Brian K. Vaughan; ABC
Mad Men, Written by Lisa Albert, Jane Anderson, Rick Cleveland, Kater Gordon, David Isaacs, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Marti Noxon, Robin Veith, Matthew Weiner; AMC
The Wire, Written by Ed Burns, Chris Collins, David Mills, David Simon, William F. Zorzi, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos; HBO
30 Rock, Written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Donald Glover, Andrew Guest, Matt Hubbard, Jon Pollack, John Riggi, Tami Sagher, Ron Weiner; NBC
Entourage, Written by Doug Ellin, Jeremy Miller, Ally Musika, Steve Pink, Rob Weiss; HBO
The Office, Written by Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Anthony Farrell, Brent Forrester, Dan Goor, Charlie Grandy, Mindy Kaling, Ryan Koh, Lester Lewis, Paul Lieberstein, Warren Lieberstein, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur, Aaron Shure, Justin Spitzer, Gene Stupnitsky, Halsted Sullivan; NBC
The Simpsons, Written by J. Stewart Burns, Daniel Chun, Joel H. Cohen, Kevin Curran, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, Dan Greaney, Reid Harrison, Ron Hauge, Al Jean, Brian Kelly, Billy Kimball, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, David Mirkin, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore, William Wright; Fox
Weeds, Written by Roberto Benabib, Mark A. Burley, Ron Fitzgerald, David Holstein, Rolin Jones, Brendan Kelly, Jenji Kohan, Victoria Morrow, Matthew Salsberg; Showtime
Breaking Bad, Written by Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Patty Lin, George Mastras, J Roberts; AMC
Fringe, Written by JJ Abrams, Jason Cahill, Julia Cho, David H. Goodman, Felicia Henderson, Brad Caleb Kane, Alex Kurtzman, Darin Morgan, J.R. Orci, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, Zack Whedon; Fox
In Treatment, Written by Rodrigo Garcia, Bryan Goluboff, Davey Holmes, William Meritt Johnson, Amy Lippman, Sarah Treem; HBO
Life on Mars, Written by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Becky Hartman Edwards, David Wilcox, Adele Lim, Bryan Oh, Tracy McMillan, Sonny Postiglione, Phil M. Rosenberg, Meredith Averill; ABC
True Blood, Written by Alan Ball, Brian Buckner, Raelle Tucker, Alexander Woo, Nancy Oliver, Chris Offutt; HBO
Episodic Drama - any length - one airing time
“Don’t Ever Change” (House), Written by Doris Egan & Leonard Dick; Fox
“Double Booked” (Burn Notice), Written by Craig O’Neill & Jason Tracey; USA
“Gray Matter” (Breaking Bad), Written by Patty Lin; AMC
“Pilot” (Breaking Bad), Written by Vince Gilligan; AMC
“Pilot” (Eli Stone), Written by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim; ABC
“There’s Something About Harry” (Dexter), Written by Scott Reynolds; Showtime
Episodic Comedy - any length - one airing time
“Believe in the Stars” (30 Rock), Written by Robert Carlock; NBC
“Cooter” (30 Rock), Written by Tina Fey; NBC
“Crime Aid” (The Office), Written by Charlie Grandy; NBC
“Crush’d” (Ugly Betty), Written by Tracy Poust & Jon Kinnally; ABC
“Succession” (30 Rock), Written by Andrew Guest & John Riggi; NBC
“Vote for This and I Promise to Do Something Crazy at the Emmys” (My Name is Earl), Written by Greg Garcia; NBC
MORE NEWS: 'Idol' Winner Homeless?
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
Just a little bit longer, one week actually, before the miracle of autumn, when TV starts anew, like fresh flowers growing out of the compost pile you keep out back. Can you smell it? Mmm … compost. In the meantime … um … well, the Olympic Games are still on. Only 220.75 hours to go. Apparently you aren't watching the tape delayed archery contests as much as in past Olympics, and we (and a few folks at NBC) find that a little disturbing. Come on, people! We medaled in the 10-meter BB gun (sorry, air rifle) competition. Surely that's interesting! U-S-A! U-S-A! Hello?!
It's "PBS Week" at Channel Surfer, and that means one thing: Day and time may vary in your area! The festivities begin (for most of you) on Sunday with "Debating Our Destiny." Ever wonder why leading presidential candidates hate debating with third party candidates on TV? It's because the last thing you want, as a leading presidential candidate, is to have somebody talking about actual issues in a televised debate! Now, PBS' venerable news anchor, Jim Lehrer, throws all that out the window by bringing in 11 former candidates (including former President Bush) who no longer have everything to gain by not saying anything. And guess what? These guys can be very forthcoming and aren't nearly as stupid as they pretend to be when courting your vote. This one is illuminating, frustrating and worth watching. Tuesday is "Supernatural Night"! "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" kicks off its fifth season (8 p.m. on the WB) when Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) squares off against a perennial player in the vampire set, Dracula. Should make for an interesting feud. "Buffy" is followed by the second season premiere of its darker spin-off, "Angel," at 9 p.m. The repentant vampire, Angel (David Boreanaz) starts off the new season on the wrong foot when he mistakenly kills a demon that turns out to have been a good guy who had been protecting a mysterious woman. Angel tries to make good and takes over this job, only to find out that this woman (Justina Machado) has serious unresolved issues with the hell spawn crowd. Rounding out the evening, and continuing to fight the good fight in educating Americans about the ever present space aliens among us, "Danger in Our Skies: The New UFO Threat" airs on UPN at 9 p.m. Sure it's a repeat, but can we ever really get enough UFO shows?
Wednesday offers dueling tributes to butt-kickin' movie stars. PBS' "American Masters" anthology series (8 p.m., but of course day and time might vary) has Morgan Freeman narrating "Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows." Study the exploits of Dirty Harry and watch the metamorphosis of Eastwood's "Man With No Name" character from the stylized violence of the Sergio Leone-directed Westerns of the 1960s to the aged and wiser Will Muny of Eastwood's own Oscar-winning "Unforgiven" in 1992.
Trying hard to beat the Eastwood tribute will be TNT with "Hollywood Salutes Bruce Willis: An American Cinematheque Tribute" at 8 p.m.. This will be a clip-filled ceremony taped at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with presentations and appearances by friends and colleagues such as Paul Reiser, Kevin Pollack, David Letterman, Samuel L. Jackson, Haley Joel Osment, Larry King and the guy who gave Willis that first big break, "Moonlighting" creator Glenn Gordon Caron.
One question: If it's "American," then what the heck is "Cinematheque"? Oops, gotta go. Olympic lawn darts is on MSNBC! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Drew Carey is first out of the gate in this second full week of the May sweeps in the title role of "Geppetto" on ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" (7 p.m. EDT/PDT, today). The classic family-friendly tale, best known from the 1940 animated classic "Pinocchio," gets a live-action makeover, being retold from the point of view of the puppet turned real boy's "single father." This musical production includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Seinfeld") as the Blue Fairy and original songs from Stephen Schwartz.
And if that hasn't hooked you yet, try passing this up: Drew Carey sings!
In other tube highlights:
Jason London -- Sandwiched between last week's better-hyped "Arabian Nights" and next week's sure ratings-powerhouse "Jesus" comes this week's "Jason and the Argonauts" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT, today and Monday, NBC), based on the ancient Greek action hero. If this miniseries reminds you of another recent NBC mini, "The Odyssey," it should. "Jason" is yet another big-time production from sweeps guru Robert Haimi Sr. When you crank out as many epics as this guy does, the law of averages says, "Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss." Well, after "Nights," Halmi seems to be on an epic roll (ugh, sorry about that), as "Jason," once again, delivers. This story has always been a crowd-pleaser as the young Prince Jason (played by Jason London) gathers a group of heroes (including Hercules in perhaps the big guy's first-ever major guest appearance) and goes off adventurin' on his ship, Argo. Expect neato special effects, big scary monsters, islands inhabited exclusively by hot babes and plenty of heroic ass kickings all around.
Wendie Malick -- After a return to the Top Ten (with a little help from a special airing after "Friends"), NBC's sometimes-good, sometimes-just-OK sitcom "Just Shoot Me" (9:30 p.m. EDT/PDT, Tuesday) offers up something terrific. The hazy details of the life of former supermodel/party queen Nina (Wendie Malick), who is often the best part of this show anyway, gets the spotlight in this spoof of A&E's "Biography." Guest star Harry Smith helps document how the ditzy beauty Forrest Gumped her way through major events of the past several decades, including how she broke up the Eagles and caused the downfall of Studio 54. Clever guest appearances by Jerry Hall, Sydney Pollack and more add to authentic documentary feel of this great half-hour of TV.
-- Long-brewing romances are the order of the night Thursday as NBC offers special hourlong episodes of both "Friends" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT) and "Frasier" (9 p.m. EDT/PDT). "Friends" will continue to tease Chandler's impending proposal to Monica (revealed at the end of last week's show). And over on "Frasier," as Daphne's wedding day approaches, the pressure on Niles to "speak now or forever hold his peace" builds.
-- And finally, amid all the money being spent on special effects, Fox musters up Battle of the Child Geniuses: Who Is the Smartest Kid in America (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Tuesday) and "Powers of the Paranormal -- Live on Stage" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Thursday).
Hosted by Dick Clark, "Child Geniuses" features gifted children competing in what is ominously billed as "the most intense game show ever devised." Fox can be frightening sometimes (and we aren't talking about "The X-Files"), but this show pretty much takes the cake. Is this battle of child geniuses to the death or what?
On the lighter, goofy side of "scary," "Powers of the Paranormal" serves up two hours of gratifyingly cheesy infomercial-quality programming -- the sort of stuff we've come to expect from Fox. This special promises "X-ray psychic vision … channeling … past-life regression" and more, performed "live" on stage. The producers also suggest that you could even have a paranormal event in your own home while watching! We say … really? Cool!