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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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Wait, what? Bill Murray is heading to the small screen? According to Deadline, Murray has joined the cast of HBO's Olive Kitteridge, the miniseries based on Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a small New England town (with an Old England title).
The miniseries, adapted by Jane Anderson and directed by Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), will follow the tough and moral titular Olive (Frances McDormand) and "a seemingly placid New England town fraught with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy." Murray is set to play Jack Kinnison, a widower and member of the town whom Olive befriends.
Other cast members include the likes of Richard Jenkins (Olive's husband), the recently added Rosemarie DeWitt, John Gallagher Jr., Zoe Kazan, Jesse Plemons, and Cory Michael Smith. And to add even more names to the list, Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are executive producing with McDormand and Anderson.
The casting news comes as a pleasant suprise considering that Murray already has a full plate of upcoming projects. (The usually elusive actor is starring in Monuments Men, The Grand Budapest Hotel, St. Vincent De Van Nuys, and Cameron Crowe's untitled film.) By the looks of it, Murray has dived head first back into his acting career, and we're definitely not complaining. In fact, we're hoping that he'll swim over to a little project called Ghostbusters III. We all know Dan Aykroyd would jump up and down in excitement (as would we).
Director Will Gluck is auctioning off the chance to appear as an extra in Jay Z and Will Smith's remake of classic musical Annie. The film, produced by the 99 Problems rapper and the Men in Black star, features Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx and is expected to be in cinemas for Christmas, 2014.
Bids for the small role on auction website CharityBuzz have already reached $4,600 (£3,066) and are expected to reach $10,000 (£666,000) by the time the auction closes on 11 October (13).
Proceeds from the sale will go to Shaking With Laughter, a charity funding research into Parkinson's disease.
Every day seems to bring news of another biopic film in the works. What can we say; audiences can't get enough of famous dead celebrities — and presidents, for that matter. While J.D Salinger might roll over his in grave over the latest Salinger documentary, the autobiographical film puts the power and story into the hands of the filmmaker with deeply personal results that blend fact with fiction imperceptibly. Here's a sampling of some memoir-cum-movie picks.
Short Term 12
Screenwriter and director Destin Cretton took his time spent working at a foster care facility and turned it into one of the most moving films of this year. His first-hand experience shapes the film and prevents it from veering into after-school special territory, while making the audience feel like they experienced it with him.
When faced with a grim diagnosis such as spinal cancer, it helps to have Seth Rogen as your best friend to help you cope through comedy. After being diagnosed at the age of 24, comedy writer Will Reiser wrote a screenplay with Rogen about what happened to their friendship after the diagnosis and all the awkward interactions that illness can bring.
Jonathan Caouette made indie film history when he made his autobiographical documentary for only $218.32. Then again, most of the film is made up of family movies and personal footage from age 11 and up. While it may not be familiar to a large audience, Caouette's story is equally troubling as it is fascinating — thanks to his manic mother and schizophrenic storytelling.
This movie just further proved that none of us would ever be as cool as Cameron Crowe. At the ripe age of 16, he finagled a job reporting for Rolling Stone, toured with the Allman Brothers Band, lost his virginity to three groupies AND made a highly successful movie out of it. Also, rest assured; Penny Lane is real.
Lena Dunham's commitment to rooting her HBO series Girls in reality is well documented; as anyone who's seen the Q-tip episode can attest. Before she mined her real life experiences of gay ex-boyfriends and British ex-pat artists as best friends, her first feature laid the groundwork for all the creative-nonfiction that was to follow. If it's hard to separate Dunham from her onscreen personas, than that means her job is done.
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Alan Taylor, director of the upcoming superhero flick Thor: The Dark World, and director of several Game of Thrones episodes (some of the show's best ones at that) has officially snagged directing duty for the upcoming Terminator film. Taylor's previous work with Thor and Thrones displays his particular talents for fantasy filmmaking.
Besides his work in genre film and television, Taylor has worked on pretty much every HBO show of note, including Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, OZ, and Boardwalk Empire among others. While Thor 2 is only his first massive film project, it will undoubtedly give him the experience necessary to direct the futuristic sci-fi spectacle that the new terminator project is sure to be.
According to Variety, other directors including Rian Johnson, Ang Lee, and Denis Vileneuve were targeted, but it fell to Taylor to continue the Terminator saga, which started almost 30 years ago with the James Cameron original.
Taylor delivered the mythical grandeur of Asgard, and the quiet desolation of Harrenhal, but how will he capture the apocalyptic wasteland that awaits us when our Roombas become sentient and start killing their fleshy masters? Only time will tell.
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Music video director Cameron Duddy has married fashion photographer Harper Smith. The couple exchanged vows at actress Connie Stevens' ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on 10 August (13), reports People.com.
The veteran Hawaiian Eye star is the groom's step-grandmother as her daughter, actress Joely Fisher, is married to Duddy's father, cinematographer Christopher Duddy.
August (13) was a big month for the director - he won big at the MTV Video Music Awards weeks later for his work on Bruno Mars' Locked Out of Heaven promo, which was named Best Male Video at the New York prizegiving.
Boardwalk Empire star Bobby Cannavale has joined Jamie Foxx in the 2014 movie remake of Annie. The actor will play Guy, a political consultant to Foxx's character, Daddy Warbucks.
Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis is slated to play Annie in the film, with Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan and Rose Byrne as Grace.
Jay Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are also onboard as producers.
Actress Rose Byrne is in talks to join Cameron Diaz in a revamped version of beloved movie musical Annie. The Bridesmaids star has been tapped to portray Grace in the role made famous by Anne Reinking in the classic 1982 film, according to Eonline.com.
If she signs on, it will be Byrne's debut in a big screen musical. She will appear alongside Diaz as cruel orphanage boss Miss Hannigan, Jamie Foxx as the rich Daddy Warbucks character, who will be renamed Benjamin Stacks, and child star Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role.
Will Smith and rap mogul Jay-Z are attached to produce the project, which is scheduled for release next Christmas (Dec14).
It'd take a real master of the acting craft to marshall up the ability to pretend not to like Quvenzhané Wallis. That's presumably why the role of Miss Hannigan, the cruel, child-hating orphanage matron from the classic Annie, has gone thus far uncast in the developing new film adaptation of the musical starring Wallis. Rumors had linked Sandra Bullock to the part, but she resisted. No doubt because one glance at that charming Hushpuppy evaporated any shred of the Oscar winning actress' confidence in her capability for good ol' cinamatic villainy. However, new reports from Deadline peg Cameron Diaz as the next name to try her hand at the impossible task.
Diaz has signed on as Miss Hannigan, working alongside Wallis as the titular Annie and Jamie Foxx as that old softy Daddy Warbucks. Hannigan's notable songs include "Little Girls" and "Easy Street," both of which are vindictive ditties about her aversion to humankind and her love for money (and alcohol). Although Diaz has handled nefarious characters in the past, she still seems somewhat the odd choice for this time-honored musical baddie... but as long as she can maintain a grimace in the face of Wallis' life-affirming smile, then she'll do.
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Cameron Diaz has been cast in the upcoming Hollywood remake of movie musical Annie after Sandra Bullock passed on the role. The bubbly blonde will have to channel her mean side to play cruel orphanage boss Miss Hannigan after the Speed star withdrew from talks.
According to Deadline.com, the There's Something About Mary actress will play Miss Hannigan alongside Jamie Foxx as the rich Daddy Warbucks character, who will be renamed Benjamin Stacks, and child star Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role.
Annie, which is being produced by Will Smith and rap mogul Jay-Z, is set to hit theatres in the U.S. on Christmas Day next year (25Dec14).