We've seen her vie for the love of Prince Christopher against the efforts of her wicked stepmother in Cinderella. We've watched her transform friendship to romance with her lifelong neighbor Hakeem on Moesha. And now, we'll see our beloved Brandy drink in the wonders of matrimony with her new fiancé, Ryan Press. People reports that the one-named actress and R&B icon is newly engaged to the music executive.
Brandy, born Brandy Norwood, and Press announced their courtship last New Years Eve; Brandy has since teased the idea of a future with Press by claiming she'd "marry him with a bubble-gum ring." Brandy has also made mention of how well her 10-year-old daughter Sy'rai Smith (whom Brandy had with her ex-boyfriend, music producer Robert Smith) and Press have taken to one another.
[Photo Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty Images]
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Indie queen Christina Ricci will be working with eclectic director Woody Allen on his next untitled project. As usual, the plot is being kept firmly under wraps, but The Hollywood Reporter notes the film will center around three young adults. Jason Biggs (American Pie) is also on board. Filming is set to start in the spring.
Ricci is hot on the independent film market right now, having starred in this year's Sundance Film Festival darling Pumpkin and Miramax Films' upcoming Prozac Nation. She'll also be seen in HBO's The Laramie Project, which airs Saturday, March 9.
In a trendy Manhattan art gallery, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Art Garfunkel and many other celebrities attended a gala preview Monday of artwork by students, faculty and alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The event was hosted by James Wyeth, son of artist Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C.Wyeth.
Country singer Faith Hill is going to the Academy Awards. She'll be performing the song "There You'll Be" from the movie Pearl Harbor, written by Diane Warren. The song has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category, along with other nominated songs from Monsters, Inc., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Kate & Leopold and Vanilla Sky.
Sean Combs, whose previous aliases revolved around being called "Daddy," finally faced up to the real thing when he reached a custody and financial settlement Tuesday with former model Kimberly Porter, mother of his three-year-old son, Christian. Combs had been a no-show in court nine times over the last year and was threatened with an arrest if he failed to appear Tuesday. He'll be providing child support, health insurance and other necessities for the child.
Pop singer/actress Brandy Norwood, 23, told MTV's Carson Daly on Total Request Live Tuesday the baby she is carrying is a girl. Brandy secretly wed record producer Robert Smith, 22, last summer. The baby is due in July.
Legendary comedian Lucille Ball's childhood home was put on the market via the Internet. The two-story house in Chautauqua County in upstate New York, where Ball lived from the time she was 8 years old to the middle of her high school years, is listed on the Web site eBay for an asking price of $98,500 by real estate broker Bruce Turner. The 112-year-old house had been sitting on the regular market for nearly a year before Turner put it on eBay. So far, the house has yet to be sold.
Dana Delaney of China Beach fame is returning to television. She'll star in a new hospital drama, Presidio Med, for CBS, playing a pediatric doctor. And in other TV casting news, Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri has signed up for the ABC comedy pilot With You in Spirit, about a recent college grad (Reid Scott) who ends up in Spirit, N.M., working as a reporter. Primetime television just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts has decided to slow things down. In November, she'll be leaving ABC's This Week and co-anchor Sam Donaldson, when her contract expires. She wants to spend more time with her family. Roberts is still in conversations with ABC on what role she will play in the future with the network and will continue reporting for National Public Radio. To further fan the fire, The Hollywood Reporter reported there is speculation that George Stephanopoulos and Claire Shipman will replace Donaldson and Roberts, but ABC network officials have strongly denied the report.
ABC is just on the hot wire lately....As CBS and ABC continue to iron out their bids for talk-show host David Letterman, Ted Koppel defended his 22-year-old ABC news show Nightline, which ABC executives are rumored to be considering bumping in favor of Letterman's higher-rated show. Reuters reported Koppel wrote a op-ed piece and spoke out against the network executives. He wrote, "When Nightline is gone...and should the occasion arrive that our work might again seem relevant to the anonymous executive, it will not then be possible to reconstitute what is so easily destroyed." Letterman, however, has made it clear he will not consider moving to ABC unless the network can assure him that he is not responsible for knocking Koppel off the air.
Punk rocker Adam Ant was released on bail relating to his January arrest after an altercation in a London pub. He was arrested on charges of criminal damage, assault and possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intention to cause fear of violence. The plea hearing is set for May 1 to decide whether the case will be heard.
Winona Ryder was charged Friday with one count each of grand theft, commercial burglary, vandalism and possession of a controlled substance, stemming from her Dec. 12 shoplifting arrest at a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills. According to the Associated Press, prosecutors are also seeking to increase Ryder's bail from $20,000 to $30,000. The 30-year-old actress is due back in court Feb. 8 for arraignment.
The Girl, Interrupted star is accused of trying to lift $4,800 in clothing and accessories from the high-end department store and of carrying the painkiller Oxycodone without a prescription. After her arrest, her attorney Mark Geragos contended that Ryder was just carrying items between store departments and that she had receipts for other items she bought in the store, as well as a valid prescription for the painkillers.
Dubbed as the female equivalent of John Travolta in Battlefield Earth, Mariah Carey (Glitter) is this year's frontrunner for worst actress for the Golden Raspberry Awards, which honor the year's worst films. Preliminary tabulations also show Carey's cleavage may also receive a nod, so to speak, in the worst screen couple category, Ananova.com reports. The full list of Razzie nominations will be announced February 11.
Julia Roberts will appear at the Oscars again this year, but this time as a presenter rather than a nominee. It's the third time Roberts, who won Best Actress last year for her role in Erin Brockovich, has presented. The 74th Academy Awards will take place on March 24 at the new Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Jamie Foxx, who has a house in Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that he may take on the role of Bosley in the Charlie's Angels sequel. Since Bill Murray, who played Bosley in the first film, will not be returning for Charlie's Angels 2, Foxx joked he could replace him as his son, the product of "a hot little night back in the 'hood."
Robert De Niro as fashion plate? An exhibit opening Wednesday at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, will celebrate the various get-ups the actor has worn on screen. Robert De Niro: Costume & Character will trace the actors cinematic ensembles including his leopard skin robe in Raging Bull and the apricot fire-singed suit from Casino, PageSix.com reports.
Hugh Hefner is reportedly looking for an apartment in New York. According to PageSix.com, Hef has enlisted the help of Gordon Golub and Howard Boyar of Citi Habitats to help him with his search. The Playboy king hasn't decided on new digs yet.
According to Nielsen data for Friday and Saturday, NBC is leading early sweeps thanks to strong series performances from Friends and Will & Grace, Variety reports. ABC came in second, thanks in part to Barbara Walters' 20/20 interview with Celine Dion's and Stephen King's Rose Red, with CBS following close behind. Fox came in last, but will probably move into the lead when Sunday's Super Bowl is factored into the February sweeps.
Super Bowl commercials, which sold for an average of just under $2 million for 30 second spots, ran a wide spectrum of topics this year, from fast food to anti-terrorism. Fox said 30 companies bought ads for 37 brands. Brewer Anheuser-Busch was the biggest sponsor with five minutes of ad buys.
NBC's The West Wing has yanked a television spot for this week's episode in which an American reporter is kidnapped, The New York Times reports. The network made the move after viewers pointed out similarities to the abduction of Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. NBC has no plans to replace the episode, but will run a new ad focusing on a different angle of the same plot.
Pop star Brandy Norwood secretly married music producer Robert Smith last summer, reports celebrity gossip maven Florence Anthony. The singer and Cover Girl model said in a statement through her record company, Atlantic Records, "I've fallen in love with a very warm, gentle, understanding, and focused person...This summer we married quietly."
Following a two-year break, Celine Dion is getting back to work with a new album and a multimillion dollar Las Vegas performance contract, and is also making plans to have a second baby. According to Reuters, the 33-year-old singer has clinched a deal to sing five nights a week for three years at Caesar's Palace. In an interview with Barbara Walters last Friday, Dion also revealed plans to use a frozen embryo to try for a second child with her manager-husband Rene Angelil after her Las Vegas stint.
Paul McCartney is planning a tour for the first time in 10 years, Reuters reports. In a statement Monday, McCartney announced the Drivin' USA tour will start some time in early April and include 14 concerts in the United States plus one show in Canada.
A tribute to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack featuring Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch and the Soggy Bottom Boys will be among the first musical acts for the 44th annual Grammys, Variety reports. The Dave Matthews Band, 'N Sync, Nelly, U2 and Alicia Keys were previously announced as performers.
Movin' Out, a musical featuring 26 of Billy Joel's songs and instrumental compositions, will begin Broadway performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on September 30, Broadway.com reports. The show is scheduled to play a world premiere engagement at Chicago's Shubert Theatre from June 25 to August 4 before heading to New York.