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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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The Scottish TV mogul told of his passion for his work as he picked up the special award for Outstanding Writing at the London ceremony, held by The Writers' Guild of Great Britain.
He told the audience, "Write what you love. I've never loved anything as much as Doctor Who and Sherlock."
However, Moffat and his Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss missed out on winning the prize for Best TV Short-Form Drama as screenwriter Neil McKay's Fred West-inspired two-part film Appropriate Adult scooped the prize.
Acclaimed Hollywood film We Need to Talk About Kevin won Best Screenplay for Lynne Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear at the event, which recognises writers working in theatre, TV, books and radio.
Moffat took over as Doctor Who's lead writer and executive producer in 2009, while he also masterminded the creation of Britain's Sherlock Holmes-inspired TV show Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Prepare for huge, mind-bogglingly awesome news: word has it Michael Fassbender is in talks to star alongside Natalie Portman.
The film in question is in the in-development Black List script Jane Got a Gun, a Western about a woman whose outlaw husband shows up littered with bullets on her front porch. Portman, who is also producing, would star as the woman who seeks out an old flame to help defend her home. According to Vulture's sources, Fassy could be that old flame. However, nothing is certain because Hollywood.com has confirmed with backer Scott Pictures that a male lead has yet to be officially cast. But really, could anything else match the majesty of this potential pairing?
But if the pedigree of the script's Black List status, Portman's involvement, and the potential of Fassbender weren't enough. There's more. We Need to Talk About Kevin writer/director Lynne Ramsay is helming the flick, but for a change she's taking a backseat on the writing. Being that the script made the famous Black List last year, newcomer Brian Duffield remains the screenwriter. After all, if it ain't broke...
With the exception of Portman and (potentially) Fassbender, the film is perfectly situated in the world of Independent film, coming in with a budget under $20 million, and is being produced only by small companies, including Portman's own handsomecharlie films with Scott Steindorff's production company providing the financial base.
So, besides the potential of an on-screen match we thought only possible in our dreams, is the big deal? If this picture goes down without a hitch, it could be a serious awards contender. It's got all the right pieces, including an acclaimed Indie director and an Oscar winner. Not that the Fassbender-Portman combo wouldn't already have us enraptured, but this movie is going to be one to keep our eyes on, folks.
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[Photo Credit: Wenn (2)]
More:Michael Fassbender Vs. Ryan Gosling: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Fan FavoriteMichael Fassbender as James Bond - The Trailer!Cannes Chatter: Kristin Stewart in 'On the Road,' Portman 'Got a Gun'
The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival is officially in full swing, with nearly everyone in Hollywood transported to the prestigious French fest for a week and a half of wheeling and dealing. Catch up on all the goings-on with Cannes Chatter.
For a new mother, Natalie Portman shows no sign of slowing down. Along with roles in the upcoming Thor 2, the Terrence Malick double feature Knight of Cup and To the Wonder and a possible part in the next movie from the Wachowskis, Portman is now attached to star in Jane Got a Gun, a Western from We Need to Talk About Kevin director Lynne Ramsay. Deals for the film, which would see Portman playing a woman who must protect her home from the gangsters who killed her husband, are currently being pitched at Cannes. The script for Jane made the 2011 Black List, a compilation of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood. Sounds like a winner already. [Deadline]
One of the bigger premieres of the festival went down Tuesday evening, the long-gestating adaptation of On the Road. Sporting Kristen Stewart, Garrett Headland, Sam Riley, Kirsten Dunst and a host of others, the Walter Salles-directed film was highly anticipated by attendees and film buffs alike. Did it satisfy?
The quintessential tome of the beat generation is loose and expressive, and The Hollywood Reporter suggests the filmmakers found a way to visualize the tone: "the colors are intense, looks and gestures are fleetingly caught, rhythms are varied to convey highs and lows of perception and sensation." HitFix is positive, giving props to Stewart who gives "good work…further indication that as soon as she puts the Twilight series in her rearview mirror, she's got a promising career ahead of her." Indiewire is less enthusiastic, suggesting that "after a while the film feels like any other roadtrip -- no matter how beautiful the scenery flickering by through the window, eventually you just want to get out of the goddamn car," while Film School Rejects points out the clunky nature of the film as a whole — including the placement of its all-star cast. "The film also features lunatic cameos from Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams and Steve Buscemi, which are all accomplished, but are dropped into the narrative too clumsily to make them feel like anything but ill-fitting jigsaw pieces." The movie will be released by IFC in the Fall, and now there are two new looks riding the coattails of the Cannes debut:
Is Cannes turning into Comic-Con? Following in the footsteps of the Weinstein Company's Django Unchained/The Master/Silver Lingings Playbook footage showcase, rumors are swirling that the festival will hold its own secret presentation, a selection of cinematic snippets from films on the horizon. Movies rumored to be involved with the screening include The Impossible, a Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor drama revolving around the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and legendary Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai's martial arts epic The Grandmasters. What, no Dark Knight Rises? [Deadline]
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[Photo Credit: WENN.com]
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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