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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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2000 -- At long last, an awards show that's dedicated solely to the people who are truly indispensable to Hollywood: makeup artists and hairstylists.
Yes, you heard right -- one entire awards ceremony, with all the necessary trimmings and accoutrements, has sprung up to give special notice to industry makeup artists and hairstylists ... and no one else. (Don't worry, plastic surgeons of America, you'll probably get your nods soon enough).
Nominations for the 1st Annual Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, honoring outstanding makeup and hair achievements in film and TV, were announced today. The nominees in the 17 categories were chosen by 1,100 active members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706. Guild members will vote for the winners. Balloting begins Tuesday, with awards to be handed out March 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
If all this sounds terribly serious stuff -- it is, according to guild committee member Marvin Westmore, scion of George Westmore, who started the first makeup and hair department at the Selig studio in 1917, and for whom the Lifetime Achievement Award is named after.
"It's very difficult to get the makeup and hair artists recognized in a proper manner. In the makeup field, as in the hair field, there're a number of categories that are never considered," Westmore said today. "We've got a category on contemporary makeup and hair, historical makeup and hair ... and about 15 other categories that address other specialties. We feel that it's important to give all the industry hair and makeup artists their proper due and not just simply lump their achievements together."
Celeb presenters who will dignify the event include Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Kim Delaney, Brendan Fraser, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Rob Lowe.
Here's the complete list of nominees:
Best Contemporary Makeup -- Feature
Debbie Zoller, James MacKinnon and Jill Cady for "Goodbye Lover" (Regency/Warner Bros.)
Ronnie Specter for "The Story of Us" (Castle Rock/Universal)
Allan Apone, Donald Mowat, Ron Snyder and Adam Brandy for "Three Kings" (Warner Bros.)
Toni G and Will Huff for "The General's Daughter" (Neufeld/Rehme Productions/Paramount)
Best Period Makeup -- Feature
Leonard Engleman for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Patty York, Cheryl Nick, Michele Burke and Steve Artmont for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Ronnie Specter for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Character Makeup -- Feature
Sheryl Leight Ptak for "Man on the Moon" (Jersey Films/Universal)
Cheri Minns for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone)
Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch for "Sleepy Hollow" (Paramount)
Best Special Effects Makeup -- Feature
Michele Burke, Kenny Myers, Will Huff and Kevin Haney for Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, and Vernon Troyer as Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone) Stan Winston and Mike Smithson for Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling -- Feature
Enzo Angileri for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (MGM)
Cydney Cornell for "American Beauty" (DreamWorks)
Paul LeBlanc for "Anywhere But Here" (Fox 2000 Pictures) Frances Mathais for "Simpatico" (Emotion Pictures/Canal Plus/King's Gate/Fine Line)
Best Period Hair Styling - Feature
Peter Tothpal, Janet McDonald and Angie Cameron for "The 13th Warrior" (Touchstone)
Candy Walken, Jeri Baker-Sadler, Jennifer O'Halloran and Toni-Ann Walker for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Vivian McAteer for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Best Contemporary Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Patty Bunch Leisure and Cynthia Bachman for "Big Brother Is Coming," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Cynthia Bachman and Patty Bunch Leisure for "I Never Promised You An Olive Garden," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "Thank You Providence," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham for "Triangle," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Marie DelPrete fpr "Between a Rock Star and Hard Place," "Rude Awakenings" (Showtime/Mandalay TV/Columbia/TriStar TV)
Lisa Layman, David Syner and Joseph Regina for "Pilot," "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Character Makeup - Television
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #505, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #507, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcatf and Kevin Westmore for "Two Fathers/One Son," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Best Special Effects Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Michael Westmore, Scott Wheeler, James Rohland and Ellis Burman for "Dark Frontiers," "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN/Paramount)
Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe and Brigette Myre-Ellis for "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Fox/WB)
Bill Corso and Douglas Noe for "Just Duet," "L.A. Doctors" (CBS)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story" (ABC) Marvin Westmore,
June Westmore and John Jackson for "Lansky" (HBO)
Best Character Makeup --Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Douglas Noe for "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Ken Nelson and Suzanne Kontonickas for "The Devil's Music," "Charmed" (Spelling Television/WB)
Tim Burke for "Homo For The Holidays," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata for "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You" (NBC/Columbia TriStar TV)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Lana Heying for Episode #592 "Lataya, Letisha and Lanesha," "All That" (Nickelodeon)
Garbillera Pollina for "Prom Night," "That 70's Show" (Fox/Carsey-Werner)
Best Character Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Dugg Krikpatrick and Judith Teidemann for "Episode #511, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Judith Teidemann, Dugg Krikpatrick and Chris Curry for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Best Innovative Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Dugg Krikpatrick for "Episode #505," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie o the Week)
Vickey Phillips, Gerald Coke-Riley, Patricia Gunlock and Michael White for "Purgatory" (TNT)
Matthew Kasten, Natascha Ladek and Mishell Chandler for "Annie" (Walt Disney Television/ABC)
Marlene Williams and Tim Jones for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" (ABC/Larry Thompson)
George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award