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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After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
The Constant Gardener is leading the pack ahead of next month's British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards after picking up 10 nominations.
Rachel Weisz, who won the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Golden Globe on Monday, is nominated for Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, while Ralph Fiennes is up for Actor in a Leading Role and filmmaker Fernando Meirelles is put forward for the David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction.
Hot on the heels of The Constant Gardener are gay cowboy heartbreaker Brokeback Mountain and politically charged Crash, which have both received nine nominations for the Feb. 19 awards ceremony.
Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee is nominated for the David Lean Award, and his stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams have all received recognition for their performances.
Hit British movie Pride and Prejudice has been named in six BAFTA categories including British Film of the Year and Actress in a Supporting Role for Brenda Blethyn's scene-stealing performance.
George Clooney is up for two awards—Actor in a Supporting Role for Syriana and Achievement in Direction for his handling of Good Night, And Good Luck—which has scooped six nominations.
Oscars favorites and Walk the Line co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon have both been nominated for their acclaimed acting in the Johnny Cash biopic, while Chinese beauty Ziyi Zhang is up for the Actress in a Leading Role BAFTA for her star turn in the big screen version of Arthur Golden's best-selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha.
The partial list of nominees is as follows:
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, And Good Luck
The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year:
A Cock and Bull Story
The Constant Gardener
Pride and Prejudice
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in Their First Feature Film:
David Belton (Producer)--Shooting Dogs
Peter Fudakowski (Producer)--Tsotsi
Annie Griffin (Director/Writer)—Festival
Richard Hawkins (Director)--Everything
Joe Wright (Director)--Pride and Prejudice
The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction:
Brokeback Mountain--Ang Lee
The Constant Gardener--Fernando Meirelles
Good Night, And Good Luck--George Clooney
Best Original Screenplay:
Cinderella Man--Cliff Hollingsworth/Akiva Goldsman
Crash--Paul Haggis/Bobby Moresco
Good Night, And Good Luck--George Clooney/Grant Heslov
Hotel Rwanda--Keir Pearson/Terry George
Mrs. Henderson Presents--Martin Sherman
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Brokeback Mountain--Larry Mcmurtry/Diana Ossana
The Constant Gardener--Jeffrey Caine
A History of Violence--Josh Olson
Pride and Prejudice--Deborah Moggach
Best Film Not in the English Language:
De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Le Grand Voyage
Kung Fu Hustle
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
David Strathairn--Good Night, And Good Luck
Heath Ledger--Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix--Walk the Line
Philip Seymour Hoffman--Capote
Ralph Fiennes--The Constant Gardener
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Charlize Theron--North Country
Judi Dench--Mrs. Henderson Presents
Rachel Weisz--The Constant Gardener
Reese Witherspoon--Walk the Line
Ziyi Zhang--Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
George Clooney--Good Night, And Good Luck
Jake Gyllenhaal--Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Brenda Blethyn--Pride and Prejudice
Frances Mcdormand--North Country
Michelle Williams--Brokeback Mountain
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Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
A scene on The WB's teen-targeted drama Dawson's Creek will show two gay teens locked in an extended kiss Wednesday night, USA Today reported today Monday. "I timed it," Scott Seomin of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told the newspaper. "It's like a 5 1/2-second mouth-to-mouth kiss. We haven't seen anything like this before on network TV." The episode is certain to arouse anger among numerous religious and pro-family activists. Heather Cirmo of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., told the newspaper that the episode will do a disservice to "impressionable teens who have questions about their sexuality by promoting a myth that homosexuality is something you're born with."
NBC FINALLY MAKES GOOD ON ITS PROMISE TO BUYERS
NBC finally scored a 4.5 rating Saturday night, the precise number that it guaranteed advertisers for its XFL football games. However, it pulled the number with a repeat of the James Bond movie Goldeneye.The movie peaked at 10:30 p.m. with a 5.4/10. Last week, the championship XFL contest averaged only a 2.5/5. The highest numbers for the night were scored by CBS's The District, which earned an 8.8/13 in the 10:00 p.m. hour and helped CBS win the night.
MURDOCH SEEN PULLING OFF DEAL TO BUY DIRECTV
Contrary to earlier reports, News Corp's proposal to take over Hughes Electronics' DirecTV will not be put to a vote of the General Motors board at its regular meeting Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. GM is the parent company of Hughes. Nevertheless, the newspaper said, top GM officials are continuing to meet with News Corp execs, including Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and are expected to recommend that the board approve Murdoch's latest proposal. Citing a "highly placed source," the Times said that a deal for DirecTV to be incorporated into Murdoch's Sky Global Network could come together in the next month.
BACARDI KNOCKING DOWN BARRIERS TO TV BOOZE ADS
Bacardi is expected to slice a large rip in the broadcast and cable industry's self-imposed ban on liquor advertising when it launches a sexy ad for its Disaronno Originale Amaretto liqueur on several cable outlets this week, the Wall Street Journal reported today Monday. The newspaper said that among the cable outlets carrying the spot will be Viacom's VHI, AOL Time Warner's TBC networks, and Comedy Central, jointly owned by Viacom and AOL Time Warner. In most instances, the ads, part of a $1.1-million cable marketing campaign, will run not on the networks themselves, the WSJ observed, but as local spots during station breaks in large markets, thereby circumventing anti-liquor policies by the nets.
BBC PLANS TO AIR LIVE INTERVIEWS WITH EXECUTION WITNESSES
As part of its plan to broadcast a documentary, The Oklahoma Bomber, in Britain on May 16, the day set for Timothy McVeigh's execution, the BBC will air live interviews with relatives of his victims after they have witnessed him being put to death, the London Independent on Sunday reported. The plans have sparked outrage by opponents of the death penalty in Britain. Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told the newspaper: "It disgusts me and I think it's a gross misuse of public funds. What makes it so shocking is that it's the BBC, which has a reputation for probity and ethical conduct." But David Belton, who was assigned to produce the live inserts for the documentary, replied, "We want to know if witnessing the execution has been a cathartic experience for the relatives, if it has helped them in the healing process. This is a legitimate question to ask, and it's in the public interest."
BRITISH MINISERIES LIKELY TO INFURIATE VIEWERS
Britain's commercial Channel 4 is bracing for a barrage of criticism when it airs the two-part miniseries Men Only on June 3 and 4, the London Sunday Times reported. The drama depicts upper middle-class men engaging in an assortment of amoral conduct and includes a graphic scene of a nurse being raped by three men, including a doctor, after being drugged with a horse tranquilizer. According to the Sunday Times, the men display little, if any, remorse afterwards. The drama, which was bought by Channel 4 two years ago, had originally been scheduled to air earlier this year, the newspaper said, and some executives of the network have questioned whether it should air at all. But Tessa Ross, head of drama programming for Channel 4, told the Sunday Times that she is "happy for Men Only to go out."
AOL TIME WARNER SETS SIGHTS (AND SITES) ON EUROPE
Seeking to expand its cable and Internet broadband operations into Europe, AOL Time Warner is in talks about forming an alliance with the British cable operator NTL, published reports said Monday.
OPTIMISM RISES OVER POSSIBLE WGA-PRODUCERS DEAL
Film and TV producers spent the weekend at the negotiating table with negotiators for the Writers Guild of America hoping to avert a strike following the expiration of the current labor contract at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. WGA officials have indicated that they are willing to agree to an extension of the current contract on a day-to-day basis if progress in the talks is being made. They have not yet taken a strike-authorization vote, which is required before a strike can begin. Monday's Los Angeles Times quoted labor and industry executives who have been in contact with the two sides as saying that they expect a deal this week.
REPORTER PUBLISHER SAYS NEWSMAN "LOST HIS OBJECTIVITY"
The publisher of the Hollywood Reporter has defended his decision to kill a story by his labor reporter that accused the trade paper's gossip columnist of accepting favors from two movie producers. Robert J. Dowling said in a statement on Friday that he spiked the story by reporter David Robb "because I felt that, over the course of time, he had lost his objectivity on this issue and was no longer adhering to The Hollywood Reporter's standards of journalistic, ethical and professional conduct." Robb subsequently resigned. Meanwhile, the trade paper reported Monday that the Screen Actors Guild has initiated an audit of gossip columnist George Christy's film credits as part of the guild's routine investigation of individuals who it believes might be defrauding its pension and health plan.
CLOONEY TO RETURN AS BATMAN?
George Clooney is expected to fulfill a deal with Warner Bros. to portray Batman a second time, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today. The newspaper quoted Darren Aronofsky, who has been tapped to direct the upcoming Batman: Year One, as saying: "George Clooney is going to be back as Batman in the movie. There are no major casting changes." Clooney was critical of his own performance as Batman in 1997's Batman and Robin, joining many reviewers in rapping the movie, which fell far short of studio expectations at the box office.
WEALTHY SINGER TO INVEST IN SCOTTISH MOVIE STUDIO
Former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart has decided to make a substantial investment in an $8-million film studio in Inverness, Scotland, the London Sunday Times reported. The studio, which is due to have a fiber-optic link to Stewart's multimedia company, the Hospital, in London, is likely to become the first film studio in Scotland. It is also being backed by James Cosmo, who costarred in Braveheart with Mel Gibson. "It won't be Hollywood, but it will be a proper working studio," Cosmo told the Sunday Times. Named Highland Studios, the facility sill reportedly have two main sound stages, one 15,000 square feet; the other 8,000 square feet. Plans by a rival group including Sean Connery to build a studio near Edinburgh have stalled, the newspaper said.