Actor and baritone who played leading roles in landmark Broadway shows including "Oklahoma!" and "Kiss Me Kate". Drake's good-humored performance as Hajj, a street poet made Emir of Bagdad for a day,...
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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For many, the biggest holiday of the year has come and gone. All that remains of this year’s Christmas festivities are torn wrappings, eggnog stains, and freshly marred egos courtesy of your family members’ newest batch of scathing criticisms. But for a small, specific community, celebrations are just now kicking into high gear — and to those who wake up every December 26 with a toothy grin and shining eyes, we wish a Happy Boxing Day.
Chances are, you’ve heard tell of Boxing Day. You know that it comes right after Christmas, and that… um… well, it’s… it’s a day long. It, um… it might be Canadian? Face it, you have no idea what Boxing Day is. But the era of acceptability for this kind of ignorance is long over. Now, you can Google it. Or better yet, Ask Jeeves.
See, Boxing Day is, historically, actually a holiday set aside for servants and laborers — valets, handymen, butlers — to receive gifts and tokens of appreciation from their superiors. As such, we've rounded up some of our favorite pop culture butlers to give them the Boxing Day gifts they truly deserve...
(Servant to Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: Emotional closure about your surrogate son's fate, delivered in a European café
(Servant to the Earl of Grantham on Downton Abbey)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A return to the way things were back in the good old days.
(Servant to the late Mr. Boddy in the film version of the board game Clue)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A twist ending that reveals your innocence, and professes that dastardly Michael McKean the true murderer.
(Servant to that uncle who still uses a desktop and has a hotmail account)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A virus that’ll take down Google for a full 24 hours. Carpe diem, my well-dressed friend.
(Servant to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A body that is not made out of wood and springs.
(Servant to the Banks family on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
Happy Boxing Day! You Get: A lifetime supply of sarcastic one-liners at the expense of your insolent employers!
(Servant to the Scheffield family on The Nanny)
Happy Boxing Day! You Get: Same thing as Geoffrey… oh come on, they were having a sale!
(Servant to the Tate family on Soap, and then Gov. Eugene Gatley on Benson)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift you: A less disappointing series finale.
(Servant to Arthur in Arthur)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A promise of no further remakes.
(Servant to Principal Cinnamon J. Scudworth on Clone High)
We gift unto you: A revival of your wonderful, tragically short-lived series... if only...
(Servant to Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan in real life)
Happy Boxing Day! We gift unto you: A movie. No, really. You're getting a movie.
And so, let us all disperse and pay gratitude to our own butlers. Our Jenkinses, Boggses, and Bradburys. For, Boxing Day is a time to remember just how much they've given to us, to recognize where we might be without them. And when someone scoffs at your ardent passions for whatever butler you might have at your employ, do not hang your head in shame. Simply, profess your love to be true. And when they ask why indeed you might care so much for the monocled fellow in question, all you need to do is stand up straight, stick out your chest, and proclaim...
Happy Boxing Day, everyone!
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros.]
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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice had a shot at being really good. With magical mythology sleek special effects and powerful players at the helm it could have been the beginning of a brand new blockbuster franchise for Walt Disney Pictures its billion-dollar producer Jerry Bruckheimer and long time director Jon Turteltaub. Instead of developing the story and characters naturally however the five screenwriters who provided the at-times nauseating dialogue forced the narrative along punctuating every scene with an action sequence to cover up the fact that no one knew what the hell they were doing with this promising premise.
The story was hatched from an idea so obviously born in the Disney offices. Essentially marketing executives over at the Mouse House thought it’d be fun to revisit the timeless Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment from the 1940 classic Fantasia where Mickey Mouse must fend off hundreds of sentient brooms that are flooding his Master’s office. Trying to recreate the past is often risky business and trying to build an entire film around a classic cinematic marvel of yesteryear is a lazy practice. As a result all involved in this movie struggle to make it to the end credits.
Nicolas Cage tones down his signature insanity to play Balthazar mentor to Jay Baruchel’s “Prime Merlinian” a descendant of the Arthurian conjurer who trained a trio of magicians in 700 AD before being betrayed by one of them (Maxim Horvath played by the great Alfred Molina). As he lay dying Merlin tells Balthazar that a special dragon ring will help him find his successor who is the only person that can vanquish Maxim and Morgana his mortal enemy and a powerful sorceress in her own right. Centuries pass until Master and Apprentice meet. Once they do the magic wears off all too quickly.
Baruchel proves for the second time this year (the first being She’s Out Of My League) that he is incapable of carrying a film even with the support of competent co-stars. His shtick runs thin quickly before becoming redundant and eventually annoying. Other disposable characters including Teresa Palmer’s Becky Barnes and Toby Kebbell’s mildly entertaining illusionist Drake Stone provide filler for the thin plot before the anti-climactic battle between good and evil begins which looks cool on this high definition Blu-ray disc but not cool enough to make me forget how bad The Sorcerer's Apprentice really is.
Quite often engaging bonus content can save the home entertainment release of a sub-par film and Disney provides a plethora of featurettes including "Magic In The City" (which talks about filming in the Big Apple) and "The Science of Sorcery" (which tries to legitimatize magic) to take your mind off the magical mess that is the film but none of it changes the fact it is at best forgettable.
L.A. Critics go Sideways
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Sideways, about two men searching for love in California's wine country, as the year's best film and Clint Eastwood's female boxing movie Million Dollar Baby as the runner-up, Reuters reports. Sideways also got nods for best director Alexander Payne, supporting actress Virginia Madsen and supporting actor Thomas Haden Church. Britain's Imelda Staunton was named best actress for her portrayal as an abortionist in Vera Drake and Irish actor Liam Neeson was handed the best actor honor for playing U.S. sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey. House of Flying Daggers was named best foreign language film, while The Incredibles won for best animated film. Born into Brothels edged out director Michael Moore's controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 as the Los Angeles critics' best documentary. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association will honor the winners of their 30th annual awards at a dinner on January 13.
AFI picks Aviator, Incredibles
The American Film Institute also announced their list of 2004's Top 10 movies, including Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator and the smash animated hit The Incredibles, The Associated Press reports. Other on the list included the sequel Spider-Man 2; Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby; quirky romances Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways; football drama Friday Night Lights; the drug-smuggling drama Maria Full of Grace; and the sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey biopic Kinsey. The institute's top 10 television programs of the year were HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, The Sopranos and Something the Lord Made, ABC's Desperate Housewives and Lost, FX's Nip/Tuck and The Shield, Fox's Arrested Development and Comedy Central's South Park.
Jacko's fingerprints found on porno mag
Citing unidentified sources, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported Saturday that fingerprints belonging to both Michael Jackson and the boy accusing him of child molestation were found on pornographic magazines seized from the singer's Neverland ranch last year. According to AP, prosecutors could argue the fingerprints were proof Jackson showed the boy pornographic literature before molesting him. But if the reported evidence is admitted during Jackson's trial, the defense could question whether the entertainer knew the boy had been looking through the porn stash. According to News-Press, the boy and his brother often visited Neverland when Jackson wasn't home. Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim.
Anderson gets Fox sitcom
Former Baywatch hottie Pamela Anderson has signed on for a Fox sitcom about a woman who's trying to change her life and break her habit of falling for less-than-responsible men, Reuters reports. Before even reading a completed script, the network committed to six episodes of the project from writer-producer Steven Levitan, who created NBC's Just Shoot Me.
TV movie to depict Ovitz and Eisner's relationship
Showtime writer Frederic Raphael is developing Two Blind Mikes, a TV movie about the bitter business relationship between Hollywood heavyweights Michael Eisner and Michael Ovitz, Variety reports. Disney chief executive Eisner hired agent-to-the-stars Ovitz as the Mouse House's president in 1994 but his tenure ended after a trouble-plagued 14-month period. A shareholders' lawsuit, now being heard, contends Disney's board was negligent in hiring Ovitz to a lucrative deal and negligent again when it agreed to a $140 million package settlement to oust him in Dec. 1995. Casting for the film and an air date were not announced.
Madame Tussaud's nativity tableau vandalized
A controversial nativity scene at Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in London featuring England soccer captain David Beckham as Joseph and his pop star wife "Posh Spice" Victoria as the Virgin Mary was attacked Sunday, Reuters reports. The wax tableau, which depicts pop star Kylie Minogue hovering above the crib as an angel, also features Tony Blair, George W. Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh as The Three Wise Men and Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton as the shepherds. A spokeswoman for Madame Tussaud's said a protester had pushed down the Posh and Beckham wax figures but added, "The baby Jesus is fine." The piece was intended as a tongue-in-cheek way of bringing the nativity to a wider audience but has angered Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians.
Returned to films to play Claudius in an adaptation of "Hamlet", reprising stage role from the John Gielgud-directed modern dress version starring Richard Burton
Born in the Bronx but raised in Brooklyn
Teamed with Katharine Hepburn in stage production of "Much Ado About Nothing"
Spent much of the 1960s and 1970s directing plays and appearing in touring productions
Playwriting debut, a translation of "Edward Eager"
Portrayed famed actor Edmund Kean in the curious musical biography "Kean"
With Patricia Morrison, recreated stage leads in NBC "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of "Kiss Me Kate"
Made first notable film appearance, in the musical "Tars and Spars"
Enjoyed hit on Broadway as the Hajj in "Kismet"; recreated role in 1955 London staging
Inherited the Maurice Chevalier role in the Broadway musical adaptation of "Gigi"
Played Fred Graham (and Petruchio) in the Broadway stage musical "Kiss Me Kate"
Made stage debut in the chorus of a production of "The Mikado"
Was understudy and chorus performer in "White Horse Inn"
Achieved stardom on Broadway as Curly in "Oklahoma!"
Returned to films to play the President of the Exchange in "Trading Places"
Once again played the Hajj in a revival of "Kismet"
Offered role of monarch of Siam in the musical "The King and I"; reportedly asked for a salary of $5000 per week which was deemed to high; Yul Brynner hired for part; replaced Brynner in role when former went on vacation
Appeared on Broadway in "Babes in Arms"
Actor and baritone who played leading roles in landmark Broadway shows including "Oklahoma!" and "Kiss Me Kate". Drake's good-humored performance as Hajj, a street poet made Emir of Bagdad for a day, in the hit musical "Kismet" won him a well-deserved Tony in 1954. A commanding presence, Drake also performed well in straight drama, including several Shakesperean roles. He made regular TV appearances in the 1950s, sometimes in broadcast versions of his stage successes; the most notable of his few film roles was Claudius opposite Richard Burton's "Hamlet" (1964).
John M Capurro
Elena Teresa Capurro
married from 1944 to; his death; mother of his two daughters