A cool blonde actress with smoky, sultry eyes, Barbara Bain did considerable work on episodic TV during the 1950s and 60s, including a stint on "Richard Diamond: Private Detective" (CBS, 1959) as Davi...
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.
Hollywood celebs flee hotel fire
Several A-list celebs, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Jim Carrey, had to be evacuated from a London hotel Thursday after a fire broke out. The blaze started in the kitchen of the lavish Claridges Hotel, where guests were evacuated as a precaution but no injuries were reported. Pitt and Damon had to cancel a press conference yesterday promoting their caper-sequel Ocean's Twelve. Funnyman Carrey, who is in London to promote his latest movie, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, joked to the press about the irony of the situation. "The movie's all about fire and disaster and so I get up for the (press) junket today and suddenly my house is burning down, and I'm on the balcony like a damsel screaming with a very high pitched voice," Carrey told Reuters Television. "No one rescued me, no one came. I had to find my own way out!" In Lemony Snicket, Carrey plays the ominous Count Olaf, who takes charge of three children whose parents are killed in a house fire.
Jackson opens the gates to Neverland
Michael Jackson, who is scheduled to stand trial January 31 on a 10-count indictment of child molestation, has invited a group of people Friday to visit his Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., Reuters reports. Jackson's spokeswoman Raymone Bain declined to identify the group but said a member of his entourage had incorrectly described the event as a holiday party for groups of children. Jackson has frequently invited groups--and children--to Neverland, the place prosecutors allege Jackson plied a boy with alcohol, engaged in "lewd acts" with him, then conspired with his staff to cover up his misdeeds. The singer said last year he no longer considers Neverland his home after police raided the place for evidence against him.
Oscars ceremony pushed back a week
The 2006 Academy Awards ceremony will be held Sunday, Mar. 5--a week later than the calendar schedule in 2004 and 2005, Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced Thursday. According to Pierson, the date change was necessary in order to avoid a conflict with the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to fall on the Academy's initial date of Sunday, Feb. 26. "It didn't seem fair to make viewers have to choose between these two special events," Pierson said in a statement. The late-February broadcasts will resume in 2007. The 2006 and 2007 broadcasts, as well as the upcoming 2005 ceremony on Feb. 27, will be telecast live on ABC.
Trump chooses his "apprentice"
Donald Trump hired a second apprentice Thursday, picking bland West Point graduate and software executive Kelly Perdew over go-getting Harvard Law School graduate and San Francisco attorney Jennifer Massey. In a live The Apprentice telecast from Lincoln Center in New York, Perdew accepted Trump's six-figure salary job supervising the sprawling Trump Place development on Manhattan's West Side, saying he wanted to be near the mogul's base of operations. Trump said he was not affected by the opinions of his top executives, most of whom favored Perdew. "I really go with my gut," he told reporters. "But I couldn't have lost with either one. It was a very tough choice."
Elvis Estate goes for $100 million
Lisa Marie Presley has found a partner to buy part of her father's massive estate. In a deal worth $100 million, impresario Robert F.X. Sillerman, who founded and later sold radio operator SFX Broadcasting and concert promoter SFX Entertainment, said Thursday he agreed to buy 85 percent of Presley's estate, including rights to the singer's name and the management of his famed Graceland mansion, Reuters reports. The title to Graceland and its surrounding property, including most of Presley's personal effects, will remain with Lisa Marie. Lisa Marie said she had sought a partner for several years to help expand Elvis Presley Enterprises and hoped the deal would preserve her father's legacy.
Queen to go on tour with new singer
British rock band Queen will go on a 2005 tour for the first time in 18 years, with vocalist Paul Rodgers taking the place of the late Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, along with original members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, Reuters reports. It is unclear whether bass guitarist John Deacon will join the tour. Many Queen devotees are insisting that filling Mercury's often outrageous platform shoes is impossible. "It's a Queen tour with Paul Rodgers, and planned for the spring, although no dates have yet been confirmed," said band agent Phil Symes. "It's not a case of Paul joining the band. The band would say that Freddie is irreplaceable, but Brian felt there was a chemistry with Paul."
Motley Crue's Neil involved in altercation
Motley Crue singer Vince Neil is accused of knocking out an employee of a Dallas, Tex., nightclub after a disagreement over sound levels during a Oct. 30 concert, the AP reports. According to a police report attached to the arrest warrant for misdemeanor assault, the singer motioned for more guitar volume but bolted across the stage as soundman Michael Talbert adjusted it. The affidavit said Neil jumped onto the soundboard, kicked at Talbert, then punched him in the face, the AP reports. Dallas police and prosecutors said if Neil doesn't contact them about the warrant, they probably will wait to act on it when he returns to the area.
Hugh Grant to hand out book awards
Organizers of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award have asked Hugh Grant to be on the panel of judges that will award their 2004 prizes, the AP reports. The annual Whitbread Book Awards were established in 1971 and are Britain's longest-running literary competition. They are open to residents of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Winners in each of five categories--novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's book--will be announced Jan. 6.
Made stage debut in "Long Day's Journey Into Night" at the Intiman Theatre, Seattle, WA
Co-starred as Cinnamon Carter on espionage TV series, "Mission: Impossible"; left series with husband Martin Landau after a contract dispute; they were replaced and series continued until 1973
Made TV-movie debut, "Murder Once Removed" (NBC)
Played Karen Wells in TV series "Richard Diamond, Private Detective"
Guest-starred in memorable episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
Returned to feature films in "Trust Me"
Co-starred as Dr. Helena Russell opposite then-husband Martin Landau on the syndicated "Space 1999"
Returned to features as the mother of heroine in "Animals (and the Tollkeeper)"
Hade role in "The Spirit of '76", produced by her daughter Susan
Feature film debut in "Mission Impossible vs. The Mob"
A cool blonde actress with smoky, sultry eyes, Barbara Bain did considerable work on episodic TV during the 1950s and 60s, including a stint on "Richard Diamond: Private Detective" (CBS, 1959) as David Janssen's romantic interest, and a memorable guest appearance on "The Dick Van Dyke Show", as the star's pushy former girlfriend. <p>Bain's career peaked when she won three consecutive Emmy Awards portraying the quick-witted Cinnamon Carter on the popular espionage series "Mission: Impossible" (ABC, 1966-69) opposite then-husband Martin Landau. The two quit the successful series over a contract dispute and her work has been sporadic since. Apart from a handful of TV-movies, often featuring Landau (e.g., "Savage" NBC, 1973), Bain also acted opposite her most regular leading man on the sober, syndicated sci-fi series, "Space: 1999" (1975-77), as Dr. Helena Russell. After "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island" (NBC, 1981), Bain, now divorced from Landau, practically disappeared from public view for several years. She turned her attentions to the stage and became active in the L.A. theater scene in plays at small, prestigious venues like the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC). While Bain did some episodic work in the late 80s on "Moonlighting" and "Murder, She Wrote", she was more often noted for her stage role and her charity work.<p>Bain had made her feature film debut with "Mission Impossible vs. the Mob" (1969) a big screen spin-off from the TV series. But no other roles followed. She returned to feature films after a two-decade absence in the black comedy "Trust Me" and the drama "Skinheads" (both 1989) and in "The Spirit of '76" (1990), produced by her daughter, Susan Meredith Landau.