In the 1990s, Ireland has seen a new flowering in the arts. Stage directors like Garry Hynes, filmmakers such as Paddy Breathnach and actors including Brendan Gleeson and Peter McDonald have emerged a...
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
Patrick Stewart and Laurence Fishburne will go head-to-head for the Best Actor award at the annual Tony Awards in New York next month.
The ceremony will see stage actors, directors and performances compete for America's annual top theater awards, which will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg on June 7 at the famous Radio City Music Hall.
Star Trek legend Stewart and Fishburne have been nominated alongside British actors Ben Daniels, Mark Rylance and Rufus Sewell.
The female leads battling it out for Best Stage Actress include Eve Best, Deanna Dunagan, Kate Fleetwood, S. Epatha Merkerson and Amy Morton.
The coveted Best Play Award nominations are August: Osage County, Rock 'n' Roll, The Seafarer, and The 39 Steps.
Musical favorites Grease and Gypsy are also up for gongs in the Best Musical Revival category, and Shakespeare's Macbeth and comedy Boeing-Boeing will be competing for the Best Play Revival award.
Best Director for a Play nominees are Maria Aitken for The 39 Steps, Conor McPherson for The Seafarer, Anna D. Shapiro for August: Osage County, and Matthew Warchus for Boeing-Boeing.
Other categories featured at the 2008 Tony Awards include Best Costume, Best Lighting Design, Best Sound, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.
COPYRIGHT 2008 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Opened "Shining City" on Broadway; nominated for two Tony awards, including Best Play
Became writer-in-residence at the Bush Theater
Opened his play, "The Seafarer" at London's National Theatre
NYC debut of "The Seafarer" at the Booth Theatre; earned Tony award nominations for Best Play and Best Direction
Screenwriting debut, "I Went Down"; film starred Peter McDonald and Brendan Gleeson
Formed own theater company after graduating from college
Feature directorial debut, "Saltwater"; adapted from his play "This Lime Tree Bower"
Worked as a tutor in ethics and moral philosophy at University College in Dublin
First play produced "Rum & Vodka"
Second film directed, "The Actors" starring Michael Caine and Michael Gambon
Premiered his play "Shining City" in London
Received notice with the play, "The Good Thief"
Premiered "This Lime Tree Bower" at the Dublin Fringe Festival, before transferring to London's Bush Theater
Wrote and directed the one-person show "St. Nicholas" with Brian Cox playing the theater critic; later opened Off-Broadway
Raised in Dublin, Ireland
In the 1990s, Ireland has seen a new flowering in the arts. Stage directors like Garry Hynes, filmmakers such as Paddy Breathnach and actors including Brendan Gleeson and Peter McDonald have emerged as have writers like Martin McDonagh, Sebastian Barry, Billy Roche and Conor McPherson. Raised in Dublin, McPherson had always been interested in the tradition of storytelling and he found an outlet for it as a college student, acting and writing in productions. Following graduation, he and a group of friends founded their own theater company, producing his "Rum & Vodka" in 1992 and finding particular success with 1994's "The Good Thief". Although McPherson's "This Lime Tree Bower" was turned down by the major theater companies in Dublin (i.e., The Gate and The Abbey), it was produced at London's Bush Theatre. This play, like much of the writers early work, consisted primarily of monologues, which prompted some to feel he was incapable of writing a real dramatic work. Indeed, McPherson had his first international success with his one-person play "St. Nicholas", starring Brian Cox as a theater critic who becomes involved with supernatural elements. Even his acclaimed, award-winning "The Weir" is a quietly conversational piece that features a group of bar patrons recounting ghost stories. Yet in his first screenplay for the unjustly overlooked "I Went Down" (1998). McPherson more than proved the nay-sayers wrong. A wonderfully serio-comic look at low-level gangsters, "I Went Down" displayed the writer's gift for insightful dialogue and colorful characters. When he was tapped to make his feature directorial debut, McPherson turned to familiar material--the screen adaptation of his three-character play "This Lime Tree Bower" filmed under the title "Salt Water" (2000).
University College Dublin
"I can't say why I do this job. I have realized there doesn't have to be a reason behind why people do things or how they end up in situations. It's the difference between forces you can understand and the forces you pretend to understand." - Conor McPherson quoted in Detour magazine, May 1997
"I just have a curiosity about people. When I was growing up, I found the people around me funny, or I found them intriguing, or I was sorry for them. If there was a teacher at school everyone hated, or a priest who was very strict, I would feel sorry for them." - McPherson to The Irish Times, July 2, 1998
"People always seem to want to become athletes at what they do, to do things bigger and better every time. I want to avoid that. I want to be doing smaller projects, and films at the lower end of the budget scale. I'm sure 'The Weir' is the most successful thing that will happen to me for a long time, but I am comfortable enough with that." - McPherson quoted in Variety, July 26, 1998