Blond, compact and perennially youthful Steve Van Wormer made his feature starring debut in 1998's "Meet the Deedles", a silly slapstick comedy chronicling the adventures of surfer twins hailing from...
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.
It’s Saturday night and Groove is on. An all-night underground rave
where kids converge at an abandoned San Francisco warehouse this is
where they let it all loose where anything can happen. Berkeley student
Colin plans to propose to girlfriend Harmony at Groove and asks
reluctant roomie David to join them. Once there the scene intimidates
David but after he takes ecstasy with his pals hey the kids are all
A collection of unknowns one step above film school friends comprise the
cast of this ultra-low budget production with the exception of a
woefully underused Rachel True (from "The Craft " the only recognizable
face). There is no thorough intro to this large collection of
characters thus little empathy for them. Still Hamish Linklater
(David) gives a nice performance as the identifiable amateur and Lola
Glaudini (as raver Leyla) shows true charisma and comfort in front of
Though he starts off on shaky ground first-time helmer Greg Harrison
does an excellent job capturing the energy and vibe of the underground
rave scene. The plot on the other hand is as memorable as your average
techno/trance single. What’s important here is the vibe and
Harrison delivers it with minimal conflict (given that your local
theater has great speakers) showing all aspects of the scene from the
top secret warehouse location and orgiastic "chill room" to the
adrenaline rush of the dance floor and the superstar DJ’s point of view
(building the perfect mix).
So, what's it like when you sell your movie at Sundance? Like this: You drive through the streets whooping, yelling, cranking up the stereo and tossing black Adidas ski hats to the unwashed (and un-picked-up) masses.
The groovesters of "Groove" are, yes, grooving. A day after Sony Pictures Classic snapped up the low-budget slice-of-rave-life flick, the film's players were partying in the streets here this afternoon. And to hear one of its stars tell it -- this was situation normal, big-time movie deal or no.
"We've been partying since Day One of shooting and that's all it was, was 28 days in a warehouse, dancing 18 hours a day," actor Steve Van Mormer told Hollywood.com while dancing atop the SUV-anointed "Groove" Mobile. "And we haven't stopped since."
Not that the Sony deal hasn't made the day of even the most veteran party animals.
"It is unfathomable," said Van Wormer, who plays a club promoter in the flick. "It was always in the back of our minds, but it's a total, total dream. ... It's unbelievable. I don't even know what else to askfor."
Meanwhile, in other Park City happenings:
BIG "BUCK": "Chuck & Buck," a different kind of buddy film starring the directing-producing brothers behind 1999 summer smash "American Pie," was bought today -- reportedly for $1 million-plus -- by Artisan Entertainment, the distributor behind that other 1999 summersmash, "The Blair Witch Project." The deal was completed after the "Groove" one, leaving that film with the distinction of being the first Park City buy. "Chuck & Buck," with hot "Pie" sibs Chris and Paul Weitz, is the second feature from Miguel Arteta, who became a Sundance star with 1997's "Star Maps."
GOLDEN GLOBES? WHAT GOLDEN GLOBES? OK, so tonight's official Sundance party was billed as the DirecTV Golden Globes party -- except, like, it started at 9 p.m. local time (or roughly just as the award show was ending) and, like, nobody cared anyway.
Reports Hollywood.com's Gerry Katzman: "Fifty percent of the people there had very little concept that the Golden Globes were even going on." The other half were juiced that Alan Ball took a Globe for his screenplay for "American Beauty" (almost like an indie -- except for the DreamWorks part).
And then there was the matter of Barbra Streisand. (She picked up the Globe's lifetime achievement award.) The word that came up most often, Katzman says, in describing Streisand's acceptance speech was, um, "rambled."
MAYBE WE WERE AT THE WRONG PARTY: The big shindig in town tonight (perhaps the one that emptied the streets) was apparently the MGM-sponsored Globes bash. This one wasn't for journalist types -- it was for "the special people," in the words of a fellow journalist type (i.e., a nonspecial person).
THE ORIGINS OF BUZZ: "Oh, it's really good." -- A cell phone disciple on her way out of Saturday's premiere of boxing chick flick (and Dramatic Competition hopeful) "Girlfight" at the Park City LibraryCenter.
HOW TO PARK IN PARK CITY: Stop your SUV in the middle of Main Street -- and get out. (Leaving the engine running is optional, if not recommended. At least that's how three drivers -- two in one lane, one in the opposite -- did it at the same time here Sunday night, much to the delight of their fellow motorists.)
PARKING ASIDE, WE'RE A WELL-BEHAVED BUNCH: Park City police Sgt. Sherm Farnsworth told us today all has been pretty quiet in packed Park City -- flier controversy or no. The Slamdance types, as we reported earlier, have been complaining that their filmmakers are being hassled over handbills and threatened with $2,000 fines. Farnsworth said no actual citations had been issued through the weekend. He also denied that police were springing a new law on festivalgoers -- as Slamdance had suggested. ("Why they say that ... I have no idea," Farnsworth said.) The anti-flier ordinance has been on the books for a while, the official said, adding that police are just cracking down this year. In other civic news, Farnsworth estimated that the biggest Park City population crush is yet to come, with up to 30,000 expected to be milling about town Wednesday and Thursday. No word on how many will come bearing fliers.
WHO SAID MOVIE PEOPLE HAVE NO STANDARDS? "I can't just whip out a power schmooze -- 'How 'bout them Knicks?'" -- A conflicted guy overheard tonight on Main Street.
THE MOST WELL-INFORMED MALL IN AMERICA: Park City's Main Street Mall (home to the No Dance Festival), where the communal TV sets are inexplicably always tuned to CNN.
HOW TO ELIMINATE THE COMPETITION: New to Park City this year is the Independence Film Festival. It's the brainchild of filmmaker David Merwin, who has a very specific agenda: To screen his short, "The Regular Menu," as many as 100 times by Wednesday morning. "The Regular Menu," in fact, is the only film on the menu at the Independence Film Festival, based near Slamdance headquarters at the Treasure Mountain Inn. Said Merwin: "We could have hustled up some other entries, but I kind of liked the idea of being the guaranteed grand-prize winner thisyear."
MOVIES WE SAW:
1. "Songcatcher" (Sundance Dramatic Competition) -- We had to get up early to watch this stuff? Janet McTeer plays a 1920s musicologist who chooses to move to hillbilly country to live with her lesbian sister schoolteacher (Jane Adams) and discovers the joy of native folk songs. Unfortunately, almost every freakin' scene features dirty-faced mountainfolk breaking into song. It's both annoying and unrealistic -- as if the hillbilly lifestyle was not too divorced from that of a Broadway gypsy. A great performance by Aidan Quinn (as McTeer's love interest, a hillbilly with a heart of gold) and an unbelievable supporting turn by Pat Carroll ("The Little Mermaid") can't make up for the film's contrivances. (-- AnonymousSource)
2. "Double Parked" (Slamdance Competition Feature) "Tumbleweeds" (and/or "Anywhere But Here") with a New Yawk accent. Like those two wacky-mom/put-upon-kid flicks, "Double Parked" gives us a wacky single mom (who, in a twist, is as a tough-talkin' meter maid name of, ugh, Rita) and a put-upon kid (who, in a twist, is sickly). Though heartfelt, this is the kind of film that shows up on IFC or the Sundance Channel full of a self-congratulatory sense of entitlement that says, "We're indie. We're better than Hollywood because no cars were crashed to make this film." Well, no cars were crashed to make "Anywhere But Here," either, and it's just as cloying as that, so what's the point? (-- J.R.)
MOVIES WE WANTED TO SEE BUT COULDN'T GET TICKETS TO EVEN THOUGH WE WAITED OUT IN THE BITTER COLD FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" (Sundance Documentary Competition).
SPOTTED: Indie god Steve Buscemi ("Living in Oblivion") at today's "Songcatcher" screening at the Eccles Theatre; indie guru John Pierson (TV's "Split Screen"), animation icon Craig "Spike" Decker (of Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation) and James Woods ("Any Given Sunday") at the Independent Film Channel bash tonight at the Harry O's nightclub. We also thought we saw Kato Kaelin (The People vs. O.J. Simpson) at the IFC shindig, but upon further review it was determined it wasn't Kato, after all. (It was that kindof night.)
LOOKING AHEAD: The Jason Priestley-directed documentary "Barenaked in America" (about the pop band Barenaked Ladies), plays Slamdance on Monday; the buzz-a-rific "Happy Accidents" (with Marisa Tomei) unspools at Sundance; alternafest SlamDunk begins its run at Harry's O.
Was narrator of the Fox Family Channel animated series "The 3 Friends & Jerry Show"
Acted in the teen horror-comedy "Idle Hands"
Was a member of the Los Angeles-based sketch comedy troupe The Groundlings
Was a pop culture commentator for Fox, with appearances on the network's "The Billboard Music Awards", "SPIN on Fox" and "Fox's Movie Premiere Parties"
Appeared in the direct-to-video comedy "The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave", playing the stuntman's young protege turned nemesis
Raised in Michigan
Made feature debut with an appearance in the family-aimed holiday release "Jingle All the Way" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Featured in the Disney Channel surfing-themed TV-movie "Johnny Tsunami"
Moved to Los Angeles
With other Groundlings members, formed the comedy group Caustic Casserole
Starred as the organized, quick-thinking promoter of an all-night underground rave in the charming independent feature "Groove"
Co-founded, co-wrote and acted in Michigan State University's award-winning sitcom "The Show"
Starred with Paul Walker as twins from Hawaii who end up mistaken for rangers in Yellowstone National Park in "Meet the Deedles"
Guest starred on an episode of the short-lived family police drama "Turks" (CBS)
Blond, compact and perennially youthful Steve Van Wormer made his feature starring debut in 1998's "Meet the Deedles", a silly slapstick comedy chronicling the adventures of surfer twins hailing from Hawaii. He played Stew Deedle, the smaller and more brainy of the duo opposite Paul Walker's obtuse heartthrob Phil. The pair are sent to a mainland military camp and through a series of mishaps end up posing as rangers in Yellowstone National Park. The Steve Boyum-directed film hoped to attract a "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure"-type audience but fell short of the mark. While it had wild stunts, extreme sports and impressive special effects, "Meet the Deedles" lacked the inspired storyline and cult appeal of its predecessor.<p>Having previously appeared in the 1996 holiday feature "Jingle All the Way" Van Wormer kept busy with work as narrator of the animated series "The 3 Friends & Jerry Show" (Fox Family Channel, 1998-99), and a guest role on the CBS law enforcement family drama series "Turks" (1999). He reteamed with director Boyum on the surfing-themed Disney Channel TV-movie "Johnny Tsunami" (also 1999) and next played the young protege-turned-evil nemesis of fictional stuntman Super Dave Osbourne in the 2000 direct-to-video comedy "The Extreme Adventures of Super Dave".<p>The 2000 Sundance Film Festival featured "Groove", which starred Van Wormer and was warmly received by attendees and subsequently purchased by Sony Pictures. Following the progress of an underground rave in the San Francisco Bay Area, "Groove" was an accurate and affectionate fictionalized portrayal of the scene, and won credibility points from ravers and raves from audiences. Van Wormer portrayed rave organizer Ernie, a committed and quick-thinking young man whose skills, proven through his setup of the party and handling of unforeseen problems, would rival those of million dollar concert promoters.<p>Van Wormer himself proved comparably enterprising, co-founding, co-writing and co-starring in the Michigan State University sitcom "The Show", entirely produced by MSU media students. He worked on the series from its 1988 debut to his graduation in 1991, but the Student Emmy-winning "The Show" continued on through the 1990s. Upon graduation, Van Wormer relocated to Los Angeles, where he joined The Groundlings' improvisational school and formed the sketch comedy group Caustic Casserole. In the mid-1990s, he got his professional start, with work on Fox. Segments of his pop culture commentary served as interstitials for televised events like "The Billboard Music Awards" and "Fox's Movie Premiere Parties". Additionally, he hosted the short-lived music-themed "SPIN on Fox".
younger; attended Michigan State University
Grand Blanc High School
Michigan State University
Voted "Funniest Man on Campus" in the 1990 U.S. College Comedy Competition.
"My long term goal is to be a working actor. I want to get to the point where I'm not sitting around for six months between jobs." --Van Wormer quoted in The State News, a Michigan State University newspaper, March 27, 1998.