Influential jazz drummer and composer Chico Hamilton has died, aged 92. The musician, who counted Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon as high school classmates, performed with Duke Ellington and Count Basie before launching his own band in the mid-1950s.
He died in New York on Monday (25Nov13).
A note on his Facebook.com page reads: "We're saddened by his passing but are grateful and blessed for the grand musical legacy he left with us."
Hamilton also performed with jazz greats Lester Young and Lionel Hamilton and singers Lena Horne, Nat 'King' Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Billie Holiday.
He enjoyed a brief film career as well and appeared alongside Fred Astaire in the 1941 film You'll Never Get Rich.
The drummer released over 60 albums and was one of the co-founders of the New School University Jazz & Contemporary Music Program in New York City.
Hamilton never stopped playing jazz and released three albums in 2011, according to Billboard.com. A final album with his Euphoria ensemble will be released in 2014.
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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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.
The Expendables is being sold as the ultimate action flick: the alpha and omega of explosions, the Ur-muscle flick, the action film to end all action films. It has all the stars, all the cliches, and all the genre trappings - from the bandoliers of bullets to the the scantly-clad, vaguely ethnic love interest. Sylvester Stallone's movie is poised to take off, and when it does, you know it’s only a matter of time before rival producers, directors, production companies and distributors jump on the “ultimate film” band wagon. After all, why make five formulaic, derivative romantic comedies when you could mash them into one (just think of the money they’ll save on writers!)? In honor of The Expendables' approach to filmmaking, we’re bringing you pitches for ultimate Horror films, Rom-Com chick flicks, and Oscar-Bait tearjerkers. If you happen to be the head of a major production company and are reading this, feel free to give us a call.
The Horrifying Horror Flick
This April, you're only a fool if you're not afraid. From legendary horror directors John Carpenter and Wes Craven comes April Fools, the harrowing tale of a prank gone wrong and one man's psychotic reign of terror…
Jonestown, Iowa: April Fools Day, 1990. When brilliant but misunderstood Malachai Lester's (Paul Dano) beloved girlfriend Mira Lowen (Ashley Greene) accidentally decapitates herself on April Fools Day attempting a harmless prank, Lester is blamed for her gruesome death and chased to the outskirts of town by a mob led by Mira's aggrieved father, the Reverend Tim Lowen (Bill Moseley). Though Lester manages to hide in the old abandoned psychiatric ward, Hollen Asylum, the deranged preacher incites the mob to set fire to the building, despite the protestations of his son, Abel. Consumed by the flames and the town's thoughtless hatred, Lester is scarred beyond all recognition but somehow fails to die.
Twenty Years pass. Surviving on the meat of rats caught in his twisted, elaborate deathtraps, and kept alive by his crazed desire for revenge, Lester (Crispin Glover) emerges from the wreckage of the asylum prepared to play a series of nightmarish April Fools jokes on the children of Jonestown.
Zeke Carlson (Ving Rhames)'s son Trip (Bow Wow) is the first to be found dead, followed shortly by blonde cheerleader Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the daughter of Jonestown supermarket magnate Don Coleman (Robert Englund) and wife Laura (Jamie Lee Curtis). But Lester is only warming up, and he's saving his best prank for last.
As Jonestown's murder toll rises, the clues begin to come together for grizzled but warm-hearted divorcee Sheriff Abel Lowen (Timothy Olyphant), who believes he recognizes a pattern in the deaths of the children of Lester's old assailants. But the lynching of Malachai Lester remains a stain on Jonestown's collective memory, and the town's elders still refuse to mention his name. Only Lester's former psychologist, the eccentric Rube Rosenberg (Jeff Goldblum), is willing to help the Sheriff as they come to the harrowing conclusion that there remains only one way to stop The April Fools Killer before his psychopathic reign of terror reaches its terrifying, final conclusion…
The Rosy Rom-Com
This September, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant star in Love Knows, the heartwarming romantic comedy from Rob Reiner that critics are saying "will make you believe in true love again”.
Beautiful but controlling, career-oriented Kate Cartwright (Bullock) works as an editor at a prestigious, family-owned magazine, where she works under the fatherly direction of her editor-in-chief (Ted Danson). Unfortunately, her personal life is falling apart: while she has the support of her three best friends (Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Hudson, and Ethan Embry), her former model boyfriend Ryan (Orlando Bloom) dumps her and runs off with a much younger woman. Meanwhile, brash, attractive and slightly misogynistic freelance journalist Sean Falco (Grant) gets a big break from the spiteful editor of a successful blog (Stanley Tucci) when he’s given the opportunity to write the site's biggest feature yet, an article on the decline and fall of print journalism. In order to get a new angle on the piece, Sean decides to ingratiate himself with Kate by taking work at her magazine. Though the two are initially repulsed by each other and hate working together, they bond when they try to cover a prestigious political function but instead get stuck outside in the rain. Despite their differences, the sexual chemistry becomes too much to deny.
Against the counsel of his two immature best friends - the loud, obnoxious Brad (Matt Dillon) and the awkward, nerdy Renton (Jason Segel) - Sean begins to pursue a serious relationship with Kate. But tragedy strikes when Kate learns about Sean’s article, and believes their entire relationship to be a ruse. After she dumps him, Sean tries to get back to his womanizing ways, but realizes that his feelings for Kate run deeper than he had known. Can Sean ever convince Kate to take him back? Is there some sort of grand gesture that can save their relationship?
This September, only Love Knows...
The Dramatic Oscar Contender
Based on a compelling true story, Daniel Day-Lewis and Ed Norton star in Cole’s Mine, a heartrending tale of love and redemption that critics are calling a “triumph of the human spirit.”
Cole Danwoods (Day-Lewis) is a teacher at a prestigious New York City prep school in 1954, who has struggled for years to distance himself from his roots in rural coal-mining West Virginia. But after the death of his father, a tough-as-nails yet caring patriarch (Robert Duvall), who could never truly express his love for his sons, Cole must return home to care for his family. he returns to the hostility of his younger brother, Leopold (Norton), who has followed his father’s sooty footsteps into the mines; his tough-as-nails yet caring mother, Mary (Dame Judi Dench), who is secretly dying of cancer; and his older brother, Kenneth (Sean Penn), who was tragically mangled rescuing a canary from a collapsing mine, and now has the intellectual capacity of a 8-year-old.
Cole settles in to life in West Virginia by taking a job at the local school, where he tries to reach a group of tough, underprivileged mountain children with his unorthodox teaching methods, like using puppets constructed from common household implements to explain complex mathematical theory. He also reconnects with his tough-as-nails, yet caring high school sweetheart, Jolene (Meryl Streep) whose daughter is one of his students. The pair slowly rekindle their romance, though Jolene is trapped in an unloving marriage with an abusive bootlegger (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
While Cole tries to rebuild his relationship with his brothers, Leopold must struggle to reconcile his love of mining with his love of his supervisor, Larry (Paul Giamatti). But when tragedy strikes and the pair are trapped in a cave-in, Cole must rally the community together and return to his coal-mining roots to free them from a sooty grave.
This December, you’ll learn that love burns brightly even in the darkest of places...
Final screenplay credit before he was blacklisted, "The Romance of Rosy Ridge"
Named as one of the "Hollywood Ten", the first industry people blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings
Final film appearance, as himself, in "Hollywood on Trial"
Returned to screenwriting under the pseudonym Lewis Coppley with "Operation Eichmann"
First on-screen appearace in fourteen years, "South of Dixie"
One of the original ten blacklisted by Hollywood, Cole began his writing career in 1932 with "If I Had a Million. " His autobiography was aptly titled "Hollywood Red."
In 1997, the Writers Guild of America restored credit to several blacklisted writers, including Cole. Among the films that had the credits changed were "Born Free" (1966) which Cole scripted under the pseudonym Gerald L C Copley.