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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It is not often that a moreover revered actor will turn to horror after a steady establishment in the film industry. The genre has served as a launchpad for up-and-comers, or a career-long affixation for scream queens and whatever you'd call their male equivalent (shriek geeks?). But with new reverence being fed into horror, a fresh auteristic attitude resulting in creative gems like The Cabin in the Woods, John Dies at the End, and the television program American Horror Story, some actors seem to be welcoming the world of onscreen scares eagerly. AHS's own Dylan McDermott seems to be making a pattern of it — The Hollywood Reporter reports that the longtime dramatic actor is taking on a new horror project: Mercy, an adaptation of Stephen King's short story "Gramma."
McDermott will join a fellow veteran of small screen freakouts, Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead's recently redeemed Carl Grimes), in the developing movie. Riggs and Super 8 star Joel Courtney will play a pair of young brothers charged with caring for their elderly grandmother, who is secretly a witch and possessed by a black magic curse. McDermott will play an obsessed old flame of Riggs and Courtney's mother... and in keeping with the tone of the movie, we can this love story to be less reminiscent of Jersey Girl and a little more along the lines of The Fear Inside.
Directing Mercy is Peter Cornwell, responsible for the 2009 picture A Haunting in Connecticut... which, if you haven't heard, has a geographically confusing sequel on the way. Hollywood.com has reached out to McDermott's reps for confirmation.
[Photo Credit: Robert Zuckerman/FX]
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First, let's start with the bad news: The Mayan calendar (and, more importantly, a stellar John Cusack movie) have confirmed that the world is ending in a few weeks. I know, right? And we were all totally going to lose those 15 lbs and start journaling in 2013. Then there's the even worse news: You missed a lot of really good TV in 2012. So much good, in fact, that you have no hope of catching up before the end of days. That's where we (and the good news) come in — we've rounded up the best TV spoilers of 2012, so you can spend your remaining days with your family, or whatever. SPOILERS AHEAD, but sorry — no one will ever know who actually killed Alison DiLaurentis on Pretty Little Liars.
Let's start with the little guys:
How I Met Your Mother: Drama! It was eventually revealed that Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is marrying Robin (Cobie Smulders). Also, Victoria (Ashley Williams) left her future husband at the alter for Ted (Josh Radnor), but they broke up afterwards because Ted wouldn't stop being friends with Robin. Those crazy kids!
The Office: Angela (Angela Kinsey) found out that her husband was cheating on her with Oscar (Oscar Nuñez). Way to be a good coworker, Oscar.
Parks and Recreation: Speaking of workplace comedies, Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) finally became engaged! It was adorable.
You still with me? Good. Because it all goes downhill from here. Time for some suicides and martyrdom:
Sons of Anarchy: The universally beloved Opie (Ryan Hurst) was brutally murdered early in the show's fifth season — sacrificing his life for the club in the most horrendous way possible (he was beaten to death with a lead pipe).
Mad Men: Then there was the tragic tale of Lane Price (Jared Harris), the British sap who hung himself in his office after he found himself in financial trouble, and was fired by Don. Not a dry eye in the house.
But not all major deaths on TV this year were via suicide — 2012 was huge for killing, or being killed by, children. Let's explore, shall we?
Breaking Bad: In the former category, the artist formerly known as Landry (Jesse Plemons) from Friday Night Lights (now known as Todd on Breaking Bad) murdered a small child after said child witnessed Todd, Walt, and Jesse robbing a train. It was probably the most disturbing moment on TV this year, which says a lot, given our next spoiler.
The Walking Dead: This one sounds horrific, but it actually made a lot of people happy — Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) died via C-section childbirth during a Walker attack on Walking Dead. Doc Herschel and the rest of the Grimes Gang were busy fighting Walkers in the prison, so Lori's son Carl (Chandler Riggs) had to watch while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) tore out her baby with a dirty knife. Then Carl shot her, before she rose again. It was a classic mother/son coming-of-age moment.
Downton Abbey: This one really hurt. Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) from Downton also died during childbirth — but she didn't become a zombie, so she should just shut up and count her blessings.
Those were all really depressing, so let's move on to justice — quite a few criminals were caught in 2012:
Breaking Bad: First and foremost there's Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the drug kingpin currently known as Heisenberg . We haven't yet seen the aftermath, but the first half of Season 5 ended with Walt's brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) learning his dirty, methy secret. Dun dun dun.
Dexter: This was a long time coming — Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), the brilliant Miami Metro detective, finally learned that her brother is a serial killer. So far, she's been taking it surprisingly well.
The Killing: Oh, we finally found out who killed Rosie Larsen. It was her Aunt Terry, sort of. Then the show got canceled.
Homeland: Nick Brody (Damian Lewis) was found out and captured by the CIA much, much earlier than anticipated. He's now working with them as a double agent, which is never easy when your other agency is TERRORISM.
Enough with all the humans. Supernatural spoiler time:
The Vampire Diaries: Elena (Nina Dobrev) became a vampire at the end of the third season's finale. This season, she totally dumped Stefan (Paul Wesley) and slept with Damon (Ian Somerhalder). Bad girls do it well.
Fringe: Peter (Josh Jackson) willingly turned himself into an Observer after his daughter, Etta (Georgina Haig), was killed. It was horrifying. He's going bald!
True Blood: The newly single Bill (Stephen Moyer) willingly drank the blood of the ancient, evil vampire Lilith at the end of last season — rising as an evil entity, and effectively earning the nickname "Billith." Run, Sookeh!
Now let's move on to family drama:
Revenge: Season 1 of ABC's new(ish) hit ended with Emily (Emily VanCamp) learning that her long-lost mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was still alive, while everyone else thought that Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) had died. She hadn't, and Emily's mother ended up being very, very boring.
Revolution: Meanwhile, over on NBC's latest hit, good-guy Miles (Billy Burke) was revealed to have started the evil Monroe Militia — the same militia that recently kidnapped his nephew. (And they still haven't turned the lights on.)
Game of Thrones: In a case of outright family treachery, Theon (Alfie Allen) betrayed the Starks by storming Winterfell, pretending to kill young Bran and Rickon, and slaughtering many of their people.
Oh, and Klaine broke up on Glee. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: AMC, Showtime] MORE: Leanne's Spoiler List: 'True Blood' Wants Fresh Meat, 'Parenthood' Heads to Court, & More! Leanne’s Spoiler List: 'AHS: Asylum' Mommy Issues, Love and Loss on ‘Dexter’ Leanne’s Spoiler List: Love is Shaky on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,' ‘Vampire Diaries’ Gets Darker
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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 Independent Spirit Awards kicked off the night with prizes going out to James Franco and Penelope Cruz for their supporting roles in Milk and Vicky Cristina Barcelona respectively.
Click Here: Watch Spirit Awards Live & Uncut
The night ended with The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke taking took top honors for best film and lead actor. Melissa Leo, who some may have seen as the under dog, rounded out the night winning best female lead for her performance in Frozen River.
The complete list of nominations & winners:
Rachel Getting Married
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Ramin Bahrani, Chop Shop
Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Thomas McCarthy, The Visitor -- WINNER!
Best First Feature
Medicine for Melancholy
Sangre de Mi Sangre
Synecdoche, New York -- WINNER!
John Cassavetes Award
In Search of a Midnight Kiss -- WINNER!
Prince of Broadway
Turn the River
Best First Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black, Milk -- WINNER!
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Jonathan Levine, The Wackness
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Woody Allen, Vicky Christina Barcelona -- WINNER!
Anna Fleck and Ryan Boden, Sugar
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Howard A. Rodman, Savage Grace
Christopher Zalla, Sangre de Mi Sangre
Best Female Lead
Summer Bishil, Towelhead
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River -- WINNER!
Tarra Riggs, Ballast
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
Best Male Lead
Javier Bardem, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Sean Penn, Milk
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Best Supporting Female
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona -- WINNER!
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Rosie Perez, The Take
Misty Upham, Frozen River
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Male
James Franco, Milk -- WINNER!
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Charlie McDermott, Frozen River
JimMyron Ross, Ballast
Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor
Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Lol Crowley, Ballast
James Laxton, Medicine for Melancholy
Harris Savides, Milk
Michael Simmonds, Chop Shop
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
Man on Wire -- WINNER!
The Order of Myths
Up the Yangtze
Best Foreign Film
The Class (France) -- WINNER!
Secret of the Grain (France)
Silent Light (Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)
Robert Altman Award: (Given to one film's director, casting director and ensemble cast)
Synecdoche, New York
Director: Charlie Kaufman Casting Director: Jeanne McCarthy
Ensemble Cast: Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Williams
Someone to Watch Award
Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy
Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues
Lynn Shelton, My Effortless Brilliance -- WINNER!
Truer Than Fiction Award
Margaret Brown, The Order of Myths -- The WINNER!
Sacha Gervasi, Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Darius Marder, Loot
Lars Knudsen and Joy Van Hoy, Tireless Mountain and I'll Come Running
Jason Orans, Goodbye Solo and Year of the Fish
Heather Rae, Frozen River and Ibid -- WINNER!
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Anne Hathaway is the new indie darling.
Her dysfunctional family drama Rachel Getting Married led the Independent Spirit Award nominees Tuesday with six nods, including best picture, HuffingtonPost.com reports.
Also tying with Rachel were the border-smuggling tale Frozen River and the Deep South saga Ballast. Other best-picture nominees for the awards, which honor independent film, were Michelle Williams' down-on-her-luck drama Wendy and Lucy and Mickey Rourke's broken-down athlete tale The Wrestler.
Along with Hathaway and Williams, best actress nods went to Melissa Leo for Frozen River, Summer Bishil for Towelhead and Tarra Riggs for Ballast.
Rourke has a lead-actor nomination, along with Javier Bardem for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, Sean Penn for Milk and Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker.
The Spirit Awards will be presented Feb. 21, a day before the Academy Awards. The ceremony will include the annual Robert Altman Award for an ensemble film, which is being presented to Synecdoche, New York, the directing debut from Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.
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