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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Comprehensive coverage of Monday's truly horrific attack on the Boston Marathon will be unending as the FBI and Boston police put together the pieces of who, what, and why such events took place. And as the nation sits in wonder while motives are unearthed, news, cable, and network outlets will be shifting their coverage to focus on keeping the public informed on the terrible tragedy.
It is being reported that President Barack Obama will deliver a statement about the Boston events today at 6:10 PM ET. It is believed that all the major networks will cut into their broadcasts to cover President Obama's remarks.
The biggest difference in programming is over on the cable news outlets — all of whom have shifted their coverage to focus on the day's events. So far, only NBC plans for regularly-scheduled primetime scripted programming to be preempted. See below for comprehensive information regarding the changes.
- ABC News will anchor Nightline from Boston tonight,with World News with Diane Sawyer's broadcast extended to a full hour. In the morning, George Stephanopoulos and Josh Elliott will be reporting from Boston for Good Morning, America.- CBS News will extend its CBS Evening News program from 6:30PM to 8PM in order to cover the explosions from New York.- CNN will run AC 360 from 8PM - 10PM ET tonight, with host Anderson Cooper hosting live from Boston.- Fox News has made several adjustments to its programming, explaining that it will circumvent its regularly-scheduled Five program at 5PM ET to accomodate live reporting from Shepherd Smith. The network's primetime pgorams — Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Greta van Susteren — will all be live and focus on the bombing. Bill Hemmer will anchor from Boston in the morning. Over on the Fox Business Network, Neil Cavuto will anchor a special live report starting at 8PM ET.- NBC News has announced that NBC Nightly News will also extend to a full hour tonight. Additionally, the new episode of Revolution, slated for 10PM ET will be preempted for news coverage anchored by Brian Williams with reports from Matt Lauer, Lester Holt, Ron Allen, Pete Williams, Katy Tur and others. Tomorrow will see Today Show host Matt Lauer and Lester Holt in Boston, alongside Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.- MSNBC will see The Rachel Maddow Show reporting live from Boston. Tomorrow will see Chris Jansing reporting live throughout the day in the city.
Check back for the most updated information as the story develops.
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
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.
A few weeks ago, the much-anticipated Tron: Legacy soundtrack from Daft Punk -- a.k.a. those two French dudes in robot helmets -- hit shelves everywhere. The critical reaction to Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter's work? Some hate it, some love it. But regardless, the release got us thinking so we gathered a collection of our favorite motion picture soundtracks or scores in cinema history.
Tron: Legacy is out this weekend on December 17.
The Graduate (1967)
Director: Mike Nichols
Music by Simon & Garfunkel
At the end of The Graduate, as Benjamin grabs Elaine, we witness a protagonist broken by frustration but overtaken by hope. They finally escape, and in that moment of relaxation, as "Sounds of Silence" chimes in, Benjamin crashes -- identifying with his own realization that he doesn't know what the hell to do, he didn't grow up and he's the same fearful 20-year-old as before. Subtract the song? You're left with an empty, emotionless scene. So here's to you, Mrs. Robinson -- for breaking Benjamin. We really do love you more than you'll ever know.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Director: Richard Lester
Music by The Beatles
Sure, throwing The Beatles on the list may seem like an easy cop-out, but sometimes you just need to take a moment and recognize that there's a reason the Fab Four are widely regarded to be one of the greatest bands the world has ever known. Because, quite simply, they are fucking awesome. A Hard Day's Night captured Beatlemania at its highest point and showed off what the group did best: music.
Director: John Carney
Music by Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglová
In Once, we don't even know the main characters names, but that doesn't matter. With each song, we feel their heartbreak, their frustration and perhaps most importantly, their love. A much-deserved Oscar winner for Best Song, "Falling Slowly" will continue to be the best-fucking-heart-ripped-out-break-up song for years to come.
Director: Danny Boyle
Music by Various Artists
Sex, heroin, and punk music: does much more need to be said? Danny Boyle's Trainspotting not only used great music, but maximized its cinematic potential. Without the peppy, catchy "Lust for Life" from Iggy Pop or Lou Reed's heartbreaking "Perfect Day," the atmosphere of the worlds -- both good and bad -- of hard drugs would've been lost.
(Warning: This clip features heavy drug use. NSFW)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Director: Gus Van Sant
Music by Various Artists
In his short career, the late Elliott Smith managed to be one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern music era. And despite his songwriting being so unbelievably sad, perhaps his most famous track, "Miss Misery," gives hope. The Oscar-nominated song found its fame placed at the end of Good Will Hunting, softly playing behind a man who has decided to leave all he knows just to see about a girl.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Director: Wes Anderson
Score by Mark Mothersbaugh, Songs by Various Artists
In The Royal Tenenbaums, director Wes Anderson looked to one of the most brilliant musical minds of the past 40 years: Mark Mothersbaugh. The Devo-frontman contributes to an odd collection of artists -- ranging from Nico to Elliott Smith -- to form a seamless stretch of music that flows together so effortlessly the songs feel more at home on the soundtrack than in their place of origin.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Director: Rob Reiner
Music by Spinal Tap
Turn it up to 11.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Score by John Williams
With 45 Oscar nominations, it's safe to call John Williams one of the most prolific and successful composers of all-time -- and Raiders of the Lost Ark is his finest work. Through the grand and dramatic score, he channeled all his talent to capture the true essence of Indiana Jones and forever thrust him into the spotlight as a true hero.
Almost Famous (2000)
Director: Cameron Crowe
Music by Various Artists
Secretly, we all wish we were rock stars during the '60s and '70s. Few films illustrate the culture of spurring fame like Almost Famous. And what would a rock 'n' roll film be without rock 'n' roll? This soundtrack is more than a sweet mix-tape your cool uncle gave you. The music -- from Elton John's anthem "Tiny Dancer" to the harmonies of Yes -- perfectly shows the development of a young boy tossed into one helluva situation, yet somehow emerges a mature young man.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Score by Bernard Herrmann
One way to measure success in cinema is to look at how a film stands up over time. Psycho, though released fifty years ago, still contains one of the most terrifying moments in movie history: the infamous shower scene. The reason for its enduring success? That disturbing screech.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.