"Dying is easy; comedy is hard."
It might have been a DC Comics character who revived these final words of 19th century thespian Edmund Kean, but it is Marvel that seems to be taking the maxim to heart, perhaps having at last stumbled upon the dark side of comedy direction. Since the latter half of its first phase of movies, Marvel Studios has prioritized a comic hue over intensity or grit, hiring unlikely folk like Joe Johnston, Shane Black, the Russo Brothers, and James Gunn (whose upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy looks like a riot) to turn what might have been adrenal actioners into wry character pieces. But the latest filmmaker to take up with the company is of a different breed. Still wading through the muck of a post-Edgar Wright production of Ant-Man, unable to find a director of note to take the reins from the manic brain behind the Cornetto Trilogy, Marvel has announced a partnership with horror director Scott Derrickson for its upcoming Doctor Strange feature. Variety reports that the man behind Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and sci-fi/thriller The Day the Earth Stood Still will handle the long gestating feature, a particular passion of super producer Kevin Feige.
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It is interesting both that Derrickson arises as a stark contrast to the Marvel helmers of Phases 1 and 2 — genre subverters, sitcom folk, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids dude — as well as smack dab in the middle of the company's high profile Ant-Man mess. Having lost Wright over a disharmony in desired tone of the film, Marvel might only now be realizing just how ribald a comedic vision can be. The difficulty Marvel faces in replacing Wright — Adam McKay (director of various Will Ferrell movies) and Rawson Thurber (of Dodgeball and We're the Millers) have already turned down the prospect, per The Wrap — seems to be no unlikely contributor to its realization that the comedy game is a lot tougher than anticipated back in the inceptive Winter Soldier days.
So now we have Doctor Strange, a character that is far from exempt of the same brand of personality and farce that we saw in The Avengers, both Captain Americas, Thor 2, and (perhaps most of all) Iron Man 3. And we're worried. Not so much about Doctor Strange in particular — the property is steeped in supernatural elements worthy of a great horror director's touch (and Derrickson is, indeed, a great horror director) — but about the future of Marvel on the whole. The company has built such a strong, satisfying franchise thanks not simply to its devotion to its characters but principally to its devotion to joy, personality, humanity... all the inherent facets of comedy. A Marvel that is afraid to have fun — resultant of its dissolution with Edgar Wright (the "funnest" guy it has ever hired) and inability to find a director to peter down his wily voice — is not a Marvel of promise.
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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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Daydreaming isn't just for long subway rides and boring days at work anymore. Now your daydreams can help you win over the love of your life and travel to every corner of the earth, learning about the world and having life-changing adevntures. At least that's what appears to happen in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Directed, produced by and starring Ben Stiller, the film endorses taking chances and following your (day)dreams in order to live the life you want.
The film's new international trailer clocks in at three minutes long, and offers audiences the best look yet at the film's plot. Based on James Thurber's 1939 short story, The Sceret Life of Walter Mitty follows the titular character (Stiller), who spends more time imagining adventures than actively participating in his life. However, when his office job is threatened by a missing photograph, Walter Mitty decides to take a chance and go on a quest to solve the mystery. The trailer highlights Walter's journey, from his action-star daydreams about saving a puppy form and exploding building to leaping onto a departing helicopter in order to finally undertake an adventure of his own.
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Kristen Wiig plays Walter's co-worker and love interest, Cheryl, while Sean Penn plays Sean O'Connell, the photographer who inspires Walter's adventure. The cast is rounded out by Adam Scott, as Walter and Cheryl's boss, Shirley MacLaine and Katheryn Hahn as Walter's mother and sister, respectively, and Patton Oswalt as the customer service representative for the online dating site that Walter belongs to.
Between the special effects and the many exotic locations, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty promises to be a visually stunning adventure — even the office building is impeccably designed — and due to this being the first trailer to focus on the film's plot, it seems like there's a good chance that the cinematography will outweigh the story. However, since the trailer never quite makes it clear whether Walter's journey is real or just in his head, there may be more to the film than what appears on the surface.
Regardless, the movie promises to be exactly the kind of life-affirming, feel good film that tends to draw audiences around the holidays, which means it has already generated a great deal of interest from critics and movie-goers alike.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will open in theaters on Christmas Day.
20th Century Fox
Our day just got a little bit brighter.
After being treated to a quirky delight of a trailer last month, we get yet another taste of The Secret life of Walter Mitty by way of an official poster that’s just as satisfying. In the upcoming film based on a short story by James Thurber, Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty, an office drone with his head in the clouds. Mitty lives out various adventures through his frequent daydreams but has to leave his dreams behind once adventure beckons in the real world. Joining Stiller are Patton Oswalt, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, and Sean Penn.
The poster showcases Walter, briefcase in tow, running through a sun-soaked skyline, no doubt racing to his next big imaginary adventure. The film looks like the perfect injection of whimsy for a work weary world. Since Ben is doing all the heavy lifting for this project (directing, producing, and starring in the film) he might want to take a break and do some daydreaming himself after the movie comes out.
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Emmy Award-winning actor William Windom passed away Thursday at his home in Woodacre, Calif., at the age of 88. Windom's wife Patricia tells the New York Times that the cause of death was congestive heart failure.
In 1962, Windom made his feature film debut as the prosecuting attorney facing off against Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. Then, from 1963-1966, Windom played the male lead — Minnesota congressman Glen Morley — in the situation comedy The Farmer's Daughter.
In 1970, Windom won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series for his performance as John Monroe in My World and Welcome to It, a TV show based on James Thurber's humorous essays and cartoons.
While My World earned Windom an Emmy, he is best known for his roles on Murder, She Wrote and Star Trek. Windom appeared in over 50 episodes of Murder, She Wrote from 1985-1996 as Dr. Seth Hazlitt, a good friend of Angela Lansbury's Jessica Fletcher. Trekkies will remember Windom as Commodore Matt Decker in the 1967 "Doomsday Machine" episode of the original Star Trek.
Windom is survived by Patricia, his wife of 37 years, and his four children, Rachel, Heather, Hope, and Rebel, as well as four grandchildren.
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