There is something to be said for ambition. The sort of unabashed, no holds barred, balls to the wall energy that makes anything seem like a good idea. Though you'll cock your head at the results of this kind of caution-to-the-wind bravado, the all-inclusive "sure, why not?" attitude, you can't help but crack a smile for the purveyors of this spirit: the first grader who stuffs his class diorama with every figurine and pipe cleaner machination he can muster, the bird who lines its nest with candy wrappers and Fedex receipts, or the people who made the Mortal Instruments movie. They, quite possibly, are the mightiest knights of them all.
You don't have to wait too long for the crazy to kick up in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. We open on the most spacious apartment in the history of Brooklyn, where young Lily Collins is beginning to see mysterious symbols popping up everywhere, only the first sign of the fantastical journey set to take form. Mother Lena Headey, aided by her platonic friend Aidan Turner, plays the Dursley card and takes effort to deter any exploration of the ominous elements to befall her daughter. But as with every spunky mystic around her age, Collins cannot be restrained. She follows her heart and embarks on a quest, aided by her platonic friend Robert Sheehan, through every single conceivable element of modern fantasy.
The Harry Potter similarities continue when Collins is ushered into a demonic otherworld via New York City's equivalent of a murky train platform (an ecstasy-laden dance club), guided by New York City's equivalent of a haggard woodland giant (a perpetually shirtless goth ghost, played by Jamie Campbell Bower). Working her way up from glowing-eyed club druggers and pieces of living jewelry to demons, werewolves, witches, vampires, and interdimensional portals — tossed in one by one as we gradually abandon all devotion to any margins of logic — Collins engages in an adventure that seems entirely open to all possibilities. Or at least all possibilities that have proven vigilant at the box office in the past four years.
And as she engages, so do we. Not exactly in the way you engage with Harry Potter... more in the way you engage with the Harry Potter ride at Islands of Adventure. You'll embrace the likable and talented Collins just enough to forge the sort of relationship you want with a fantasy heroine. You'll find yourself rooting one way or the other in the love triangle between her, the Shirtless Shadowhunter (Campbell Bower), and her lovestruck pal Simon (Sheehan). You won't have to work too hard to understand most of the mystical facets tossed your way: you know the rules of vampires (no sunlight), of werewolves (they're dudes sometimes), of demons (they're bad). And when it does get confusing, like when teleportation bubbles and portal beams from the afterlife and curses and tarot cards and dreadlocks are tossed into the equation, you have the luxury of abandoning the puzzle. You're not asked to understand anything, just to accept it all.
Accept that all this madness can, does, and should occur within the malleable reality occupied by Collins and her ghastly friends. When it is revealed that classical musicians had a hand in these supernatural forays, accept it. When you're taken from wizards' palaces to Willy Wonkian wonderlands to the destitute streets of a haunted Manhattan post 3 AM, accept it. When genealogical revelations tie everything together in a bow so strange as to put the peculiarity of bat invasions, corpse armies, glowing hieroglyph tattoos, and memory erasing club promoters, accept it. If you can do all that, you'll find a comical thrill ride in this two hours of steadily accelerating madness, this Mulligan Stew of YA fiction. But if you're too hung up on logic, rules, world building, or any semblance of pacing, stick with Potter — Mortal Instruments is for the most adamant "sure, why not?"-ers only.
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More:Lily Collins Talks 'Mortal Instruments'Jared Harris Talks 'Mortal Instruments'Hollywood.com's YA Summer Book Club
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Jared Harris knows a thing or two about pop culture occults and the cults of pop culture. The Emmy-nominated actor is perhaps best known to audiences for his roles on fervent fan favorite TV shows like Fringe and Mad Men. Harris will next be seen in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the big screen adaptation of Cassandra Clare's popular fantasy YA series in which he plays Hodge Starkweather, a cursed tutor who teaches the Shadowhunters, a group of underground demon hunters.
"This year, I’ve done three, for f**k’s sake! What’s going on?" Harris told Hollywood.com on the Toronto set of The Mortal Instruments regarding his recent transition into the fantasy/horror genre, in which TMI certainly falls. "I did a movie called The Quiet Ones, which was about a guy who’s investigating paranormal events... and then I played the devil. And then now I’m in this film, which is all about demons and s**t, so yeah, it’s been a weird year for that."
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Still, even after unintentionally finding himself in yet another supernatural film, he still found new and exciting challenges in playing the morally-conflicted Hodge. "He’s a fun character. You don’t know which side he’s playing on, which is always interesting to do," Harris said. "[He] is someone who knows what the right thing to do is, but for his own reasons, is making a different deal, because he’s trying to change his circumstances. But he knows the difference between the right thing and the wrong thing to do, and he’s not delusional in the sense that he doesn’t think that he’s doing something for the betterment of mankind or some bulls**t like that. He knows that what he’s doing is purely to get his own ass out of the situation that he’s stuck in."
So what could be better than getting to play someone as unpredictable as Hodge? Getting to fight and dress up as someone like Hodge. "What’s great fun is I get to fight Dredger [Robert Maillet, who plays Samuel Blackwell, one of TMI's baddies] from Sherlock Holmes. He’s a f**king enormous man. So it’s been fun, because when you do all these fight scenes, you try and jazz ‘em up and everything. And then I sit there and I go, 'Listen, if this guy hit me, I’d collapse. I’d crumble if he actually managed to actually connect with me.' But I was really excited that I was fighting him, because I f**king loved him in that movie."
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But don't put Harris — who memorably went fisticuffs-to-fisticuffs with Vincent Kartheiser's Pete Campbell in a classic episode of Mad Men — down for the count just yet. "I can still kick ass, man," the Brit assured us. Harris also got to do a physical transformation of his own, thanks to the fake Shadowhunter tattoos and the gothic aesthetics used to bring Hodge to life. "I have a scar, which I didn’t have before. A good prosthetic scar, a white wig....which is a bit shocking. You look in the mirror and you see what you might be like a couple years from now."
Still, the 51-year-old actor didn't feel old on the TMI set, which was largely comprised of young Hollywood up-and-comers like Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, thanks to their professionalism. "Nowadays you find that a lot of the youngsters have been doing it almost as long as you have, because they’ve been doing it since they were 6, you know?" Harris said, adding, "So they’re all pros."
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Harris also seem unphased by the much younger following TMI has as opposed to, say, Mad Men. The actor, who admitted he hadn't read Clare's books before signing on to the project, noted "This is slightly different than the Mad Men [fandom] because it exists in a literary form first, the fans have [it in their] imaginations already. But something like Mad Men, it exists in Matt Weiner’s mind. And no one can read what Season 6 and Season 7 is, because it’s in his head."He added, "So I would say in that sense, it’s probably a little freer, whereas in this one, you have an obligation to that mythology. And you don’t want to piss the fans off, you know?"
As any TMI fan would argue, oh do they know. But Harris assured that he, his TMI castmates and crew members have done everything in their powers to ensure that doesn't happen. As Harris put it, "You have to honor the mythology that’s been created in the books, which they have done."
[Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images]
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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.
"He's actually really sweet. He was 10 times more upset than I was!" ROBERT DOWNEY JR. admits his towering SHERLOCK HOLMES co-star ROBERT MAILLET felt awful after accidentally knocking out the Hollywood star during a fight scene while filming last year (08).
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen emerged triumphant at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards last night, taking home two prizes.
Cohen picked up Best Comedic Performance for his turn in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Best Kiss for his smooch with Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Elsewhere at the Gibson Amphitheatre ceremony in Universal City, California, Johnny Depp won the Best Performance award for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man's Chest, which also won Best Movie.
Mike Myers was presented with the MTV Generation Award by his Shrek costar Cameron Diaz.
The winners at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards were:
Best Villain--Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Best Fight--Gerard Butler Vs. The Uber Immortal (Robert Maillet), 300
Best Kiss--Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Breakthrough Performance--Jaden Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Best Comedic Performance--Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
MTV Generation Award--Mike Myers
Best Movie Spoof--United 300
Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet--Transformers
Best Performance--Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Movie--Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
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