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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The stars of cult British TV comedy The Inbetweeners are reuniting for a sequel to their hit 2011 movie. James Buckley, Simon Bird, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas will reprise their geeky characters for a follow-up which will be shot later this year (13).
A statement from creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley reads, "We couldn't be more excited to be making another Inbetweeners movie. A new chapter in the lives of the Inbetweeners feels like the very least we can do to thank the fans for their phenomenal response to the first movie."
The writers downplayed reports suggesting the second film, due in U.K. and Ireland cinemas next August (14), will take place Down Under, insisting, "Australia is just one of the ideas we're kicking around."
The Inbetweeners ran for three seasons on U.K. TV before hitting the big screen, and the film version, which was set in Greece, holds the box office record for the most successful opening weekend for a comedy release in Britain.
Is it hot in here or is just Nick and Jess? Well, technically both as my heat is not only on full blast (lousy Smarch weather) but because Nick and Jess are the most scorching almost-couple on television. The New Girl writers are dangling these two in front of us like they're a sexy ball of yarn and we're a damn cat. The innuendo-filled "Quick Hardening Caulk" (come on, even the title of the episode was an innuendo!) was a fast, furious, and frenzied mix of physical comedy and sexual tension. Hell, even Winston had a killer scene this week. A hilarious winner of an episode all around.
The episode kicked off at the bar where roles were reversed, as Schmidt was a sad sack drowning his Cece engagement sorrows in the girliest drink of all time, Melon Balls ("That's safe to drink while you're pregnant" Nick made sure to note), and Nick was a motivated go-getter who was doing everything to be a good bartender. The take-charge, grown-up Nick caught the eye of Jess, who, let's face it, hasn't been able to really shake him (and vice versa) since their kiss.
RELATED: 'New Girl' Recap: An Unexpected Engagement Party
Jess admitted, out loud, to Cece that she wants Nick. Now her crush is not just something in her mind, but a palpable energy in the apartment and every time she's around Nick it is, as to be expected, terribly awkward. Everything he does suddenly makes him more and more appealing: figuring out what laundry is (even the "little soap house" in the washing machine and the perks of "smelling like a baby in a damn meadow"), wanting to have salads and vitamins for nutrition, and his newfound ambition at work by coming up with ideas like "Men's Night" at the bar.
Of course, Nick was clueless to Jess' weirdness (in his defense, she's a cuckoo bird all the time) and his real reason for wanting to be an attractive, productive adult male was — unbeknownst to Jess — because he was sleeping with his sexy new female manager at the bar, played by guest star Odette Annable.
The growing attraction was only propelled by a fateful trip to a hardware store where he sexily pulled on chains (oh, the grunting, my god, the grunting), sexily rattled off his list of items he needed to buy (which just so happened to include a long- shafted drive drill, a new nut wrench, quick hardening caulk, a drill shaft, and box of gummy sharks) and sexily nailed Jess in the face with a long plank of wood. Okay, that last one isn't as sexy as it sounds, he actually accidentally knocked her out cold with wood.
Back at the apartment, Nick tended to Jess, who was all hopped up on painkillers from the shiner she took to the chin. In her woozy state Jess not only confessed to Nick that she liked him, but that she wanted to have sex with him. I repeat: Jess admitted to Nick she wanted to have sex with him, in the voice of Judy Garland, no less. (Boy, Jess sure does bring old timey stars into the bedroom with her a lot, doesn't she?)
A stunned and confused Nick did his best to fight off an aggressive Jess ("That little piggy cant be touched by you!") even as she reached down his pants and told him he was a "beautiful white man" and adored his "little bubble belly." He fought her off just enough to have his hand land in a bowl of hot soup and left with a whole lot of confused feelings.
When he pow-wowed with Schmidt and Winston (I'll get to their storyline soon, I swear) and gave a very thinly veiled analogy about opened and closed doors, it was very evident Nick wanted to have sex with Jess and see if she meant what she said. But, heartbreak of heartbreak, a recovering Jess emerges to reveal she doesn't remember anything that happened to her, certainly not confessing wanting to have sexytimes with Nick. All together now: nooooooooooooo!
RELATED: 'New Girl' Recap: Parking Wars
But the saga of Nick and Jess wasn't over just yet: Jess showed up to the bar to find Nick's new squeeze all over him. Jess tried to surpress her anger and confusion and Nick tried to cover his tracks to no avail, introducing Jess as his "room...friend" and Jess storming off, despite not really having a reason to be upset about him having a new girl around...except for the fact that she loves him.
Nick found Jess back at the apartment eating ice cream (oh brother, let's hope they don't get into this territory again), but rather than let the tension mount, he tells her about her drug-fueled confession and flat-out asks her, "Do you wanna have sex with me?" She says yes, but the truth comes out that her newfound attraction came from Nick's newfound ambition, that was for another woman. Nick calls her a gold digger, she denies it, and in what is his sexiest move yet, tells her to "prove it." Hubba. Hubba.
The two kiss again and claw at each other physically and verbally, flip-flopping between hot make-out session and arguing with each other, sometimes combining both. ("Just shut up and take off your clothes!") But the fighting had disastrous results when Nick accidentally broke Schmidt's fish tank (yes, Schmidt got a fish tank, I promise I'll get to it!) and the whole thing fell apart, literally and figuratively. No, Nick and Jess didn't do it, but they certainly didn't close the door to it either. Thank goodness, because Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel's comedic chemistry has made for the most sizzling, enjoyable dynamic on television in a long time. They're both comedy dynamos who, let's face it, aren't too tough to look at. Everybody wins.
Speaking of comedy dynamos, Max Greenfield had one of his best performances this season with an episode that was equal parts slapstick as it was heart. Schmidt was in a total downward spiral since Cece's engagement that only got worse when, despite Winston's best intention to take his mind off things by taking him to the aquarium, Schmidt became obsessed with a lionfish that reminded him of his ex. (You see, because for him, there's no other fish in the seasea, than Cece).
Schmidt becomes obsessed with obtaining the rare lionfish, going so far as to try and fish one out of the ocean (with a lacrosse stick, no less) only to wind up with a comically large jellyfish sting to the face. With good friend Winston by his side (who wouldn't, nay couldn't pee on him, a la Monica's incident on Friends) Schmidt wound up in the hospital where Cece showed up with...a lionfish as per Schmidt's request. (She knew a guy who knows a guy who can find obscure things. The perks of being a model).
With Schmidt out cold, Winston pleads with Cece to give Schmidt space to breathe and get over her. Her engagement was, as he described it, killing him. It was a sincere, much-needed moment, not only for Cece to step away or make up her mind about Schmidt for good, but for the underutilized Lamorne Morris to finally have a real reason to be around. When Schmidt came around he realized, albeit very late, that the fish obsession was an obvious analogy for Cece and that he must release her: she's not his to keep. It all would have been very sweet if Schmidt hadn't attempted to flush "her" and then accidentally throw "her" in the total opposite direction on the beach.
"Quick Hardening Caulk" (heh) cracked the doors back open for both major New Girl couples, and while I'm a little more eager for a full-fledged Nick and Jess hook-up (I mean, look at the way they kiss and fight), the ongoing Schmidt and Cece drama looks primed for some season finale action. Either way the wind blows for these four, it's all working for New Girl. The show has somehow broken the sitcom curse of having couples tension not get in the way of it being hilarious. Looking at you, later seasons of How I Met Your Mother. The cast and writers of New Girl have expertly woven physical comedy, with romance, sex, and drama, and the new episode was the epitome of all that.
RELATED: 'New Girl': The One Where Nick and Jess Kiss
Here now are some of the other great moments and lines from the great "Quick Hardening Caulk." Heh.
- Schmidt's list of things worth getting upset about other than Cece: "Air pollution in China, the deficit, The Hobbit wasn't very good."
- "I don't trust fish, they breathe water"- Nick, after seeing Schmidt's fish tank.
- "Just remember you caught him pleasuring himself to a mail order steak catalog!" - Jess, talking herself down from being turned on by Nick at the hardware store.
- "I don't want some janky fresh water bitch fish." - Schmidt, after Winston buys him a clown fish.
- Schmidt telling Winston he's an "incredibly lumpy man" and suggesting he lose 55 pounds.
- Nick calling $24 "two dozen dollars" at the bar.
- "What are you, the city planner?!"- Schmidt to Winston, after he warns him the toilet doesn't lead to the ocean.
- Nick and Jess' make-out. Yes, I know we already talked about it, but it's worth mentioning again!
[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox]
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
The popular show, starring James Buckley and Simon Bird as a group of awkward teenagers, became a hit film in the U.K. last year (11) and now movie bosses in the U.S. are planning to create an American version.
Iain Morris, co-creator of the U.K. show, has been hired to write and direct a movie inspired by the 2011 original for an American audience. It is believed the film will follow a similar plot to the first film, about four friends taking a post-graduation vacation, but will feature a new cast and different characters.
An American TV version is also planned for this year (12), starring Joey Pollari, Bubba Lewis, Zack Pearlman and Mark L. Young.
The show will debut on MTV in August (12) and the movie is slated for release in September (12), according to Deadline.com.
The opening credits of the found-footage excretion The Devil Inside include a helpful disclaimer advising us that the Vatican “did not endorse this film nor aid in its completion ” just in case we might be inclined to believe the Holy See were in the business of making schlocky horror flicks. One’s heart goes out to Satan whose involvement in the film is pretty clearly implied by the title but who received no such disclaimer. Even he deserves better than to be associated with this dreck.
The pseudo-doc-style story centers on a young girl Isabella Rossi (Fernanda Andrade) whose mother Maria (Suzan Crowley) murdered three people twenty years prior during what was later revealed to be an exorcism gone awry. Seeking to learn more about the tragedy that consumed her mother Isabella travels to Italy where Maria is currently housed in a Vatican-run mental hospital. The doctors prove frustratingly insensitive to her mother’s affliction causing Isabella to see out a pair of young renegade exorcists (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) for help.
Maria is one creepy bird a frazzled cat-lady whose eyes blaze with penetrating high-octane craziness even under heaviest of sedation. An early scene in which Isabella meets with her near-catatonic mother and gently tries to ascertain whether her insanity is of the conventional or demonically-inspired variety oozes tension as we wait for her whispered ramblings to explode into full-on Satanic mania. It’s a terrifically fraught scene by far the best in the film and sadly the only point in which we ever come close to being scared.
The film proffers a variety of different narrative threads and chooses to resolve none of them. What happened to the English priest’s uncle or Isabella’s baby? And what of that poor possessed gal with the hemorrhaging vagina? Was she ever able to get that under control? God only knows. Even crazy-eyes Maria the film’s MVP makes an all-too-hasty exit never to be hear from again after a half-baked exorcism attempt.
Director/co-writer William Brent Bell’s clear aim is to mimic the wildly successful Paranormal Activity films but he ignores the found-footage standard-bearer’s most important precept which is to keep the story simple rely as little on the “actors” as possible and pile on the cheap scares one after another. Instead we’re handed an abundance of character details we never asked for and which never really amount to anything save for some choice over-acting in the third act when the devil’s machinations turn everyone against each other. The film devolves into a kind of exorcism-themed Real World episode replete with “confessionals” in which the characters tearfully air their frustrations -- as if we gave a damn. Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t because The Devil Inside concludes with what might be the least-satisfying horror ending in a decade.
In the beginning of Happy Feet you might think a handful of moviegoers forgot to silence their cell phones; it’s just the emperor penguins singin’ their beaks off to one of any number of songs popular circa 2003. In Antarctica that’s how they stick together--it’s how they harmonize so to speak. But with the birth of one penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) the whole colony is shaken up. Mumble has the voice of a puberty-stricken boy and is unable to keep a tune but he can dance like the dickens! His mother Norma Jean (voiced by Nicole Kidman) thinks it’s a cute habit but his father (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and the rest of the tight-knit community ostracize him. After toiling around a while with his new buddies (of which two are voiced by Robin Williams) some of whom are “Latino penguins ” Mumble realizes his only chance at redemption is to find the source of the penguins’ current fish famine--and he’ll stop at nothing not even “aliens." Robin Williams is quite the odd bird himself. Nowadays--movie-wise at least--he’s better heard and not seen (i.e. voice-over roles like this one) whereas his mile-a-minute physicality was once a necessary evil to get the full 3-D effect of his personality. His animated self obviously less in-your-face Williams’ dialogue does all the work in Feet and gives a performance that matches his beloved Aladdin Genie. Frodo alert: Wood also starring in this weekend’s Bobby hits all the er wrong notes to turn in a solid performance as the movie’s lead Mumble. Since he sounds (and looks) much younger to most people than his actual age (25) it’s another in his long line of impeccable role choices. As the unattainable object of Mumble’s affection Brittany Murphy stars as Gloria a character that if nothing else allows the actress to display her singing talents as a preview of her reported upcoming album. (Yes seriously.) The biggest names Kidman and Jackman with small parts don’t offer much besides superficial mainstream appeal but bit parts from Hugo Weaving Anthony LaPaglia and the late Steve Irwin round out the formidable cast with some zing. Penguins have long been ripe for the animating what with their waddling clumsiness and stuffed-animal cuteness. March of the Penguins outed them as lovable misunderstood Antarctic creatures Madagascar turned them into ‘toon comedians and now Feet director and co-writer George Miller (Mad Max) gives them the full treatment by animating and literally humanizing them. Miller’s labor of love which he’d deliberated over for some time encompasses all the kiddie messages we’ve come to expect while managing to toss in the rare animation curveball: ecological themes. Miller is clearly an animal lover--he also wrote and produced Babe--a passion he ties into the film without forcing. But the animation nonstop musical numbers and technical aspect of the film will truly and pleasantly surprise you. In fact a few scenes in particular involving humans juxtaposed with animated penguins make for memorable images--and messages. He and his team of co-writers Warren Coleman John Collee and Judy Morris also formulate typically quicker-witted dialogue for the primarily Aussie cast but it’s the overall heartwarming tale and execution thereof that’ll have you smiling all movie long.