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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Kirkwood, who died in 2007 at the age of 86, is the focus of new play Pat Kirkwood is Angry, written by and starring opera singer Jessica Walker, and the show tells her life story, touching on her marriages and divorces and the rumours of an alleged affair with Queen Elizabeth II's husband.
The star was dogged by speculation over her relationship with Prince Philip for many years and even reportedly considered taking legal action to stop the gossip.
Her private correspondence with the royal will be revealed for the first time in the play, after Walker was allowed access to letters written to Kirkwood by the prince.
The notes are now in the possession of royal biographer Michael Thornton, who explains, "My instructions, in accordance with Pat's will, are that these letters are to be shown to no one except the Duke of Edinburgh's official biographer, after his death.
"Jessica Walker, therefore, has not seen the actual documents, but I have been so impressed by her research into Pat's life that I have drawn her attention to brief significant pages in the letters, and these are what she will be quoting in her play."
Pat Kirkwood is Angry will premiere at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England on Wednesday (03Oct12).
Tom Cruise has parted ways with his publicist sister 20 months after giving her the job over his longtime PR Pat Kingsley.
Lee Anne DeVette has dealt with her brother's romance with Katie Holmes and his controversial comments about Scientology and psychiatry during her time as his press officer.
Cruise has replaced his sister with top Hollywood PR Paul Bloch, who also serves as co-chairman for publicity powerhouse Rogers & Cowan and represents movie stars John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Bob Thornton and David and Victoria Beckham, among others.
However, DeVette will continue to work alongside her brother as the full-time caretaker of his charity work.
In a statement, the movie star says, "Lee Anne has done a wonderful job on behalf of me and Cruise-Wagner Productions over the last few years, but she has always expressed a desire to oversee and expand the day-to-day activities of my charitable endeavors."
DeVette adds, "I know how important Tom's charitable goals are to him, and I look forward to assisting in raising the profile of the good works that he does on behalf of children's health issues, mentoring, literacy and other social reforms."
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Top Story: Angelina and Billy Bob Make It Official
Time to throw away those blood-filled amulets. Yes, the passionate but brief marriage between Oscar-winning Angelina Jolie, 27, and Billy Bob Thornton, 47, is officially a done deal. Reuters reports court documents were filed Tuesday by Jolie on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences" and uncontested. It was Thornton's fifth marriage and Jolie's second. Jolie's lawyers told Reuters the couple had reached an agreement over support and visitation rights for their adopted Cambodian son Maddox but she declined to reveal details.
Garner Takes a Break
In coping with her recent split with husband Scott Foley, Alias star Jennifer Garner took a much-needed hiatus in Hawaii and also visited her parents in West Virginia. In an interview to air Thursday on Access Hollywood, The Associated Press reports Garner told Pat O'Brien, "I have such great girlfriends, and I was able to go away with them to Hawaii for almost a week and I went home to my parents in West Virginia for a week, so I had a nice time away."
Harrison Ford Gets a Walk of Fame Star…Again
Harrison Ford will get a star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday, even though he thought he had already received one. It turns out the other star belongs to a silent screen actor of the same name, who got the star in 1960. Ford was selected in 1984 to get a star but never responded. "Sometimes that happens with the nominations,'' Ana Martinez-Holler of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce told City News. "They'll change publicists, they'll change management, and aren't aware they had already been approved.'' The mistake came when Ford took the word of someone who informed him--incorrectly--that the other Ford's star was his, Martinez-Holler said. Whew. Glad they got it all straightened out.
Reeves Set to Make Millions Off Matrix Sequels
Exactly how much will Matrix star Keanu Reeves be making with the two Matrix sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions? Good question. Variety reports the intricate back-end deal Reeves made in 1999 when he agreed to do the sequels--which included not only box office sales but DVD, video game, TV sales and ancillaries--could net the actor anywhere from $90 million to near $200 million, depending on the final estimates. His friends must be saying, "Dinner's on Keanu!"
More on Jackson's Legal Woes
The latest suit to enter the courtroom against Michael Jackson could be the singer's most costly, as details of his personal life may be revealed. Reuters reports a lawsuit brought by Jackson's former financial advisor, Myung-Ho Lee, and his firm Union Finance and Investment Corp., claims the onetime King of Pop is broke, having squandered his fortune in "bizarre" ways while egged on by a string of "charlatans." They are seeking $12 million for alleged breach of contract and fraud. Jackson has counter-sued, claiming that his trusted advisor--whom he called "Lawyer Lee"--and Union Finance stole millions from him and destroyed records to cover up their misdeeds, Reuters reports.
P. Diddy Joins Fight Against NY Drug Law
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs stood up with rap mogul Russell Simmons and U.S. housing secretary Andrew Cuomo to call for a repeal of New York's strict Rockefeller drug laws, AP reports. The laws, passed in the 1970s, can subject first-time offenders to 15 years to life in prison if convicted of selling as little as 2 ounces or possessing as little as 4 ounces of a controlled substance. Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature have been unable to agree on how to reform or repeal them, AP reports.
Kelly Will Join Ozzy Onstage
Kelly Osbourne will team up with dad Ozzy later this year on a U.K. concert tour, Ozzy's first British gig in eight years, AP reports. "I couldn't be happier about doing my own dates in the UK and having Kelly on the bill with me," Ozzy said on the Web Site, www.ozzynet.com. "I decided that this would be a great opportunity to bring my full stage show over to rock the UK."
Role Call: Jovovich's Ultraviolet
Milla Jovovich has signed with Screen Gems to reprise her role in the Resident Evil sequel as well as to play the title character in Ultraviolet, a futuristic vampire tale. Variety reports the film is about a tough woman who finds herself the protector of a 9-year-old boy targeted for death. Backdrop is a civil war in the late 21st century between humans and a subculture turned into vampires.
Oscar winner Barry Levinson (Bandits) received the Golden Eddie for filmmaker of the year Sunday at the 52nd American Cinema Editors Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Pietro Scalia won best edited dramatic feature for Black Hawk Down while Jill Bilcock won best edited comedy or musical for Moulin Rouge, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The television categories were dominated by HBO editors, which won three of the six awards. Veteran editors George Watters and Antony Gibbs received lifetime achievement awards.
Even after the 25th anniversary of his death, Elvis Presley is still drawing controversy. Elvis Presley Enterprises has licensed a company to replace George Washington on some of Tennessee's 2002 quarters with a color illustration of Presley. While defacing U.S. currency is considered a misdemeanor crime, the King of Rock 'n' Roll quarters are in a gray area because they are not part of a deceptive scheme, the Associated Press reports.
Harrison Ford, who divorced screenwriter Melissa Mathison last year, was seen strolling down Madison Ave. with Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart, bundled in winter jackets and wearing blue jeans and caps. According to PageSix.com, the also couple attended a post-Globes party together, and when the waifish Flockhart spilled red wine on her dress, Ford kissed her on the cheek and told bystanders, "She's a beautiful girl."
Madonna has refused to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award this year, worried that it might make her seem old and out of date. According to People, the 43-year-old singer was asked to accept the award in recognition of her 18-year career that started in 1984. Instead, the award went to Sting, who insisted the title of the award be changed to Outstanding Contribution before he'd accept it.
Tom Cruise is indeed sporting see-through braces, his spokeswoman Pat Kingsley told Reuters. After taking one of his kids to an orthodontist in Beverly Hills, the doctor noticed that Cruise's bite was out of alignment. The 39-year-old actor will likely have the braces on for a year or so but will take them off for movies.
Sylvester Stallone saved his pregnant wife, model Jennifer Flavin, and good friend Mira Sorvino from a stalled elevator after the two women were stuck between floors in the backstage elevator. The incident occurred during the Entertainment Industry Foundation's Love Rocks party last Thursday at the new Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Stallone took off his jacket and manually pried open the doors with his own hands, pulling the women to safety, according to myvideostore.com.
Singer Kylie Minogue told British talk-show host Michael Parkinson that she intends to marry boyfriend James Gooding, reports Sky News. Minogue, who has had a string of high-profile relationships including late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, said she has found happiness with the British model.
Anjelica Huston has been added to the cast of Blood Work, a new suspense-thriller from Warner Bros. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is based on the novel by Michael Connelly and stars Clint Eastwood as an FBI profiler tracking a serial killer under unusual circumstances involving his own history and blood analysis. Eastwood is also helming the film, which began filming Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Paul McCartney returned home to Liverpool, England, for a surprise appearance Sunday at a tribute concert for George Harrison, Reuters reports. The audience joined McCartney in an impromptu version of "Yesterday" in memory of the late Beatle, who died of cancer last year at the age of 58.
Don't expect Paul McCartney's wedding to Heather Mills next month to be a showy affair. A friend of McCartney told Scotland's Sunday Mail that the couple considered marrying in Skibo Castle, near Dornoch--where Madonna married director Guy Ritchie a year ago--but decided to go for something simpler instead, either at a small church or register office. The couple got engaged last July after meeting two years ago at an awards dinner.
The Screen Actors Guild and the Association of Talent Agents reached a tentative agreement Monday that would allow talent agencies to make and receive investments in companies involved in production, reports AP. The current rules, which went into place in 1939, were drafted to prevent conflicts of interest and protect actors from exploitation by talent agencies working for either producers or movie studios. Movie studios and television networks, however, would still be banned from owning or investing in a talent agency.
In an interview with Dateline on NBC Tuesday, comedian Paula Poundstone said she never hit or sexually abused anyone, but had been "colossally stupid." While Poundstone admitted she had a drinking problem, she said there was no worse punishment than returning from rehab to an empty house. "There are kids in orphanages in the Balkans that the state of California believes are better off there than with me," she told Dateline. "It's not a very good feeling."
Bruce Willis is set to star in a thriller about a man who has lost his memory and has to figure out whether he's a hitman or a hitman's target. Me Again, produced by Willis' partner Arnold Rifkin and Beryl Vertue, will begin production some time later this year, Variety reports. No director is attached to the project.
Billy Bob Thornton, Johnny Depp and Hugh Grant have been added to the spring lineup for Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. According to Variety, the episodes will air from Jan. 28 to March 11. Telecasts for this month's interviews with Bruce Willis, Debra Winger, Sarah Jessica Parkerand Sissy Spacek have yet to be scheduled.
Denzel Washington, who plays a financially strapped man who holds a hospital emergency room hostage to get a heart transplant for his son in John Q, does not necessarily agree with his character's tactics. "What he's saying basically is that my son's life is more important than anyone else's in that emergency room, " he told reporters over the weekend. "The bottom line is he could have gone to a county hospital."
British talent apparently does not impress Minnie Driver. Driver commented in an interview with a Los Angeles newspaper that some of England's greatest actresses are also some of the plainest. Sky News reports that Driver said, "Maybe it is because theatre is the great love of England, but you can have Judi Dench, a very small, round, middle-aged, lovely, mothering type, playing Cleopatra." Dench was 52-and menopausal-when she played the Queen of the Nile in London for director Peter Hall.
Janet Jackson said on Tuesday that she may never tour again. In an interview with the syndicated TV news show Extra, Jackson said she would only tour again if she could hit every place she needed to go within a month or two. "Touring is very grueling. It's very taxing on the body and living out of your suitcase, going from city to city, night after night. It's a tough job," she told Extra, which provided a partial transcript of the interview to Reuters. The entire interview will air on Wednesday.
CBS, Fox and NBC have greenlighted more pilots for fall 2002. According to Variety, the former producer of Homicide: Life on the Streets will head R.U.S.H., a CBS pilot about an elite unit of the LAPD, while Fox has given the final OK for Fast Lane, an action series described as a cross between Starsky and Hutch and Miami Vice. NBC meanwhile has agreed to push the comedy Mr. Ambassador starring Rupert Everett to midseason.
Veteran broadcast journalist Connie Chung is leaving ABC News to join CNN, where she is expected to host a primetime show, Reuters reports. Chung's move intensifies the rivalry between CNN and the Fox News Channel in the all-news cable television category. Last month Fox stole CNN's Greta Van Susteren to anchor a primetime news show, while CNN lured away Fox News Channel's anchor Paula Zahn.
Moulin Rouge took home eight prizes at the International Press Academy's sixth annual Golden Satellite Awards, including best director and best film, Variety reports. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring followed with four nods, In the Bedroom earned three wins and A Beautiful Mind nabbed two prizes. The International Press Academy is a breakaway group from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that organizes the Golden Globe Awards.
Pat Summerall announced Tuesday that he will leave John Madden, his NFL broadcasting partner of 21 years, after they call the Super Bowl for Fox Sports, the Associated Press reports. Summerall, 71, said he was not retiring and still wants to do games and work with the NFL.
AP reports that John Mellencamp is satisfied with the four-year suspended sentence and $10,000 fine given to homebuilder Timothy O. Eldredge, who pled guilty to a felony charge of theft of $137,471 by falsifying billing invoices in an effort to bilk the singer and his wife, Elaine Irwin. The couple had hired The Eldredge Group of Indianapolis to build a $2.5 million home near Lake Monroe south of Bloomington.
The WB has decided to halt production on the second season of the comedy Nikki, which star Nikki Cox as a Las Vegas showgirl and Nick von Esmarch as her wrestler husband. A total of 41 episodes will have been produced when the show wraps.
ABC and ESPN have won broadcast rights from NBC for the National Basketball Association games. The six-year deal starts next season, but the league said it would also create a new network with AOL Time Warner Inc. broadcast games. According to Reuters, the new deals will feature more than twice the number of regular season broadcasts as the current one.
He's played idiots and superheroes. Up next for Keanu Reeves is an against type role as a brutal, spouse-beating murder suspect in the low-budget drama "The Gift."
As with Tom Cruise's supporting turn in the critical hit "Magnolia," Reeves reportedly will take a back seat (and a serious pay cut) to co-star alongside Giovanni Ribisi, Cate Blanchett and Katie Holmes ("Dawson's Creek"). Today's Daily Variety says Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan") will helm the under-$10 million film for Paramount's art-house division, Paramount Classics.
For the chance to do evil things on celluloid, Reeves will pare down his usual per-picture asking price of $15 million to union scale, the trade paper says.
Written by "One False Move" screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, "The Gift" concerns a small-town Southern psychic who becomes involved in a murder investigation. Reeves plays a redneck who becomes the prime suspect when he threatens the clairvoyant after she helps his battered wife.
Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan") is the headliner, starring as a troubled youth who becomes the clairvoyant's closest ally.
Shooting is set to begin Feb. 7. After "The Gift," Reeves will pick up his normal (hefty) paycheck for starring in "Sweet November" for Warner Bros. That project, starring Reeves as a businessman who falls in love with a dying woman, will be directed by Pat O'Connor ("Circle of Friends"). It's a remake of the 1968 Sandy Dennis-Anthony Newley drama of the same name.
After "Sweet November," Reeves is set to get back in action on the proposed 250-day shoot for the back-to-back "Matrix" sequels for filmmakers Larry and Andy Wachowski. His typically explosive payday for that two-fer project is a $30 million advance against 15% of the two films' combined grosses.
DIRECTOR HELD FOR 'RANSOM': "Wild Things" director John McNaughton sets his voyeur's eyes next on "The Ransom," today's Hollywood Reporter says. The Bel Air Entertainment flick is based on the 1991 Brian Tobin crime-caper novel. The story involves an ex-con, a thief and a pickpocket who plot to kidnap New York's biggest, baddest drug dealer. The project, whose title may be kidnapped before it's released to theaters, does not yet have a start date.
FINE "FEATHERS": Feeling good from their successful union on "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Miramax Films and Paramount Pictures will give their relationship another shot with a remake of the 1939 British action-adventure film "The Four Feathers," Daily Variety says. Screenwriter Hossein Amini ("The Wings of the Dove") is set to adapt the story, which involves a disgraced British officer's attempt to redeem himself by infiltrating enemy territory and freeing his captured friends.