Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
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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On August 25, 2005, we posted a story from World Entertainment News network (WENN) about Teri Hatcher headlined "Hunter Hits Out at Hatcher's Weight Loss."
WENN was reliably informed by Hatcher's legal representatives the story, which was originally published in Reveal magazine in the UK, has no basis whatsoever in truth. Rachel Hunter did not make any comments about Hatcher, who has not experienced any recent weight loss and other than the periodwhen she was pregnant eight years ago.
WENN retracted the story and apologied unreservedly to Hatcher.
Top Story: Country Singer Glen Campbell Arrested
Country singer Glen Campbell, best known for his hit single "Rhinestone Cowboy," was arrested Monday in Phoenix, Ariz., on suspicion of extreme drunken driving and hit and run, Reuters reports. Campbell, 67, was also booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated assault on a police officer for allegedly kneeing a sergeant in the thigh while at the station. According to police, Campbell's BMW slammed into a Toyota sedan at an intersection and failed to stay at the scene. Campbell was later arrested at his residence at the Biltmore Estates in a posh area of Phoenix and was released on bond at 12:30 a.m. after a midnight hearing. The singer's blood alcohol level was not immediately released, but the legal limit for drivers in Arizona is .08, with extreme drunken driving more than .15. Campbell's official Web site says that the singer has given up alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
Survivor's Elisabeth Joins The View
Former Survivor: The Australian Outback castaway Elisabeth Hasselbeck, previously known as Elisabeth Filarski, has been named a co-host on ABC's Emmy-winning The View, now in its sixth season. The View's executive producer Barbara Walters, who made the announcement on air Monday with the rest of the co-hosts, held an open casting call for a fifth host to join the daytime show after Lisa Ling left last December. Hasselbeck was one of three finalists in the search for a new host, which also included contenders Rachel Campos of MTV's Real World: San Francisco and actress Erin Hershey Presley of ABC's defunct soap opera Port Charles. Hasselbeck, who was the host of the Style Channel's The Look for Less, will begin her hosting duties today.
Jonathan Brandis' Death a Suicide
The Los Angeles county coroner's office concluded Monday that the Nov. 12 death of 27-year-old actor Jonathan Brandis, who starred in two seasons of Steven Spielberg's SeaQuest DSV, was a suicide, The Associated Press reports. Brandis, who died Nov. 12, hung himself, the coroner said. The actor started his career with a recurring role on the soap One Life to Live at age 6, and went on to make guest appearances on L.A. Law, Who's the Boss? and Murder, She Wrote. His film credits included the starring role in 1991's The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter, the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Ladybugs and the martial arts comedy Sidekicks with Chuck Norris.
Meat Loaf Recovering From Surgery
Rock singer Meat Loaf, who collapsed in the middle of a sold-out concert at London's Wembley Arena last Monday, is recovering from heart surgery to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a defect of the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. Reuters reports the 56-year-old singer, best known for his hit single "Bat Out of Hell," is recovering at a private location in London after undergoing surgery last Friday. Meat Loaf is expected to give more details about his condition and future tour plans after additional tests later this week to determine the success of the surgery, his record company said.
Men Plead Guilty to Posing as Boy Band Members
Two men who posed as former members of the boy band New Kids on the Block in southern Nevada have pleaded guilty to fraud charges and begun serving sentences at separate federal prisons, the AP reports. In October 2002, Ward claimed his wallet was stolen and identified himself as NKOTB member Jonathan Knight, providing Las Vegas police with Knight's Social Security number and date of birth. He then used the report to obtain a Social Security card and Nevada driver's license in Knight's name and a credit card he used it to make purchases. Veskovic admitted to the same scheme involving the identities of NKOTB member Daniel Wood and Kevin Richardson, a member of the Backstreet Boys. A judge sentenced Patrick Ward, 24, to 18 months in prison and Michael Veskovic, 20, to six months in prison, and ordered the defendants to pay nearly $138,000 in restitution
Small Movie Companies Sue Over Screener Ban
More than a dozen small movie companies sued the Motion Picture Association of America Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, claiming the partial ban by Hollywood studios on sending screeners to awards groups will "chill the financing of independent films" by limiting the awards they can receive. According to the AP, the lawsuit seeks at least $25 million in damages and claims the MPAA was conspiring to monopolize the film industry, restricting trade through unlawful and unreasonable agreements with its governing members. The lawsuit said the MPAA's actions toward the small movie producers "were outrageous and were taken with evil motive." Among the 14 plaintiffs are Talking Wall Pictures, Sandcastle 5 Productions and Salty Features.
Role Call: Diesel's Child-Rearing Role, Punk'd Pranksters Hit Big Screen
Vin Diesel is set to star in the Disney action/comedy The Pacifier. According to Variety, Diesel will play an undercover agent who, after failing to protect an important government scientist, learns the man's family is in danger. He agrees to take care of the man's children in an effort to redeem himself, and discovers his toughest mission yet: childcare ... Former Punk'd pranksters Dax Shepard and Al Shearer have set up an untitled project at Fox Searchlight Pictures based on their own pitch. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they will star as two guys from different racial backgrounds who find out they are actually brothers--and who must compete against each other for an inheritance.
Look at those X-Men go!
X2: X-Men United came barreling out on top for the second week in a row, taking in a hefty $41.4 million*, nearly double the $27.6 million opener Daddy Day Care took in at No. 2.
After the top two, however, the box office dropped off considerably. In third place, The Lizzie McGuire Movie only raked in $7.8 million, while fourth place holder Identity managed a measly $6.3 million. Rounding out the top five, Anger Management collected $5.5 million.
Still, the true Cinderella story of the Top 10 this week was the quirky A Mighty Wind. After the film's run was expanded to more than 600 theaters, it made the list for the first time since its release, coming in at No. 7 with $2.8 million.
Interestingly, the romantic comedy Down With Love, which opens wide against The Matrix Reloaded next week, popped up in one theater in New York and gathered an impressive $44,098, while the Neil Labute dark comedy The Shape of Things debuted in 40 theaters with $177,506.
THE TOP TEN
At the top of the heap, 20th Century Fox's PG-13 X2 swept up with an ESTIMATED $41.4 million at 3,748 theaters ($11,046 per theater). Although it dipped 52 percent from its huge $85 million opening last weekend, the sequel--in which Prof. Xavier and his X-Men must join the metal-controlling villain Magneto to battle against a society that fears and distrusts them--has reached approximately $149 million in two weeks, making it the fifth film this year to cross the $100 million mark.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and more.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Eddie Murphy laffer Daddy Day Care debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $27.6 million at 3,370 theaters ($8,190 per theater), making it the third largest opener for Murphy following Nutty Professor II: The Klumps ($42.5 million) and Dr. Dolittle ($29 million).
The film focuses on a father who loses his job and decides to start up a day care center with one of his fellow laid-off colleagues to make ends meet.
Directed by Steve Carr, it also stars Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Buena Vista's PG-rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie slipped a spot to third with an ESTIMATED $7.8 million (-55%) at 2,825 theaters ($2,761 per theater). Based on the hit Disney Channel series, the film is about 13-year-old Lizzie's whirlwind trip to Rome where she is mistaken for a celebrity pop star and gets the royal treatment. Its cume is approximately $27.2 million in two weeks.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Coming in at No. 4 was Sony's R-rated Identity with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-33%). Playing at 2,618 theaters (-115 theaters; $2,406 per theater), this Hitchcockian thriller has collected approximately $39.2 million thus far.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Still holding strong in the Top Five, Sony's PG-13 Anger Management dropped a notch to fifth place with an ESTIMATED $5.5 million (-35%) at 2,819 theaters (-652 theaters; $1,951 per theater). Its cume is approximately $122.9 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
Buena Vista's PG-rated Holes captured the sixth spot with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-33%) at 2,452 theaters (+50 theaters; $1,876 per theater). In its fourth week, the film's cume is approximately $51.4 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Making its way into the box office's Top 10 list for the first time since its release was Warner Bros. PG-13 A Mighty Wind, coming in at No. 7 with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (+178%). Warners expanded the film's release to 765 theaters (+608 theaters; $3,752 per theater) and now in its fourth week, Wind's cume is approximately $9.3 million.
The film follows three sets of famous '60s folk singing groups who come together for a benefit concert 40 years later.
Directed by and starring Christopher Guest, it also stars Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara and more.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated comedy Malibu's Most Wanted dropped from sixth to eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.1 million (-47%) at 2,008 theaters (-332 theaters, $1,063 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.7 million.
Directed by John P. Whitesell, it stars Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson.
In what could turn out to be another My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Fox Searchlight's PG-13 rated Bend It Like Beckham moved up a spot to No. 9 with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (+12%) at 563 theaters (+80) with a per theater average of $$2,931. Its cume is approximately $13 million.
The film follows the aspirations of a young Indian girl living in London whose only desire is to play soccer--even if it means going against her traditional family's wishes.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Lions Gate's R-rated Confidence fell three rungs to 10th place with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-41%) at 1,188 theaters (-683 theaters; $1,263 per theater). Its cume is approximately $11 million.
Directed by James Foley, it stars Edward J. Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz.
Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love debuted in one New York theater with an impressive $44,098. An homage to those wacky Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies, the film follows a feminist writer who knocks heads with a playboy journalist. The film opens wide next week.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
Also debuting this week was Focus Features' R-rated The Shape of Things, which gathered an ESTIMATED $177,506 in 40 theaters ($4,438 per theater).
A contemporary love story set in a college town in which sex and art intertwine as the relationships between four college students become increasingly complicated.
Written and directed by Neil Labute, it stars Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol and Frederick Weller.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $103 million, down considerably, nearly 28 percent from last week when they totaled $141.4 million.
The Top 12 were also down 10.6 percent from last year when they totaled $115 million.
Last year, Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man stayed at the top of the box office for the second week with $71.4 million at 3,615 theaters ($19,756 per theater); Fox's steamy R-rated Unfaithful came in second with $14 million at 2,613 theaters ($5,383 per theater); and Sony's PG-13 comedy The New Guy came in third with $9 million at 2,687 theaters ($3,352 per theater).