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.
Comedy lovers, the big-screen pairing you've been waiting for is finally coming to fruition. Deadline.com reports that Josh Duhamel (New Year's Eve, the Transformers trilogy) and Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) will join forces for Scenic Route, a comedy in which they'll play "two former college buddies who go on a road trip and become stranded in the desert." One's mind reels at the comic sparks that will fly when Duhamel's irresistible force meets Fogler's immovable object, with the hot desert sun there to stoke the flames of their screwball rivalry. Anyone who's seen Danny Boyle's 127 Hours knows that such a scenario is a fertile recipe for hilarity. The potential for this project is, literally, limitless.
No doubt toasting their good fortune as we speak are Kevin and Michael Goetz, who will direct Scenic Route from a script by Kyle Killen (The Beaver).
Click on the image below for more awesome photos of Dan Fogler:
Morgan died of pneumonia at his home in Brentwood, California on Wednesday (07Dec11).
He is best known for portraying fatherly Colonel Potter on the long-running hit American TV series M*A*S*H, a role which earned him an Emmy Award in 1980.
The actor was born in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan and he went on to study pre-law at the University of Chicago in Illinois before taking up a two-year stint on Broadway in the original production of Golden Boy.
Morgan later starred opposite Elvis Presley in Frankie and Johnny, veteran John Wayne in The Shootist, actor James Garner in Support Your Local Gun Fighter, and even Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd in Dragnet.
He also appeared in the TV shows December Bride and Dragnet and made a number of guest appearances in TV hit like 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Twilight Zone, Murder, She Wrote, Gunsmoke, The Love Boat and The Partridge Family.
He last appeared in a comedy short titled Crosswalk in 1999.
Every year, the Emmy nominations come out and while we're happy to see some names make the list, there are always a significant few missing. Shows that have tiny audiences, fringe appeal or no-name stars are relegated to praises from critics and fans, but rarely receive the shiny, golden praises that their bigger shows enjoy. Well, we can't hand out any golden statues, but we can attempt to give praise where it's due. Without further ado, here our Hollywood.com's Alterna-Emmys staff picks.
The Walking Dead
I know I’m not alone here: The Walking Dead was such a surprise in quality that I’m not sure if I was more overwhelmed by how good it was, or by how shocked I was over how good it was. A series like this can really only turn out to be one of two extremes: horrible—in its reliance on action and raw suspense, utilization of familiar horror tropes (with no original twist), and thin characters written just to serve as casualties in a zombie apocalypse—or, as is the case here, fantastic. After a somewhat slow start, The Walking Dead ended up being an innovative, outstanding adaptation of the comic book series. The humanization of an apocalyptic society makes for particularly intriguing storytelling—the series delivers a world with an amazing balance between survivalism and interrelationship conflicts. While the zombie issue is rarely below the foreground, the subjects of marriage, unrequited love, loss of loved ones, prejudiced, guilt, faith, hope and so much more are illustrated with terrific sincerity and complexity. -Michael Arbeiter
Many dramas today are all relatively the same. You’ve got CSI, CSI Miami, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, the list goes on and on with the same old plot: someone dies, they analyze the clues, and catch the killer. Castle is a completely unique drama unto itself, with a sturdy foundation and plot. It's got the perfect blend of comedy, mystery, suspense, and even a little flirting. The show follows famous mystery novelist and bachelor, Rick Castle, as he uses NYPD detective Kate Beckett as inspiration for his books. The two bicker and banter in a very Starsky and Hutch kind of way, but they've got real chemistry. The beauty of the show though, is that the potential love interest isn't its main focus. Sure, flirting occurs and they tend to truly care about each other and work well as a team, but it doesn’t dilute the action. The writers could easily have the dynamic duo hook up in Season One, but they choose to drag it out and make us wonder if the relationship will ever venture from the friend-zone. But even if it doesn’t, the show doesn’t need a romance to keep it afloat. Unlike other criminal or detective shows, Castle isn't a mere procedural. Just because the crimes are different doesn’t mean we’re starting from scratch each week and even though it can become rather dark, there’s always a burst of comic relief that prevents viewers from cycling into a depressed state, which is why it deserves an Emmy nomination. Hopefully next year! -Kelly Schremph
Spartacus is not the most highbrow show. The first few episodes earned the series a reputation for gratuitous nudity, violence, and sex. But beneath that scandalous outer layer was a clever and emotionally wrenching show that took risks few established series would. The second season managed to continue that trend, despite the loss of charismatic lead actor Andy Whitfield. While the star’s unfortunate cancer diagnosis forced the series to improvise a prequel series, creator Steven S. DeKnight took advantage of the situation to flesh out the characters in new, exciting ways. And boy, when we say “exciting," we mean it. There are no half-measures in classical Rome. -Natalie Silverman
If you don’t think Archer is funny, then you aren’t watching it. Archer has transcended its original premise of a dated Bond-parody to become one of the most clever, surreal, and hilarious things on television. Replete with ornate historical in-jokes, elaborate backstories, and callbacks that Arrested Development would envy, Archer offers some of the most complex, varied comedy on television. Plus, the show isn’t afraid to go for a great dick joke, should opportunity present itself. I challenge you to find an episode of television funnier or more outrageous than this season’s “Placebo Effect," in which Sterling Archer goes on a hunt for an Irish gang leader while undergoing chemotherapy. You’re definitely not going to find it on Two And A Half Men. -Natalie Silverman
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Alright, this show will never be nominated for an Emmy. It’s rude and ridiculous, but it’s also slightly brilliant. Creators Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney manufactured quite a demented little universe that I fear only fans of absurd comedy can appreciate. While it may never attract broad audiences, It’s Always Sunny has got its schtick down to a science and after five seasons, The Gang is still going strong, blowing our minds and making us laugh at every turn. Besides the show’s airtight comedy, the cast is damn near perfect; Howerton, Day and McElenney are perfect at the center of the cast with Kaitlin Olson and Danny DeVito helping to hit every (off) beat. It never ceases to disgust, surprise and enthrall viewers and for that, It’s Always Sunny deserves a little time in the sun. (I couldn't help myself.) -Kelsea Stahler
Dan Harmon’s little opus to pop culture never seems to reach as many people as it should, but believe me, it’s brilliant. Sure, it helps if you’re as pop culture-obsessed as Abed (Danny Pudi), but the fact is, Community is smart, hilarious and incredibly well-written and it’s got a cast with talent for days. The versatility of the cast and the writers can take us from a full-on Dungeons and Dragons spoof to save suicidal outcast to a stop-motion Christmas episode that actually unpacked the holiday successfully and meaningfully in a mere 22-minute episode. But we also find homages and winks to various tropes of television – these writers have done their homework, they are students of television and they take every opportunity to play with TV history to create new, brilliant comedy. In a nutshell, Community takes television’s own formulas and makes something new and there’s no reason something that smart and well-made shouldn’t get a spot at that ceremony in September. -Kelsea Stahler
It seems that every time I bring up Community, folks tend to go on and on about Gillian Jacobs, and sure, she’s great on the show. Britta is a constant buzzkill and a person deeply in need of growth and Jacobs brings that to fruition brilliantly, but Brie’s weekly performance is quite literally off the charts. It may be helped by the fact that she’s been dealt a more interesting character than Jacobs, but Brie’s performance is so multifaceted, requiring her to use a range that includes dramatic acting, physical comedy, and hilarious delivery. There is not a single episode in which Brie isn’t responsible for a significant share of the laughs. She’s truly gifted and though Community isn’t the biggest show on television, she’s a big reason it’s worth watching. -Kelsea Stahler
Cops were called to her London home on Wednesday (18May11) and Porter, who has previously battled substance abuse issues and depression, was taken to a medical facility with alleged cuts on her arms and chest.
Porter, who has a daughter, Honey, by Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave, was discharged on Thursday (19May11), and told reporters, "I'm fine, thank you very much."
But Porter has now checked into rehab for professional help, according to Britain's The Sun.
A source tells the publication, "Finally Gail has done what she's desperately needed to do for months... No one wants to admit they need rehab - it takes a courageous spirit."
The host, who was previously married to Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave, was reportedly discovered locked in the bathroom of her London house with cuts on her arms and chest.
Porter, who suffers from alopecia, was taken to a medical facility on Wednesday (18May11) and was kept overnight, before being discharged on Thursday (19May11).
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson tells Britain's The Sun, "Police were called to an address in Belsize Park at approximately 21.00 hours on Wednesday following concerns for the welfare of a resident. A woman was detained under the Mental Health Act and taken to a medical facility."
A source adds, "Gail has gone completely off the rails. It's very sad, but she needs to be in rehab."
Porter, who has previously battled substance abuse issues and depression, told the publication at her home, "I'm fine, thank you very much."
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The Lethal Weapon 2 star wed her fourth husband, DJ Jeremy Healy, in April last year (09) but rumours have been rife that the union is in trouble.
Kensit's rep spoke out about the stories in February (10), confirming the couple has been taking some time apart, adding: "Patsy and Jeremy remain committed to making their marriage work."
But it seems the pair has failed to resolve its problems - and Kensit is selling the London home they shared, reports Britain's The Sun.
A source tells the publication, "They've done all they can to try to make it work. It has just fizzled out."
Kensit has previously been married to Big Audio Dynamite frontman Dan Donovan, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr and Oasis star Liam Gallagher.
The funnyman was writing the mockumentary, about a wannabe pop star who enters the annual European singing competition, with his production partner Dan Mazer - but the duo has decided to dump the project following months of hard work.
A source tells Britain's The Sun, "Sacha and Dan have been feverishly working on the film for a long time now. They'd completed a lot of preparatory work and had a team assisting them, but they've axed the idea. They felt that it wasn't working."
Baron Cohen was reportedly set to compete at Eurovision as his alter-ego Bruno but decided to invent a completely new character after retiring the Austrian fashionista.
The funnyman was set to compete as his Austrian fashionista Bruno in a mockumentary about the Eurovision Song Contest - but has decided to put his old alter-egos to rest.
Cohen and his writing partner Dan Mazer have now dreamed up a new character - a wannabe pop star desperate to win the annual European singing competition.
A source tells Britain's The Sun, "He and Dan thought it better for Sacha to dream up another character - and the scope for an oddball creation is huge.
The as-yet-untitled comedy has been approved by Hollywood studio bosses at Working Title and is expected for release in 2011.