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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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.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2000 -- At long last, an awards show that's dedicated solely to the people who are truly indispensable to Hollywood: makeup artists and hairstylists.
Yes, you heard right -- one entire awards ceremony, with all the necessary trimmings and accoutrements, has sprung up to give special notice to industry makeup artists and hairstylists ... and no one else. (Don't worry, plastic surgeons of America, you'll probably get your nods soon enough).
Nominations for the 1st Annual Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, honoring outstanding makeup and hair achievements in film and TV, were announced today. The nominees in the 17 categories were chosen by 1,100 active members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706. Guild members will vote for the winners. Balloting begins Tuesday, with awards to be handed out March 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
If all this sounds terribly serious stuff -- it is, according to guild committee member Marvin Westmore, scion of George Westmore, who started the first makeup and hair department at the Selig studio in 1917, and for whom the Lifetime Achievement Award is named after.
"It's very difficult to get the makeup and hair artists recognized in a proper manner. In the makeup field, as in the hair field, there're a number of categories that are never considered," Westmore said today. "We've got a category on contemporary makeup and hair, historical makeup and hair ... and about 15 other categories that address other specialties. We feel that it's important to give all the industry hair and makeup artists their proper due and not just simply lump their achievements together."
Celeb presenters who will dignify the event include Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Kim Delaney, Brendan Fraser, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Rob Lowe.
Here's the complete list of nominees:
Best Contemporary Makeup -- Feature
Debbie Zoller, James MacKinnon and Jill Cady for "Goodbye Lover" (Regency/Warner Bros.)
Ronnie Specter for "The Story of Us" (Castle Rock/Universal)
Allan Apone, Donald Mowat, Ron Snyder and Adam Brandy for "Three Kings" (Warner Bros.)
Toni G and Will Huff for "The General's Daughter" (Neufeld/Rehme Productions/Paramount)
Best Period Makeup -- Feature
Leonard Engleman for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Patty York, Cheryl Nick, Michele Burke and Steve Artmont for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Ronnie Specter for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Character Makeup -- Feature
Sheryl Leight Ptak for "Man on the Moon" (Jersey Films/Universal)
Cheri Minns for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone)
Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch for "Sleepy Hollow" (Paramount)
Best Special Effects Makeup -- Feature
Michele Burke, Kenny Myers, Will Huff and Kevin Haney for Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, and Vernon Troyer as Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone) Stan Winston and Mike Smithson for Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling -- Feature
Enzo Angileri for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (MGM)
Cydney Cornell for "American Beauty" (DreamWorks)
Paul LeBlanc for "Anywhere But Here" (Fox 2000 Pictures) Frances Mathais for "Simpatico" (Emotion Pictures/Canal Plus/King's Gate/Fine Line)
Best Period Hair Styling - Feature
Peter Tothpal, Janet McDonald and Angie Cameron for "The 13th Warrior" (Touchstone)
Candy Walken, Jeri Baker-Sadler, Jennifer O'Halloran and Toni-Ann Walker for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Vivian McAteer for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Best Contemporary Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Patty Bunch Leisure and Cynthia Bachman for "Big Brother Is Coming," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Cynthia Bachman and Patty Bunch Leisure for "I Never Promised You An Olive Garden," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "Thank You Providence," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham for "Triangle," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Marie DelPrete fpr "Between a Rock Star and Hard Place," "Rude Awakenings" (Showtime/Mandalay TV/Columbia/TriStar TV)
Lisa Layman, David Syner and Joseph Regina for "Pilot," "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Character Makeup - Television
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #505, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #507, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcatf and Kevin Westmore for "Two Fathers/One Son," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Best Special Effects Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Michael Westmore, Scott Wheeler, James Rohland and Ellis Burman for "Dark Frontiers," "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN/Paramount)
Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe and Brigette Myre-Ellis for "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Fox/WB)
Bill Corso and Douglas Noe for "Just Duet," "L.A. Doctors" (CBS)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story" (ABC) Marvin Westmore,
June Westmore and John Jackson for "Lansky" (HBO)
Best Character Makeup --Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Douglas Noe for "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Ken Nelson and Suzanne Kontonickas for "The Devil's Music," "Charmed" (Spelling Television/WB)
Tim Burke for "Homo For The Holidays," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata for "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You" (NBC/Columbia TriStar TV)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Lana Heying for Episode #592 "Lataya, Letisha and Lanesha," "All That" (Nickelodeon)
Garbillera Pollina for "Prom Night," "That 70's Show" (Fox/Carsey-Werner)
Best Character Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Dugg Krikpatrick and Judith Teidemann for "Episode #511, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Judith Teidemann, Dugg Krikpatrick and Chris Curry for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Best Innovative Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Dugg Krikpatrick for "Episode #505," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie o the Week)
Vickey Phillips, Gerald Coke-Riley, Patricia Gunlock and Michael White for "Purgatory" (TNT)
Matthew Kasten, Natascha Ladek and Mishell Chandler for "Annie" (Walt Disney Television/ABC)
Marlene Williams and Tim Jones for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" (ABC/Larry Thompson)
George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award