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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When crafting a follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time it’s understandable that one might be reticent to mess with a winning formula. But director Todd Phillips and writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong seem to have confused revisiting with recycling: The Hangover Part II so closely mirrors its blockbuster predecessor in every vital aspect that it can scarcely claim the right to call itself a sequel.
The only significant new wrinkle introduced in Part II is its setting: Bangkok Thailand a location that at least theoretically augurs well for a second helping of inspired lunacy. The story structure of the first film has been copied wholesale a game of Mad Libs played with its script. The action is again set around a bachelor party this time in honor of buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Again the boys (Stu Bradley Cooper’s boorish frat boy Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ moronic man-child Alan) awaken the next day in a hideously debauched hotel room with little memory of the previous night’s revelry. And again there is a missing companion: Teddy (Mason Lee son of Ang) the brother-in-law to be. (Poor Justin Bartha is once again relegated to the sidelines popping up now and then to push the plot forward via cell phone.)
The amnesiac/investigative angle of the first Hangover made for a refreshing twist on the contemporary men-behaving-badly comedy. Repeated here its effect is arguably the opposite: Too often the action feels rote and formulaic. Gone is any hint of surprise an aspect so crucial to good comedy and a huge part of the first film’s appeal. Key comic set pieces – a tussle with monks at a Buddhist temple a visit to a transsexual brothel a car chase involving a drug-dealing monkey – reveal themselves to be merely variations of memorable bits from the first film.
Tonally Part II is darker cruder and a bit nastier than its predecessor. Female characters never a priority in the first film are further marginalized in the sequel. (The only woman with significant dialogue a Bangkok prostitute also happens to have a penis. I’ll let you ponder the implications of that one.) The three leads Helms Cooper and Galifianakis still work well together and despite the inferior material enough of their chemistry remains to make the proceedings bearable – and occasionally funny. But their characters feel somehow degraded reduced to coarse caricatures of their former selves. Speaking of caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) the fey faux-gangsta villain of the first film returns in an expanded capacity in the sequel his garbled hip-hop slang more gratuitous – and more grating – than before.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been if a planned cameo by Mel Gibson playing a tattoo artist hadn’t been scrapped reportedly due to objections by Galifianakis. Liam Neeson Gibson’s replacement apparently proved ineffectual in his first go-round and when he wasn't available for re-shoots his scene was eventually shot with Nick Cassavetes in the role. In its existing incarnation the scene is purely functional a chunk of forgettable exposition. The presence of Gibson an actor of not inconsiderable comic talent would have at least added an air of unpredictability something the scene – and indeed the movie – sorely lacks.
There are few film projects out there as anticipated as The Dark Knight Rises. Not only is it the follow up to one of the biggest and best blockbusters of all time, but it's also the final chapter in director Christopher Nolan's trilogy of Bat-flicks. With a great cast that reunites Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman, but also features franchise newcomers Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway and many more.
Today, Warner Bros. Pictures release a press release stating that production had officially begun on the film, and we here at Hollywood.com couldn't be more excited. You can expect a ton of set photos and videos (both official and unofficial) to start pouring in now that cameras are rolling, and we'll make sure to show you everything we can, but for now feast on the release, which you can read below.
BURBANK, CA, May 19, 2011 – Principal photography has begun on Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “The Dark Knight Rises,” the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
Leading an all-star international cast, Oscar® winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
The film also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”), as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake.
Returning to the main cast, Oscar® winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) reprises the role of Lucius Fox.
In helming “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan is utilizing IMAX® cameras even more extensively than he did on “The Dark Knight,” which had marked the first time ever that a major feature film was partially shot with IMAX® cameras. The results were so spectacular that the director wanted to expand the use of the large-format cameras for this film.
The screenplay for “The Dark Knight Rises” is written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The film is being produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven, who previously teamed on “Batman Begins” and the record-breaking blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” The executive producers are Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy and Thomas Tull, with Jordan Goldberg serving as co-producer. “The Dark Knight” is based upon characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Batman was created by Bob Kane.
Behind the scenes, “The Dark Knight Rises” reunites the director with several of his longtime collaborators, all of whom worked together on the “The Dark Knight.” The creative team includes director of photography Wally Pfister, who recently won an Oscar® for his work on Nolan’s “Inception”; production designer Nathan Crowley; editor Lee Smith; and Oscar®-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (“Topsy-Turvy”). In addition, Paul Franklin and Chris Corbould, who both won Oscars® for the effects in “Inception,” will supervise the visual and special effects, respectively. The music will be composed by Oscar® winner Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”).
The locations for “The Dark Knight Rises” span three continents and include the American cities of Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles, as well as sites in India, England and Scotland.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures. Slated for release on July 20, 2012, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
The British actor wed Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson's daughter Gael in 2006, and was astonished by the starry turn out on his big day.
He tells BlogTalkRadio.com, "Apple Martin was our flower girl and it was a lovely wedding. I mean it does sound a bit Hello magazine (tabloid) but it's not like that. My wife Gael is good friends with the guys in Coldplay and so they were invited.
"It's not like some strange celebrity thing. I have old school friends, as does my wife, but we're sort of very quiet really."
And Lincoln is a big fan of his famous father-in-law: "He is extraordinary and a great guy and an amazing self-taught talented man. He's still touring.
"When we're filming (TV series Walking Dead) in Atlanta this summer he'll be doing an American tour, and may even be playing Red Rocks (fabled outdoor venue in Colorado)."