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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Something tells us the world of legendary singer Marvin Gaye is a little bit different from The Hunger Games. At least, that's what we've heard through the grapevine (sorry, we really can't help ourselves sometimes). But if there's anyone to ask, it's definitely Lenny Kravitz, who recently locked up the role of the soul singer in Julien Temple's new biopic on the singer.
The role is interesting for many reasons, but is especially notable as the first starring vehicle for Kravitz, who's taken a bit more of a shining to acting than singing these days. While is supporting turns in Precious, the aforementioned Hunger Games (golly, Cinna's just the best, isn't he?!), and Lee Daniels' upcoming White House drama The Butler, have been plentiful, headlining work has escaped Kravitz outside of sold-out concerts around the world.
Marvin Gaye's life has long been one of interest for the movies, with features by F. Gary Gray and James Gandolfini both being sidelined by music rights issues. According to Deadline, those rights issues have already been sorted—meaning this one already has a leg-up on the others, and hopefully, a better chance at actually getting made.
This iteration of Gaye's life story is said to focus on the time he spent in Europe in the early 1980s, while he attempted to get his many addictions under control and, in turn, his career back on track with the help of British music promoter Freddy Cousaert. Gaye was infamously killed shortly thereafter by his father in Los Angeles on April 1, 1984. The film is slated to begin filming next year.
Do you think Kravitz has what it takes to play Marvin Gaye? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz Talk 'Hunger Games'
Katniss Gets Help From Lenny Kravitz in New 'Hunger Games' Clip
Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson Chill in New 'Hunger Games' Image
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
UPDATE: In an unfortunate turn of events, HBO has announced that it will not be pursuing a TV movie based on the life and work of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes. Deadline shares a statement from HBO Films President Len Amato, admitting, "It had become clear to us before even receiving a script that due to our company’s CNN affiliation the film could never be seen as objective."
This means no network-driven crime syndicates, no bloodsucking news anchors, no awkward social encounters with Chris Wallace. C'est la vie...
EARLIER: There was a time when HBO was all about the Mafia, in-penitentiary crime, and horse murder. But the network has taken a much darker turn lately: now, it's all about politics. Think about all of HBO's recent projects: the Sarah Palin film Game Change, the vice presidential satire Veep, the inside look at the world of punditry that is The Newsroom. Even Game of Thrones couldn't pass up an opportunity to stick George W. Bush's head on a skewer. And now, Deadline reports that the network is opting for a new addition to this trend: a TV movie about Roger Ailes, the present Fox News chairman and former presidential media consultant.
The untitled project comes from writer Gabriel Sherman, who himself has written articles on the controversial Ailes for New York Magazine (you can read his famous piece "The Elephant in the Green Room" here to get a taste of what kind of perspective the HBO movie will take). Of course, HBO isn't all about spouting some agenda. The network is one of the most accomplished venues for storytelling in the spectrum of contemporary television. Plus, it's not as though the issues Sherman raises in his articles aren't thematically rich for good TV. But considering how dull some consider The Newsroom to be, the network might look into spicing things up, perhaps taking a lesson from one of its own, more successful programs...
In this vision of Sherman's articles, Ailes must maintain order in the seaside Fox News headquarters, bribing fact-checkers and murdering CNN reps to keep things going his way.
Perhaps the network can use vampires to represent the plight of the Fox News journalist, with werewolves as NBC anchors, and whatever Sookie Stackhouse is as Jon Stewart.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The greatest incarnation of them all: poor, misunderstood Roger Ailes ambles about his mega-corporation, getting into awkward encounters that result in worldwide news debacles. Occasionally guest starring Ted Danson.
Only time will tell what sort of movie HBO will make of Roger Ailes' story. And with all these inspiring programs at bay, there are countless possibilities of what the project will eventually turn into. It could be like any one of them. Boardwalk, True Blood, Curb... but not probably Girls. Some experiments are best left untread.
[Image Credit: HBO]
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At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
On Friday, the much-anticipated Super 8 hits theaters and, well honestly, we're still not quite sure what it's about (this is a J.J. Abrams film, after all). But what we do know is that in the film, some kids make a movie that tells a story within the frame of the film's overarching story. That got us thinking, "what other stories use this type of narrative device? And more importantly, what are some of our favorites? Read on for a brief rundown of our favorite stories within stories.
Okay, this film may not have a "story within a story" specifically, but it plays with the idea well enough to be considered. From the brilliant mind of Charlie Kaufman, it follows a protagonist named "Charlie Kaufman" as he attempts to adapt a book called The Orchid Thief. Before he knows it, the story within the book becomes real -- kind of -- and he's lost in a world where he can't even really tell what exactly he's adapting.
One of Mel Brooks' greatest achievements (and that's saying something, considering he's Mel Brooks) plays around with the story-within-a-story concept. In the third act, the climatic fight spills onto an adjacent movie set, and then another, and then finally, the street -- reminding all of those concerned mothers everywhere that this is comedy, not racism.
Any movie with a song called "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" at its forefront is one that deserves some recognition. Steve Coogan's Hamlet 2 may not be as subtle with its "story within a story," but it's still awesome because, well, it kind of makes you want to party with Jesus, and who the heck wouldn't want to party with Jesus?
Men In Black
True, Men In Black doesn't necessarily scream "awesome storytelling" but it's still a fun, entertaining ride that's led by two charming men in Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. But where's the story within a story? At the end of the film, the camera pulls back, back and back some more until it's revealed that the galaxies we all live in (which held the story we just watched) are just an alien's marbles; a small part of a much larger game of life.
Synecdoche, New York
Oh, hey, another Charlie Kaufman film, but that's not too surprising considering he's pretty much the king of meta. In Synecdoche, New York -- in the same vein as Adaptation -- an artist gets lost in his own world. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theater director who surprisingly lands the MacArthur Fellowship, giving him all the financial means to pursue his art the way he's always wanted - resulting in a play within a play within a play within a play within a--well, you get it.
Waiting For Guffman
Christopher Guest -- the king of mockumentaries -- might have his best one in Waiting for Guffman. Granted, the film does play with a lot of inside jokes that only those weird theater kids from college might get, but it also does a pretty great job at making fun of all those weird theater kids from college. Centering on a community theater in small town Missouri, Guest plays Corky St. Clair -- an "artiste" -- as he puts together a musical for the community called Red, White and Blaine, a musical that may not be quite as good as he thinks.
The vastly underrated comedy Galaxy Quest does a wonderful job playing with the concept of a story within a story. The film centers on the cast of a cult television show similar to Star Trek as they're abducted by real aliens in order to fight some other ET's. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman manage to mock themselves, their fictional doppelgangers and save the world all at the same time.
Shutter Island is no Mean Streets or Raging Bull, but it's still a Martin Scorsese film led by Leonardo DiCaprio so it's probably better than most. Following a US Marshal named Teddy Daniels as he investigates the weird happenings of an island used to house the criminally insane just off the shore in Boston Harbor, Things get weirder and weird, until it's finally revealed that (SPOILER) the events happening are all just in his head (END SPOILER).