U.S. President Barack Obama has joined movie stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson and Charlize Theron in paying tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela following his death at the age of 95. South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the sad news of the civil rights icon's death just before midnight local time on Thursday night (05Dec13) - not long after acclaimed new biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom premiered in London, with Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and members of Mandela's family in attendance.
The former president, who was affectionately known as Madiba, had battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalisations.
Announcing the tragic news, President Zuma said, "He passed on peacefully in the company of his family... He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
Zuma ordered all flags across the nation to be flown at half-mast from Friday (06Dec13) until Mandela is laid to rest at a state funeral.
Shortly after news of Mandela's death broke, President Obama held a press conference at the White House to deliver a touching tribute, stating, "He achieved more than could be expected of any man and today he has gone home."
He added, "We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages."
Obama's predecessor George W. Bush added, "President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever."
British actor Idris Elba, who portrays Mandela in new movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom offered up a statement after hearing the sad news during the London premiere after party. It reads: "What an honour it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Meanwhile, South African actress Charlize Theron became one of the first celebrities to remember the legendary activist online, tweeting, "My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever".
Ghost star Goldberg added, "I want 2give (sic) the world a hug I was told Mandeba (sic) just passed. Nelson Mandela R.I.P. Time for a well earned sleep.Condolences to his family", while Samuel L. Jackson posted, "Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country".
Actor William Shatner, John Legend, Fergie, former boxer Mike Tyson, Bette Midler, Kelly Osbourne, filmmaker Michael Moore, Olivia Wilde, Rihanna, LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, Gabrielle Union, Gene Simmons, former Spice Girls star Mel C, Ricky Martin, Jermaine Jackson, Channing Tatum and Tony Bennett were also among the celebrities who flooded Twitter with tributes to Mandela on Thursday.
And sports legend Muhammad Ali released a statement which reads: "I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Mandela. His was a life filled with purpose and hope; hope for himself, his country and the world."
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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
The basic premise of most crime revenge dramas is how much of our humanity we're willing to trade to get back what the other people — the ostensible baddies — have taken from us. Oliver Stone returns to this familiar stomping ground with Savages a splashy adaptation of Don Winslow's novel about a unique love affair a major marijuana-dealing business and an increasingly violent pissing match between two SoCal growers and the Baja Cartel.
Stone's frenetic visual style is in full swing but even this Oscar-winning auteur can't quite raise the film from mediocrity. It's hard to care whether or not Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) rescue their gorgeous mutual girlfriend O (Blake Lively) from the cartel if O isn't engaging enough to persuade us she's worth the bloodshed. O (short for Ophelia — an allusion to her earthshaking climaxes) is not a well-written character to begin with but she's even less engaging as played by Lively. Johnson is unconvincing as the bleeding heart Ben and the details his character is given — extra earrings a shoddy-looking tattoo on his neck even white boy dreads at one point — undercut his believability even more. Kitsch is given a few prominent scars and a mean squint but he doesn't quite bring the weird slightly empty vibe of Chon to life.
On the villain side Benicio Del Toro chews every inch of scenery from Laguna Beach to Tijuana as Lado. He's rocking an intense moustache that he strokes when he's lying or being a creep (which is most of the time) a vaguely mullet-like wig and a fondness for torture. Salma Hayek takes no prisoners as the head of the cartel nicknamed Elena la Reina who is both a frustrated mom whose college-age daughter is blowing her off (aw!) and a brutally tough woman in a man's world. John Travolta definitely enjoys a bit of Pulp Fiction ridiculousness as Dennis a DEA official who's in Ben and Chon's pocket. It's hard to tell just how funny Savages is aiming to be. Lado Elena and Dennis are cartoonish but Ben Chon and O are earnest — which is to say a little bit boring.
The double- and triple-crossing is practically moot as is the wacky technology that Ben and Chon employ; it's like The Social Network meets surfers. The real meat of the movie is the flash and violence but it's not the kind of thing that stays with you like Stone's Natural Born Killers. Savages doesn't have the same lingering aftertaste. It's not that a movie needs to have some sort of message with its pointed commentary on the media's bloodlust but the gist of Savages — that we're all savages at heart or that we can easily become a savage given the right circumstances — is not that interesting or unique.
Oddly enough Savages pulls a few punches when it comes to its source material (hard to believe when the movie kicks off with a glimpse of an abattoir-like enclosure and close-ups of men begging for their lives just as a chainsaw revs in the background). Winslow's book is a quick enjoyable read with an interesting on-page style that's hard to replicate verbally. It has a sort of ADD-addled feel that the movie tries to but doesn't quite capture. While it's not always fair to compare an adaptation to the book it's based on Winslow is both the author and one of the screenplay writers so some of the choices made behind the scenes don't quite add up. Cut are significant and menacing back story for Lado and all of the zestiness out of O. Why add in certain plot points and take out others unless it was to give one of its big name stars more screen time? The most interesting part of the story the love story is treated like a wink wink homoerotic thing than an actual relationship between three people who adore each other which is how it's portrayed in the book. It's hard not to be a little disappointed especially given Stone's no-f**ks-given attitude. (Or as O would say baditude.)
That said it is a somewhat entertaining diversion and a nice tour of lifestyles of the rich and criminal. Lively is all tangled tan limbs and luxurious hippie clothes and the homes they frequent whether on Laguna Beach or a desert compound are meticulously decorated with exquisite expensive taste. Santa Muerte imagery also figures heavily in the background of many scenes. The scenery is gorgeous — even the marijuana looks amazing. It's good for adults to have another R-rated choice in what's usually a season dominated by blockbusters but in years to come you'll more likely to reach for your old True Romance DVD than Savages.
L.A. Critics go Sideways
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Sideways, about two men searching for love in California's wine country, as the year's best film and Clint Eastwood's female boxing movie Million Dollar Baby as the runner-up, Reuters reports. Sideways also got nods for best director Alexander Payne, supporting actress Virginia Madsen and supporting actor Thomas Haden Church. Britain's Imelda Staunton was named best actress for her portrayal as an abortionist in Vera Drake and Irish actor Liam Neeson was handed the best actor honor for playing U.S. sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey. House of Flying Daggers was named best foreign language film, while The Incredibles won for best animated film. Born into Brothels edged out director Michael Moore's controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 as the Los Angeles critics' best documentary. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association will honor the winners of their 30th annual awards at a dinner on January 13.
AFI picks Aviator, Incredibles
The American Film Institute also announced their list of 2004's Top 10 movies, including Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator and the smash animated hit The Incredibles, The Associated Press reports. Other on the list included the sequel Spider-Man 2; Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby; quirky romances Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways; football drama Friday Night Lights; the drug-smuggling drama Maria Full of Grace; and the sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey biopic Kinsey. The institute's top 10 television programs of the year were HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, The Sopranos and Something the Lord Made, ABC's Desperate Housewives and Lost, FX's Nip/Tuck and The Shield, Fox's Arrested Development and Comedy Central's South Park.
Jacko's fingerprints found on porno mag
Citing unidentified sources, the Santa Barbara News-Press reported Saturday that fingerprints belonging to both Michael Jackson and the boy accusing him of child molestation were found on pornographic magazines seized from the singer's Neverland ranch last year. According to AP, prosecutors could argue the fingerprints were proof Jackson showed the boy pornographic literature before molesting him. But if the reported evidence is admitted during Jackson's trial, the defense could question whether the entertainer knew the boy had been looking through the porn stash. According to News-Press, the boy and his brother often visited Neverland when Jackson wasn't home. Jackson, 46, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol, to his alleged victim.
Anderson gets Fox sitcom
Former Baywatch hottie Pamela Anderson has signed on for a Fox sitcom about a woman who's trying to change her life and break her habit of falling for less-than-responsible men, Reuters reports. Before even reading a completed script, the network committed to six episodes of the project from writer-producer Steven Levitan, who created NBC's Just Shoot Me.
TV movie to depict Ovitz and Eisner's relationship
Showtime writer Frederic Raphael is developing Two Blind Mikes, a TV movie about the bitter business relationship between Hollywood heavyweights Michael Eisner and Michael Ovitz, Variety reports. Disney chief executive Eisner hired agent-to-the-stars Ovitz as the Mouse House's president in 1994 but his tenure ended after a trouble-plagued 14-month period. A shareholders' lawsuit, now being heard, contends Disney's board was negligent in hiring Ovitz to a lucrative deal and negligent again when it agreed to a $140 million package settlement to oust him in Dec. 1995. Casting for the film and an air date were not announced.
Madame Tussaud's nativity tableau vandalized
A controversial nativity scene at Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in London featuring England soccer captain David Beckham as Joseph and his pop star wife "Posh Spice" Victoria as the Virgin Mary was attacked Sunday, Reuters reports. The wax tableau, which depicts pop star Kylie Minogue hovering above the crib as an angel, also features Tony Blair, George W. Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh as The Three Wise Men and Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton as the shepherds. A spokeswoman for Madame Tussaud's said a protester had pushed down the Posh and Beckham wax figures but added, "The baby Jesus is fine." The piece was intended as a tongue-in-cheek way of bringing the nativity to a wider audience but has angered Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians.