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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
While the fact that a cache of e-mails to and from various Bush family members leaked online recently isn't inherently scandalous, two image files included in the political family's correspondence sure are: Former President George W. Bush allegedly sent his sister two unfinished portraits of himself in the tub and the shower ... naked.
Yeah, you read that right — our president of eight years is nude in these paintings. And the former POTUS is the one who did it. Sure, the portraits aren't actually revealing in any way, but come on. The former President. Painted himself. Naked.
That's just pop culture gold right there. In his honor, Hollywood.com rounded up a few of the best (or at least funniest) tasteful nude portraits in pop culture history. Check them out below:
RELATED: Pop Culture Moments That Would Have Been Better Naked
Vince Vaughn's hard-partying playboy in Wedding Crashers didn't paint himself nude, nor did he even pose for his portrait, but he loved it nontheless. "It was a gift!"
Probably one of the most iconic nude portraits in pop culture was when Jack drew Rose before the Titanic met its unfortunate fate. "So serious!"
Who knew Jerry from Parks and Rec was such an artist? Starting at 3:03, check out his amazing, nude centaur incarnation of his boss, Leslie Knope.
And last but not least, how could we not include Will Ferrell (aka the greatest George W. Bush impersonator) as the inspiration in a nude sculpting class in a Saturday Night Live sketch?
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: The Smoking Gun]
From Our Partners:
Celebrity Swimsuits Ever (Celebuzz)
Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
“A real movie.” That’s the phrase that one of my industry sources used to describe Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount), which debuts this Friday at 3,500 or so locations and on more than 4,500 screens. The movie reunites Hollywood’s hottest young star, Shia LaBeouf, with his director from the surprise hit Disturbia, DJ Caruso, and industry tracking is pointing toward a spectacular opening.
It is very hard to bet against LaBeouf, whose last 2 movies, Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, have grossed a combined $635M domestic and $1.5B worldwide. Prior to those sure-fire blockbusters came Disturbia, a nifty little Hitchcockian genre pic released last spring demonstrating the 22-year-old actor’s real appeal. He’s the classic everyman and, while some compared his performance to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, I agree with New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman, who wrote he is, “More John Cusack than Jimmy Stewart.”
Eagle Eye turns the Disturbia premise on its ear. In this yarn, LaBeouf isn’t “the watcher,” he’s “the watched.” According to tracking data, Under 25’s are buying into the surveillance paranoia suggested in trailers and TV ads. It feels very contemporary. Your BlackBerry can kill you--or at least tell “them” where you are at every moment. Technology is ubiquitous, and there is no escape. In reality, Caruso is really mining the great Alfred Hitchcock again. Think of a modern-day North by Northwest riff with LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan instead of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.
Director Caruso’s first mainstream box office success was Taking Lives, starring Angelina Jolie ($11.4M opening--$32.2M cume), but then he took a step back with the critical and commercial failure Two For the Money ($8.7M opening--$23M cume), starring Matthew McConaughey and Al Pacino. He struck paydirt with Disturbia, which opened with $22.2M then showed real playability to the tune of $80.2M domestic, and now he has LaBeouf in tow again. Eagle Eye will almost certainly be the director’s all-time biggest opening with something in the $28M range.
Females 25 Plus are showing great interest in the Warner Bros. romantic tear-jerker Nights in Rodanthe at over 2,500 locations on Friday. This is the 3rd film together for Oscar nominees Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Their first pairing was 24 years ago in Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled The Cotton Club ($2.9M opening--$25.9M cume). 18 years later, they teamed up with much better results in Adrian Lyne’s Unfaithful, which represented a breakout performance for Lane.
Not only did the actress, married in real life to actor Josh Brolin from the forthcoming W., earn her first Oscar nomination for Unfaithful (who can forget the remarkable sequence on the subway ride after her first dalliance with Olivier Martinez?), she also became the benchmark for graceful aging in Hollywood. Lane remains among the most beautiful actresses in the business and, contrary to Meg Ryan currently starring in The Women, she “appears” to have avoided the “cosmetic enhancement trap.”
Unfaithful scored $14M on opening weekend and generated a nifty $52.7M in its US theatrical run. Countless more have seen it on DVD and cable, and it is fair to say that older women are excited about seeing Lane and Gere together again. Add the fact that Nights in Rodanthe is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, like the 2004 surprise hit The Notebook, and you have the makings of a good solid box office performance. The $10M-$13M range seems about right for Rodanthe, and I am calling for the high end of that range.
Last week’s winner Lakeview Terrace (Sony) will likely be #3 this weekend, down about 55% to $6.75M, while Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (Disney) will battle the Coen brothers’ strong-holding Burn After Reading for 4th. St. Anna is the 3rd new wide release this week, but it will open at a decidedly limited 1,100 or so locations. Lee has never been a movie hit-maker, but he had been more “commercially tone deaf” than usual for well over a decade until 2006’s Inside Man ($28.9M opening--$88.5M cume).
Spike has never been “Mr. Warmth,” but he has made some critical press blunders in advance of the release of Miracle at St. Anna. Picking a fight with industry icon Clint Eastwood is not smart. Complaining that he is a victim of “West coast bias” in Oscar voting is a mistake. Hollywood is talking about his new James McBride-penned WWII saga for all the wrong reasons. It remains to be seen just how strong the critical reaction to Miracle at St. Anna will be, but early reviews are on the negative side (33% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday morning). Tracking is so-so and moviegoers have shown very little interest in war-themed films in the last couple of years, but the picture should be able to deliver $5,000-$5,500 per location for approximately $5.8M.
There are 3 more limited releases of note this week led by actor-turned-director Clark Gregg’s Choke (Fox Searchlight), based on Chuck Palahniuk’s bestselling novel. On about 400 screens, the edgy pic, starring Sam Rockwell and Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston, could grab $4,500-$5,000 per location for an opening weekend approaching $2M.
Meanwhile, The Lucky Ones (Lionsgate), a new movie from director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) opening on 400 or so screens, will play a bit softer than Choke. Iraq War veterans, played by Oscar winner Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) and Michael Pena (Crash), on a cross-country road trip dealing with a nation divided by a controversial war is a premise badly in need of excellent reviews to succeed, and the movie is running at only 36% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday morning. Still, a PTA of $2,000-$2,500 is possible for a weekend gross of something shy of $1M.
Finally, Crane Movie Company is attempting to roll out a new vehicle featuring Sean Faris, the star of Never Back Down. There isn't much traction for the almost-as-generically-titled rugby movie Forever Strong, and it seems that an estimated $350,000 is in the cards.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 26
1. NEW – Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $28M
2. NEW – Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $12.9M
3. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) - $6.75M
4. NEW – Miracle at St. Anna (Disney) - $5.8M
5. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $5.7M
6. Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (Lionsgate) - $3.8M
7. Righteous Kill (Overture) - $3.7M
8. My Best Friend's Girl (Lionsgate) - $3.5M
9. Igor (MGM) - $3.1M
10. The Women (Picturehouse) - $3M
*NEW - Choke (Fox Searchlight) - $2M
*NEW - The Lucky Ones (Lionsgate) - $900,000
*NEW – Forever Strong (Crane Movie Company) - $350,000
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
At the box office this weekend, a mother-daughter comedy was no match for some good old cops-and-robbers action.
In its opening weekend, the bullet-riddled police drama S.W.A.T. infiltrated the box office and took the top spot at $37 million*, easily beating out its kinder,gentler competitor, the Disney family fare Freaky Friday. Despite generating great word-of-mouth since its Wednesday opening, the body-switching remake could only come in second with $22.3 million.
The ribald comedy American Wedding dropped from the top to take third place with $15.1 million, while the whale of a tale Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl remained steady as she goes at No. 4 with $13.1 million. The heartwarming Seabiscuit rounded out the top five with a solid $11.9 million.
Another newcomer, the Frenchified Le Divorce, did a fair job in its limited opening, raking in $533,233 in 34 theaters.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated S.W.A.T. busted the box office to take the top spot with an ESTIMATED $37 million in 3,202 theaters. It's $11,555 per theater average was the highest of any film opening wide this week.
Newly trained LAPD S.W.A.T. team members are called in to save the day after an arms dealer makes a televised offer of $100 million to anyone who can break him out of jail--and L.A.'s criminal element comes out in force to do so.
Directed by Clark Johnson, it stars Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Buena Vista's PG-rated Freaky Friday debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $22.3 million in 2,954 theaters ($7,549 per theater).
On a freaky Friday morning, a busy psychiatrist and her 15-year-old daughter wake up to find they have magically switched bodies. Until they can figure out what to do, they attempt to carry on with each other's daily routines.
Directed by Mark Waters, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Michael Murray and Mark Harmon.
Universal Picture's R-rated comedy American Wedding dropped to No. 3 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $15.1 million (-55%) at 3,175 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,756 per theater). This third installment of the American Pie series, in which Jim and Michelle get married, has garnered a cume of $64.9 million.
Directed by Jesse Dylan, it stars Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13-rated fantasy actioner Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl fell one spot to fourth place in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $13.1 million (-30%) at 3,170 theaters (-220 theaters; $4,132 per theater). Its cume is approximately $232.8 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Universal Pictures' PG-13-rated drama Seabiscuit fell a notch to No. 5 in its third week, taking in an ESTIMATED $11.9 million (-33%) in 2,428 theaters (+7 theaters; $4,901 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.5 million.
Directed by Gary Ross, it stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper as three down-and-out men who find fame and fortune in an equally down-and-out racehorse.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Dropping off considerably was Dimension Films' PG-rated Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, which slipped four spots to No. 6 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $10.1 million (-48%) in 3,388 theaters (+24 theaters; $2,992 per theater). Its cume is approximately $87.4 million.
Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek and Ricardo Montalban.
Sony Picture's R-rated buddy actioner Bad Boys II moved down the list two place to take seventh in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $6 million (-53%) at 2,449 theaters (-573 theaters; $2,450 per theater). Its cume is approximately $123 million.
Directed by Michael Bay, it stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Molla, Gabrielle Union and Peter Stormare.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13-rated, action-packed Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life dropped two rungs to eighth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-54 %) in 3,036 theaters (-186 theaters; $1,713 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.6 million.
Directed by Jan De Bont, it stars Angelina Jolie, Gerald Butler, Chris Barrie, Ciaran Hinds and Noah Taylor.
Still a major success story, Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G-rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo dropped two spots to No. 9 in its 11th week with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-35%) at 1,502 theaters (-275 theaters; $1,664 per theater). Its cume is approximately $319.9 million.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Warner Bros.' R-rated sci-fi actioner Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines finished in tenth place for the second week in a row with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (-46%) at 1,275 theaters (-635; $1,271 per theater). Now in its sixth week, its cume is approximately $145.9 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken.
Fox Searchlight's PG-13-rated Le Divorce opened with a healthy ESTIMATED $533,233 in 34 theaters. It's $15,683 per theater average was actually the highest of any movie playing this week.
Based on the best-selling novel by Diane Johnson, it follows the adventures of two American sisters living in Paris.
Directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, it stars Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Leslie Caron, Sam Waterston, Glenn Close and Stockard Channing.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $ 127.3 million, down 3.68 percent from last year's take of $132.2 million. The Top 12 films were also down 3.29 percent from last weekend when they grossed $131.7 million.
Last year's top three included: Sony's PG-13-rated actioner xXx, which opened in first place with $44.5 million in 3,374 theaters ($13,191 per theater average). Buena Vista's PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Signs, dropped a spot to take second in its second week with $29.4 million at 3,310 theaters ($8,899 per theater average); Dimension's PG-rated fun fest Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams opened in third place with $16.7 million in 3,307 theaters ($5,053 per theater average).