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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If no one kills themselves while watching Little Fockers this weekend it will be a Christmas miracle. Sure there have been some bad films so far this year but none will make you long for the merciful touch of the Grim Reaper upon your shoulder like the latest entrant in the Meet the Parents saga. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoys the original film (and reluctantly tolerates the second).
Looking on the sunny side of things however at least Little Fockers is the best alien invasion film of 2010. I mean that is the narrative here right? Pod people have taken over the lives of the Fockers and the Byrnes replacing their once moderately charming attempts at bumbling-based comedy with some kind of extra-terrestrial anti-comedy designed to test the patience of normal human beings. That's the only rational defense of the film I can think of. Surely no one who actually lives on planet Earth thinks that you can fashion a complete motion picture — particularly one starring Robert De Niro Ben Stiller Teri Polo Blythe Danner Owen Wilson Harvey Keitel Laura Dern and yes even Jessica Alba — out of nothing but a chain that interlinks the most face-palming no-one-acts-like-that misunderstandings possible with repeated fart barf and penis humor.
Grandpa Jack (De Niro) is getting to be an old man so he tells son-in-law Gaylord Focker that he needs to take over as the Godfocker. This piece of information is the alien code word that turns the previously-normal Gaylord into Pod Person Gaylord. He instantly begins to act out of character deciding for no clear reason that his twin five-year olds who have a fast-approaching birthday must now attend a prestigious private school that is way out of the family's budget. Pod Gaylord then decides to give in to pharmaceutical representative Jessica Alba's flirting and become a spokesperson for an erectile dysfunction drug.
Meanwhile Owen Wilson has re-entered the lives of the Fockers as Pod Kevin a world-travelling philosophically-confused twit whom everyone worships for no apparent reason. Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman are back as well as Roz and Bernie Focker with the former now being the host of a talk show about sex toys and the latter suffering from a bout of "manopause" that finds him in Spain learning to be a World Class flamenco dancer. How does the re-integration of these three characters pay off exactly? Well Grandpa Jack wants to convince his daughter and happily married mother of his two grandchildren to divorce Pod Gaylord and marry Pod Kevin. Pod Roz's free-spirited theories about sex result in Pod Grandpa Jack getting an erection for five-and-a-half hours (and don't think for a second you'll be spared the image of an erect penis in Robert De Niro's pants). As for Bernie Focker ... well that one's tricky. As near as I can tell the only reason his character is conceived as being obsessed with the flamenco is so he can later inexplicably dance with a jiggly bra-clad Jessica Alba for approximately six seconds.
I'd apologize for that being a poor summary of the premise of Little Fockers but it's sadly an incredibly accurate one. There's no plot here. It's just a collection of scenes that ineptly fit together solely because they have the same people in them. And if this material is what passes for a feature film I cannot even fathom what the deleted scenes on the DVD will look like.
The crime here isn't even the bad (and often childish) jokes it's that all of the adults involved appear to have suddenly forgotten how to tell jokes at all. Words just tumble out of the actors' mouths never ever finding purchase with the audience. But that's okay because as soon as one gag arrives stillborn director Paul Weitz (who is taking over for previous series auteur Jay Roach) and screenwriters John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey will break their necks trying to turn their attention to the next bit of hilarity. And the most astounding thing — the clincher that will make you want to stick a gun in your mouth — is that despite running from scene-to-scene as fast as possible Little Fockers feels like it's never going to end. You may think that it'll be passable light entertainment at just 98 minutes but you dangerously forget that these are 98 minutes of alien anti-comedy which equate to over 9000 minutes of human failure.
If you've been missing Jack Byrnes, Bernie Focker and the entire extended Focker family, then you're in luck today because Universal Pictures has finally unveiled the first teaser trailer for the anticipated comedy Little Fockers!
In the film, the test of wills between Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) and Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) escalates to new heights as the entire extended family descends for the twins' birthday party. Greg must prove to the skeptical Jack that he's fully capable as the man of the house. But with all the misunderstandings, spying and covert missions, will Greg pass Jack's final test and become the family's next patriarch... or will the circle of trust be broken for good?
I certainly don't think so. Universal needs the Focker franchise like Americans need fast food - they can't live without it! Expect to see something like Four Fockers in the next few years, because I doubt that the studio will let this series die anytime soon. Little Fockers will hit theaters on December 22nd, but I know you can't wait that long to see the threequel, so check out the trailer below:
The third installment of Ben Stiller's Meet the Parents franchise has been stalled until December.
The new movie, tentatively titled Little Fockers, revisits the characters from the first two films and sees Stiller reprise his role alongside Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba and Owen Wilson.
The film was due for release in July, but movie bosses have now pushed the launch date back until Dec. 22.
A representative for Universal, the studio behind the film, has blamed the move on scheduling conflicts -- insisting a Christmas release will give the film a better chance of success at the box office.
Universal domestic distribution rep Nikki Rocco tells The Hollywood Reporter, "A year ago, the Christmas landscape wasn't as clear."
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Source: The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter says that Jessica Alba is in negotiations to join Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro in Little Fockers; the next installment in the Meet the Parents series.
The picture is expect to pick up where 2004's "Meet the Fockers" left off, with Stiller's Gaylord Focker and Teri Polo's Pamela Byrnes having a child (or children -- reports abound that they could be having twins)
Alba will play a pharmaceutical rep whose good looks wreak havoc on the male characters.
No need to curse -- there will be a third installment of Meet the Parents.
The franchise's offspring, Little Fockers, will be moving forward albeit with a slightly differently composed family.
Jay Roach, who directed Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, will not helm Little Fockers.
He's busy preparing the American redo of French hit Dinner for Schmucks.
Producers instead are out to a handful of top comedy directors with candidates said to include Paul Weitz, David Wain and Peyton Reed.
John Hamburg has been brought on to write the screenplay afterLarry Stuckey penned an earlier draft, reports the Risky Business blog.
Hamburg did drafts on Parents and Fockers and worked with star Ben Stiller on Along Came Polly.
Sources told Risky Business that Universal and Tribeca Productions are moving forward quickly on the project, with an eye toward shooting as early as summer or fall.
Stiller, Robert De Niro and Owen Wilson are in negotiations to star while Barbra Streisand, who played Stiller's mother in the second film, recently told the AP she may return for the third.
Little Fockers is expected to revolve around the children of Stiller and Teri Polo, who plays his wife.
MORE NEWS: Seth Rogen Poses for Playboy?
OK so we've met the Parents: Uptight ex-CIA operative Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) his preppy wife Dina (Blythe Danner) and their sweet daughter Pam (Teri Polo) who's marrying the adorable if slightly anxious male nurse Greg aka Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller). Now it's time to Meet the Fockers Greg's kooky but lovable parents who soon threaten Greg's standing in Jack's coveted "circle of trust." In the inevitable meeting of the in-laws Jack is lead to believe Greg's dad the effervescent Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) is a lawyer but finds out he became a stay-at-home dad to raise little Gaylord. Greg's mom the outspoken Roz (Barbra Streisand) a "doctor " is really a sex therapist for the elderly. Big big problem. There's also incidents involving the Fockers' dog and the Byrneses' cat and Jack's toddler grandson some glue and a bottle of rum. Don't ask. At some point Greg and Pam have just got to cut the umbilical cord and move on.
One thing you can say about the Fockers' cast--they sure do look like they're having fun. Stiller is back doing the whole neurotic accident-prone thing he does so well. There's one meltdown scene in which he bears his soul while under the influence of Sodium Pentathol (courtesy of Jack of course). De Niro is once again playing the "heavy " as the suspicious elder Byrnes--and is still pretty good at making you laugh. On the other hand the wasted Danner and Polo stand around in the background looking appropriately appalled or sympathetic depending on the moment. Hoffman and Streisand however are the true standouts. They liven up the proceedings just by the sheer nature of their spirited characters. For the first time in awhile Hoffman's tendency to overact works as the bubbly Bernie while the delightful Streisand who's taken a break from acting for the past eight years gets to tap into her zany yet grounded What's Up Doc? persona we remember so well. Good times.
Meet the Parents director Jay Roach has a tough act to follow with Meet the Fockers. The original did surprisingly well at the box office probably because audiences got a kick out of seeing funny guy Ben Stiller go head to head with the Goodfella himself De Niro. But somehow the mishaps and miscommunications that made Parents so wacky seems to have been replaced with feel-good-about-your-family mush in Fockers. Jack for example is mostly up to his "let's catch Greg in the act" high jinks--until he sees the errors of his ways and gets in touch with his feelings. Huh? Granted the moments of inspired hilarity are still entertaining but the extra sentimentality doesn't really work as well given what the younger fans of Parents have come to expect.
Top Story: Who's "Fun and Fearless"?
Matthew Perry and Alicia Silverstone, that's who. Cosmopolitan magazine has chosen the two as the Fun, Fearless Male and Female for 2004, The Associated Press reports. Cosmo's editor in chief, Kate White, described the star of NBC's Friends as "the epitome of a hot Cosmo male," adding he is "handsome, charming and incredibly talented. Plus, he's retained his optimism and sense of humor through difficult personal relationships." White described Silverstone, the 27-year-old star of NBC's Miss Match, as gutsy and talented, and said she lives life "with a vengeance." "I really respect how committed she is to her beliefs and how she works to improve the world around her," White said. Others on Cosmo's February list include Sofia Coppola, Ashanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Sue Wong, Lucy Liu, Holly Hunter, Parminder Nagra, Lisa Scottoline, Mischa Barton and Diane Lane.
Keaton Gets AFI Honor
Diane Keaton, nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Something's Gotta Give, is being honored by the American Film Institute, AP reports, receiving AFI's Star Award at the 10th Annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival next month. Previous Star Award recipients include Steve Martin, Mike Myers, Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal.
Carnivale Gets Cinematography Nod
Carnivale, HBO's supernatural Dust Bowl-era series, leads the American Society of Cinematographer Awards with two nominations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the recognition given to HBO's offbeat series marks the first time in the 18-year history of the ASC Awards that a woman has been nominated in any of its film or TV award categories. Tami Reiker, whose feature credits include last year's Pieces of April, was nominated for her work as director of photography on the Carnivale pilot. Other TV shows in competition include HBO's Angel in America, FX's The Pentagon Papers, Showtime's Out of Ashes and Tennessee Williams' The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. The awards will be handed out Feb. 8 in Los Angeles.
Walker, Texas Ranger Actor Dies
Noble Willingham, a character actor for the last 30 years and best known for his role on Walker, Texas Ranger, died Saturday of natural causes in Palm Springs, Calif., AP reports. He was 72. Willingham also dabbled in politics, running on the Republican congressional ticket for eastern Texas. He lost to Democrat Max Sandlin.
Janet Jackson Releases New Album
Pop diva Janet Jackson will release her latest, yet-to-be titled album Mar. 30, Billboard reports. The new album is the follow-up to 2001's All for You, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and has sold more than 3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Jackson will also be performing at the Super Bowl XXXVIII festivities in Houston on Feb. 1, although it is unknown if she will preview material from the upcoming release. P. Diddy, Kid Rock and Nelly are also scheduled to appear.
Idol Duet Hits the Road
American Idol sweethearts Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson are teaming up for a concert tour to kick off Feb. 24 in Charlotte, N.C., AP reports. The Grammy-nominated Clarkson, who won the Idol title in 2002, released her debut album Thankful in May 2003 and has sold more than 1 million copies, while 2003 runner-up Aiken's Sept. debut, Measure of a Man, hit No. 1 and went double-platinum.
Role Call: Hoffman Takes on Focker
Dustin Hoffman will play Ben Stiller's father in Meet the Fockers, the sequel to the 2000 hit comedy Meet the Parents, which starred Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the other actors are also reprising their roles in Focker, which revolves around Greg (Stiller) and his fiancée, Pam Byrnes (Polo), who thinks everything is hunky-dory now that Greg has won over his soon-to-be in-laws, Jack (De Niro) and Dina Byrnes (Danner)--until, that is, Pam's parents meet Greg's parents, the Fockers. The hyper-easygoing Fockers and the tightly wound Byrneses are mismatched from the start.