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While Katniss is busy preparing for war, we're getting excited to watch her fight for her life (you know, while we sit in a comfy movie theater and munch on popcorn). In the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the realization that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is about to participate in a life-or-death match finally hits home.
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The trailer only runs for just over a minute, but it's filled with chilling images of what the tributes are about to face and the haunting sound of President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) menacing threats of war. There are images of rebellions in various districts, Prim screaming out for her sister, and Katniss being held down by guards, which are all cast in an ominous cloud of grey shadows. Additionally, we get a peek at some of the creatures that the tribunes with face off against, such as the CGI monkeys (which look pretty good), the smog, and the Jabberjays.
The sequel is directed by Francis Lawrence and follows Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as they hed back into the battle arena.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits theaters Nov. 22.
On paper, The Heat can't be more formulaic. Sandra Bullock's prim, pantsuit-wearing FBI agent Sarah Ashburn has to team with Melissa McCarthy's unkempt, unruly beat cop Shannon Mullins to take down a Boston drug lord and earn that coveted promotion. Both characters could easily have been clichés: Bullock's Ashburn is about as "by the book" as it gets, McCarthy's "But I Get Results!" Mullins literally throws a book at a suspect in an interrogation. It shows what feisty, textured performances Bullock and McCarthy give — and what seasoned direction Bridesmaids' Paul Feig delivers — that, at all times watching The Heat, you buy them as real people and not buddy-cop movie archetypes.
The Heat isn't just Starsky & Hutch minus Y-Chromosomes. Bullock and McCarthy are allowed to be just women, not women self-consciously playing male roles. Bullock's Ashburn works hard but lives alone, with only the Matrix Reloaded on cable and a neighbor's Tabby cat for company. McCarthy's Mullins lives in a Beantown tenement next door to some of her perps, and keeps an arsenal of guns, ammo, rocket launchers, and grenades in her refrigerator... just in case. They crash into each other when they're forced to work together, with Mullins asking Ashburn to publicly beg for her help, and do so loudly enough that there's an echo.
But Feig, and writer Katie Dippold, who has cut her comedic teeth on Parks & Recreation, do something smart: they quickly push the personality-clash to the background and throw these two pros into taut, suspenseful, sometimes outright brutal action storytelling. From the opening credits — done like a '70s exploitation movie with splashes of yellow and orange — you know that The Heat is going to be a thumbscrew-turning actioner about professionalism and revenge. Well, mostly revenge. There are shoot-outs, car chases, warehouse raids, and undercover detective work, all hurtling toward a finale in which there are real stakes: Mullins' family is targeted for assassination due to her efforts in rounding up the drug ring. One scene in which a perp tortures Ashburn with knife feels like something out of Reservoir Dogs. It's a brutality that gives heft to more light-hearted scenes, like when Mullins strips down Ashburn so she can go undercover at a rave and discovers her wearing Spanx.
As he did in Bridesmaids, Feig shows that women are capable of getting as down-and-dirty and partying as hard as any dudes, during an all-night bender in which the two cops drown their sorrows in epic amounts of alcohol. Not once during any of this are Ashburn and Mullins hung up on a guy — though men are hung up on them — and the pursuit of romance almost never comes into the story, which in its own way is quietly revolutionary. The Heat shows that sometimes you need to embrace certain clichés in order to obliterate others.
What do you think? Tell Christian Blauvelt directly on Twitter @Ctblauvelt and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
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Sift through comments on franchise sequel announcements and you'll find many crying afoul to Hollywood's insistence of resurfacing every last brand in their bank of titles. The desire for original content is reasonable but occasionally a cinematic follow-up does have the potential to be rich and rewarding. Revisiting characters who've seen time pass in their own lives is worthy of exploration — Peter Bogdanovich's Texasville Richard Linklater's Before Sunset and even A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas prove that theory. American Reunion reaches for that same dramatic arc reentering the lives of its core cast eight years after American Wedding. But instead of mixing comedy with any weighty issues the movie only tickles the nostalgia bone (and without f**king one pie in the process) — a hurdle that keeps American Reunion from being nearly as riotous as the original.
Life hits a wall for Jim (Jason Biggs) in 2012. He's a happily married man a father and a moderately successful employee of a faceless company. But after catching his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) enjoying the company of a shower head it dawns on Jim that he's in need of a shake-up. Perfect timing: Jim packs up the family and heads to his hometown for his 13th high school reunion (sure why not) where he reunites with the old gang: Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) currently whipped into submission by his girlfriend Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) back from a trip around the world Oz (Chris Klein) now a superstar sportscaster fresh off a celebrity dance show stint and Steve Stifler (Seann William Scott) a law firm temp who continues to turn women into his own personal squeeze toys. The high school buddies devolve quickly into their old habits alcoholic antics and potty-mouthed rants by the red solo cupful. Good fun for Jim no fun for Michelle.
Instead of digging deep into its well-founded characters (which I swear is allowed in a raunchy R-rated comedy) American Reunion sticks to the familiar goofball scenarios of its predecessors. Which is passable because the core group who stuck through all three movies — Biggs Nicholas Thomas and Scott — make poop-infused pranks and slapstick shtick like a scene in which Jim and co. must get a drunken naked eighteen-year-old back into her parents' house without looking like total creepsters highly entertaining. Scott once again proves him an underused comedic talent making Stifler one of the few characters who can rattle off colorful cuss words while showing a glimmer of humanity. Same goes for Eugene Levy as Jim's Dad who finds his role beefed up now that he's once again single. Grieving for years over his wife's death Jim helps his advice-dealing pop hit the dating scene and Levy spins gold out of the silliest of situations.
The problem with American Reunion is everyone else. Chris Klein never clicks with the rest of the group (that's what he gets for skipping out on Jim's wedding) while the rest of the ensemble feel ham-fisted for cameo purposes rather than complimenting the storyline. Tara Reid and Mena Suvari return to the franchise to stand around and react to the ineptitude of their male counterparts. Natasha Lyonne is in and out faster than Jim's first time. Other brief character appearances are like bigfoot sightings. The idea of bringing the entire cast of the original back for more seems perfect but without proper pacing from writers/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) there's never a moment to enjoy it.
American Reunion is a flaccid entry servicing fans while coming through with enough laugh out loud moments to make one scream (In one scene Jim takes a page out of Michael Fassbender's Shame that will elicit audible reactions). If these were fresh characters we'd brush it off — but at the film's core is a lovable familiar bunch of knuckleheads that can't be ignored. And if Stifler wants to party you party.
Drab prim and more than a little prudish Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) isn't a very good governess--her rigid personal beliefs keep getting in the way of her ability to hold a job. Homeless and hungry on the streets of 1939 London she's on the verge of despair when fate sends her to Delysia Lafosse's door. Flighty enthusiastic and impulsive Delysia (Amy Adams) is a club singer with aspirations of becoming a serious actress; to achieve her goals she'll literally charm the pants off of any man who can help her--even at the risk of losing her one true love forever. Equally shocked and fascinated by Delysia's sophisticated fast-paced colorful lifestyle Miss Pettigrew uses her brief time as the young woman's faux social secretary to try to save her from herself. At the same time she begins to let go of old fears and finds the way to her own happiness. Miss Pettigrew benefits immensely from the strengths of its two stars. McDormand is both funny and affecting as the title character; she plays a recurring gag in which Miss Pettigrew almost gets to eat with just the right notes of humor and pathos. The twinkle in her eye as she takes the measure of Delysia's world is convincingly conspiratorial and her scenes with co-star Ciaran Hinds who plays courtly lingerie mogul Joe are both sweet and realistic. Adams meanwhile is just as captivating as she was in Enchanted. Delysia's perky effervescence hides both determination and vulnerability and Adams mixes all three elements expertly. The ladies get strong support from their fellas particularly Hinds and Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace who plays Delysia's poor-but-ardent suitor Michael. And Shirley Henderson is perfectly poisonous as socialite/salon owner Edythe. Parts of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day have a distinctly screwball feel -- particularly the early scenes in which Miss P. arrives at Delysia's and must immediately juggle four or five different crises for her new client. The brink-of-World War II setting with its cocktail parties jazz clubs and dames in bright red lipstick encourages that association. But director Bharat Nalluri's movie is also a touching romance with scenes of true poignancy that centers on a complex mature heroine who knows life isn't all roses. His ability to balance the two yields a genuinely funny accessible comedy that has some real depth to back up its lighthearted romping. Even if like Delysia Miss Pettigrew is only a passing presence in your life you'll likely remember her quite fondly.
Idi Amin was the ruthless dictator of the African nation of Uganda throughout much of the 1970s. He was ultimately blamed for thousands upon thousands of deaths (some estimates place the death toll in the hundreds of thousands) during his tenure. The Last King of Scotland is a fictionalized version of Amin’s (Forest Whitaker) reign of terror. Giddy after graduating from med school in Scotland Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) randomly picks Uganda to be his first post-college destination. When he gets there the locals are abuzz after the new leader has been sworn in and vows to right all that is wrong with the country. After a chance encounter with Amin Garrigan bears witness to his dichotomous personalities as the ruler goes from threatening to charming on a whim. Amin is so taken with the young doctor--and vice versa--that he invites Garrigan to become his personal physician. A doctor-patient relationship leads to close friendship and before long Garrigan is the very center of the dictator’s inner circle. And not long thereafter he learns that there is no worse place to be. For over 20 years now we’ve all bore witness to Whitaker’s mastery of acting. His choices have been eclectic and his performances consistently great but it’s always been a case of “And oh Forest Whitaker’s great too.” Until now. Whitaker makes what can only be described as an earthquake of an entrance. It’s clear in the movie when Amin will first appear and yet the actor still manages to catch us off-guard. Amin’s manic personalities are child’s play for Whitaker but he never has fun with it which is where other actors might have gone overboard. He is now leading the race for the Best Actor Oscar too. Not that the supporting players are too shabby though. McAvoy's (The Chronicles of Narnia) Garrigan is actually the heart of the story allowing for more screen time than Whitaker and the Scotsman soaks up every second. He sticks out like a sore thumb in the film but not only because he’s from the opposite side of the earth; it’s because McAvoy the actor makes sure to react differently to everything. In addition former X-File-r Gillian Anderson turns in a solid if short apperance--and you’ll be surprised how amazingly hot she is! Kerry Washington (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) as one of Amin’s countless neglected ex-wives is superb as well.
The contrast between Last King's first and second half is as night-and-day as Amin's personalities. In the first half director Kevin MacDonald (Touching the Void) allows the story to simmer to the point of perfection; in the second half he gets sloppy as though in a rush to finish a different movie than the one he started. The ending also a mix of truth and fable (plucked from the highly acclaimed book by Giles Foden) quickly spirals towards its conclusion which is tough to watch for very different reasons. But prior to that--even at some points in the uneven second half--MacDonald paints a beautiful monster out of Amin. Maybe more importantly he paints a beautiful picture of African ambiance an indirect thank you to the Ugandan people that allowed unprecedented access to their country for the sake of Last King. Even with MacDonald's occasional blunders it's hard to deny the power of his film.
Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) has been hotdoggin’ since the day he was born--when legend has it his momma (Jane Lynch) popped him out of her belly in the back seat of a car. Now grown up and living his dream as a NASCAR driver he takes his swagger out onto the tracks with mixed results. Even though he and lifelong friend Cal (John C. Reilly) usually end up in first and second place respectively his owner deems him a financial liability after he finishes a race in reverse. Consequently a prim proper and gay French F-1 driver (Da Ali G Show’s Sacha Baron Cohen) is recruited as a new investment and Ricky gets in a horrific crash trying to beat him winding up paralyzed…in his mind. After a long road back--which sees Cal steal Ricky’s lady (Leslie Bibb) and limelight and Ricky reunite with his estranged racer dad (Gary Cole)--Ricky learns to leave showmanship homophobia and pyrophobia (fear of fire) in his dust and just drive the damn car! Ah...Will Ferrell in his total element--it’s a beautiful thing and one we haven’t much seen since SNL. Until now. In Talladega Ferrell brings his energy satire and out-of-the-blue pop-culture references to new highs in his best post-SNL performance yet. And if you close your eyes and listen to Ferrell’s faux South-speak you can hear his great George Dubya send-up of yore. Matching Ferrell scene for scene--in quality not quantity--is Reilly. With his role as a tractable doofus with a good heart Reilly has now completed the whole spectrum of roles and can be unequivocally branded an acting chameleon. Oddly he seems best fit a tractable doofus but that’s merely a testament to his abilities. Cohen’s biggest mainstream role to date is also a hit as he applies equal parts Ali G’s Borat and hyperbolic French stereotype for often hilarious results. And Amy Adams stars as Ricky’s neglected assistant; it’s a role so small that she must’ve signed on before Junebug took her to the Oscars. If after his hit ‘70s San Diego news show Ron Burgundy were to have done something to necessitate placement in a witness protection program it’s not inconceivable that he could've relocated to the South found his true calling as a pompous NASCAR driver and taken the fake-sounding name Ricky Bobby. That’s no coincidence: Talladega like Anchorman is written by Ferrell and Adam McKay who also directed. But the two have filled in the blanks from their previous collaboration for a more well-rounded effort. The duo best complement one another when it comes to Ferrell’s sense of humor; it is at its core drier than most care to realize but the co-writers manage to moisten it in such a way for all to thoroughly enjoy. What really separates this film from its predecessor though is the action--the racing scenes will surprise! And to that end McKay uses the NASCAR angle to reel in its massive contingency as well as Ferrell/comedy fans all of whom should go home happy.
In Crush we are introduced to three highly successful single women. There is Kate (Andie MacDowell) an attractive headmistress at a private school Molly (Anna Chancellor) a sexy prominent physician and finally Janine (Imelda Staunton) a single mom and police inspector. The three women are best friends who get together once a week and do what the majority of single women out there do: bitch about their non-existing love lives. They eat chocolate drink gin smoke cigarettes and compare dating disasters with a prize going to whomever has the most pathetic story. Although it seems like they are basking in their own misery the three maintain a sense of humor about their situations and have formed a really strong bond over the years. But that bond is affected when Kate embarks in an affair with a much younger man--a former student of hers Jed (played by Kenny Doughty). Molly enlists Janine's help in breaking up the affair fearing Kate is simply setting herself up for major heartbreak. Molly however seems to be acting out of jealousy rather than concern for Kate and the effects of her actions change their lives and friendship forever.
Andie MacDowell whom I found thoroughly annoying in Harrison's Flowers found a role that is completely suited for her in Kate. Although the story unfolds in rural England director John McKay (Wet and Dry) opted to have MacDowell play an American therefore retaining her Southern drawl. Dressed in linen dresses and crisp white shirts MacDowell plays the role of repressed headmistress perfectly down to her closet chain-smoking habit. Anna Chancellor (The Man Who Knew Too Little) seems a little too slick for the serious doctor role (it's hard to believe someone working as a health professional would smoke and drink that much) but she pulls it off nonetheless. Imelda Staunton (Another Life) fits into the role of police chief Janine like a glove. She may be the least glamorous of the three but she's also the most sincere and down-to-earth traits well suited to her profession. Kenny Doughty (Titus) rounds out the cast as Kate's intriguing young lover Jed. Young scruffy and a little edgy Doughty is a perfect match for MacDowell's prim character.
Crush focuses on the relationships of three women who despite working in completely different fields and having lived unique life experiences (one has never been married one has had several divorces and another is a single mom) have formed a deep friendship that crosses different boundaries. What makes it work is the chemistry that MacDowell Chancellor and Staunton have on screen. The chemistry between MacDowell and Doughty also spices up the story. The age difference between them is dealt with in a realistic manner not over-idealized. Kate for example is concerned about what others think of her relationship and whether or not Jed will fit into her circle of friends. Although a romantic love story is at the core of this film it rarely gets schmaltzy (except for the dramatic climax) thanks to some hilarious scenes in which the women recount some of their dating disasters.