Walt Disney via Everett Collection
Tom Hiddleston is a busy man. The actor has just signed on to star in High-Rise, an adaptation of J.G Ballard's classic thriller of the same name. The film, which will be directed by Ben Wheatley and penned by Amy Jump, will follow a man who must survive in a futuristic high-rise building where the residents are cut off from society and lose their grip on reality. Aside from this new project, Hiddleston has also replaced Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead for the upcoming Guillermo del Toro horror flick Crimson Peak, and is featured in the upcoming Muppet film, Muppets Most Wanted. If all that wasn't enough, you can all but hear the cries from Marvel and Disney for him to come back and reprise his role as Loki, because for all the success that Marvel has had in creating their cinematic universe, they haven't managed to create a villain as sinister or alluring as the Asgardian trickster god. But if you take a close look at all of these films that the actor has lined up for the next couple of years, something interesting begins to stand out. Hiddleston has a del Toro Horror film, a puppet comedy, and a new dystopian thriller on his docket, but there's not a drama in sight? In fact, all of his upcoming films are some form of genre fare, which leads to the question: where are all the dramas?
After conquering the world, the box-office, and a sizeable chunk of Tumblr as Loki in The Avengers and the two Thor movies, you would expect the actor to take a step back from genre flicks and take some time to do some smaller projects. In fact, many young actors like to take a post-genre cleanse after reaching blockbuster success. Some like and take on some Sundance-ready indies, or put some prestigious dramas under their belts. James Franco did it after Sam Raimi's Spider-Man series limped its way to the finish line. Taking a step back and focusing on both drama and genre films netted him an Oscar nomination for 127 Hours, but also revealed the actor's hidden depths and versatility. Now he's a guy who can turn a role in a boisterous comedy This Is the End, and then move on to creating an adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Shia LaBeouf also took a step back from genre films after finishing off the Transformers series, though his reputation is probably worse off after the bizarre Howard Cantour plagiarism scandal that baffled the entire movie-watching world in late 2013.
The thing is, we want to see Hiddleston expand his role choice to include smaller and quieter films, like 2011's The Deep Blue Sea. Maybe take a romantic dramedy for a spin, or even something like a historical dramedy. It's not that we don't want to see him play Loki anymore, it's more that we want to see the actor spread his talent to a more diverse set of movies. We want to see thee actor apply that same epic gravitas to something more grounded than another film set in the clouds of Asgard, or whatever loopy dreamscape del Toro has in mind for Crimson Peak. Hiddleston is a actor with a deep background in Shakespeare (something readily apparent when you see his tragic take on Loki), and we want to see the actor really flex his acting muscles.
The name of the game in modern Hollywood is versatility, and an actor as seemingly talented shouldn't limit his gifts to genre entertainment when there's a whole wide world of film that could use more of the man behind the horns of Loki. All of this is not to say that genre films are a somehow lesser form of art, or that they require less talent, but an actor like Hiddelston could do wonders in more soulful parts now that he's muscled his way into the mainstream. Let's hope he finds some time between superheroes and horror flicks to find projects that really show off his range as an actor.
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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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Freaks and Geeks has a unique position in the world of cult television. No other show (be it cult or huge hit) can boast the sheer magnitude its actors, creators, and even bit players have had in the entertainment world following the demise of the little program.
Take, for instance, this past month at the movies. Three big films each featured one of the three main freaks. 127 Hours with James Franco, The Green Hornet with Seth Rogen and Gulliver’s Travels with Jason Segel. And they can all be traced back to that one little TV show about a high school in Michigan.
No other show can attest to that level of saturation post-ending. None of the four main cast members of Seinfeld have come close. Arrested Development might make it if Jason Bateman were to suddenly become uber-famous, and does anyone remember what happened to the kids from The Wonder Years? Of course not.
Perhaps the most consistent F&G alum, Rogen has neatly divided his post-TV career into three (respectable) categories: acting, writing and voice work. While his acting has been most prominent, he often writes his own material, having penned the screenplays for Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet. His distinctive voice has also been utilized in many childrens movies and coming later this year he can be heard as the titular alien in Paul.
The insane one. After F&G, what hasn’t James Franco done? No, seriously. What hasn’t he done? He’s done high brow, low brow, enrolled in four graduate-level degrees (at the same time), had a book published and even had a recurring part on General Hospital. He’s delivered comic gold in Pineapple Express, played moody men in Tristan and Isolde and Annapolis, garnered heaps of critical praise with Milk, 127 Hours and Howl and for the hell of it made a documentary about SNL. Appear in drag on the cover of a magazine? Yep. Next up, he’ll be directing adaptations of Cormac McCarthy and Faulkner.
After F&G, Segel has taken the cautiously adventurous road. He’s been a main character on How I Met Your Mother for the past six seasons, but in between he has made several films expanding his career beyond sitcom territory. We saw his penis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which he wrote as well) and is currently writing and starring in the next Muppet Movie.
I often wondered what happened to my beloved Linda Cardellini. Her portrayal of Lindsay Weir was simply astounding and that moment when she walked in with that dress? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I thought she simply disappeared for a while. Sure, she was in Grandma's Boy but I hadn't seen her in anything really worthy of her presence. It was something like three years after seeing it that I realizes she was in Scooby Doo (Ruh Roh) and then I sat down to watch TV with my mother one evening several years ago when in walked Miss Weir as a nurse on ER. Needless to say, it was good to have her back. And this picture is just here because, why not?
John Francis Daley
The other main character who seemed to fall off the face of the Earth post-F&G turned out to be hiding in plain sight. Daley has been a recurring character on Bones for several years now, playing the baby faced psychologist (can he ever really play anything else?). He had the memorable young waiter-in-training role in Waiting and also plays in the band Dayplayer. They’re not too bad. His next big thing is Horrible Bosses, a Warner Bros. comedy that he wrote. The film stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and I shit you not, The Old Spice Guy. My how our geeks have grown.
I'll be honest, I didn't enjoy the Kim stories on F&G. That's not to say that I don't enjoy Phillips, I just never could get into her character. But luckily Phillips has found success recently on Cougar Town, much to everyone's surprise (the show, not Phillips success of course).
Seemingly appearing in any given sitcom at any given time, Levine has been busy since his F&G days but unfortunately nothing has been able to stick. He played a Basterd in Inglorious Basterds, which was his most visible role, but also in a bit of meta-casting, he played another high-schooler in Not Another Teen Movie. A gifted actor, we hope to see more of him in the future.
The biggest surprise of them all. Who would’ve thought Martin Starr, good old Bill Haverchuck, would end up in some of the best comedies of the past decade? His look in F&G was so iconic that many people don’t make the connection when they see him in Superbad or Knocked Up. Its easier to see in Adventureland or Party Down, where he is basically playing Haverchuck with more balls each time, but his distinct delivery and incredible sense of humor elevate him above those around him. Also - check out this picture of him and fellow F&G alum (and Party Down too) Lizzy Caplan. Get'em Haverchuck!
And it doesn't even end there. Several bit players from F&G have etched their own place in the entertainment community. Here are five of the most prominent:
Shia Labeouf played the original mascot whose injury gave Sam the chance to show off. Now he's off on Wall Street and transforming all over the place.
Ben Foster was the mentally handicapped character Eli. He stars along with Jason Statham in The Mechanic later this month.
David Krumholtz was Neal's cousin in F&G, appearing in only one episode. But he later starred in over 100 episodes of Numb3rs. Not too shabby.
Rashida Jones played one of Kim's tough friends. Now she's off stealing hearts in Parks and Recreation, The Office, I Love You, Man, and basically anything she's appears in.
Jason Schwartzman sported one hell of a haircut in F&G. This year alone he appeared in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Bored to Death, two of the funniest comedies from 2010.
Lizzy Caplan, oh Lizzy Caplan. Even in F&G she was cute and it just continued and continued through Party Down, True Blood, Cloverfield, and Mean Girls.
Kristen Stewart Owns 'Wolves': Late Last Night
Eclipse opens tomorrow! I hope you're planning on sleeping under your desk at work tomorrow night because there's no way in vampires and werewolves you'll make it past the fans outside the theaters and into your apartment before you're due back in your cubicle. In fact, you'd have a better chance surviving an attack from a pack of Kristen Stewart's 'wolves' than being unaffected by Twihard mania. David Letterman held up a few pictures of her bad boys, and pointed out they look and snuggle like dogs -- not wolves. She claims she has documentation that proves they are wolves. Also, photographs of them eating human arms!
Then, Letterman talked to Gary Faulkner, the guy who flew to Pakistan in search of Osama Bin Laden. I'm not going to criticize him too much because he made it so easy, anyone can do it.
The only thing more sure than nothing getting resolved during the G-8 and G-20 Summits is that there'll be protesters! Jon Stewart reminded us how President Obama went to Canada and argued other countries should continue spending so as to stimulate the world's economy, but other countries didn't think that was such a good idea and advocated for an end to the deficits. So did he actually succeed at all up there? Not really! He couldn't even convince new Britain Prime Minister David Cameron to drink his beer cold! Womp womp!
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Stephen Colbert told us the world really is going to end, and there's actually a way we can survive it: by creating our own fancy shmancy fallout shelter! Bring on the binge eating!
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