Johnny Depp is in talks to take on another real-life role after showing interest in a new Harry Houdini biopic. Dean Parisot's The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero reimagines the master illusionist and escape artist as an occult investigator, and is based on William Kalush and Larry Sloman's book of the same name, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Depp is currently portraying Boston, Massachusetts gang boss Whitey Bulger in new film Black Mass and he also famously portrayed John Dillinger (Public Enemies), J.M. Barrie (Finding Neverland) , Ed Wood (Ed Wood), George Jung (Blow), Inspector Frederick Abberline (From Hell) and Joseph D. Pistone (Donnie Brasco) on the big screen.
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 Long, Long Time Ago... The Star Trek and Star Wars universes are coming together even sooner than we thought (as J.J. Abrams prepares to helm the upcoming Star Wars sequel) — Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Star Wars' Luke Skywalker, will team up with Star Trek's George Takei, a.k.a. Sulu, in an upcoming episode of ABC's surprise hit The Neighbors. Hamill and Takei will play coworkers on the sitcom, about a community of aliens living in the suburbs. [TV Guide]
'90s Lovers, Rejoice! Former Party of Five-er Scott Wolf is joining fellow '90s stars Rachael Leigh Cook and Eric McCormack for the second season of their TNT drama, Perception. Wolf will recur as Donnie, a successful Assistant U.S. Attorney who transfers back to Chicago, where his ex-wife lives. That ex-wife? None other than Cook's FBI agent Kate. [TVLine]
ABC Struck Pilot Gold: ABC has ordered the pilot Big Thunder, a drama based on Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain roller-coaster ride at four of its theme parks (California, Florida, Tokyo and Paris). The Western-themed Big Thunder Mountain ride is set in a mining town amid the gold rush in the American Southwest that gets hit by a natural disaster. At the center of the show is a brilliant, late 19th century New York doctor. He and his family are given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relocate to a frontier mining town run by a powerful, but mysterious tycoon but quickly realize that not everything in Big Thunder is as it seems. [Deadline]
Good News for Cable Shows: BBC America's Ripper Street and Cinemax's Banshee were both picked up for second seasons on Tuesday. Ripper Street is set in 1889 London in the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders. Banshee, executive produced by True Blood's Alan Ball, is about a small town with big secrets. [Zap2it]
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Fall season premieres are still under way, but that hasn’t stopped TNT from looking forward to the next round of dates: winter premiere season!
TNT has announced its lineup, and along with four returning shows (Dallas, Rizzoli & Isles, Leverage, and Southland), the network will also premiere a brand new medical drama Monday Mornings from David E. Kelley and Dr. Sanjay Gupta starring Ving Rhames, Alfred Molina, and Jamie Bamber, as well as a new unscripted series with unprecedented access to the Boston Police Department called Boston’s Finest from executive producer Donnie Wahlberg.
Check out when the new and returning series come back on your TV:
Nov. 27: Rizzoli & Isles, Leverage
Jan. 28: Dallas
Feb. 4: Monday Mornings
Feb. 13: Southland
Feb. 27: Boston’s Finest
Follow Sydney on Twitter @SydneyBucksbaum
[Photo Credit: TNT]
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The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.