The Ray star invited a small group of Bigs (mentors) and Littles (proteges) to play basketball at his home in Los Angeles on Wednesday (28Nov12) in celebration of his appointment.
As spokesperson, Foxx will represent the organisation at national and local Big Brothers Big Sisters events and work to raise funds for the scheme, which pairs adult volunteers with at-risk kids to provide stability in their lives.
Foxx tells ET Online, "We get such a charmed life and you get paid all this money, it makes sense to turn around and do something great with it.
"Me having two kids now, you stop living for yourself at a certain point. You start living for them, so hopefully I can show them some of that magic and they'll take that and they'll have some good experiences."
Keith Rhodes, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, adds, "We're very thankful of (sic) Jamie, all the input he's given to us, and look forward to our relationship going forward."
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Monday, Nov. 28
Note: How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, 2 Broke Girls and Hawaii Five-0 are all in reruns tonight.
Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas
8 p.m. on ABC
It's officially the holiday season, Dancing With the Stars is over, all of CBS is in reruns, why not cozy up with some hot chocolate for this Dr. Seuss classic? You'd have to be a three-decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich -- with arsenic sauce -- not to love it!
Bored to Death Season Finale
9 p.m. on HBO
"Nothing I Can't Handle By Running Away"
It's the last one! Oh no! There can never be enough Bored to Death and yet, we only get eight episodes a year. Jonathan not only gets kidnapped, but a legion of Super Ray fans drift into the picture...presumably to help our dear hero. If there's anything stranger than most of what goes on on this series, it's Ray's fans.
8 p.m. on CBS
"Rhodes to Perdition"
Nate's latest assignment hits too close to home; The Vanderwoodsen clan gathers for a Studio 54 style party for CeCe; and Chuck further confuses Blaire (which we all saw coming) as her wedding approaches.
8 p.m. on Fox
"Now You See Me"
"Enemies are forced to work together," which is always awkward. It gives Nathaniel plenty of opportunities for snarling, which would be his super power if he had one.
8 p.m. on NBC
"Top 3 Finalists"
It's pretty self-explanatory: we've got it down to the best of the best on NBC's Glee-esque talent show. It's a good time to tune in even if you haven't been following along all season.
When the prospect of comedy duo Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig teaming up to write a comedy for Judd Apatow with Paul Feig in the director's seat came up it was pretty easy to get excited. Finally we were headed for an Apatow flick that could exist outside the realm of stoners and dick jokes. When Bridesmaids finally hit theaters our expectations were met tenfold and the result was one of the most refreshing hilarious movies of the year. Of course being that it’s an Apatow film when it hits Blu-ray and DVD we’re in for a hell of a lot of extra footage both in the form of an unrated cut of the film and in the copious extras. If you like to laugh there’s really no reason you shouldn’t own a copy of Bridesmaids.
The film finds Wiig as Annie a down-on-her-luck 30-something facing the scariest of challenges: her best friend is getting married. The best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is marrying into money and with that comes a whole slew of unwelcome changes in Annie’s eyes. As Lillian’s maid of honor Annie encounters the groom’s gruff sister Megan (Melissa McCarthy) Lillian’s new wealthy friend Helen (Rose Byrne) the reluctant and potentially slutty soccer mom Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and the sheltered Disney-obsessed newlywed Becca (Ellie Kemper). Things naturally get out of hand and as a set these ladies are a comedic force to be reckoned with. Of course augmenting their talents are supporting character like Jon Hamm as Annie’s sexist chauvinistic sex friend; her sweet Irish love interest Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd of The IT Crowd); and her insane roommates played by Matt Lucas and Rebel Wilson of Little Britain fame. The film really delivers on all cylinders.
Sure the crisp high definition helps the film pop and keep its modern feel but the real gems are the extras. You get a feature commentary that’s entertaining even if you’re not a total film nerd; you get an extended deleted scene that includes an entire storyline for Paul Rudd that never made it into the film; you get the requisite (and extremely lengthy) gag reel and line-o-rama where our capable ensemble’s knack for ad-libbing gets its due. Ultimately you get a whole slew of new giggles and with a movie like as funny as Bridesmaids that’s a very very good thing.
Bridesmaids hits Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 20.
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.
The story of the most dominant racehorse of all time does not easily fit into the standard inspirational sports flick mold. Such films typically require its protagonists to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles be they competitive (Hoosiers) personal (The Natural) societal (Ali) or some combination of all three (Remember the Titans). But by all accounts the greatest challenges to Secretariat capturing of the 1973 Triple Crown were not rival horses — indeed Secretariat had no true rival — but a pair of slow starts and an abscess. And abscesses — apologies to dermatologists — simply aren’t all that effective as dramatic devices.
Lacking most of the vital ingredients of the traditional underdog movie formula Disney’s Secretariat is forced to synthesize them. Its screenplay written by Mike Rich and based rather loosely on the book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack adopts a conventional save-the-farm framework: When her parents pass away within months of each other Denver housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is advised to sell off her family’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables a beautiful but unprofitable horse-breeding enterprise in order to pay the onerous inheritance taxes levied by the state. But Penny her deceased father’s hackneyed horse-inspired counsel fresh in her mind (“You’ve got to run your own race ” etc. etc.) is loath to depart with such a cherished heirloom. So she concocts a scheme just idiotic enough to work betting the farm — literally — that her new horse Big Red in whom she has an almost Messianic faith will win the Kentucky Derby Preakness and Belmont races in succession.
Of course Big Red under the stage name Secretariat goes on to do just that but only after the film subjects us to nearly two hours of manufactured melodrama. Lane grasping all-too conspicuously for awards consideration treats every line as if it were the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Her character Penny exhibits a hair-trigger sensitivity to the sounds of skeptics and naysayers bursting forth with a polite rebuke and a stern sermon for anyone who dares doubt her crusade from the trash-talking owner of a rival horse to her annoyingly pragmatic husband (Dylan Walsh).
Lane isn’t alone in her grandiosity. The entire production reeks of it as director Randall Wallace lines the story with fetid chunks of overwrought Oscar bait like so many droppings in an untended stable even using Old Testament quotations and gospel music to endow Penny’s quest with biblical significance. John Malkovich is kind enough to inject some mirth into the heavy-handed proceedings hamming it up as Secretariat’s trainer Lucien Laurin a French-Canadian curmudgeon with an odd sartorial palette. It’s not enough however to alleviate the discomfort of witnessing the film's quasi-Sambo depiction of Secretariat’s famed groom Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis) which reaches its cringeworthy zenith when Sweat runs out to the track on the eve of the Belmont Stakes and exclaims to no one in particular that “Big Red done eat his breakfast this mornin’!!!” Bagger Vance would be proud. Whether or not Ellis’ portrayal of Sweat’s cadence and mannerisms is accurate (and for all I know it may well be) the character is too thinly drawn to register as anything more than an amiable simple-minded servant.
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the horses in Secretariat come off looking far better than their human counterparts and not just because they’re alloted the best dialogue. In the training and racing sequences Wallace effectively conveys the strength and majesty of the fearsome animals drawing us into the action and creating a strong element of suspense even though the final result is a fait accompli. It's too bad the rest of the film never makes it out of the gate.
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.
Identity seems at first to be a cross between Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho but then twists into something even more surprising. It opens with a psychiatrist (Alfred Molina) examining the file of a serial killer who may or may not be on the loose and cuts to 10 travelers who find themselves stranded at a desolate motel during a savage rainstorm with no communications and no way out. A good place to start getting picked off one by one by an unknown killer where the culprit could be any one of the eclectic cast of characters. Could it be Larry (John Hawkes) the twitchy motel manager; Ed (John Cusack) a secretive limo driver; Caroline (Rebecca DeMornay) a washed-up actress; Rhodes (Ray Liotta) a suspicious cop transporting a killer (Jake Busey) to jail; Paris (Amanda Peet) a hooker with a heart of gold or a pair of not-so-happy newlyweds Ginny (Clea DuVall) and Lou (William Lee Scott)? To round out the group there is also the York family--stepdad George (John C. McGinley) young son Timmy (Bret Loehr) and mom (Leila Kenzle) who has been seriously injured in a car accident. As the dead begin to outnumber the living the hapless survivors have precious time to figure out why they've all been drawn to this motel--and whom among them is a cold-blooded murderer. The answer turns the film on end.
From a bevy of some very good performances let's see if you can guess who the murderer is. The always good Cusack leads the pack with the strongest performance as Ed who isn't your typical limo driver but a person whose secrets run deep--namely that he was once a cop who got burnt out. Cusack plays the character aptly half-wounded half-heroic and you never really suspect him as the killer. Still he keeps you wondering. Liotta on the other hand has the killer mark stamped all over him as the moody Rhodes but follows Cusack's footsteps in expertly putting just the requisite amount of doubt in your mind. DeMornay's snooty has-been actress gets whacked right away (oops did I give too much away?) and Busey's satanic face once again fuels another bad guy which makes him way too obvious to be the killer. DuVall who can do much much more as an actress is mostly delegated to screaming and crying a lot while Peet's tender-hearted Paris whose pure impetus to go home to Florida to grow oranges is just too sweet. Hawkes' Larry is a sniveling coward who doesn't seem smart enough to commit murder while the strange circumstances of the York family with the nerdy McGinley and the sad scared little Loehr would seem to take them out of the loop. Or does it?
As Identity's who-can-the-killer-be scenario plays out you sense something isn't quite right. At the halfway point you begin to believe the film may have missed the mark. Director James Mangold (Girl Interrupted) does his best Hitchcock impersonation but it doesn't seem to work. Even with a stellar cast the dialogue seems too trite the characters almost wooden. You're afraid the film is turning into just another run-of-the-mill entry in the thriller genre--and you feel like you are wasting your time. Then comes the unexpected and fresh twist and it's the key to saving Identity. Without giving too much away just know this: Once you see where the film is going everything sort of falls into place and you understand why the characters and action seem more like they came from a storybook than from real life. Still even with a clever turn of events Identity could have taken a little more time before the secret is let out to develop the story a little better.