Pierce Brosnan is campaigning for a black James Bond to take over from current 007 Daniel Craig. In a new interview with Australia’s Herald Sun, the Irish actor, who played Bond in four movies, thinks Colin Salmon or Idris Elba would make great 007s.
He says, "Elba would make a good Bond. Colin Salmon also. May the best man get the job, and may Daniel (Craig) bring home the bacon for as long as he wants."
Salmon portrayed MI6 boss Charles Robinson in three of Brosnan's Bond films, while Elba is considered by many among the frontrunners to replace Craig and become the first black 007.
Craig is currently at work on the latest Bond movie, Spectre.
Were you paying attention to the big screen and all the Hollywood happenings in 2014? We thought we'd kick off the New Year with a quick look back over the last 12 months of WENN movie news and pose a few questions to one and all that might just help you recall some magical moments at the cinema, or some hot gossip from the year just gone.
The prize for the winner? Bragging rights and a front row seat to the 2015 Oscars in your own living room! Best of luck!
1. The Fault in Our Stars was based on a book written by which author?
a. John Green
b. John White
c. James Green
d. James Brown
2. What song did not feature on the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy?
a. I'm Not in Love
b. Mama Told Me Not to Come
c. Spirit in the Sky
d. Hooked on a Feeling
3. From which hit animated movie did the catchy tune Everything is Awesome come?
a. Muppets Most Wanted
b. The Lego Movie
c. How to Train Your Dragon 2
d. Mr Peabody and Sherman
4. Game of Thrones star Kit Harington starred in which epic disaster film based on true events?
b. 300: Rise of an Empire
5. The son of which longtime Hollywood couple starred alongside Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 22 Jump Street?
a. Colin Hanks, son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
b. Oliver Hudson, son of Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn
c. Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
d. Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn
6. Which of the following was not a cast member in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?
a. Andy Serkis
b. James Franco
c. Jason Clarke
d. Gary Oldman
7. Get On Up was a biopic based on the life of which legendary musician?
a. James Brown
b. Stevie Wonder
c. George Clinton
d. Smokey Robinson
8. Which Hollywood veteran portrayed the family matriarch in This Is Where I Leave You?
a. Anjelica Huston
b. Jane Fonda
c. Bette Midler
d. Dame Judi Dench
9. Which musical did The Amazing Spider-Man star Emma Stone make her Broadway debut in?
d. Les Miserables
10. Which one of these celebrities was NOT part of Ellen DeGeneres' famous 'selfie' taken during the 2014 Academy Awards?
a. Channing Tatum
b. Kevin Spacey
c. Matthew McConaughey
d. Jared Leto
11. Which actress celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary to her tennis pro husband on New Year's Eve?
a. Ashley Tisdale
b. Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting
c. Naya Rivera
d. Ginnifer Goodwin
12. Who will play the villain in the next James Bond movie?
a. Quentin Tarantino
b. Mark Strong
c. Christoph Waltz
d. Bryan Cranston
13. Which country do the two actors who played Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma come from?
14. Who rang in 2014 with Charlize Theron and has since become her boyfriend?
a. Sean Penn
b. Chris Pratt
c. Mark Wahlberg
d. Joaquin Phoenix
15. Name new mum Scarlett Johansson's daughter.
16. Which famous Jessica played Matthew McConaughey's grown-up daughter in Interstellar?
a. Jessica Alba
b. Jessica Biel
c. Jessica Chastain
d. Jessica Lange
17. Which Brit picked up the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May for his portrayal of grumpy artist J.W. Turner?
a. Colin Firth
b. Timothy Spall
c. Ray Winstone
d. Alan Rickman
18. What was the highest grossing movie of 2014?
a. Transformers: Age of Extinction
b. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
c. Guardians of the Galaxy
d. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
19. Which awards season favourite was filmed over 12 years?
20. In what film did Jennifer Lawrence debut her singing voice, scoring a chart hit all around the world?
a. Silver Linings Playbook
b. American Hustle
c. X-Men: Days of Future Past
d. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
21. What is the bestselling music soundtrack on iTunes this year?
c. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
d. Guardians of the Galaxy
22. He ended 2014 a newlywed with a hit movie, called The Theory of Everything. Name the British actor who married fiancee Hannah Bagshawe in England on 15 December.
a. Benedict Cumberbatch
b. Timothy Spall
c. Eddie Redmayne
d. Colin Firth
23. Why did model-turned-actress Milla Jovovich announce she was putting the next film in her Resident Evil franchise on hold in August?
a. Script problems
b. Financial issues
c. Her director husband Paul W.S. Anderson had abandoned the movie
d. She was pregnant
24. In 2014, this actor played Moses and became a new dad. Name him.
a. Joel Edgerton
b. Chris Pratt
c. Christian Bale
d. Mark Wahlberg
25. Another new dad, Chris Hemsworth, was named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 2014, but who's the lucky actress, the mother of his kids, who gets to cuddle up to him every night?
a. Eva Mendes
b. Elsa Pataky
c. Scarlett Johansson
d. Jessica Alba
U.S. actress Linda Gray has signed up to make Cinderella's dreams come true in a traditional British pantomime this Christmas (14). The Dallas star will play the Fairy Godmother in the family-orientated production of Cinderella in London for five weeks from next month (Dec14).
She arrived in the U.K. on Monday (17Nov14) for a costume fitting and told fans on Twitter.com she is excited about taking part in her first pantomime, which launches on 5 December (14).
The show will not be Gray's first performance on the London stage - in 2001, she played seductress Mrs. Robinson in a West End production of The Graduate.
Gray was able to sign up for the panto after her TV drama Dallas was cancelled earlier this year (14).
The actress isn't the only star preparing to make magic as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother - Helena Bonham Carter will play the character in Sir Kenneth Branagh's movie version of the fairytale, starring Cate Blanchett and Lily James.
Kevin Costner has settled a lawsuit with movie bosses at Morgan Creek Productions, a week before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The actor accused the executives of hiding profits from his 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves from him, and sued them for the cash in July, 2012.
In his lawsuit, he wrote, "If you're hoping to earn profits based on the success of your film and you want to be paid on a timely basis, then one company you certainly do not want to do business with is Defendant Morgan Creek Productions."
Costner claimed he had received no financial statements from Morgan Creek partners in 2010 or 2011, and the statements were late from 2004 to 2009.
He accused Morgan Creek of diverting money by assigning foreign distribution rights on Robin Hood from Morgan Creek to a foreign company owned by Morgan Creek CEO James Robinson.
Robinson told The Hollywood Reporter at the time of Costner's suit that he and Morgan Creek executives had been "very straight" with Costner over the years, adding that the actor had been paid over $40 million (£23.5 million) for his work on the film.
Costner lost a fraudulent concealment claim that would have entitled him to punitive damages, and he also failed at a conversation claim.
A trial was scheduled to begin on 18 August (14), but lawyers representing the two parties told the judge on Friday (08Aug14) that the case has been settled. An attorney for Morgan Creek has confirmed the settlement to The Hollywood Reporter, although details have not been revealed.
Soul man Smokey Robinson has become the latest music veteran to announce plans to record an album of duets. Smokey & Friends will feature new renditions of the singer's biggest hits with stars like Sir Elton John and James Taylor.
Elton will join Smokey on The Tracks of My Tears, while Taylor will guest on a cover of Marvin Gaye's Ain't That Peculiar, which Robinson co-wrote.
Former American Idol judge Randy Jackson will produce the album, which is scheduled for release in September (14).
More guests for the album will be announced in the coming weeks.
Hollywood treats its audiences to so many love stories every year, but few quite like Bright Days Ahead: a movie, from French director Marion Vernoux, that touches on the enchanting pull of new love, but also those in a longtime marriage. Vernoux tackles the difficulties inherent in sustaining a relationship over a lifetime, bringing to light in her film just how much more valid a romance about a mature woman like her hero Caroline (played by Fanny Ardant) can be.
Speaking to Vernoux and Ardant, we tapped into what separates "authentic" love from that we often see in cinema and the true nature of love as it grows and changes over the course of one's life.
I can't remember the last time that I saw a movie that approached romance so honestly, in a way that actually felt like it would happen in real life. Was the specific intention to approach romance in a way that you don't often see in the movies?
Marion Vernoux: I didn’t deliberately set out to make this kind of different film. I wasn’t thinking of that as my approach. But I’m very glad you see it that way. For me, as Fanny has often said, too, I didn’t want a film that would have this layer of romanticism on top of it. I wanted it to seem believable that two people could get together and there could be this spark between them, but without having it be the usual overboard kind of reaction between them. To make it seem like it was something that could of actually happened.
Was there something specific about the character that really rang true?
Fanny Ardant: One part of the character of Caroline: she’s not easily bound. She likes her freedom. She’s not a conformist. I feel at ease with this character. It’s like a part of myself. The rest is cinema!
MV: For me, it was almost sort of an equation. I wanted to make a film that showed that when you fall in love, you don’t always fall in love the same way all the time. It’s not always the same. I wanted to show that how you fall in love and falling in love is something that can evolve. It evolves with you as a person based on your experience, based on your age, based on the life that you’ve lived. I have this fantasy that the older you get, the more experienced you get, the better you are at loving and being loved. That, for me, was what was important. That as you mature, you can progress in love.
That brings up something that I think is very interesting. I wonder why most romantic movies are about people in their 20s or their teens, not about mature women, who have had legitimate life experience. What do you think people in Hollywood are afraid of? And what value do movies about these women have that the usual products do not?
FA: If you look carefully at the literature — French, Russian, English — it was a long time ago that they started to speak about love affairs with older women. At that time, when you are 40, it is like now when you are 60. Because the population is becoming older and older. It was always in the humanity. Maybe cinema, because it is a picture, the director or the cinematographic industry thinks you [need] sex appeal. So they put a beautiful face, a beautiful body, and they forget the true feelings. As you said, you can be in love like Romeo and Juliet at 20 or 15, or at 80, like Henry Miller. I think because it’s a picture, the representation of love belongs to the beauty. The perfect body, perfect face. I think from the beginning of humanity, love affairs were always at every age.
MV: That's very true.
I agree! Were there any other specific films or pieces of literature, like you mention, that helped to shape your ideas about how real, legitimate love stories should be handled in art?
MV: One of the most important films for me was The Graduate. It is one of my favorite films because it shows things just how they should not be. What you have there, the older woman is shown as the predator, and she’s got him in her clutches. And he’s this young guy, he’s still a virgin, she deflowers him. It’s all these stereotypes. And even as a teenager — this is the kind of movie that made me want to live and made me want to make films — but it’s also to show you that Ms. Robinson is the exact antithesis of what Caroline is in the film. It’s also why I included a tiny little reference in the film, pulling out the stocking.
Yes! I noticed that.
FA: Do you remember this movie, an American movie, about a love affair with an older woman, Terms of Endearment? I remember this movie. That was no problem. Do you remember the lady? [Shirley MacLaine]. With Jack Nicholson. It was strong because you believed this love affair between them and in the middle of the drama —
MV: Who was the director? James L. Brooks?
FA: So maybe, for [those] reasons ... it succeeded. Sometimes you have that kind of movie. It's not all the rubbish things that pass. You had Romeo and Juliet once. But you try to do the same, it's very difficult.
With so many love stories in film, very few of them that I've seen are actually about marriage. Usually they're about people who meet and fall in love for the first time.
FA: We have this sentence in French: "Happy people have no story." It’s true. You are not going to speak about happiness.
MV: But it was important for me to speak about this marriage. I thought it was really important to show in a film, what do you do when you’ve lived together as a couple for such a long time? How do you survive those moments that are difficult? The times when you come out of sync with each other, and you’re just not on the same wavelength. But then manage to bring yourselves back into sync with each other. So I thought it was important to show that.
But do you both think there are so few movies about marriage because of that saying, "Happy people have no story"?
FA: No, because there's [also a saying], "A comedy finishing with a wedding is a tragedy starting."
FA: Excuse me. That is the French mentality.
Even though this movie is very authentic and grounded in reality, it's still a very enchanting movie, and delightful, romantic love story...
FA: When you are the spectator in the dark room, every time, a piece of life is caught. You never know. It’s not like the classic movie where part of the pleasure is knowing where it’s going to end. You never know. You are waiting for something, but you never know. [The viewers] don’t even know what they want. Because some people want that she stays with the lover, other people want her to go back to the husband. So, I think it's a movie made by that flash. You are in front of reality in real life. You have no time to think about reality. Reality, at the same time, for me, doesn’t exist. Reality is a vision that you have.
MV: I think it’s also Fanny's presence in the film that adds to that sensation you have of it being real but enchanting.
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Director Tate Taylor had his work cut out trying to convince Chadwick Boseman to portray the late James Brown in a new biopic, because the actor was adamant he would never step into the Godfather of Soul's shoes. Boseman admits he really wasn't interested in tackling the lead role in Get On Up after experiencing the intense pressure of playing a real-life icon in 42, in which he brought baseball star Jackie Robinson back to life onscreen.
He tells Entertainment Weekly, "Somebody said something to me about the script and I was like, 'No, I'm not going to even read it.' "It felt like one of those roles that nobody should try, ever. And I had just gone through so much scrutiny doing a biopic. Nope, I'm not doing that."
Despite Boseman's concerns, Taylor managed to get him to perform Brown's funk song Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud for a screen test - and it was only then that the actor was won over by his own talents. He explains, "I needed to see the wig. I needed to see myself on stage."
Boseman perfected the soul legend's difficult dance movies and singing skills for the movie and his efforts even left Get On Up's producer, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, impressed. He recently stated, "James Brown was a fluid, supper aggressive mover, so for Chad to learn and do that is quite an achievement."
With the Oscar nominations coming out this week, we've decided to take a stab at predicting which big pictures will earn recognition this year. Here are our Oscar nomination predictions... and, because we felt terrible leaving a few of our favorites off these dismally pragmatic lists, hopes.
Studio Canal/CBS Films
BEST PICTURE 12 Years A Slave American Hustle Dallas Buyers Club Gravity Inside Llewyn Davis Lee Daniels’ The Butler Nebraska Philomena The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuaron, GravityJoel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis Steve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell, American HustleMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTOR Christian Bale, American HustleChiwitel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave Leonard DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers ClubRobert Redford, All Is Lost
BEST ACTRESS Amy Adams, American HustleCate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Sandra Bullock, GravityJudi Dench, PhilomenaEmma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Enough Said Her Inside Llewyn Davis Lee Daniel’s The Butler Nebraska
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 12 Years a Slave August: Osage County Philomena Short Term 12 The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsDaniel Bruhl, Rush Bradley Cooper, American HustleMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Jennifer Lawrence, American HustleLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyJune Squibb, Nebraska Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler
BEST PICTURE 12 Years A Slave GravityInside Llewyn Davis HerFrances Ha NebraskaPacific Rim The World’s End The Wolf of Wall Street The Way, Way Back
BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuaron, GravityJoel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis Steve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveSpike Jonze, HerMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTOR Christian Bale, American Hustle Bruce Dern, Nebraska Chiwitel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave Leonard DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
BEST ACTRESS Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Sandra Bullock, Gravity Greta Gertwig, Frances Ha Brie Larson, Short Term 12 Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY HerInside Llewyn Davis NebraskaThe Way, Way Back The World’s End
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 12 Years a Slave Lone Survivor PhilomenaShort Term 12 The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave Will Forte, Nebraska John Gallagher Jr., Short Term 12 Justin Timberlake, Inside Llewyn Davis
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Allison Janney, The Way, Way Back Scarlett Johansson, Her Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave Sarah Paulson, 12 Years a Slave
BEST PICTURE12 Years a SlaveAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaSpring BreakersThe Wolf of Wall Street
BEST DIRECTORJoel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn DavisAlfonso Cuaron, GravitySteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell, American HustleMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTORChristian Bale, American HustleBruce Dern, NebraskaChiwetel Eijofor, 12 Years a SlaveTom Hanks, Captain PhillipsMatthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST ACTRESSAmy Adams, American HustleCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, GravityJudi Dench, PhilomenaEmma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAYAmerican HustleBlue JasmineHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraska
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY12 Years a SlaveBefore MidnightCaptain PhillipsLone SurvivorThe Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTORBarkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveJames Franco, Spring BreakersJared Leto, Dallas Buyers ClubKeith Stanfield, Short Term 12
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESSSally Hawkins, Blue JasmineJennifer Lawrence, American HustleCarey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn DavisLupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a SlaveJune Squibb, Nebraska
Annapurna Pictures via Everett Collection
BEST PICTURE12 Years a SlaveFrances HaGravityHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaShort Term 12Spring BreakersThe Wind RisesThe Wolf of Wall Street
BEST DIRECTORNoah Baumbach, Frances HaJoel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn DavisAlfonso Cuaron, GravitySpike Jonze, HerMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTORBruce Dern, NebraskaLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetOscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn DavisJoaquin Pheonix, HerRobert Redford, All Is Lost
BEST ACTRESSCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineAdèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest ColorGreta Gerwig, Frances HaScarlett Johansson, HerBrie Larson, Short Term 12
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAYBlue JasmineFrances HaHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraska
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAYFrozenShort Term 12The Spectacular NowThe Wind RisesThe Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTORAdam Driver, Inside Llewyn DavisMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a SlaveWill Forte, NebraskaJames Franco, Spring BreakersKeith Stanfield, Short Term 12
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESSAmy Adams, HerTracey Fairaway, Enough SaidSally Hawkins, Blue JasmineCarey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn DavisLupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
BEST PICTURE 12 Years a Slave American Hustle Before Midnight Captain Phillips Gravity Her Inside Llewyn Davis Nebraska Philomena The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuaron, GravitySpike Jonze, HerSteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell, American HustleMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTOR Bruce Dern, NebraskaLeonardo Dicaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetChiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a SlaveTom Hanks, Captain PhillipsRobert Redford, All Is Lost
BEST ACTRESSAmy Adams, American HustleCate Blanchett, Blue JasmineSandra Bullock, Gravity Judi Dench, PhilomenaBrie Larson, Short Term 12
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY American Hustle Blue Jasmine Her Inside Llewyn Davis Nebraska
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 12 Years a Slave Before Midnight Captain Phillips Lone Survivor The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, Captain PhillipsDaniel Bruhl, RushMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall StreetJared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Sally Hawkins, Blue JasmineJennifer Lawrence, American HustleLuptia Nyong'o, 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts, August: Osage CountyOprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
BEST PICTURE 12 Years a Slave Captain Phillips Frances Ha Gravity Her The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Frozen Rush This Is the End The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuaron, GravityRon Howard, RushSpike Jonze, HerSteve McQueen, 12 Years a SlaveMartin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST ACTOR Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station Joaquin Phoenix, Her
BEST ACTRESS Amy Adams, American Hustle Sandra Bullock, Gravity Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha Scarlett Johansson, Her Brie Larson, Short Term 12
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY American Hustle Gravity Her Inside Llewyn Davis This is the End
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Captain Phillips The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Iron Man 3 This is the End The Wolf of Wall Street
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips Daniel Bruhl, Rush Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle Luptia Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave Sarah Paulson, 12 Years a Slave Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler
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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Several shows are premiering new seasons this week, while J.J. Abrams returns to TV with Almost Human. Here's what else you need to be watching.
The GoldbergsWhatever happened to Jeff Garlin, the former sidekick to Larry David's slightly more misanthropic version of himself on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm? He's starring on The Goldbergs, the most sitcom-y new sitcom to debut on network TV this year. Despite coming off a slow start, the show is gradually finding its voice, which is why ABC renewed it for a full season. It's not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Curb, but thanks to Garlin and Patton Oswalt, who narrates the show, it's still good for a few chuckles. A new episode of The Goldbergs airs Tuesday at 9PM ET on ABC.
Finding BigfootFor three seasons (and counting!), a rag-tag group of cryptic zoologists have been on the hunt for that ever-elusive creature known as Sasquatch. Spoiler alert: they still haven't found him! Will the mysterious ape-like being ever be located when the fourth season of Finding Bigfoot premieres on Sunday night? I'm guessing not. Finding Bigfoot airs Sunday nights at 7PM ET on Animal Planet.
ScandalFresh off her hilarious hosting job on Saturday Night Live, Kerry Washington returns to her hit political series with a brand new episode. No comedy here, unfortunately, unless you consider the show's intricate plotlines involving various lies and backstabbing among Washington's political elite as topical humor. But then we already have Fox News for that, now don't we? A new episode of Scandal airs at 10PM ET this Thursday on ABC.
Almost HumanA futuristic detective must save the modern world from its many corrupting forces. Sound like a done-before concept for a TV show? Factor in that his partner is an android and you have Almost Human, the new sci-fi series from J.J. Abrams. Hey, I'll watch that! Almost Human debuts this Sunday at 8PM ET on FOX.
Unique SweetsEver wonder what pie would taste like as a butterscotch cocktail? The good folks over at Unique Sweets have, which is why they've focused an entire episode on developing the tasty new drink, as well as some oddball ice cream flavors. Let's face it, there's just no way you can have a show about dessert mash-ups and not have people watch it. Unique Sweets kicks off its season four this Sunday at 7PM ET on the Cooking Channel.