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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Don't have the heart to sit through the three hour broadcast? That's fine, but you're no better than those of us that do (even if your name was written in the sky today). In the event you still care who won, I've bolded the winners of each category as soon as they were announced. If there's no bold name in a category, it means the award hasn't been given out yet, but be sure and check back later to see who took home the prize.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy SeriesJesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern FamilyChris Colfer, GleeJon Cryer, Two And A Half MenTy Burrell, Modern FamilyEric Stonestreet, Modern FamilyNeil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy SeriesJane Lynch, GleeJane Krakowski, 30 RockKristen Wiig, Saturday Night LiveSofia Vergara, Modern FamilyJulie Bowen, Modern FamilyHolland Taylor, Two And A Half Men Outstanding Actor In A Comedy Series Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm Tony Shaloub, Monk Steve Carell, The Office, Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory Outstanding Actress In A Comedy Series Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, The New Adventures Of Old Christine Tina Fey, 30 Rock Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie Toni Collette, The United States of Tara Lea Michele, Glee Outstanding Reality-Competition Program American Idol Dancing With The Stars The Amazing Race Project Runway Top Chef Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series John Slattery, Mad MenMartin Short, DamagesAaron Paul, Breaking BadTery O'Quinn, LostAndre Braugher, Men Of A Certain AgeMichael Emerson, Lost Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama SeriesChristina Hendricks, Mad MenRose Byrne, DamagesArchie Panjabi, The Good WifeSharon Gless, Burn NoticeElisabeth Moss, Mad MenChristine Baranski, The Good Wife
Outstanding Actor In A Drama Series Jon Hamm, Mad Men Hugh Laurie, House Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights Michael C. Hall, Dexter Matthew Fox, Lost Outstanding Actress In A Drama Series January Jones, Mad Men Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU Glenn Close, Damages Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife Connie Britton, Friday Night Lights
Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series The Tonight Show with Conan O'BrienThe Daily Show with Jon StewartThe Colbert Report with Stephen ColbertSaturday Night LiveReal Time with Bill Maher Outstanding Actress In A Miniseries Or Movie Dame Judi Dench, Return To Cranford Hope Davis, The Special Relationship Claire Danes, Temple Grandin Joan Allen, Georga O'Keeffe Maggie Smith, Capturing Mary Outstanding Actor In A Miniseries Or Movie Sir Ian McKellen, The Prisoner Dennis Quaid, The Special Relationship Jeff Bridges, A Dog Year Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack Michael Sheen, The Special Relationship Outstanding Made For Television Movie Endgame Moonshot Temple Grandin Georga O'Keeffe The Special Relationship You Don't Know Jack Outstanding Drama Series True Blood Dexter Mad Men The Good Wife Lost Breaking Bad Outstanding Comedy Series Curb Your Enthusiasm Modern Family The Office 30 Rock Glee
The comedy, about a group of high school students in a choir club, will fight for the Outstanding TV Comedy prize against Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office and 30 Rock, which has taken home the title for the last three years.
Glee's leading stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele have been nominated in the male and female categories for the outstanding comedy actor awards, while their co-star Chris Colfer has received a best supporting actor nomination.
Morrison faces competition from Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Jim Parson (The Big Bang Theory), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office) and last year's winner Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Meanwhile Michele will face off with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara), who took home the statue last year (09).
Producers of cable network HBO's gritty World War II drama The Pacific will also hope for a triumphant night after receiving 24 nominations, including Outstanding Miniseries.
The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out on 29 August (10) at a ceremony in Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre and will be presented by comedian Jimmy Fallon.
The main list of nominees is as follows:
Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Good Wife, Lost, Mad Men, True Blood.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Glee, Modern Family, Nurse Jackie, The Office, 30 Rock.
Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Hugh Laurie (House), Matthew Fox (Lost), Jon Hamm (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama: Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Glenn Close (Damages), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), January Jones (Mad Men).
Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy: Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Matthew Morrison (Glee), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Steve Carell (The Office), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy: Lea Michele (Glee), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Toni Collette (The United States of Tara).
Supporting Actor In A Drama Series: John Slattery (Mad Men), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Martin Short (Damages), Terry O'Quinn (Lost), Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age), Michael Emerson (Lost).
Supporting Actress In A Drama Series: Rose Byrne (Damages), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), Sharon Gless (Burn Notice), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), Christine Baranski (The Good Wife).
Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series: Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Chris Colfer (Glee), Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother).
Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series: Jane Lynch (Glee), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Julie Bowen (Modern Family), Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men).
Guest Actor In A Drama Series: Robert Morse (Mad Men), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), John Lithgow (Dexter), Ted Danson (Damages), Gregory Itzin (24), Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Beau Bridges (The Closer)
Guest Actress In A Drama Series: Mary Kay Place (Big Love), Lily Tomlin (Damages), Sissy Spacek (Big Love), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Ann-Margret (Law & Order: SVU), Shirley Jones (The Cleaner).
Guest Actor In A Comedy Series: Mike O'Malley (Glee), Fred Willard (Modern Family), Eli Wallach (Nurse Jackie), Jon Hamm (30 Rock), Neil Patrick Harris (Glee), Will Arnett (30 Rock).
Guest Actress In A Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth (Glee), Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live), Jane Lynch (Two And A Half Men), Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives), Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory), Betty White (Saturday Night Live), Elaine Stritch (30 Rock).
Reality Series: Antiques Roadshow, MythBusters, Undercover Boss, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Dirty Jobs, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.