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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Freaks and Geeks is notable not only for launching the careers of James Franco, Jason Segel, and Linda Cardellini, but also for accurately capturing the painful awkwardness of adolescence. Now, thanks to The Fine Brothers, you can relive those awkward years of your life over and over again through their interactive Freaks and Geeks video game. That's right: someone made a Freaks and Geeks video game. The Internet is a magical place.
The game allows players to guide Lindsay Weir through her newfound friendship with the Freaks through a series of choose-your-own-adventure style questions that each result in a different outcome. Want to see what would have happened if Lindsay changed her mind and went back to Millie? You can make that choice for her and explore the consequences. While only the "Freaks" half of the game is currently available, The Fine Brothers promise that players will be allowed to attempt to navigate life as Sam and the "Geeks" very soon. The show's co-creator and producer Paul Feig has even given the game his seal of approval, and tweeted a link out to his followerss.
In addition to Freaks and Geeks, The Fine Brothers have created interactive games for television shows like Saved By the Bell and Lost, as well as a game that allows players to determine the fates of Twilight characters Bella, Edward and Jacob. Plus, if you're a fan of 8-bit, television-inspired video games, but want more freedom than simply choosing your own adventure, there's always Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne, based on the game played by the characters in the season 3 finale of Community. Because if you can dream it, there's someone online willing to make it a reality.
Bask in your uncomfortable, high school glory and play Freaks and Geeks: The Interactive Game below.
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The Cannes Film Festival: where big name Hollywood stars and renowned American directors rub shoulders with the global elite. It's like moviedom's version of the Olympics, filmmakers and performers from around the world spend a week along the beaches of France, showing off their latest work in hopes of generating buzz and finding breakout success.
This year's slate of films sports plenty of recognizable faces: Ryan Gosling reteams with his Drive director Nicolas Winding-Refn for Only God Forgives; the Coen Bros. will show their loose Dave Van Ronk biopic starring Oscar Isaacs, Carey Mulligan, and Justin Timberlake; Steven Soderbergh's HBO movie Behind The Candelabra touts Matt Damon and Michael Douglas; and the "Out of Competition" category boasts Emma Watson's bad girl crime pic Bling Ring and the James Franco-directed Faulkner adaptation, As I Lay Dying. A packed roster.
On top of that, Cannes 2013 also has an eclectic collection of foreign films that look equally fascinating — if they can live side by side with the Hollywood elite, that means something.
Dive in to the full lineup below and watch out for Hollywood.com's coverage of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival when the debuts begin in mid-May:
Opening film: The Great Gatsby, dir: Baz Luhrmann
Closing film: Zulu, dir: Jérôme Salle
CompetitionOnly God Forgives, dir: Nicolas Winding-RefnLa Grande Bellezza, dir: Paolo SorrentinoBehind The Candelabra, Steven SoderberghThe Immigrant, dir: James GrayVenus In Fur, dir: Roman PolanskiStraw Shield, dir: Takashi MiikeNebraska, dir: Alexander PayneJeune Et Jolie, dir: Francois OzonThe Past, dir: Asghar FarhadiInside Llewyn Davis, dir: Joel & Ethan CoenJimmy P., dir: Arnaud DesplechinHeli, dir: Amat EscalanteGrisgris, dir: Mahamat-Saleh HarounLike Father Like Son, dir: Hirokazu Kore-EdaLa Vie D’Adèle, dir: Abdellatif KechicheBorgman, dir: Alex Vann WarmerdamA Touch Of Sin, dir: Zhangke JiaMichael Kohlhaas, dir: Arnaud DespallièresUn Château En Italie, dir: Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
Out of CompetitionBlood Ties, dir: Guillaume CanetAll Is Lost, dir: J.C. Chandor
Un Certain RegardThe Bling Ring, dir: Sofia Coppola (Opening film)Omar, dir: Hany Abu-AssadDeath March, dir: Adolfo Alix, JrFruitvale: dir: Ryan Coogler*The Bastards, dir: Claire DenisNorte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan, dir: Lav DiazAs I Lay Dying, dir: James FrancoMiele, dir: Valeria Golino*L’Inconnu Du Lac, dir: Alain GuiraudieBends, dir: Flora Lau*L’Image Manquante, dir: Rithy PanhLa Jaula De Oro, dir: Diego Quemada-Diez*Anonymousv, dir: Mohammad RasoulofSarah Préfère La Course, dir: Chloé Robichaud*Grand Central, dir: Rebecca Zlotowski
Midnight ScreeningsBlind Detective, dir: Johnnie ToMonsoon Shootout, dir: Amit Kumar*
Homage To Jerry LewisMax Rose, dir: Daniel Noah
Special ScreeningsSeduced And Abandoned, dir: James TobackWeekend Of A Champion, dir: Roman PolanskiMuhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, dir: Stephen FrearsStop The Pounding Heart, dir: Roberto MinerviniBite The Dust, dir: Taisia Igumentseva (Cinéfondation)*
Gala Screening in honor of IndiaBombay Talkies, dirs: Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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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.