The CW Has Changed Its Mind: It's baaack! The Selection — a Hunger Games-esque pilot based on a novel by Kiera Cass that was initially made for this year, has been given new life. The show is set 300 years in the future, and it stars a young woman named America Singer who goes on a Bachelor-like competition show to be the nation's next queen. Friday Night Lights' Aimee Teegarden starred in the original pilot, but she is not attached to the rewritten version. [EW]
Showtime Goes There: Showtime has lately become known for its controversial programming, and they won't be stopping anytime soon: The cable network has put in development a neo-Nazi drama called The 4th Reich, executive produced by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Showtime describes the show as American History X meets The Town, and it will focus on a South Boston ex-con who has to balance his old 'Brotherhood' with his status as an FBI informant. [Deadline]
Violet Returns?: American Horror Story: Asylum ends its run tonight, but, as always, creator Ryan Murphy is making plans for next year. He's already confirmed that Jessica Lange, Evan Peters, and Sarah Paulson will return for Season 3, and now he's in talks with a Season 1 star — Taissa Farmiga — on a possible return. If it ends up working out, Farmiga — who played very troubled teen Violet — would be one of the leads. [EW]
New Girl Gets Shameless: A little bit of Chicago is coming to LA! Steve Howey — who plays Kev on Showtime's hit family dramedy — will guest star as an intense pro football player that Winston interviews. He later attends a party at the loft, and sets his eye on Jess... but wait, isn't she taken? [TVLine]
Army Wives Return: The wives of the army are back! Season 7 is set to debut on Lifetime on Sunday, March 10, the network said in a release. This year, there will be some star-powered new blood on the show: Ashanti, Torrey DeVitto (Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries), Elle McLemore (Bring It On) and Jesse McCartney have joined the cast.
My Name is Earl Reunion: Greg Garcia is blending his two TV worlds once again and the cast of My Name is Earl is coming to Raising Hope. Jason Lee will return as faded rock star Smokey Floyd, and Jaime Pressly and Ethan Suplee will play Burt and Virginia’s neighbors Donna and Andrew. But what is causing this amazing reunion you ask? Hope's 3rd birthday party of course! [TV Line] Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: FX] MORE: TV Tidbits: Seth MacFarlane's New Series; 'Arrow' Nabs Another 'Doctor Who' Alum TV Tidbits: 'The Vampire Diaries' Takes a Bite Out of Ratings TV Tidbits: Meredith Vieira In Talks To Host Her Own Daytime Talk Show From Our Partners: Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz) Craziest Celebrity Swimsuits Ever (Celebuzz)
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.