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.
Hit mob series The Sopranos and TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee lead the 2007 Primetime Emmy Award nominations with 15 and 17 nods, respectively.
The Sopranos is nominated for Best Drama, while the show's star James Gandolfini has been praised in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for his role as mafia boss Tony Soprano. Costar Edie Falco, who portrayed Carmela Soprano, is up for the Outstanding Lead Actress award, while Michael Imperioli, Aida Turturro and Lorraine Bracco have also received nods for their supporting roles.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee scooped nominations including Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for stars August Schellenberg (who plays Sitting Bull) and Aidan Quinn (Senator Dawes), while Anna Paquin (Elaine Goodale) is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Meanwhile, actress Mary-Louise Parker scored two nominations for two different roles--Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (The Robber Bride) and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Weeds).
But the Primetime Emmy nominations--announced on Thursday--had a big shock in store for fans of Desperate Housewives, Lost and Kiefer Sutherland's 24--all three programs missed out on the Best Drama category. Instead, The Sopranos will battle it out against Heroes, Boston Legal and medical dramas House and Grey's Anatomy.
Elsewhere, hit comedy Ugly Betty was nominated in 11 categories, including Best Comedy Actress for star America Ferrera and Outstanding Comedy Series, where it will compete against Entourage, 30 Rock, Two and a Half Men and The Office.
The 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live from Los Angeles on Sept. 16.
The main category nominations are as follows:
Outstanding Comedy Series:
Two and a Half Men
Ugly Betty Outstanding Drama Series:
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:
Extras - Ricky Gervais
Monk - Tony Shalhoub
The Office - Steve Carell
30 Rock - Alec Baldwin
Two and a Half Men - Charlie Sheen
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Boston Legal - James Spader
House - Hugh Laurie
Rescue Me - Denis Leary
The Sopranos - James Gandolfini
24 - Kiefer Sutherland
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:
Desperate Housewives - Felicity Huffman
The New Adventures of Old Christine - Julia Louis-Dreyfus
30 Rock - Tina Fey
Ugly Betty - America Ferrera
Weeds - Mary-Louise Parker
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:
Brothers & Sisters - Sally Field
The Closer - Kyra Sedgwick
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Mariska Hargitay
Medium - Patricia Arquette
The Riches - Minnie Driver
The Sopranos - Edie Falco
Outstanding Reality Program:
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan
Extreme Makeover Home Edition
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Outstanding Reality-Competition Program:
The Amazing Race
Dancing with the Stars
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Broken Trail - Robert Duvall
Jesse Stone - Tom Selleck
Longford - Jim Broadbent
Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King - William H. Macy
The Ron Clark Story - Matthew Perry
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Life Support - Queen Latifah
Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre) - Helen Mirren
The Robber Bride - Mary-Louise Parker
The Starter Wife - Debra Messing
What If God Were the Sun - Gena Rowlands
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series:
Entourage - Kevin Dillon
Entourage - Jeremy Piven
How I Met Your Mother - Neil Patrick Harris
The Office - Rainn Wilson
Two and a Half Men - Jon Cryer
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:
Boston Legal - William Shatner
Grey's Anatomy - T.R. Knight
Heroes - Masi Oka
Lost - Michael Emerson
Lost - Terry O'Quinn
The Sopranos - Michael Imperioli
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Broken Trail - Thomas Haden Church
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - August Schellenberg
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - Aidan Quinn
The Christmas Card - Edward Asner
The Starter Wife - Joe Mantegna
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:
My Name Is Earl - Jaime Pressly
The Office - Jenna Fischer
Two and a Half Men - Holland Taylor
Two and a Half Men - Conchata Ferrell
Ugly Betty - Vanessa Williams
Weeds - Elizabeth Perkins
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:
Brothers & Sisters - Rachel Griffiths
Grey's Anatomy - Katherine Heigl
Grey's Anatomy - Chandra Wilson
Grey's Anatomy - Sandra Oh
The Sopranos - Aida Turturro
The Sopranos - Lorraine Bracco
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie:
Broken Trail - Greta Scacchi
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - Anna Paquin
Longford - Samantha Morton
The Starter Wife - Judy Davis
Tsunami, the Aftermath - Toni Collette
Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program:
79th Annual Academy Awards - Ellen DeGeneres
The Colbert Report - Stephen Colbert
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - Jon Stewart
Late Show with David Letterman - David Letterman
Tony Bennett: An American Classic - Tony Bennett
Prime Suspect: The Final Act
The Starter Wife
Outstanding Made for Television Movie:
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Inside the Twin Towers
The Ron Clark Story
Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy
Outstanding Children's Program:
Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Private Worlds: Kids and Autism
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
That's So Raven
When Parents Are Deployed
Click here to view the complete list of nominations.
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How many stories are there in one big city? In this unique vision of Paris there are 18 different ones each averaging about five minutes. The short films are related only by the theme of love and the setting. Visiting most of the different arrondissments (neighborhoods) of that sometimes elegant sometimes tawdry locale the short stories range across the board. Beginning with the chance meeting of two lonely people moving through stories of crazy lovers missed opportunities romantic beginnings parents’ relationships with their children and the dissolution of a marriage each one has its own unique vision point of view and cinematic style. But despite so many individual styles and voices the 18 wildly diverse tales deftly blend the magnificent city of Paris with the commonality of the human condition and combine to form a cohesive and extremely satisfying whole. With so many of the world’s most talented actors taking part in these short films there are a plethora of terrific performances to choose from in Paris Je T'aime . Leila Bekhti shines in “Quais de Seine” as a shy young Muslim teen befriended by a handsome French boy while Steve Buscemi uses his bug-eyed looks to perfection in “Tuileries ” a comic segment created by Joel and Ethan Coen. Catalina Sandino Moreno brings an aching reality to a young mother’s life dilemma in “Loin du 16éme ” while Juliette Binoche’s older mom’s agony is heartbreaking in “Place des Victoires.” Miranda Richardson is luminous as a dying wife in “Bastille ” and Natalie Portman’s natural charm ignites the screen in “Faubourg Saint-Denis” as the girlfriend of a blind man. Maggie Gyllenhaal Elijah Wood Emily Mortimer Rufus Sewell Bob Hoskins Fanny Ardant Gena Rowlands Ben Gazzara and Margo Martindale all elevate their segments with fine acting as well but Nick Nolte seems to stumble through his. That minor glitch is just that--a blip in an otherwise seamlessly concocted series of well-acted vignettes. A who’s who of contemporary cinema from around the world the eighteen directors (who for the most part also wrote their segments) of Paris Je T'aime prove their formidable talents here. By limiting each to only five minutes to tell their story producers Emmanuel Benbihy and Claude Ossard (who began the project in 2002) forced each one to distill the essence of their idea into a compact tale with admirable results. From well-known names like the Coen brothers Wes Craven Gus Van Sant Alfonso Cuaron and Alexander Payne to lesser-known auteurs (at least in America that is) such as Tom Tykwer Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas Frederic Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu Olivier Assayas Gurinder Chadha Isabel Coixet Sylvain Chomet Nobuhiro Suwa Christopher Doyle Richard LaGravenese Vincenzo Natali Bruno Podalydes and Olivier Schmitz--the work across the board in the film is exemplary. At turns poignant comical lusty and emotional it’s a collection that will undoubtedly leave you with a longing to be in Paris especially with someone you love.