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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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Last night on The Vampire Diaries, our favorite residents of Mystic Falls (plus that b**chy dress thief Elena) attended their senior prom, so it's only natural that they needed a couple of weeks off to recover from all that body-hopping, betrayal, witchcraft, and teen drinking. So for next Thursday's episode, they've handed over the reins to everybody's favorite Original vampire threesome — Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah — for a wild romp through New Orleans, which is Klaus' former stomping (and biting) grounds.
If next week goes well ratings and reception-wise, The Originals could very well be a weekly staple on The CW's lineup next season. And this "backdoor pilot" was set up perfectly last night, with Katherine sending a note to Klaus (The Originals' star, Joseph Morgan), claiming that a group of witches were mobilizing against him down in Nola.
In the trailer below, we see that Klaus has enlisted his siblings (Claire Holt and Daniel Gillies) for his latest adventure in the town where "the living are easily lost, and the dead stick around to play." But it's not all fun and games for Klaus, who realizes that his former protege Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) is now ruling the city, living the life full of family, friends, and power that Klaus has always wanted. This naturally won't sit well with Klaus, who ends the promo saying "I want to be king."
Definitely looks like some strong stuff, and we're excited to see what TVD overlord Julie Plec has come up with. We don't see much of the witches who have rallied against Klaus, but if you don't blink you'll see Phoebe Tonkin's Hayley creeping about. Check it out below, and let us know what you think in the comments!
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Well, the big moment has finally arrived. Ever since Elena was turned into a vampire at the end of last season, fans have been wondering when the damsel with a heart of gold would be forced to make her first kill. Tonight's adequately named episode "The Killer" revealed the identity of Elena's first unfortunate victim, as well as several other mind-blowing secrets that will greatly affect the Mystic Falls gang going forward. Hollywood.com was able to screen the episode with Executive Producer Julie Plec, writer Michael Narducci, and actor Todd Williams earlier this week, and they all spilled the beans on what's next after this major game-changer. If you haven't seen tonight's episode, or don't want any future plots semi-spoiled, then stop here. SPOILERS AHEAD!
After a shocking turn of events, Elena brutally (but rightfully) killed Connor (Williams), a member of the mysterious "Five" vampire hunters. According to Plec, this may not have been her best move. "We learn that killing a hunter comes with a price," she said. "There’s a great, weird Dostoyevsky consequence to it all that she is going to have to deal with. That takes her to some really dark, dark, dark places."
But, this being The Vampire Diaries, death doesn't necessarily mean that Connor won't be back in some form or another. "Actually, believe it or not, we have not seen completely, totally, the last of Connor," Plec teased.
While we obviously don't know what Plec means, the other big reveal of tonight's episode — the fact that Jeremy now has the tattoo that signifies a member of the Five — may have something to do with it. According to Plec, Jeremy's journey will be a major plot point for the rest of the season. "Right now it’s just the beginning of him being awakened," she said. "It continues immediately. And in that there’s the question of, what does it mean that he now has this mark on his hand, and what does it mean for the mythology of the five and what that mark leads to?'
According to Williams, it may not lead to good things — that tattoo can be quite a burden. "From what I've come to understand, Connor, he's actually a victim of the tattoo," he said. "People assume that all that Connor wants to do is kill vampires, and he derives some kind of pleasure from it, but it's quite the opposite. He's a very tortured man, and he has a lot of questions. He didn't even know his origins and his background. He was in search for so many things that there was a level of desperation. [He thought] 'I just want to know that everything that I've done to be worth it, and this tattoo.' He's not able to be compelled by a vampires, but it kind of compels him to do what he does. So if you wrap your mind around that whole thing with Elena and Jeremy and the compulsion of the tattoo, and her being a vampire, there's a lot of sticky stuff that could possible come out of this."
Oh, like an innate murderous desire to kill your own sister? "They are supernaturally predisposed to be in conflict," Plec said. "So that's going to make Sunday dinner a little awkward."
And since Elena unknowingly ruined her shot at a cure when she killed Connor, the supernatural battle won't be ending anytime soon. But Plec said the quest for a cure will still be an underlying issue. "It's going to ask a lot of questions," she said. "It's going to make our characters ask a lot of questions about themselves. Would they want it? What would they do in order to get it? It's going to make them realize — Klaus is an immortal hybrid who has been relatively indestructible. Is there some way to make him destructible? There's going to be a whole lot of questions asked about what could happen if this cure were to be uncovered, and who would go to great lengths to make sure, ultimately, that it didn't fall into the wrong hands."
Speaking of Klaus, we saw tonight that a possible cure for vampirism isn't the only threat he has to consider — Tyler and newcomer Hayley are set to topple his hybrid empire. "What you just saw [tonight] is the glimpse of the beginning of a story for Tyler," Plec said. "After all this time it pays off — his sire bond to Klaus, the hybrid circumstance — Klaus' kind of Machiavellian control that he has over these people. What Tyler's going to do [is] kind of incite a revolution."
"The show is so much about compulsion and addiction and urges that you can't fight," Narducci added. "Tyler is someone who beat the sire bond, and now he's free. And he looks at all these other hybrids that are around, [who] Klaus is using to do whatever — including be cannon fodder. And a hero would say, ‘This is wrong. I should be involved and do something about that.' Hayley is someone who helps him act on that heroic desire."
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[PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Mahoney/The CW]
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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.
Producer/photographer Simon Monjack was invited to attend the Oscars to witness the Academy's In Memoriam tribute to his late wife - and he was heavily criticised for showing up with another woman.
Monjack had planned on taking Murphy's mother Sharon to the Academy Awards but when she announced she was too sick to accompany him, the Brit asked his late wife's friend Hayley to be his guest.
He says, "(She was my wife's) dear friend, a childhood friend."
And he's appalled by the criticism that has been levelled at him.
In an exclusive interview with U.S. news show Access Hollywood, he says, "I've heard everything, and she is pretty... I wouldn't walk down the red carpet with a non-beautiful woman."
Monjack used the TV interview to clear up other "ridiculous" reports, linking him romantically to his mother-in-law, who lives with him.
He states, "We don't have sex, number one; number two she is a woman that has toxic neuropathy, which means she can barely walk. I live downstairs, she lives upstairs."