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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
20th Century Fox
Geoffrey Rush is best known for playing larger-than-life characters like the pirate Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Carribean series. His character in The Book Thief, however, is markedly quieter and more restrained, a change of pace that the actor relished. In the adaptation of Markus Zusak's novel, the Oscar winner plays Hans Hubermann, a German man who, along with his wife Rosa (Emily Watson) fosters a young girl called Leisel Meminger (Sophie Nèlisse) and shelters a Jewish man, Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer), at the start of World War II.
We sat down with Rush ahead of The Book Thief's November 8 release to talk about why Hans is so different than his previous roles, his long histroy with Emily Watson and how Sophie Nèlisse is like a "heat-seeking missile."
What was your first introduction to the story of The Book Thief? Were you at all familiar with the novel? No. Shamefully, because it’s a great Australian novel – or Australian author’s novel – I never heard of it. But I certainly got onto it very quickly once I read the screenplay because the storytelling in the screenplay, I thought “This is very good film writing.” And then to discover that the novel had, on its own novelistic levels, a certain rare brilliance, it was really good and [also] good to have that there as a reference work.
What is it about Hans as a character that appealed to you, and made you want to be a part of this project? For me, compared to what else is on my CV or what I’ve just been doing – I’ve been doing some theater in Australia, playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest or playing Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a big, bold, slapstick-y kind of show – so relative to that, when I then read The Book Thief, I though “This is a really nice challenge and creative contrast” to have something that’s not so obvious how to do it. And the fact that as the course of the story goes one, the character reveals greater and you know, for an actor, many more interesting quirks and depth.
You’ve worked with Emily once before, did your relationship with her help you to create that bond between Hans and Rosa? Not specifically on this relationship, because, you know, being husband and wife as Peter Sellers and his wife is completely different set of circumstances to Rosa and Hans. But you know, we had enjoyed that experience in 2003 and also I’d shared, in my and probably for her, we were sort of on the promotional circuit back in ’96-’97, she was in Breaking the Waves when I was in Shine and we were in tandem on Secrets and Lies and The English Patient and Sling Blade and everything. You tend to run into people in corridors in the hotel, or at some event, or a BAFTA afternoon tea or something, and we had many, many enjoyable conversations during that period. So, I feel like I’ve known Emily forever. She was great, because I tend to have a gallery of characters that are fairly boisterous or flamboyant or crazy or a little colorful – I don’t know how to describe them. But she’s certainly got a great repertoire of very finely etched, exquisite, dramatic roles with a rich inner life. I would describe her as one of those people who doesn’t go out to the camera, she lets the camera come in and discover the secrets that are going on beautifully inside of her performance. I was excited by the fact that she really wanted to play, warts and all, this rather mean-spirited, downtrodden, tough housefrau and not let any vanity get in the way of that, because it’s very late in the film that her particular onion gets unpeeled and you get a glimpse of the richness of her humanity, and that’s the whole mark of the people who live on Himmel Straße.
Even the woman who was playing Rudy’s mum, you know, not the biggest role in the world, but I thought it had a wonderful, rich, emotional intensity of being torn between “Do we help Herr Lehman on the street or not?” or even when she’s saying goodbye to her husband, Rudy’s dad, “Don’t cry in front of the children. Don’t make this [worse]." Heartbreaking stuff. You know, life on Himmel Straße was really being battered and the natural sense of community was really being battered and bruised by the fanatical ideology of the National Socialist sense of control. It doesn’t want people to be human; it doesn’t want people to have fascinating social connections.
There are so many newcomers in this cast. What’s it like as a veteran actor to work with so many new faces? Well, Ben was relatively new. I mean, I didn’t really know of him and we spent a lot of time together in Berlin. I only had certain key scenes in relationship, it was really Sophie that worked with him. But yeah, I think it’s great when there are fresh faces in parts like that because it introduces a new talent, and interesting talent to people. But you know, out of the 20-25 German actors, I mean, we had people in the roles of other community members of Himmel Street or Nazi members or various roles, who were all the cream of German stage and screen, all really keen to contribute to the making of this film.
Was there anything about Sophie or her performance that particularly surprised or impressed you? All of it. She’s prodigiously gifted and has a natural gift. She’s like a heat seeking missile, she just kind of goes in on the pure emotional requirements and necessities that are in a scene and does them in a very unpredictable, very arresting way. She engages an audience’s imagination so strongly, and the thing I loved about her is that in between takes, she was just a great clown. We found our friendship not by so much discussing what Hans and Leisel would do together, just by Geoffrey and Sophie goofing off. Became a good way to break the ice and find a rapport and somehow I hope that’s found it was into the specifics of the plight of their relationship and the pressures that it’s under.
As we start to fill-up up our Netflix queues with classic horror flicks in preparation for Halloween, we realize the greatest villains of the genre still hold power over our adolescent selves. We still can't say Candyman in the mirror and clowns will always be scary, but what about the average joes who play the leading men in our nightmares? Sometimes it helps to disassociate and think of Freddie Krueger waiting in line at the DMV. Spurred by the recent release of Gunnar Hansen's (a.k.a Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre) memoir titled Chain Saw Confidential, we decided to "pull off the mask" of our favorite villains of horror.
Leatherface — Gunnar Hansen
Valerie Macon/Getty Images
We skipped a lot of early morning classes in college, but perhaps we would've be scared straight if Leatherface was our English professor. The actor turned professor quit the biz to teach freshman English at University of Texas. Can you imagine the strapping six-foot three Hansen discussing the thematic resonance of Don Quixote? While Hansen spends most of his days in a small coastal town in Maine, he recently ventured back into acting, playing bit cameos in such classics as Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and Texas Chainsaw 3D.
Jason Vorhees — Ari Lehman
Joey Foley/Getty Images
Ari Lehman looks like a mix of street magician and the sexy sax man — the stuff nightmares of made of. He also holds the distinct honor of playing the first Jason Vorhees in the original Friday the 13th. As it turns out, creeping out generations of children is not his only talent, as he is accomplished jazz musician and studied classical music and jazz piano at both Berklee School of Music and NYU. His passion for pounding the keys led him to tour with prominent reggae and African music groups and eventually led to him starting his own band — "First Jason," whose sound "hits you over the head with an anvil being swung at 1000 miles an hour by the metal gods."
Michael Myers — Tony Moran
Albert L. Ortega/Wireimage
After slashing his way through a couple of teenagers as Michael Meyers in Halloween, Tony Moran found himself making mincemeat out of high mortgage rates as an actor-turned broker. He shared his passion for acting with his actress sibling, Erin Moran of Happy Days, and did a number of guest appearances in The Waltons and CHIPS and then quit at age 30. Turns out, Michael Myers had such emotional depth it required three actors to play him, including Nick Castle and Tommy Lee Wallace. Since Moran wasn't anxious to wear the Michael mask again, his footage from the first film was used again in the sequel.
Freddy Krueger — Robert Englund
Robert Englund is the Kevin Bacon of horror villains. The man has literally worked with everyone in the business and has an IMDB credit list longer than our tax return. Before he donned the striped crewneck and switchblade gloves, he was briefly considered to play the part of Han Solo in Star Wars and even had Mark Hamill bumming on his couch. After playing bit parts on various shows and a recurring role on V, he took on the role of Freddy for three consecutive films and continues to work steadily today.
Chucky — Brad Dourif
It takes a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee to truly capture the demonic essence of a possessed doll. Character actor Brad Dourif has worked with some of the directing greats over the course of his career. He got his big break on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, worked with David Lynch in Dune and Blue Velvet, played a slimy villain in the Lord of The Rings trilogy and appeared in several Werner Herzog films. Like Hansen, Dourif also dabbled in teaching, leading acting and directing classes at Columbia University before becoming the voice of Chucky in all of the Child's Play films. Which leads us to wonder if there's a connection between playing psychopathic villains and academia.
More:Buzzwatch Video: Horror Movie Trivia'How Will Horror Movies Continue to Frighten Us?2013 Radioactive Horror Movie Mashup (Song by Imagine Dragons)
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
It’s a simple enough idea. Three friends with three fiendishly
terrible bosses let a little liquid courage help them down a dastardly
yet not all that surprising road: kill the bastards. And as ridiculous as the idea behind Horrible Bosses is as low-brow as much of the humor
is and as hard as it tries (and fails) to ground itself in real world
issues it still works. And when I say it works I mean it’s just really
At the film’s center we have Nick (Jason Bateman) Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) and their well horrible bosses: Dave
Harken (Kevin Spacey) Bobby Pellit (Colin Farrell) and Dr. Julia
Harris D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston). In order for any of this potential
murdering to work the film has to truly vilify this trio of bosses and
on that token it succeeds almost too well. Spacey’s terrifying
psychopath of a boss isn’t exactly funny though he did make me want to
crawl under my seat and hide. Farrell’s cokehead kung-fu master is
probably the most surprising of the three though he doesn’t get nearly
enough screen time. And finally we find Aniston the woman who can’t
seem to shake the term “America’s Sweetheart ” as the insatiable
psychotic sexual deviant. I can’t say Aniston will be able to get away
with this sort of thing in the future but the shock factor of seeing
her flip her switch like this garners some laughs this time.
Of course none of this would work without our hapless heroes.
Bateman does his usual shctick as the loveable level-headed straightman
trying to keep himself afloat while the other two can’t seem to stay
out of trouble. Sudeikis brings his deep-voiced frat boy antics to the
screen and while they normally don’t do it for me Bateman and Day
balance him out. Of course when we get down to it Day is the one who
steals the film. He’s not exactly delivering the unbridled insanity
we’ve come to know and love on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but
that’s only because in this film he actually plays a normal functioning
human being. And when you combine Day’s signature spasms and raspy
high-pitched verbal fits with Aniston’s overdrawn predatory practices
you get a few bursts of hilarity however uncomfortable.
Finally we get a few chuckles out of Dean "MF" Jones
(Jamie Foxx) but the actor himself was completely wasted. The character
simply rests on the idea that we know Foxx as a personality outside of
the film -- much like Aniston’s character does -- rather than actually requiring
any legwork from such a capable onscreen presence.
But there's a little method to this madness; without this giant cast of talented major players the
script itself would likely fall a little flat. A few wayward jokes drag
it down including a desperate attempt to connect this workplace issue
to the financial crisis by including a former Lehman Brothers employee
rendered so desperate by his circumstances that he trolls Applebee’s
offering sexual favors. The movie succeeds as a superficial goofy
comedy – it really has no place trying to nudge its way into real world
Of course there’s one thing I find incredibly refreshing about the flick ; while it certainly has the typical trio formula – the straight
man the smartass and the nutjob – it gives all three equal billing.
Nick isn’t the main character and his two friends aren’t his sidekicks.
Director Seth Gordon opens the film with three segments of equal length
wherein each peg of our trio takes a moment to explain their own
personal slice of daily hell with a particularly hilarious brand of
explicit language before the film gets down to business. It makes Nick
Kurt and Dale a true trio and gives weight to each of their cartoonish
tribulations as the film's punctuated pace eventually descends into complete insanity.
You probably won’t add Horrible Bosses to your list of classic
comedies and it certainly doesn’t merit extensive praise but the bottom
line is that despite a few overreaching elements it’s just a
fast-paced outrageous hilarious summer comedy. And really with a film
like this that’s all we’re hoping for anyway.