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.
The people have spoken -- once again.
Nominations for the 35th annual People's Choice Awards were announced today with nominees ranging from Iron Man and The Dark Knight to Britney Spears and Carrie Underwood.
The Jan. 7 show, set to be hosted by Queen Latifah, is also trying to attract the hipper, MTV audiences with interesting categories such as Favorite Superhero, Favorite TV Drama Diva, Favorite Movie Cast and Favorite Scene-Stealing Guest Star. Also the category Favorite Star 35 & Under, including likes of Chace Crawford; Miley Cyrus; Zac Efron; Anne Hathaway; Scarlett Johansson; Angelina Jolie; Justin Timberlake and many others.
Voting for the entirely fan-decided awards show is under way at www.pcavote.com. Balloting continues through Dec. 7.
Here's some of the contenders:
The Dark Knight
Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Favorite Male Movie Star
Robert Downey Jr
Favorite Female Movie Star
Favorite Onscreen Matchup
Christian Bale & Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler (Baby Mama)
Harrison Ford & Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Robert Downey Jr Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Will Smith as John Hancock
Television Favorite TV Drama
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Favorite TV Comedy
Two and a Half Men
Favorite Male TV Star
Favorite Female TV Star
Favorite Scene-Stealing Guest Star
Luke Perry on Law & Order: SVU
Britney Spears on How I Met Your Mother
Robin Williams on Law & Order: SVU
Favorite TV Drama Diva
Holly Hunter as Grace Hanadarko on Saving Grace
Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin on Weeds
Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson on The Closer
Favorite Male Singer
Favorite Female Singer
Favorite Funny Male Star
Favorite Funny Female Star
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Watch out, Katie.
Charlize Theron is negotiating to star with Tom Cruise in The Tourist, the remake of French thriller Anthony Zimmer. Theron would play an Interpol agent who uses an American tourist in an attempt to flush out an elusive criminal with whom she once had an affair. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day's Bharat Nalluri is set to direct, with production expected to begin in March. Theron was most recently seen with Will Smith in Hancock. Next up is next month's The Burning Plain with Kim Basinger and January's The Road with Viggo Mortensen.
Click Here to Read the Entire Story on Wiretap MORE NEWS: Holly Dishes on Hef Break Up
Will Ferrell is attached to star in 2-Face, a comedy from Hancock writer Vince Gilligan--and not be confused with the Dark Knight character of the same name.
The concept comedy involves a character with a split personality: One part racist, one part bleeding-heart liberal.
The project has reportedly been gestating for some time but Ferrell has been intrigued by the script for three years, says Variety. A director is currently being sought.
Although Face is described as a comedy with mainstream appeal, Gilligan's credits--he helped create and wrote for the X-Files and is the executive producer on AMC's dark drama Breaking Bad--and the story's socially relevant hook might give the role added heft, says The Hollywood Reporter.
Gilligan has also written lighter fare, notably the screenplay for the Drew Barrymore screwball comedy Home Fries.
Ferrell’s more serious turns include Marc Forster's 2006 drama Stranger Than Fiction.
The film is being eyed for a star early next year, before Ferrell’s star turn with Sacha Baron Cohen in a comedy about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
German supermodel Claudia Schiffer is expecting her first child with her husband of three months, British producer Matthew Vaughn. According to Reuters, a spokeswoman for Schiffer said Monday, "We can confirm she is pregnant and has got through the first trimester." The couple married on May 25 in a lavish English country wedding.
Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster will receive the outstanding achievement in acting award from the Hollywood Film Festival. Foster will be honored along with Motion Picture Association president Jack Valenti, director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Robert Towne, producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, composer Marc Shaiman, editor Pietro Scalia, production designer Harold Michelson and casting director Marcia Ross. The Hollywood Movie Awards Gala Ceremony will be held on Oct. 7.
Director John Lee Hancock (The Rookie) is near a deal to helm the historical epic The Alamo, Variety reports. Hancock would replace director Ron Howard, who bailed on the project after the studio had difficulty jump starting production. It also looks as though Russell Crowe, who was to star in the role of Sam Houston, will also exit from the project. Disney had an option on Hancock's next film and has been offering him everything in its arsenal. Now it looks as though Hancock will be landing the studio's biggest film.
Jack Nicholson is in negotiations to star in an untitled comedy for Sony Pictures written by Nancy Meyers (What Women Want), who is also set to direct. According to Variety, the film is about an older man who falls for the mother of his young girlfriend.
Paralegal Erin Brockovich, who inspired Steven Soderbergh's dramatic comedy Erin Brockovich, will host a reality-drama series titled Final Justice for the Lifetime TV cable channel. The show will present true accounts of real-life women who encounter injustice and take on the system, Variety reports.
'N Sync singer Lance Bass wants to turn three popular comic strips into a TV series through his California-based production company A Happy Place Prods., Variety reports. The strips include Glenn McCoy's The Duplex, Mark Tatulli's Heart of the City and Bill Hinds' Cleats.
A Jamaican court has issued an arrest warrant for American rapper Ja Rule for failing to appear on charges of using profanity during the country's Reggae Sumfest last year. According to The Associated Press, Ja Rule was in Jamaica this weekend to perform at the same festival and was served with a summons to appear in court Monday. However, Ja Rule apparently left the island Sunday. Judge Wilson Smith ordered his arrest warrant when the rapper, whose real name is Jeff Atkins, failed to appear. If convicted, he faces a maximum charge of...$20.