There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
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 57-year-old wrestling icon lost his mum Ruth on New Year's Eve (31Dec10) and he took to his Twitter.com page on America's Mother's Day to express his sadness at her passing.
Hogan told fans, "Happy Mother's Day to all, this is the first one for me without my mom. My dad, brother and mom have all crossed over. I'm still hangin (sic)."
Lindsay Lohan also spent the holiday in a downbeat mood after missing out on the chance to spend the day with her mum Dina in their native New York - but she posted a heartfelt message on the microblogging site praising Dina's dedication to the actress and her siblings.
She writes, "Happy Mother's Day mommy! I love you so much... thank you for being strong for me and Cody, Ali, Michael... I wish I was with you in NY @ (sic) home right now... miss your face I love you."
Producer Swizz Beatz also took to the site to praise his wife Alicia Keys on her first Mother's Day, after they welcomed son Egypt last year (10).
In a post, he writes, "Happy 1st (sic) Mother's Day Alicia Keys thx (thanks) so much for Egypt he is amazing - blessings & love", while the R&B star replied, "You are amazing my love thank u (sic)!"
Paying tribute to her mum Kathy, Paris Hilton declared, "You are the best and most beautiful mom in the world! Love you so much! So lucky to have you as my mom."
Sharon Osbourne was surprised by her daughter Kelly on Sunday morning, waking up to a room filled with colourful balloons and flowers, and she posted a photo of her gifts on her Twitter page.
Top Story: Billy Joel in Yet Another Car Crash
One wonders if Billy Joel might need a refresher course at driving school. Slightly injured but mostly embarrassed, the singer/songwriter was involved in his third car accident in two years on Sunday when he lost control of his car on a rain-slicked road and banged into a house in Nassau County, New York, The Associated Press reports. The accident occurred at about 4 p.m., when Joel, driving a vintage VW bug, crashed through a row of bushes and banged into a small beige home one block from the beach. The singer suffered a small cut on his hand but refused medical attention, AP reports. "He seemed embarrassed that he lost control of the car," witness Thomas Phillips Jr. told AP. "He said, 'I can't believe I got in another accident.' He was just going out to get a pizza." There was no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement and Joel was not suspected of any crime, Nassau County police spokeswoman Joan Eames told AP. After his second accident in June 2002, Joel checked himself into a rehabilitation center for substance abuse.
Johnson's Company Files For Bankruptcy
Don Johnson's company, Timber Doodle Glade Equity Venture LLC, which holds title on the actor's Woody Creek ranch in Aspen, Colo., filed for Chapter 11 April 14, AP reports. The bankruptcy filing follows a lawsuit brought by City National Bank of Los Angeles in March, asking the court to allow the ranch to be auctioned to collect $930,000 Johnson owes the bank. Johnson's publicist, Elliot Mintz, told AP the actor is refinancing the ranch and the bankruptcy filing will stave off creditors until Johnson can get the financing he needs.
Stone Gets Kudos From Lesbian Group
Actress Sharon Stone will receive the National Center for Lesbian Rights Spirit Award for her support of gay and lesbian civil rights, including helping to raise millions of dollars for AIDS research, AP reports. "Sharon Stone has a very long history of leadership and involvement with volunteer groups," Ruth Harris, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based center told AP. "We're honoring her for a whole range of things over a many year period."
Knight Released From Prison
After serving 10 months for violating his parole, rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight was released from a California prison Thursday, Reuter reports. A state parole panel had sent Knight back to prison on Aug. 4 for his second parole violation in a 1997 assault conviction after he punched a parking attendant outside a Hollywood nightclub last summer. Knight, 39, also announced Monday that he plans to produce a hip-hop album to benefit financially troubled families of soldiers in Iraq by Christmas, Reuters reports.
Cosmetics Maven Lauder Dies
Estee Lauder, who created one of the world's largest cosmetic companies and a $10 billion empire, died Saturday in New York from cardiopulmonary failure, Reuters reports. She was 97.
Role Call: Sykes Joins Monster, Locklear Steps Into Mother Role, Biggs in Guy X
Comedian Wanda Sykes has joined the cast of Monster-In-Law, starring Jennifer Lopez as a woman who is set to marry the perfect guy (Michael Vartan)--until she meets his mother (Jane Fonda). Sykes will play Fonda's wisecracking assistant…Speaking of mothers, Heather Locklear is set to play one to Hilary Duff in the romantic The Perfect Man. Duff plays a teenager who is trying to find the best mate for her single, romantically challenged mom. Chris Noth and Mike O'Malley also have been cast in the Universal Pictures project…American Pie's Jason Biggs has signed on to star in the dark (and cold) comedy Guy X. Set in 1979 as Ronald Reagan is gearing up his presidential campaign and the Cold War is entering its endgame, the film focuses on a hapless American soldier transferred by clerical error to the Qangattarsa base in the Arctic, and unable to escape because he no longer officially exists.