Conservative comedienne Victoria Jackson has lost her bid to run for political office in Tennessee. The former Saturday Night Live regular, who appeared on the U.S. comedy show from 1986 to 1992, ran as an independent candidate in local elections in a bid to win a seat on the Williamson County Commission, but she attracted just 632 votes - less than half of those garnered by winning participants Judy Lynch Herbert and Betsey Hester after Thursday's (07Aug14) election results were tallied.
The 55-year-old funnywoman wasn't the only celebrity to stumble in her fledgling political career in Tennessee on Thursday - former U.S. TV judge Joe Brown also failed in his efforts to become the district attorney for Shelby County after the Democrat lost to Republican incumbent Amy Weirich.
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.
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Oblivion may be the most thoroughly derivative science-fiction film in recent memory. The Tom Cruise post-apocalyptic action film directed by Joseph Kosinski ransacks 50 years of classics in the genre. But for what purpose? Not apparently for winking irony. Or to make some kind of tongue-in-cheek pastiche that's a statement about the recurrence of certain sci-fi tropes. The movie would have to be funny for that to be the case, and it's deadly serious. In fact, you could probably even tell in the trailers for Oblivion just how many movies it's referencing intentionally, subconsciously, or kleptomaniac-ally. These are 12 films whose makers should be crying "Stop, thief!"
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) — If you need to telegraph mechanical villainy stat, you know what to do. Give the evil machine in question a pulsing red eye, just like neurotic supercomputer HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick's film. That's also what Andrew Stanton and the makers of WALL-E decided to do for their villain in the Pixar film. But Oblivion goes further, also giving 2001's slow-moving spherical pods a turbo-charged upgrade so they can scour the irradiated Earth for targets to blast.
2. WALL-E (2008) — Speaking of the little 'bot, WALL-E actually casts a giant shadow over Oblivion. For one basic reason. It's because Tom Cruise's Jack is WALL-E. He's been left behind on Earth to oversee clean-up while the rest of humanity abandoned the planet to take refuge on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, following the war with the Scavengers, an alien race who invaded our planet, destroyed our moon, and caused us to seek a safe haven off-world. Jack even shares WALL-E's affinity for little green plants, an affinity that Olga Kurylenko's Julia also shares with him, making her the film's EVE. Andrea Riseborough's Victoria is Auto, the rogue automatic pilot artificial intelligence program on-board the Axiom that wants to destroy plants so as to prove that earth is uninhabitable. And Melissa Leo's Southern belle dispatcher is Fred Willard's Buy 'n Large CEO.
3. La Jetée (1962) — In Chris Marker's seminal time-travel film about a nuclear war survivor who's sent back in time to get aid for post-apocalytic Earth, or stop the war outright, the one thing keeping the unnamed protagonist sane is his powerful memory of a beautiful woman from before the war. That mental image sustains him, much like the way Jack's mysterious memory of touring New York with Olga Kurylenko's Julia sustains and fascinates him.
4. Planet of the Apes (1968) — Franklin Schaffner's parable about bigotry and ignorance, starring Charlton Heston as an astronaut who gets lost in space and crashes on a planet populated by intelligent but xenophobic simians, pioneered the idea of showing ruined versions of iconic landmarks to indicate an apocalyptic setting. Most notably? The Statue of Liberty jutting out of a beach. Likewise, Oblivion shows the Statue of Liberty's torch dislodged and caught in a rocky ravine. Actually, Tom Cruise's Jack only seems to visit the ruins of iconic landmarks: the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and a Super Bowl stadium are all on his sightseeing list.
5. Prometheus (2012) — Oh yeah, and if it wasn't already obvious that Oblivion shares its washed-out, icy gray hues with Prometheus, consider that they were both shot in Iceland, the new go-to sci-fi location.
6. Dune (1984) — Like Frank Herbert's novel, and David Lynch's quixotic 1984 adaptation of it, Tom Cruise's Jack has a revelation that makes him switch sides in the war he's been fighting. (It's not a spoiler to say that, since it's right in the trailer.) By the end, I almost expected co-star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to pay messianic tribute to Jack by shouting, "And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!"
7. The Matrix (1999) — In order for Jack to have everything he knows about his world upended, he needs to have an inspirational mentor figure just like Morpheus. Only instead of Laurence Fishburne, it's Morgan Freeman. He doesn't wear leather trench coats, but he does don goggle-glasses and a cape. And smoke cigars! Because it may be the end of the world, but that's no excuse for you not to look cool. Also, there is an image near the end of the film in which we see thousands of humans in pods very much like those the machines in The Matrix use to feed off human beings' body heat.
8. Blade Runner (1982) — Much of the mystery in Ridley Scott's dystopian thriller centers on one question: Is Harrison Ford's Decker a human being, or is he a Replicant, a machine made to look human? Jack begins to question his identity in Oblivion as well.
9. Minority Report (2002) — It's a Tom Cruise movie stealing from a Tom Cruise movie! My mind is twisted like an ouroboros just thinking about it. Andrea Riseborough's Victoria uses giant console touchscreens just like Cruise's pre-crime agent in Steven Spielberg's film.
10. Aliens (1986) — Olga Kurylenko's Julia was in hyper-sleep, a state of suspended animation, for a long, long time. Much like Aliens' Ripley, who slept more than half a century after the events of Alien.
11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) — How do you convey an event of global magnitude that's also really, really weird? Show a ship tanker beached on dry land. Only an alien force, an apocalyptic event, or both could make that happen, right? Steven Spielberg had a tanker re-materialize in the Gobi Desert in his symphonic alien-abduction epic, and Joseph Kosinski does the same to indicate the world-ending mess humanity's finding itself in the middle of.
12. Independence Day (1996) — Like Roland Emmerich's alien invasion film, Kosinski's alien invasion film involves a trip into the belly of the beast. Look at this little ship being swallowed Jonah-like by this much bigger ship! We make no promises about there being a fat lady singing, however.
Did you catch Oblivion this weekend?
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More: M83’s ‘Oblivion’ Score and a History of Pop Artists Turned Composers Tom Cruise’s ‘Oblivion’ Hints at ‘Matrix’ and ‘Vanilla Sky’ Inspirations The Beginning of ‘Oblivion’ Looks Like the End of ‘Planet of the Apes’
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The veteran actress is backing a drive to erect a statue in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex, England in memory of Private Herbert Columbine, who died in the trenches in France just months before the war ended in 1918.
He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, Britain's highest military decoration for valour, for his efforts in a battle with German troops.
Officials at the Royal British Legion have been raising money to fund the statue project, and Dench helped out by donating a signed photograph to bring in bids at auction.
The statue is due to be unveiled in 2014.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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