Warner Bros via Everett Collection
J.K. Rowling has sent Harry Potter fans into a spin by posting a story update online.
The author posted a 1,500-word article on her Pottermore.com website to give readers a glimpse into the adult lives of the main characters. Written in the style of a newspaper article by fictional journalist Rita Skeeter, the piece focuses on the grown-up goings-on of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, played by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in the film franchise.
Rowling tells fans her title character is in his 30s and has a "couple of threads of silver" in his black hair, while Granger is now Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Grint's character works at his brothers' company Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and his red hair is "thinning".
The article reveals Potter is married to his best friend's sister, Ginny Weasley, who is a journalist, and gives fans updates on their pals Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood.
The publication of the short story comes after it was revealed that Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is to be filmed at the Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden site in England, where all the wizard movies were shot.
The final book in the Potter series was released in 2007, while the last film hit cinemas in 2011.
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.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
While nearly every actor in England turned out for a role in the Harry Potter series, the majority of the film focused on a group of young, unknown actors. With a decade's worth of fantasy blockbusters under their belts and the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 exploding into theaters this Friday, here's a look at what’s in store for the soon-to-be Hogwarts graduates:
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
The star of the Harry Potter series, Radcliffe is the actor most assured of future success. The twenty-two year old broke the typecasting boundary with his surprising turn in the play Eqqus in 2008, and is proving his Broadway chops again with his leading role in the Tony-winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Radcliffe is already set to appear in some post-Potter films, including the upcoming supernatural thriller The Woman In Black, and indie comedy The Amateur Photographer. We’re not worried about Radcliffe succumbing to the Mark Hamill Curse, an actor who never quite took off post-Star Wars (although, he's certainly getting plenty of work as one of my favorite voice actors).
Emma Watson (Hermione Granger)
The leading lady of the Potter films, Emma Watson has been keeping busy. The only member of the main trio to continue school, Watson has been attending Brown University in the US and acting part-time. The young actor is set to start filming The Perks of Being a Wallflower this summer, and will appear in My Week With Marilyn, due out this November. Watson has also parleyed her acting success into the world of fashion, partnering with Burbury in 2009 to model for their Autumn/Winter catalogue. She also worked as a creative advisor for a line of clothing with People Tree. It’s probable that Watson is on her way to becoming a fashion icon.
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley)
Something of the dark horse of the trio, Rupert Grint hasn’t had as much success outside the world of Harry Potter as his co-stars. Still, the actor has had a number of roles in small independent films, including Cherrybomb, Wild Target and Driving Lessons. Grint is set to make his post-Potter premiere as the lead in Norwegian independent film Comrade, due out in 2012. We hope that the actor’s red-headed charisma will pull him through.
Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy)
Tom Felton may have made it big playing smug, jerk-face Draco Malfoy, but the actor actually came into the series with more experience than any of the other child actors. From the looks of it, he’s planning on maintaining that workload post-Potter -- he’s currently cast in five films in different stages of production. His next is this summer's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which he plays another Draco-like villain. We’re not sure yet if Felton has the charm to pull off a heroic lead on his own, but at the very least, there’s plenty of demand for sneering villains. At least, until that guy who plays Joffrey on Games of Thrones grows up and starts providing competition.
Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley)
Wright is one of the youngest of the Potter bunch, but she’s keeping up with the best of them. Currently a film student at the University of London, the former Weasley plans to continue acting. At the moment, Wright is filming the mind-bending thriller The Philosophers in Jakarta, and will appear in a short film in the upcoming Geography of the Hapless Heart. She has also followed in Emma Watson’s footsteps, gaining a reputation as a fashionista and taking part in Katie Eary’s show during London Fashion Week. Wright has one heck of a souveneer to take away from the Potter set- she’s currently engaged to co-star Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays the younger version of Grindelwald in the seventh and eighth films.
Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom)
Like Daniel Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis made a transition to stage after finishing the last film. Lewis recently finished his role in a touring production of Agatha Cristie’s Verdict, and also wrapped up filming on upcoming independent film The Sweet Shop, described as a “romantic comedy with a twist.” Along with his acting career, Lewis is a member of small indie rock band The Transmission, in which he plays guitar. Where ever the rest of his career takes him, I hope he won’t have to wear fake teeth and ear extenders anymore.
Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood)
Evanna Lynch was a relatively recent addition to the Potter cast, but she’s made a big impression. A huge Harry Potter fan herself, Lynch has remained active with the fan community, working with the Harry Potter alliance on behalf of gay rights. While the actress has no current projects in the works, she plans to return to acting after she finishes college, and perhaps explore the stage.