Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
Like The Hunger Games and Twilight, the Divergent series has just opted to jump on the YA bandwagon of splitting its final chapter in half. The upcoming adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the third part of her wildly successful Divergent book series, will take form in two separate films. So what can we look forward to? An inert first film that’s all build-up and exposition! One that ends abruptly and without payoff! And yes, a year-long wait before the second, largely unnecessary film that’s going to be all climax! We’re especially looking for to the awkwardly titled The Divergent Series Presents: Allegiant — Part 2 of 2: Based on the Novel Allegiant by Rothphire, or whatever gangly franken-title the studio comes up with, stapled together with enough semicolons to hospitalize a grammar teacher.
Frankly, We're tired of it. For all its good will, the Harry Potter series set a dangerous precedent. Now every YA adaptation under the sun just absolutely needs that two part finale to fill out the release calendar with one more film. There's tickets to sell after all. While it may have been a good idea to split the Deathly Hallows, the sprawling final chapter of J.K Rowling’s wizarding Saga, into two films (and since it was a novel concept at the time, it gets a pass), not every last book needs to be turned into two sequels. The last Harry Potter book was an 800-page behemoth that had to tie off dozens of dangling threads and loose ends sewn in by six previous novels. The final chapters of both Divergent and The Hunger Games don't need two films to end their stories. Just think of what all of your favorite film trilogies would look like if that last part were suddenly cut into two flicks:
The Return of the JediWhat if Return of the Jedi was chugging along smoothly, the rebels just formulated a plan to take out The second Death Star, the Ewoks saddled up to defend their home, and Luke unsheathes his lightsaber for one final battle against Darth Vader, the green beam of light pierces through the air and... BAM, fade to black, see you in '84 for a two-hour yubnub.
The Dark Knight RisesBatman finally escapes the sink hole of a prison in the desert. He travels to Gotham to face off against Bane in a climactic battle for Gotham's soul. The two rush in for battle with their armies at their backs and... what? you wanted resolution? Sorry, you'll have to wait until 2013 to find out that Marion Cotillard is the bad guy.
Spider-Man 3What if after Peter Parker finally strips the Venom Symbiote off of his body, and the sludge falls on Eddie Brock, the credits start rolling right before Brock turns into Venom? To be honest, it wouldn't be that much worse than the movie we got...
Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadePicture this: the last true Indy adventure severed in two right before Prof. Jones took the leap of faith? A big "To Be Continued" flashed on screen before the film's theme started blaring thoughout the theater. "Come back next year to see if Indy survived the jump!" No, I don't think I will.
Toy Story 3Imagine if Toy Story 3 had cut out while Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the others were still trapped in Ned Bearty's day care center, forcing now grown Pixar fans to stew in bitter resentment before the nostalgia really hit home upon Andy's goodbye to his best pal? Pure torture.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the KingWhat if while Frodo and Sam are right on the edge of the lava pit in Mount Doom, The film cuts just as we see Frodo about to drop the ring into the molten abyss? Why recieve closure now, when you can get it later? Don't worry, Peter Jackson has you covered.
Back to the Future IIIAny more time spent in the Old West with Marty and Doc would be considered a crime against humanity.
WENNFrom a talent show winner's surprise foray into opera to Australia's newest dance supergroup, here's a look at five of the best tracks to have been unveiled over the past seven days.Beyoncé – "God Made You Beautiful"There's still no sign of Beyoncé's long-awaited fifth solo album yet. But recorded for the DVD release of her Life Is But A Dream documentary, this "Halo"-esque ode to the natural good looks daughter Blue Ivy Carter must obviously have inherited from her mother's side will do for now.Dornik – "Rebound"Signed to the PMR Records label that's home to the likes of Disclosure, Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore, Londoner Dornik follows up the glorious chillfunk of debut single "Something About You" with another lush sun-kissed production which could be mistaken for a remix of a long-lost Michael Jackson classic.Ariana Grande – "Love Is Everything"Following on from her Daydream-inspired debut album, the latest tween star-turned-pop idol continues to walk in the footsteps of Mariah Carey by embracing the holiday spirit on this uplifting gospel-tinged second taster from her Christmas Kisses E.P.Leona Lewis – "Ave Maria"Also getting into a festive mood is X-Factor winner Leona Lewis, who is virtually unrecognisable as an operatic diva on an emotive cover of "Ave Maria" which makes full use of her classically-trained background.What So Not – "Jaguar"Capping off an incredible twelve months which saw his debut album deny One Direction the top spot in his native Australia, producer Flume once again teams up with DJ Emoh instead under the guise of What So Not for a thrilling blend of flickering synths, trap basslines and pitch-shifted samples.
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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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
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.
So many great music videos, only so many Moon Men to go around. Last night was the highly anticipated MTV Video Music Awards – an event that brings Hollywood’s most talented artists together for a night of musical mayhem. And what an epic night it was, what with Gaga going onstage in drag and almost kissing Britney Spears Russell Brand paying tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, and let’s not forget Beyonce’s exciting news – she’s pregnant! The show had more than a few moments you should be aware of, and just in case you missed all the excitement due to a busy social life or a lack of power caused by a certain hurricane we've got them all lined up for you.
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1. Lady Gaga is a dude for the entire show.
Leading the pack to kick off the show was Gaga herself or should I say her male alter-ego Jo Calderone. Strutting out onto the stage with a white T-shirt, black jeans, and greasy hair, the not-so-lady Gaga puffed on a cigarette while presenting her own version of a comedy routine. Jo then did what any normal boyfriend would do: he complains about his girlfriend Lady Gaga, talking about her hair and wearing heels in the shower, which honestly mostly felt like a time filler than anything else. But then true to Gaga form, the singer took to the piano and the real entertainment began. But if you were expecting Gaga to show her face once her opening performance was through, then you would have been disappointed. She chose to remain in the form of her guy counterpart for the duration of the show. If you ask me, it’s downright eerie how well Gaga can portray a man – the stance, the walk, the talk. It just further proves that she can do just about anything.
2. The show was left host-less.
Everyone knew MTV decided that there would be no host for the awards show this year, but it was still just so hard to believe. Could they really not find someone right for the job? Apparently not. At the beginning of the show, Kevin Hart explains how he wanted to be the host and thought he was going to be until the network told him (in the words of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Facebook page) Hell to the No. Hart was kind enough to share with the crowd just what he would have said if he had been the host joking about Lil Wayne’s skateboarding accident and saying STD jokes about Jersey Shore – only making us all thankful that he was in fact not given the host job.
3. Nicki Minaj’s fashion faux pas.
If Gaga’s meat dress last year was dinner, then Nicki’s was dessert. The cupcake necklace, cotton candy hair, and mirror ball dress – you could tell the singer was trying to be the next Lady Gaga with ground-breaking fashion trends, but it just doesn’t seem to work. Nice try girl, we still love you though.
4. Katy Perry Slams Kanye West
Katy Perry almost set off some fireworks of her own last night when she and Kanye won Best Collaboration. While accepting their Moonman, Perry made a jab at her fellow artist saying “Now, this is a time when you want to interrupt me, Kanye.” She’s of course referencing when the rapper infamously cut into Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech during the 2009 VMAs. Was it funny? Of course. But it seemed like an odd moment for a roast, right in the middle of their joint victory. Perhaps Taylor put her up to it. Katy also made the mistake of thinking this was Kanye’s first Moonman, but he quickly corrected her saying that he already has one. Awkward all around.
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5. Britney Spears rejects Gaga’s kiss.
Britney may have made out with Madonna, but she rebuked Gaga’s advances last night. After Lady Gaga presented Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award (dressed as Jo Calderone of course), she tried to lean in for an intense lip-lock, but Britney awkwardly turned her head and declined the offer. Ouch. But Jo took the rejection like a man and joked, “I don’t want Gaga to get pissed.” Who knew Britney had developed such high make-out standards?
6. Chris Brown learns how to fly.
Chris Brown flew through the air with the greatest of ease. While Adele’s chops may be a cut above the rest of the night’s performances, Chris Brown proved that he’s got some mad skills of his own – dance skills. His routine was hands-down, the most exciting performance of the night – for me anyway. His dance moves were superb and he even flew above the crowd doing flips all while wearing a classy white tuxedo. The guy definitely has flaws and made some mistakes in the past, but you have to give him credit – last night he reminded everyone just how great of an entertainer he can be. His act was done like the pro that he is.
7. Jessie J sits on a throne all night.
Was anyone else a little confused why Jessie J was sitting on a white throne in front of everyone throughout the entire show? It seemed to be her job to transition and entertain viewers and the crowd itself during commercial breaks with renditions of a variety of songs including her "Price Tag" song, Katy Perry’s "Firework," and TLC’s "No Scrubs." It almost felt like she became the host in a way as she remained a constant presence on stage. I knew MTV would find a way to create a fake host to help ease things along.
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8. Beyonce Announces She's Pregnant!
Sasha Fierce is about to be a mommy. The diva goddess announced she was pregnant to the press at the beginning of the show last night, but just in case anyone missed the news she really drove her point home during her performance number. At the beginning of her song she hinted about it into the mic saying “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me,” and then continued to wow us with her spectacular musical abilities. I swear, that girl knows how to work a fan no matter what song she’s singing. She then finished the song by throwing down the microphone, rubbing her belly, and nodding happily at the crowd. Jay-Z was shown off-stage grinning from ear to ear, already a proud Papa. It’s so cute how happy they are and this is going to definitely be one lucky baby. Just in case you missed it, check it out now!
9. Cloris Leachman wants Pauly D.
Cloris Leechman presented an award with the girls from Jersey Shore. Before announcing the nominees, she goes on to explain how much these two generations have in common: women her age don’t know who the Shore girls are, while everyone their age thinks she’s Betty White. After JWoww comments that she was so happy when she came to Italy to chill with them, Cloris responded saying, “Well, when you get a booty call from Pauly D, you answer it. You better believe I’m DTF.” Pauly D fist pumped in response. There’s only one word to sum all that up: eww.
10. Russell Brand pays tribute to Amy Winehouse.
The night’s emotional highlight came when Russell Brand took the stage to give an emotional speech about the late singer, calling her a genius. Jazz legend Tony Bennett also introduced footage he recorded with Winehouse last March for his Duets 2 album. Then Bruno Mars performed a rendition of her version of "Valerie," which seemed to lift up the entire audience and had them all singing along. It was a very moving moment and paid great respect to Winehouse’s contributions to the music industry.