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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In 1994, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. On August 19, 2011, the then-dubbed the "West Memphis Three" were released from prison.
Even before the trio were incarcerated for what appeared to be the extent of their lives, many investigators and activists believed the evidence that led to the sentence was unfounded. The beliefs never wavered over the course of Echols, Misskelley Jr., and Baldwin's time in prison, with filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky dedicating themselves to unraveling the truth behind the murders and freeing the West Memphis Three through their medium of choice.
Berlinger and Sinofsky's films — 1996's Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills, 2000's Paradise Lost 2: Revelations and 2011's Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory — dug deep into the West Mephis Three case, uncovering new evidence that eventually led to the freedom of the three wrongly convicted men. In the new Paradise Lost Trilogy box set, those remarkable documentary efforts are collected with new, never-before-seen footage and interviews, along with a booklet featuring photographs of the production over the past 17 years.
In this exclusive clip from the box set, Jason Baldwin recounts the violent experience he encountered after arriving to prison. Hearing his words, there is no wonder Berlinger and Sinofsky worked steadily to do whatever they could to get the West Memphis Three out of their unimaginable predicament:
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: DOCURAMA]
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It's wedding season. That means thousands of men and women are in the midst of planning their guest lists, catering, flowers, bridesmaids dresses, and, of course, wedding dresses. And if you're a celebrity — like Natalie Portman, who wed Benjamin Millepied this past weekend — you're also planning to block out the paparazzi from your ritzy affair. (As you can see based on the picture to the left, that plan doesn't always work so well.)
Of course, it's likely you won't have to deal with prying pap eyes at your wedding. But you can take other cues from A-list Hollywood nuptials... and not take cues from some weddings-gone-wrong. So, for your upcoming walk down the aisle, here is some advice borrowed. Do’s 1. Do Your Own Makeup Kate Middleton literally found her own Prince Charming — but she didn’t let the fact that she was marrying royalty go to her head. instead of hiring a makeup artist, the future Duchess opted to do it herself. And guess what? She looked so stunning, her wedding style set a trend for brides-to-be around the world. Royally awesome. 2. Do Make Your Vows Profitable Heidi Klum and Seal's union did end in divorce, but at least the singer scored and sold a few ballads — including "Wedding Day" — during their marriage. Of course, it's likely you don't have a major recording contract, but perhaps you could at least eBay some of those less-than-desireable wedding gifts? 3. Do Send Out Wedding Invitations Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Thomas reportedly didn't send out wedding invites, opting instead to send out a mass text message informing guests where and when the wedding would take place. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also rumored to be pulling a similar stunt. But is this really practical, especially considering the sneakiness of the paparazzi? (See: Portman's picture above.) Instead, give your family and friends some preparation time. You don't really want them showing up in jeans and Crocs, do you? 4. Do Run Away and Get Married One affordable option that allows you to avoid people who wear jeans and Crocs? Elope like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz did in 2010. 5. Do Get a Free Wedding Bachelor Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney saved buckets of cash by allowing cameras to take their wedding. But if you didn't meet your soul mate on a dating show, there are other ways for you to nab the wedding jackpot via series like My Fair Wedding or Bridezillas. Of course, for the latter, you'd have to be suitably obnoxious. Watch episodes of Jersey Shore in preparation. Don’ts 1. Don't Make a Scene When Getting Your Marriage License Nothing goest together quite as well as love and marriage... and paparazzi fights. While fetching his license in NYC in June, Baldwin sparred with a photographer in front of other cameras. Learn from Baldwin's mistakes and control your anger around prying family members — especially if you want to avoid walking with a sheet over your head in the days leading up to the biggest affair of your life. 2. Don't Look for Inspiration on Reality TV Falling in love on reality TV may seem like fun, but the boob tube doesn't boast the best success rates. If the fact that only two of The Bachelor franchise's 24 matched couples wed isn't proof enough, just look at Kim Kardashian. She shared the story of her romance with Kris Humphries with all of her E! fans, and she ended up filing for divorce just 72 days after the couple wed. But we're sure Kardashian's headdress already convinced you she wasn't an apt wedding role model. 3. Don't Marry the Rebound Just two years after pop power couple Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears split — and shortly after the release of Timberlake's break-up tune "Cry Me a River" — Spears decided to wed childhood friend Jason Alexander in a quickie Vegas wedding. Spears and Alexander's marriage lasted a whole 55 hours — blissfully short enough to help us avoid being punished with a "Popozao." 4. Don't Lie About Your Bachelor/Bachelorette Party What happens behind closed doors, is supposed to stay behind closed doors — but what happens to a celebrity on Spring Break in Mexico is guaranteed to make headlines. During an interview with Howard Stern, Mario Lopez revealed that he cheated on his soon-to-be wife Ali Landry days before their wedding at his bachelor party in Cabo. Landry reportedly thought her fiancé was going on a quiet fishing trip — little did she know he was throwing out bait during a wild night in a club. 5. Don't Wear a Bikini Instead of a Wedding Gown Pamela Anderson must have forgotten that her Baywatch years were over when she walked down the aisle to wed Kid Rock in 2006. While most people opt for pearls and white lace, Anderson instead chose a rather revealing white bikini, a crafty belly chain, and a matching sailor hat to complete her uh, maritime (not marital) getup. Yeah, not the best of bridal styles. Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat. [Photo Credit: Wenn.com, CPR/Premiere/FAMEFLYNET] More: Alec Baldwin's Three-Step Process to Confronting Controversy Natalie Portman's Wedding Dress: Demure or Dowdy? Natalie Portman Marries Benjamin Millepied in Secret Wedding
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.