Filmmaker Paul Schrader refused to talk about absent Lindsay Lohan's personal struggles as he launched their movie The Canyons at the Venice Film Festival in Italy on Friday (30Aug13). Lohan cited personal reasons for deciding not to make the trip to Europe with her director, screenwriter Brett Easton Ellis and co-star James Deen, and they made it clear they didn't want to discuss the actress' recent rehab stint.
The Mean Girls star walked free from the Cliffside treatment facility in Malibu, California at the beginning of August (13) after spending 90 days in rehab under a court order.
At a press conference before The Canyons was screened, Schrader told the Venice media that questions about his leading lady's personal issues were "off the table", but he praised the actress for her work on his film and compared her to Marilyn Monroe.
The director said, "They aren't the same as actresses, they are very different, but both have had trouble separating their professional lives from their personal lives."
Lohan was planning to make the trip to Europe for the festival but reports suggest she took advice from Oprah Winfrey, who the actress sat down with for a candid TV interview days after she was released from rehab, and decided that would be a bad idea as she battles sobriety after a series of alcohol and drug issues.
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 only thing I've ever really liked of Brett Ratner's was his segment in New York, I Love You. Something tells me that his next project will be nothing like that.
Apparently those rumors last year that he'd be doing a Hercules movie were somewhat true. While that specific film never materialized, The Rat is in talks to helm another Hercules movie, this one born from the pages of Steve Moore's comic book Hercules: The Thracian Wars. Sounds like an awesome idea for a movie. After all, Hercules makes for some great cinematic battles. But Ratner? There are very few people who I'd wish wouldn't step behind a camera ever again. I try to find some redeeming quality in most people, but him? Not so much. Stick to producing dude. Let someone else take the reigns.
Top Story: Shriver Leaves NBC to Support Hubby
Maria Shriver has opted to take a leave of absence from her NBC News post while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaigns for governor of California through Oct. 7, Reuters reports. A network spokeswoman told Reuters Shriver requested the leave to avoid any potential appearances of conflict of interest between her job as a correspondent and contributing anchor to Dateline and her new role as the wife of an aspiring politician. The spokeswoman also said it was too soon to say what avenues Shriver will take if Schwarzenegger wins the recall election.
Jolie's Forest Project Approved
The Cambodian government approved a forest conservation project in two former Khmer Rouge areas that will be funded by actress Angelina Jolie, The Associated Press reports. The Tomb Raider star will donate up to $1.5 million over the next five years to help educate villagers about conservation awareness, draw demarcation lines to protect forest and wildlife sanctuaries, and train local rangers, said Mounh Sarath, executive director of Cambodian Vision in Development, to AP.
Lange Becomes Goodwill Ambassador
Jessica Lange, a newly appointed goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children's Fund, traveled to Congo, Africa, earlier this week, touring refugee camps, AP reports. The refugees, mostly women and children, were forced to flee their homes as a byproduct of a bitter five-year civil war raging in the area. "The stories that these women tell are absolutely horrific, but the thing that moved me most was the extraordinary spirit of these people," the Oscar-winning actress told AP Thursday after hearing how rape is used as a weapon in the civil violence.
Omar Sharif Arrested for Head-Butting Cop
Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl) was convicted of assaulting a police officer at a casino near Paris, AP reports. Le Parisien reported Sharif got into a scuffle with one of the casino's patrons and when an officer intervened, Sharif allegedly insulted and head-butted him. The 71-year-old Egyptian actor received a one-month suspended sentence and was fined $1,700, AP reports.
Gay Musicians Want to Break Into Country Music
Several musicians showed up in cowboy hats and jeans to audition in New York Thursday for a new reality show that will search for the first openly gay country music star, Reuters reports. The show, tentatively titled America Pride, hopes to break some of those barriers surrounding homosexuality in the country music arena. The producers have not found a network to run the show as yet, Reuters reports.
The Next Great Hip-Hopper
Attention: Calling all wanna-be hip-hop artists! Showtime and Interscope Records are developing a new reality show designed to look for the next hottest prospect in hip-hop, USA Today reports. The six-part series called Interscope Presents The Next, described as a cross between 8 Mile and American Idol, is expected to begin airing in October and will be part talent contest and part documentary, with each episode culminating in one-on-one rap battles.
Cache of Comic Hosts to Handle Emmys
Rather than just one host, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will have a bevy of comics to emcee this year's Emmys, Reuters reports. Comics who hosted the Emmy telecasts during the past three years, including Garry Shandling, Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O'Brien, will be among this year's hosts, along with Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett, Saturday Night Live's Darrell Hammond, Wanda Sykes of Fox's Wanda at Large, George Lopez, Martin Short and Jon Stewart. More stars are expected to be added in the coming weeks. "We've searched high and low to find the funniest people in California who are not running for governor," ATAS chairman Bryce Zabel quipped to Reuters. "It was a challenge, but this all-star comedy team promises to make America laugh without asking for a campaign contribution." The Emmys will air Sept. 21 on Fox.
Role Call: Ratner Rides Into Sunset
Director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) has taken over the helm of New Line Cinema's After the Sunset after director John Stockwell bowed out in July over "creative differences." Variety reports the film--which stars Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson--follows a retired jewel thief (Brosnan) living on a Caribbean island with his gal pal (Hayek). Harrelson plays an FBI agent who tracks him down.