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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Fun Size may be the only production from kid-centric studio Nickelodeon to also feature underage drinking (complete with red solo cups) and boob groping. The murky demographic for the movie ends up hurting the well-intentioned Halloween flick — it's not quite suitable for the young ones nor is it funny or wild enough for the Gossip Girl crowd which director Josh Schwartz (creator of the show) knows well. Instead we get a floundering trick or treat adventure that reduces the colorful twisted holiday to a meandering situational comedy.
Nick TV grad Victoria Justice (Victorious) stars as Wren a high school "geek" who finds herself unable to bag the guy of her dreams (who adores her) but finds a glimmer of hope in the big cool kids' Halloween party. Ready for a night out with her best friend April (Jane Levy) Wren thinks life is finally going her way until her Mom (Chelsea Handler) sticks her with her troublemaking little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) for the night. If chaperoning Albert wasn't already the worst thing in the world Wren finds herself in an even bigger dilemma when her brother wanders off into his own night of mischievous debauchery.
The "one crazy night" formula fits perfectly with Halloween but Fun Size struggles to find interesting material for its eclectic ensemble. Unlike many of the young actresses who have previously collaborated with Schwartz Justice seems unable to crack his voice and comedic style. She's too hip to too aware to play someone struggling with high school. The material doesn't serve her or Levy either; off-color jokes and a bizarre sense of entitlement turn them into two people you don't want to see succeed. Luckily for the audience during their sweeping search for Albert Wren and April cross paths with two true nerd-looking boys: Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) who along with feeling like real teenagers actually land a joke or two.
Interwoven into this speedy adventure — Fun Size clocks in at a little over 75 minutes giving little time to flesh out our teenage heroes — is Albert's encounter with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy. The adults of Fun Size see the ten-year-old Albert as a parter-in-crime rather than a lost little boy. Fuzzy recruits him for a raid on his ex-girlfriend's house; after running away he meets a lady who brings him to a nightclub. At one point a sleazebag kidnaps Albert and locks him in his bedroom. If Fun Size were madcap it may all make sense. Instead things just happen — and it's not hilarious scary or even deranged.
Nick's '90s sitcom Pete & Pete created an amazing sense of weirdness and heart in its exploits of two teenage brothers. Anyone could watch and enjoy it. Fun Size has a beautiful look (the colors of Halloween are mesmerizing) and Schwartz as always has impeccable soundtrack tastes but when it comes to telling a story that feels both relatable and wonderfully weird — what Pete & Pete did so well — the movie falls flat. It's stereotype humor (the movie packs many a fat and gay joke) doesn't cut it — when paired to Nick's best efforts the movie lives up to the title: a bite-size portion of a bigger better cinematic sweet.
It’s two days to Christmas. Have you gotten all your shopping done? No? Well, that’s to be expected.
But now that you have all this family in town, occupying your house like so many Wall Street protestors, when will you possibly find the time to sneak away and grab those last minute gifts? Not to worry: Netflix has you covered. They have plenty of classic Christmas films streaming through their Watch Instantly service that can serve as a fitting distraction for your relatives while you procure the presents. We hope you’ll strongly consider selecting the 1947 classic Miracle on 34th Street for just that purpose.
Who Made It: Miracle on 34th Street was directed by George Seaton. Before directing what would be his most popular film, arguably followed closely by Airport, Seaton was a writer. Most notably, within his career as a writer, he was an uncredited co-writer on the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz.
Who’s In It: The headlining actress of Miracle on 34th Street is Maureen O’Hara. O’Hara was best-known for her cinematic collaborations with John Wayne: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, and McClintock!, to name a few. However, the most noteworthy star in Miracle on 34th Street is also the film’s youngest star: Natalie Wood. Wood plays the precocious little girl who does not, at first, believe in Santa Claus. Her brilliant acting career was sadly largely overshadowed by her tragic drowning death in 1981—a case that was recently reopened.
What’s It About: A young Macy’s executive has a problem on her hands when the actor chosen to portray Santa Claus in the annual parade turns up drunk. A kindly old man, who looks the part, fills in and proves to be very adept at the role. She asks the man to continue on as Santa at the store as well. But soon it becomes clear that this old man thinks he actually is Santa Claus. A malicious store employee, who fancies himself a psychologist, tries to have the poor man committed. Is he crazy? Is he telling the truth?
Why You Should Watch It:
Miracle on 34th Street finds lofty purchase upon nearly everyone’s list of favorite Christmas films for many reasons, not the least being the young Natalie Wood as little Susan. She plays the pragmatic wunderkind with such sincerity that it never once becomes cloying how far her character is advanced beyond her years. She is absolutely adorable despite her pessimism. Her turnabout at the end of the film is enough to bring even the biggest holiday humbug to tears.
Actor Edmund Gwenn is easily one of cinema’s best Santas. His easy joviality and genuine good will toward nearly every other character in the film constructs the pitch perfect disposition for the jolly old elf. His beard and stature augment the effect by creating the familiar physical archetype of St. Nick himself. His devotion to children, and to bringing happiness and joy to everyone, creates some of the film’s sweetest moments. When he is presented with the little Dutch girl, who is told there is no way Santa could possibly understand her, he suddenly launches into fluent Dutch. The way her face lights up will send a reindeer-sized lump to your throat.
What is interesting about Miracle on 34th Street, is how it acknowledges the cynicism of the season. The main character is a Macy’s employee to represent the over-commercialization of Christmas. Little Susan is an unfortunate example of how jaded people can become toward the magic of the season; hence her initial rejection, even at an early age, of childish whims. The triumph of this film is not its portrayal of these sad perceptions of the holidays, but how Kris Kringle is able to change their perceptions and, just by virtue of his generous heart and kind spirit, restore their faith in the most wonderful time of the year.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
S4E4: This week on Sons of Anarchy boys have voted to run drugs for the Gallindo cartel, Clay and Jax want out, and they each want to put in their own choice as a successor. Gemma’s pissed that the club’s running drugs. Tara is still debating on whether or not to show Jax the letters that Maureen gave to him. There’s a lot of road to cover as the Sons get read ready for their first drug run, so as the song says “get your motor running…”
"How's the grip?"- SAMTAZ Member to Clay
A Spanish cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are–A Changin’” plays over the opening montage, which is a reminder of the show’s fantastic use of music as a mood setter (check out the Stigers’ cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” from the season two finale or the Irish–themed version of the show’s theme song from last season for some great musical cues). As the crew makes its first drug run, Clay needs a pit stop to have Jax help him with cortisone shot to help with the growing arthritis in his hands. Can’t ride, can’t run the club. Most shows might make this a big huge story arc, but on Sons, there’s way too much going on to waste time on a story about shaky hands, so instead it’s a character point and an ever looming one at that; it came to the forefront several times this episode.
The club meets up with their Arizona charter, who is revealed to be dealing their own crank. Knowing this won’t sit well at all with Romero Parada, Clay demands that the Tucson Sons shut down their operation. Unfortunately for SAMCRO, their Arizona brothers are a tad overzealous. “You mule, we sell,” said SAMTAZ president, Armando. Jax learns that SAMTAZ have been dealing for four months, which is right around the time one of their own is killed and another leaves the club. Side note: If there’s anyone out there who knows the real laws of outlaw biker gangs, please explain this to me: if Clay is the president for the entire club, why isn’t his word law? I guess it makes the show a little more dramatic if each charter does what it wants, but after last season’s betrayal by SAMBEL, I hope we’re not going to have another charter turn their backs on SAMCRO.
The club meet former SAMTAZ member Reggie, who was allowed to leave SAMTAZ in good standing, as evidenced by his ink being merely blacked out instead of burned or scraped off. After some coercion, Reggie explains why he was allowed to leave: he was sleeping with another member’s old lady. Of course, SAMTAZ V.P. Huff had used for leverage when he found out. That leverage was leaving the club scot-free with no retaliation, so long as Reggie didn’t tell the rest of SAMTAZ that he knew Huff had set up a cook house, in order to get SAMTAZ started in the drug selling racket.
"I want to know why best friend was afraid when he died."- Piney
Piney meets with Tara to discuss John Teller. He believes the club is heading down the wrong path with drugs and wants to read the letters that Maureen sent. His oxygen levels drop and Piney drops to the floor. Now kept under observation, Tara asks the elder biker about his departed friend and co–founder of the Sons, John Teller. Piney wants to know why his best friend was afraid when he died. Tara broke the news to Piney that John wanted the club out of the gun business and was supposed to meet with the club’s IRA allies, but was killed before that meeting ever took place. Gemma tries to subtlety threaten Piney that digging deeper will kill him, but the old, and possibly ready to die, Piney says “that’s half the reason I’m doing this.”
One great thing about having a fantastic ensemble cast is that there are so many characters to get to know and love, and there might be a core group of players on the show that probably won’t be dying anytime soon, it’s guys like Piney who seem to be “redshirts with a cause,” they might not be long for this world, but they’re going to take something or someone out with them on the way to meet their maker.
"I'll be up later this week to see how things are going." -Romero Parada
The big moment is here and the Sons are given their marching orders and supplies from Parada–over 700,000 dollars for their troubles and 30 kilos of uncut Colombian cocaine. The menacing cartel captain bids the club “Bueno Suerte.”
This season seems to be about the club’s moral struggle. While he does go along for the run, Bobby is one of club members who voted “no” on running drugs, and he does not sit idly by as the events of the episode ramp up. First, he reiterates his opinions when Armando tries to convince Clay that running and selling drugs are the same thing, then he tries it again but Clay angrily demands that he shut up. Our parting shot for the week is the MC’s resident Elvis-impersonator staring down his president and vice president as they load up the coke.
Considering the club teams up with their Arizona SAMTAZ brothers this week and are treated to a stark reminder of what happens to a club when it starts dealing drugs, it will be interesting to see how the resolve of SAMCRO will change in the coming weeks. Will Jax’s strong sense of morality creep back up to the surface or will he let his ego and desire to leave peacefully continue to guide his choices?
Sons, like so many great dramas, is well aware of how to ramp up crisis. As the season progresses, viewers might feel like they’re prepping for a test, because the dribs and drabs of details that were dropped these past few weeks will continue to fester. Consider, for example, Agent Potter casually introducing himself to Gemma under the guise of being a mere city worker as part of a larger attempt to wriggle his way closer to the club and their dealings.
The drugs are in SAMCRO’s possession and with that this season has jumped into second gear as the fracture within the ranks of the club continues. This is turning into a dark, introspective season. Will our anti–heroes be able to survive it?
Deadline reports that Paramount Pictures-based production company Fake Empire just bought a pitch package surrounding Let It Snow, an anthology of short stories by three young-adult novelists named John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. Jordan Roter will adapt the screenplay, which centers on what a snowstorm does to a group of people on Christmas Eve, with hopes of turning it "into a teen Love Actually," which actually means "another stupid movie that dumb teenage girls will force their dumb teenage boyfriends to watch as they secretly hope to get laid."
Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage will produce.
It’s 1937. Mrs. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) a 69 year-old wealthy widow staves off boredom by buying an old theater in London’s Soho which she turns into the Windmill Theatre. She also hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) as her creative director. Their love-hate relationship certainly isn’t a partnership made in heaven but they have acute collaborative minds. Their revolutionary ideas of non-stop musical entertainment combined with nude women on stage innovate British theater while rocking the establishment as does Mrs. Henderson’s unwavering devotion to keep the theater open during the London bombings in WWII. Mrs. Henderson Presents stands as a testament to this real life woman--and the talented people surrounding her--who brought hope and merriment during troubled times. Isn’t it fortunate the British keep writing the most marvelous roles for their aging actresses? Dench bullies her way through as the highly irascible but entirely lovable Mrs. Henderson as well as etching the deep sorrow from Mrs. Henderson’s life on her face. The always excellent Hoskins is perfectly suited as her counterpart Mr. Van Damm. They do make a fine pair as his no-nonsense approach clashes with Mrs. Henderson’s eccentricities providing the film’s more deliciously witty moments. As for the supporting players on stage pop singer Will Young (who won the British equivalent of American Idol) stands out in his acting debut as Bertie the star of the musical revues. British stage actress Kelly Reilly also turns in a solid performance as the tragic Maureen the most exquisite of the nude Windmill girls. Director Stephen Frears has eclectic tastes. He’s done gritty realism (The Grifters) relationship comedy (High Fidelity) period piece (Dangerous Liaisons). But apparently Mrs. Henderson Presents proved to be the director’s biggest challenge to date because of the amount of musical performance involved. He explains “Songs and music are tyrannical: once you start a phrase of music you have to complete it. So I found all that very very tricky.” Thorny as it may sound Frears still does an admirable job juxtaposing the musical numbers on stage with the dramedy. The film however loses some steam once the bombs start dropping and turns too serious. We know war is hell. That’s why--like those brave soldiers who flocked to the Windmill for a much needed break from reality--we want to watch high-spirited comedy with a little nudity sprinkled in.
A former shoeshine boy, he went on to a prodigious movie career and a prodigious life, starring in more than 100 feature films and siring 13 children. On Saturday, Anthony Quinn passed away from respiratory failure, robbing Hollywood of a true legend. Quinn was 86.
The tempestuous screen image of two-time Academy Award winner and Renaissance man Anthony Quinn matched his much-publicized, unquenchable thirst for life.
Quinn's exotic background enabled him to play a potpourri of ethnicity, ranging from an Eskimo in Savage Innocents (1960) to a Russian pope in Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), to his most famous role, Zorba the Greek (1964).
Quinn also played a plethora of historical roles like Crazy Horse in They Died with Their Boots On (1942), Attila the Hun in Attila (1955), Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life (1956) and Kubla Khan in Marco the Magnificent (1966).
The death of his Irish-Mexican father, who had ridden with Pancho Villa before settling in Los Angeles to work as a cameraman and prop man, forced the younger Quinn to help support his grandmother, mother and sister. In addition to working such positions as shoeshine boy, cement mixer and foreman in a mattress factory, Quinn also played saxophone in evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's orchestra.
During junior high school Quinn won a chance to study and work with celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose insistence that Quinn attend acting school to improve his speech ultimately led to his career in film.
Though Quinn acted on stage with Mae West in Clean Beds and spoke his first lines on film in Parole (both 1936), he made a lasting impression by standing up to Cecil B DeMille, who cast him as a Cheyenne Indian in 1937's The Plainsman.
As cast and crew looked on, Quinn responded to the most recent of a series of abusive outbursts from the director by telling DeMille how he should shoot the scene and where DeMille could put his $75 a day salary. After staring at the young actor for some time, DeMille announced, "The boy's right. We'll change the set-up," and later said admiringly, "It was one of the most auspicious beginnings for an actor I've ever seen."
Quinn would act in two more movies, The Buccaneer (1938) and Union Pacific (1939), for the directing legend. He would also woo and marry his adopted daughter Katherine and helm the 1958 remake of The Buccaneer, executive produced by DeMille and the director's last project before he died.
By then, Quinn had shaken free of the son-in-law tag to become a star in his own right, exhibiting tremendous staying power over the course of a career spanning seven decades, mixing inspired performances with good cured ham.
Quinn played his fair share of Indians amidst assorted heavies, even ending up with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour in two of the "Road" movies: Road to Singapore (1940) and Road to Morocco (1944). But despite many good notices for supporting roles in pictures like Blood and Sand (1941), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) and Back to Bataan (1945), it would take a return to the stage to raise his stock higher.
He made his Broadway debut in The Gentleman from Athens (1947) before director Elia Kazan tapped him as Stanley Kowalski for a U.S. tour of A Streetcar Named Desire. Kazan then cast him as Marlon Brando's brother in Viva Zapata (1952), for which he earned the first of two Oscars as Best Supporting Actor.
Quinn played an aging bullfighter opposite Maureen O'Hara in Budd Boetticher's The Magnificent Matador (1955) and then won his second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of larger-than-life artist Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life (1956), the title an apt description of his own zestfulness.
Finally, after 20 years in the business, he had become a full-fledged box office star, and the next year would see him garner a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his turn opposite Anna Magnani in 1957's Wild Is the Wind. Quinn followed in the prestigious footsteps of Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame; the actor was also outstanding as the opportunistic Bedouin Auda Abu Tayi in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Although Quinn had portrayed with distinction Greek patriot Colonel Andrea Stavros in 1961's The Guns of Navarone, that character paled before what would become his signature role. The very embodiment of the actor's passion for living, Zorba the Greek (1964) was a wise and aging peasant, totally committed to life, no matter the outcome. From his slapstick pursuit of aging French courtesan (Oscar-winner Lila Kedrova) to the pathos of cradling her as she died in his arms, Quinn pulled out all the emotional stops on his way to another Best Actor Oscar nomination.
Nearly 20 years later, Quinn reprised Zorba!, this time in a 1983 revival of the Broadway musical which reunited him with both Kedrovaand the film's writer-director Michael Cacoyannis. Quinn earned a Tony nomination for his efforts before touring the U.S. from 1983-86, forever stamping the part as his in the minds of the theater-going public.
Wife Kathy Benvin, who is the mother of his two youngest children, survives Quinn, along with eight sons and four daughters.