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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Do you enjoy watching the President of the United States on television but hate anything to do with politics? Well, this is your special day. While an interview or two (plus all those State of the Union addresses) has become par for the course, less so are the instances of presidents appearing on popular television shows to not talk about their political agendas, but instead cause a laugh or just have a little fun.
In honor of President's Day, we've rounded up the best cameos from our presidential pals present and past to celebrate the way that they're always on the job: even if they're not in the oval office.
Barack Obama on Mythbusters
Leave it to our current POTUS with the MOTUS (did that work?) to go on one of the nerdiest-yet-educational shows out on television today. Obama was featured in an episode that dissected the probability of the ancient legend of Achimedes' solar death ray. (Because ancient Greeks were very smart — but could they really harness the power of the sun to set a bunch of Roman ships aflame? So Obama tasked Mythbusters hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage with proving or debunking the idea that Archimedes could used giant mirrors to reflect the sunlight onto attacking Roman ships in 212 BC. Unfortunately, Obama's myth? Busted.
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George Bush on Deal or No Deal
President Bush (the younger) was featured on an episode of the highly-rated Howie Mandel show when the purple-hearted Army Captain Joseph Kobes appeared as a contestant on April 21, 2008. Mandel introduced the President via satellite, where Bush thanked Kobes for his service — but not before making a joke about his own popularity. "I am thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings," Bush explained.
Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live
President Ford has the honor of being the only current sitting president to tackle the iconic "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" when his Press Secretary, Ron Nessen hosted the show on April 18, 1976. After being slayed by Chevy Chase on the show for his frequent snafus, Mr. President decided to take it upon himself to show his own sense of humor about the whole situation. If you're fancy enough to have a Hulu Plus account, watch the episode in full, below, or read a highlight from Ford's ability to take a joke.
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Ron Nessen: Thank you, sir. Now, the producer suggested you might like to do something on the show yourself.
President Gerald Ford: Well, I can take a joke just so far.. [ stands up and walks behind desk ] ..but I won't have this high office ridiculed. I won't have me stumbling around.. [ walks into window ] ..making a fool of myself.. [ walks into flag and fumbles with it, trying to keep it from falling ] ..for some late night comedy show. [ picks up football helmet and puts it on ] I don't need to prove that I can fall down like Chevy Chase or be an athlete. Everyone knows I'm an athlete. [ accidentally kicks wastepaper basket and chases it, soon giving up and returning to his desk ] I'll never forget those wonderful days.. [ picks up tennis racket, throws it in the air to try and catch it, but misses. Walks over to "Liberty", cups his hand near the dog's tail ] Gimme the ball, Liberty! [ takes off helmet, tries to drop-kick it but misses. Returns to desk and sits down ]
Richard Nixon on Laugh-In
Nixon's appearance on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in order to show the world that this New Nixon was no longer the sourpuss downer vice presidential man he was believed to be. And how does one do that? By appearing on an unlikely television show — enter: Laugh-In. It would be an understatement to say the core audience of Laugh-In was anywhere near the Republican sweet spot, but many say that the future president really made a name for himself when he did a self-effacing take on the show's signature line. Perhaps even winning him the election.
BONUS BIDEN: Vice President Joe Biden on Parks and Recreation
...Just because Uncle Joe is the best, and Leslie Knope would make a really great President.
RELATED: No Malarkey: Joe Biden to Appear on Parks and Recreation
What do you think of our Presidents showing up on your favorite television show? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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Presidents were this year's hot item on the big and small screens, but pop culture has always been obsessed with dressing up actors to look like the men who fill our text books. Inspired by 2012's trend, Hollywood.com has combed through cinematic history to whip up this handy infographic, chronicling decades of Presidential appearances in pop culture. In the end, one thing is clear: Futurama did a lot in the name of presidential representation.
Check below the image for the key, revealing the actor assigned to each president.
Click to Enlarge
David Morse as George Washington in John Adams
William Daniels as John Adams in 1776
Nick Nolte as Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson in Paris
Burgess Meredith as James Madison in Magnificent Doll
Morgan Wallace as James Monroe in Alexander Hamilton
Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams in Amistad
Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson in The President's Lady
Nigel Hawthorne as Martin Van Buren in Amistad
David Clennon as William Henry Harrison in Tecumseh (1994)
John Tyler in Futurama
James K. Polk in Futurama
James Gammon as Zachary Taylor in One Man's Hero
Millard Fillmore has never been portrayed
Franklin Pierce in Futurama
James Buchanan has never been portrayed
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln
Dennis Clark as Andrew Johnson in The Conspirator
Kevin Kline as Ulysses S. Grant in Wild Wild West
John DiMaggio as Rutherford B. Hayes in Futurama
Francis Sayles as James A. Garfield in The Night Riders
Maurice LaMarche as Chester A. Arthur in Futurama
Pat McCormick as Grover Cleveland in Futurama
Roy Gordon as Benjamin Harrison in Futurama
Pat McCormick as Grover Cleveland in Futurama
Brian Keith as William McKinley in Rough Riders
Robin Williams as Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Walter Massey as William Howard Taft in The Greatest Game Ever Played
Bob Gunton as Woodrow Wilson in Iron Jawed Angels
Warren G. Harding in Futurama
Calvin Coolidge in Futurama
Herbert Hoover in Futurama
Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson
Gary Sinise as Harry S. Truman in Truman
Tom Selleck as Dwight D. Eisenhower in Ike: Countdown to D-Day
Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy Thirteen Days
Randy Quaid as Lyndon B. Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years
Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon in Dick
Dick Crockett as Gerald Ford in Pink Panther Strikes Again
Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Carter in Saturday Night Live
James Brolin as Ronald Reagan in The Reagans
James Cromwell as George H. W. Bush in W.
Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton in The Special Relationship
Timothy Bottoms as George W. Bush in That's My Bush!
Jordan Peele as Barack Obama in Key and Peele
[Photo Credit: Hollywood.com]
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Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
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.
When crafting a follow-up to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time it’s understandable that one might be reticent to mess with a winning formula. But director Todd Phillips and writers Craig Mazin and Scot Armstrong seem to have confused revisiting with recycling: The Hangover Part II so closely mirrors its blockbuster predecessor in every vital aspect that it can scarcely claim the right to call itself a sequel.
The only significant new wrinkle introduced in Part II is its setting: Bangkok Thailand a location that at least theoretically augurs well for a second helping of inspired lunacy. The story structure of the first film has been copied wholesale a game of Mad Libs played with its script. The action is again set around a bachelor party this time in honor of buttoned-down dentist Stu (Ed Helms). Again the boys (Stu Bradley Cooper’s boorish frat boy Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ moronic man-child Alan) awaken the next day in a hideously debauched hotel room with little memory of the previous night’s revelry. And again there is a missing companion: Teddy (Mason Lee son of Ang) the brother-in-law to be. (Poor Justin Bartha is once again relegated to the sidelines popping up now and then to push the plot forward via cell phone.)
The amnesiac/investigative angle of the first Hangover made for a refreshing twist on the contemporary men-behaving-badly comedy. Repeated here its effect is arguably the opposite: Too often the action feels rote and formulaic. Gone is any hint of surprise an aspect so crucial to good comedy and a huge part of the first film’s appeal. Key comic set pieces – a tussle with monks at a Buddhist temple a visit to a transsexual brothel a car chase involving a drug-dealing monkey – reveal themselves to be merely variations of memorable bits from the first film.
Tonally Part II is darker cruder and a bit nastier than its predecessor. Female characters never a priority in the first film are further marginalized in the sequel. (The only woman with significant dialogue a Bangkok prostitute also happens to have a penis. I’ll let you ponder the implications of that one.) The three leads Helms Cooper and Galifianakis still work well together and despite the inferior material enough of their chemistry remains to make the proceedings bearable – and occasionally funny. But their characters feel somehow degraded reduced to coarse caricatures of their former selves. Speaking of caricature Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) the fey faux-gangsta villain of the first film returns in an expanded capacity in the sequel his garbled hip-hop slang more gratuitous – and more grating – than before.
I can’t help but wonder what might have been if a planned cameo by Mel Gibson playing a tattoo artist hadn’t been scrapped reportedly due to objections by Galifianakis. Liam Neeson Gibson’s replacement apparently proved ineffectual in his first go-round and when he wasn't available for re-shoots his scene was eventually shot with Nick Cassavetes in the role. In its existing incarnation the scene is purely functional a chunk of forgettable exposition. The presence of Gibson an actor of not inconsiderable comic talent would have at least added an air of unpredictability something the scene – and indeed the movie – sorely lacks.