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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Awards season is in full swing, and with tonight's Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG for short) — the 19th time the ceremony has taken place. Airing live on TBS and TNT on Sunday, January 27 (at 5PM PST/8PM EST), some of the biggest movies of the year are making tracks towards the Big Night (aka the Academy Awards), while television shows like Homeland and Modern Family will see if they can continue to dominate.
Will 30 Rock go out with big wins? Will Maggie Smith continue to not show up (yes, of course)? Check out the winners (in bold), which will be updated live, below!
THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES
Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Leading Role
Bradley Cooper / Pat - "Silver Linings Playbook" (The Weinstein Company)
Daniel Day-Lewis / Abraham Lincoln - "Lincoln" (Touchstone Pictures)
John Hawkes / Mark - "The Sessions" (FOX Searchlight)
Hugh Jackman / Jean Valjean - "Les Misérables" (Universal Pictures)
Denzel Washington / Whip Whitaker - "Flight" (Paramount Pictures)
Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Leading Role
Jessica Chastain / Maya - "Zero Dark Thirty" (Columbia Pictures)
Marion Cotillard / Stephanie - "Rust And Bone" (sony Pictures Classics)
Jennifer Lawrence / Tiffany - "Silver Linings Playbook" (The Weinstein Company)
Helen Mirren / Alma Reville - "Hitchcock" (FOX Searchlight)
Naomi Watts / Maria - "The Impossible" (Summit Entertainment)
Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Supporting Role
Alan Arkin / Lester Siegel - "Argo" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Javier Bardem / Silva - "Skyfall" (Columbia Pictures)
Robert De Niro / Pat, Sr. - "Silver Linings Playbook" (The Weinstein Company)
Philip Seymour Hoffman / Lancaster Dodd - "The Master" (The Weinstein Company)
Tommy Lee Jones / Thaddeus Stevens - "Lincoln" (Touchstone Pictures)
Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Supporting Role
Sally Field / Mary Todd Lincoln - "Lincoln" (Touchstone Pictures)
Anne Hathaway / Fantine - "Les Misérables" (Universal Pictures)
Helen Hunt / Cheryl - "The Sessions" (FOX Searchlight)
Nicole Kidman / Charlotte Bless - "The Paperboy" (Millennium Entertainment)
Maggie Smith / Muriel Donnelly - "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (FOX Searchlight)
Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture
Argo (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (FOX Searchlight)
Les Misérables (Universal Pictures)
Lincoln (Touchstone Pictures)
Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Television Movie Or Miniseries
Kevin Costner / "Devil Anse" Hatfield - "Hatfields & Mccoys" (History)
Woody Harrelson / Steve Schmidt - "Game Change" (HBO)
Ed Harris / John Mccain - "Game Change" (HBO)
Clive Owen / Ernest Hemingway & "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (HBO)
Bill Paxton / Randall Mccoy - "Hatfields & Mccoys" (History)
Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Television Movie Or Miniseries
Nicole Kidman / Martha Gellhorn - "Hemingway & Gellhorn" (HBO)
Julianne Moore / Sarah Palin - "Game Change" (HBO)
Charlotte Rampling / Eva Delectorskaya - "Restless" (Sundance Channel)
Sigourney Weaver / Elaine Barrish Hammond - "Political Animals" (USA)
Alfre Woodard / Ouiser - "Steel Magnolias" (Lifetime)
Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Drama Series
Steve Buscemi / Enoch "Nucky" Thompson - "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
Bryan Cranston / Walter White - "Breaking Bad" (AMC)
Jeff Daniels / Will McAvoy - "The Newsroom" (HBO)
Jon Hamm / Don Draper - "Mad Men" (AMC)
Damian Lewis / Nicholas Brody - "Homeland" (Showtime)
Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Drama Series
Claire Danes / Carrie Mathison - "Homeland" (Showtime)
Michelle Dockery / Lady Mary Crawley - "Downton Abbey" (PBS)
Jessica Lange / Sister Jude - "American Horror Story: Asylum" (FX)
Julianna Margulies / Alicia Florrick - "The Good Wife" (CBS)
Maggie Smith / Violet, Dowager Countess Of Grantham - "Downton Abbey" (PBS)
Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin / Jack Donaghy - "30 Rock" (NBC)
Ty Burrell / Phil Dunphy - "Modern Family" (ABC)
Louis C.K. / Louie - "Louie" (FX)
Jim Parsons / Sheldon Cooper - "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS)
Eric Stonestreet / Cameron Tucker - "Modern Family" (ABC)
Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Comedy Series
Edie Falco / Jackie Peyton - "Nurse Jackie" (Showtime)
Tina Fey / Liz Lemon - "30 Rock" (NBC)
Amy Poehler / Leslie Knope - "Parks and Recreation" (NBC)
Sofia Vergara / Gloria Delgado-Pritchett - "Modern Family" (ABC)
Betty White / Elka Ostrovsky - "Hot In Cleveland" (TV Land)
Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble In A Drama Series
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Mad Men (AMC)
Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble In A Comedy Series
30 Rock (NBC)
Modern Family (ABC)
Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
The Office (NBC)
SAG AWARDS HONORS FOR STUNT ENSEMBLES
Outstanding Action Performance By A Stunt Ensemble In A Motion Picture
The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia Pictures)
The Bourne Legacy (Universal Pictures)
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Les Misérables (Universal Pictures)
Skyfall (Columbia Pictures)
Outstanding Action Performance By A Stunt Ensemble In A Television Series
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Game Of Thrones (HBO)
Sons Of Anarchy (FX)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Life Achievement Award
Dick Van Dyke
What do you think of this year's winners and losers? Shocked? Happy? Sad? Let us know, in the comments below!
[Photo Credit: Mark Davis/Getty Images]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
Screen Actors Guild Awards: Why the SAGs Are My Favorite Awards Show — VIDEO
Producers Guild Awards 2013: 'Argo,' 'Homeland' Continue Award Season Domination
Sundance Awards: 'Fruitvale' Is 2013's First Oscar Contender
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At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Bob Munro (Robin Williams) is your average hardworking dad trying to wrest back the power from his modernized kids (Josh Hutcherson and pop star JoJo) casualties of the Internet generation who “Instant Message when dinner’s ready.” So he decides to take the brood and his wife (Cheryl Hines) on an RV trip to Colorado in hopes of bringing them closer--and conducting business on the side to help salvage his job. RVs are large cumbersome machines that require some experience and Bob is lacking so the usual hijinks set in immediately--you know steering problems parking problems projectile excrement that shoots up 50 feet in the air before landing squarely on Bob…nothing out of the ordinary. Along the way the Munros encounter the Gornickes a family of simpletons (led by Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth) that they just can’t seem to evade. But ultimately the Munro clan ends up learning a thing or two from the Gornickes and it helps draw them closer. Which is an absolute Hitchcock-like twist! Everyone always says Williams needs medication to help quell his manic personality. Well be careful what you wish for because R.V. might happen. In his dramatic work Williams tones it down very well but in comedies people pay to see him go stir crazy; it’s more punchline delivery here almost robotic by Robin Williams standards. Hines simply changes her name from Curb Your Enthusiasm boring us with her never-quite-satisfied wife instead of showing off her comedic chops. The only freshness comes from the least-used actors. We could’ve hung out on Daniels and Chenoweth’s RV and actually laughed the whole way through. Jeff Daniels is highly reliable--and underused--in all of his work and Chenoweth looking like a buxom Reese Witherspoon at least provides some excitement with her part. The only true hilarity comes from Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as Bob’s arrogant boss but it’ll likely be lost on the kids anyway. If director Barry Sonnenfeld was considered in decline with his last three films--Wild Wild West Big Trouble and Men in Black II--then he's officially kaput now with R.V. Once a fixture in the ‘90s thanks to exciting fare like Men in Black and Get Shorty the acclaimed cinematographer-turned-director’s career has reached a low point with this uninspired formula even though it’s not likely to struggle at the box office. It hits a snag right out of the gate thanks to his caricature of the 21st Century family in which kids are overly precocious and their parents submissive old hags. Soon thereafter the problems peak (but never really come back down) with the gratuitous feces scene. It runs almost 15 minutes long and even the kiddies will become awkwardly silent. From that point on Sonnenfeld turns out the worst mimicry of National Lampoon's Vacation since National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation.
Lonnie (Eddie Griffin) Dominic (Michael Imperioli) and G (Anthony Anderson) three childhood friends now in their twenties live a pretty indolent lifestyle: They live with Lonnie's uncle and their only goals are to party--hard. So the boys are in for a rude awakening when their respective girlfriends all get pregnant at the same time. And it doesn't help that all three have somewhat strained relationships with their girlfriends already. Lonnie's girlfriend is a skanky stripper who gets pregnant in order to collect $300 a week from him while Dominic's develops a blossoming crush on her own midwife. Although G's relationship with his girlfriend is more grounded than those of his buddies' her constant demands that he give up boxing his favorite pastime is driving a wedge between them. But when the men decide to toss their negativity out the window and channel their energies into parenting rather than partying they realize that fatherhood has its rewards. Viewers meanwhile will view the transformation and wonder what happened to the comedy they paid to see.
My Baby's Daddy would be insufferable if it weren't for the comedic flair of Griffin Imperioli and Anderson. Griffin's character Lonnie the most clownish is a nerd with oversized glasses so there is the requisite makeover scene in which his friends try to teach him how to walk the walk and talk the talk of a suave "player." But the outcome is a new Lonnie that is Griffin's forte: A character reminiscent of Anton Jackson aka Undercover Brother. By contrast Anderson's character is the most genuine of the bunch a hardworking sweetie who doesn't always do the right thing. G often says things that aren't exactly politically correct but we forgive him (and even laugh) because he always has the best intentions. Rounding out the threesome is Imperioli as Dominic the craftiest one of the bunch. With his dry wit Imperioli generates subtle laughs by crafting a character that is more the target of the film's slapstick rather than the initiator. There are also some worthwhile performances from Method Man and Tommy Lister Jr. but with such an impressive roster of comedic talent how did this project go so wrong?
The most obvious problem with My Baby's Daddy is its blatant inconsistency. The film starts off on a positive note with an animated opening sequence in a Fat Albert vein that traces Lonnie Dominic and G's friendship from birth--all to the tune of Run D.M.C.'s "Peter Piper." Although this prelude briefly gives My Baby's Daddy a hip retro quality it quickly crumbles into a messy piece of filmmaking. Scribes Damon 'Coke' Daniels and Griffin in his screenwriting debut deliver a formulaic script with too much insipid drama. The plot and characters are established hastily within the first 10 minutes of the film and the story subsequently plays out like an outline with each scene mechanically taking viewers in a straight line from point a to point b. This genreless film drifts without direction from a comedy to a spoof to a drama. Director Cheryl Dunye meanwhile seems more concerned with churning out a short and dirty movie then a creative one but gets credit for adding gusto to the old kick-in-the-groin gag--she follows it up with a fart.