Everyone seems to agree that the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is superior to its predecessor. This is in part due to Suzanne Collins' excellent source material, but it also owes something to its new director, Francis Lawrence. Lawrence, who also directed the Will Smith hit I Am Legend, participated in a Reddit AMA this week. Here are his most interesting answers.
The hardest scene to shoot: "Anything around the water in the Arena was probably the most difficult to shoot because we shot a lot of that in Atlanta at a water park and it was nearing winter and very cold, and the water was 40 degrees, and so the actors had to spend some time in the water and it was very brutal. Just working around water is tough to begin with. It was supposed to be a tropical setting and there would be some mornings when we'd show up to work and there would be frost covering the set."
On Hunger Games bloopers: "Jen is always after me for a blooper reel. There would be a lot of funny stuff that would happen before "Action" and after Cut, Jen would always be falling...She is still mad at me that the editors never put together a blooper reel for Catching Fire, but we could probably have a good one for Mockingjay, and we've only been shooting for five weeks."
His favorite part of the book Catching Fire: "Again I've always been attracted to the first stop on the Victory tour. I think that's where the story really kicks into another gear and you start to understand that the stakes are far greater than just Katniss's."
On Jennifer Lawrence: "Jen is awesome. She truly is. She's a great girl, she's really fun, she's really funny, she's very down to earth, she's super-humble and extremely talented and I work with her more than anybody on set because she works pretty much every day, and she never ceases to surprise me with her performance and her choices but never takes herself seriously and she's very endearing because of it."
On sequels: "The decision to take on a sequel was probably the thing I had to think about the most. I had never taken on a sequel or taken on an episode of television where I did not create the pilot. So I knew there would be certain parameters I would need to exist within. So I re-read the book, and very quickly saw that there was going to be plenty of room for me to grow, and although I was going to stick to certain aesthetic choices Gary had made so the world would feel the same, I felt that Catching Fire offered me a lot of opportunities to grow and to create and to world-build. So I found it quite easy to take on this sequel. I inherited an unbelievable cast. I got to add a bunch of new amazing actors to the mix. I got to build a brand-new arena. I got to create new portions of the Capitol, New Districts, see District 12 in a brand-new way and especially see the characters themselves grow and change."
On the biggest challenge in filming Mockingjay: "It's a tough story emotionally for Katniss, whereas the first two films have been far more straightforward in terms of Katniss' emotional arc, tracking her emotional trajectory is my greatest challenge."
On Finnick: "We will definitely get a sense of Finnick's backstory in Mockingjay, I just don't want to divulge how, but there are very specific scenes where we learn about his past."
On filming emotions: "Wow, how did I get emotion is a pretty tricky question. I think that I personally felt emotional towards the subject material. I emotionally connect to the characters in the movie and the situations they become involved in, so instinctually I shoot them in ways that make me feel the way I do when I read the story. It's hard to break an emotional scene down technically. But I will say that I think most of it has to do with the investment that one has with the characters, especially Katniss, and allowing time to sit and be with them as people while they're onscreen."
On the final scene: "The scene at the end of the film is straight out of the book, and was scripted (dialogue included) pretty much straight out of the book (maybe one additional line), and Katniss' response at the end of the scene was to break down in the book. And partway through shooting the scene, I caught a glimpse of Jen doing something different. I saw that she started to break down, and then shifted into anger, and defiance, and I liked it, I thought it was better, and I then came up with the idea of the final shot looking straight down with her look nearly into the lens for the final moment. So the ending beat of the film was a circumstance of happy, on-set accidents."
Here are some of this week's highlights from Flavorwire, VH1, Celebuzz, and Hollywood.com, ranging from Harry Styles to Courtney Love.
Harry Styles and Kendall Jenner went on a date. It's a match made in publicist heaven. Is Kendall the latest in the One Direction member's string of high-profile girlfriends? We'll have to wait and see. Celebuzz has pictures of the pair escaping from the paparazzi.
Check out some of People's Sexiest Men Alive at their best and worst. In honor of the recent announcement of Adam Levine as the world's sexiest man, VH1 released a list of some of the past winners looking good and, well, terrible. You'll be able to reminisce about the young Mel Gibson or grimace at Brad Pitt's bearded days. Check out the gallery at VH1.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen retire. Again. Will they ever stop announcing that they are done with "You got it dude!" and more into fashion now? Hollywood.com ponders this very question.
A Time's columnist found Courtney Love's phone in a cab. An op-ed writer for the New York Times stumbled upon Courtney Love's phone. Rather than abusing this great power, he did the right thing and returned it. Read more details of the crazy story at Flavorwire.
In a vote by Britain's RadioTimes.com, David Tennant one the honor of the most popular doctor, capturing 56% of the vote. His long-time companion Rose (Billie Piper) was fittingly voted the best companion.
This vote suggests a nostalgia for a Doctor Who that was not so long ago. Tennant was the Doctor from 2005 to 2010, and he preceded an era in which the sci-fi show has wavered. Under Steven Moffat's writing, Matt Smith's doctor, and the memorable companionship of Rory and Amy Pond, Doctor Who has had some great moments, but its most recent episodes have been among the show's weakest. Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), the current companion, only managed a ninth place finish, and the last season has seemed to be a long string of unremarkable and uncohesive episodes. Perhaps, as RadioTimes.com editor Tim Glandfield said, the appearance of Tennant and Piper in the 50th anniversary special is a much needed return.
"It's clear from the results of our poll that they define a golden era of Doctor Who and helped introduce a whole new generation to the show - how fitting that they'll be reunited next week for the 50th anniversary special."
Before the huge success of the Netflix original series, Piper Kerman had to live Orange is the New Black. Kerman wrote the memoir upon which the show is based, and she's the inspiration for Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), the star of the show. In her Reddit AMA, Kerman answered many questions about her experiences on the set of the show and in prison.
The difference between onscreen Piper and herself: "...a big difference is that my family (& Larry's family) were amazing supports, and that I maintained strong ties to my friends & co-workers while I was in prison - this really reinforced that I was not alone. Those lifelines were everything to me, and to all prisoners. I made a lot of mistakes when I was locked up, but not quite along the lines of Chapman :)"
Her favorite original character from the TV series: "It is very hard to pick favorites - but I really like Gloria, who is not based on anything in my book."
An unspoken prison rule: "You really don't ever ask someone what they're in for. Some people choose to talk about it, and some people never do."
On prison reform: "I am optimistic. If you look at polling numbers, [many] Americans say that we have too many people in prison, and more and more people support specific ways to change that (reduce drug sentencing, public health approaches to addiction, public defense reform, etc). more and more people now know that 40-60% of people in prison are there for non-violent offenses. I think when people remember that the 2.3 million prisoners in this country are people just like them, we are more likely to see reform."
On the back stories on the show: "The backstories are amazing, and the creation of Jenji and her team of writers - they are all fictional and not drawn from the book."
On the differences between the show and the book: "Readers of the book will probably agree that there is a lot of internal conflict depicted there - and that I definitely avoided conflicts with COs and other prisoners (as is only sensible). TV really needs external conflict, and that's one of the big differences (other than storyline differences) you'll see between the book and the show. A show that was very introspective would be boring to watch. A book with as much conflict as a TV show has would be unreadable."
The similarity between women's college and women's prison: "Food obsessions."
On the accuracy of the show's portrayal of prison: "I am a consultant on the show, which means I answer questions and provide feedback to Jenji. It is her decision whether to take it or leave it. But the production team did a lot of other research as well, met with many other former prisoners (for example transgendered people who have been through the system) and they continue to do so."
Some life advice: "My best life advice is to know that you can learn more from your failures than your successes."
On the show's portrayal of her fiancé Larry (Jason Biggs): "The real Larry is a good sport about the not-real Larry. He knows that it is fiction."
On the difficulties of publishing a book with lesbian and criminal themes: "During one meeting with a publisher she said 'We really like it, except for the lesbianism, and the crime.' Huh? I was very lucky to have an editor who really understood the book I wanted to write, and helped me write it. I think it's very important to tell a unique and surprising story in your writing, with an eye on how it connects back to a large number of people. In other words, a very unique story that yet has relevance to many others."
On the possibility of Piper being written off the show: "I would be totally comfortable with that. From my POV the show does not have to be about Chapman. It's ultimately Jenji's decision what will happen next."
Read the rest of her AMA here.
Khloe Kardashian is part of the most selfie-centered family in Hollywood. She is even related to the celebrity with the most selfies. And it seems that she considers herself something of an Instagram pro. She recently offered her advice on the subject at a BBC Radio 1 interview.
"You have to have the camera up above you — down below gives you too many double chins," she said.
She also discussed the benefits of the camera flash and said that her sister Kim refuses to have non-flash photos taken of her. "Girls love a good flash. I get offended if you don't have the flash.”
Khloe herself has around 200 selfies, most of them featuring flawless makeup and a glance into the Kardashian lifestyle. Check out some of her best in this gallery.
GALLERY: Our Favorite Khloe Kardashian Selfies
Zooey Deschanel, of the perfect bangs and the indie movies, has a lifestyle made for Instagram. Though Deschanel has expressed her disgust for internet haters, she still has a huge internet presence, on her website hellogiggles.com and on various social media platforms.
Her Instagram selfies are a perfect mix of the goofy and the gorgeous, and she has a lot of adorable pictures with the New Girl cast. There's also one where she's covered in blue paint. Here are our favorite Zooey selfies.
GALLERY: Best Zooey Deschanel Selfies
Here are some of this week's highlights from Flavorwire, VH1, Celebuzz, and Hollywood.com, ranging from Jennifer Lawrence to libraries.
There's a feud going on between Jennifer Lawrence and Joan Rivers. Apparently, Jennifer Lawrence dissed Rivers' show Fashion Police in an interview, calling it damaging to women and the world. Rivers fired back on Twitter, suggesting that Lawrence was arrogant and hypocritical. Read the full interaction at Celebuzz.
VH1 offers likability tips to Anne Hathaway. Number one: Be more like Jennifer Lawrence. The actress has inexplicably drawn the internet's anger, but could there be a solution? Here is VH1's advice to Hathaway to end all the Hathahate.
Find out who the best pop culture librarians are. Whether they are the villainous shushers or the sexy nerds, librarians hold a dear place in pop culture. From Tammy II of Parks and Rec to Conan the librarian, check out which librarians made Flavorwire's list.
There's a lot of genre-bending going on. Hollywood.com picks up on the trend and lists the shows, both new and old, that created their own genres. Super Fun Night is labeled a sad-com, while Golden Girls invented the much-mimicked quartet comedy. Read the full list at Hollywood.com.
James Franco's selfies have recently come under fire–he posted one while stuck at the LAX airport (because of a shooting in a security area) with a less than thoughtful caption. However, as many of his fans know, that is only one of Franco's many Instagram selfies. His signature is the bed selfie: lying in bed, smoldering or doing whatever he does.
He has discussed the subject of selfies with Ryan Seacrest, saying "I feel kind of ridiculous when they’re on and it makes me realize what a strange life I have so I like to just document it and share it and not hide that I live a slightly ridiculous life.” See for yourself, or just appreciate his smolder, in this gallery.
GALLERY: Best James Franco Selfies
Music Box Films via Everett Collection
A few cinemas in Sweden have added a new rating–a Bechdel test rank. The test (devised by feminist graphic novelist Alison Bechdel) measures whether two named female characters talk for any period of time about something that is not a man. It's surprising how few films pass the test: none of the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars films would pass, and only one of the Harry Potter movies would receive an A.
Of course there are movies that can be seen as positive for women that don't pass the test (Run Lola Run), as well as movies that are offensive or that could be seen as damaging to feminism that do (Sucker Punch). But what these cinemas are accomplishing is drawing attention to a discrepency in the cinematic big picture. Would people go to a sci-fi film in which men rarely spoke? Maybe that film will have to be made in order to tell. Just by making this their policy, these Swesish movie theaters have drawn attention to an issue and solution that has previously only been known to a select few.
Find out if your favorite films pass the test at BechdelTest.com.
The best mashups are those that bring together two entirely different elements of pop culture in a way that totally makes sense. That is exactly what the Mr. Men and Little Miss Game of Thrones Tumblr has achieved. It's funny seeing our favorite brothel-going, bare-bottomed, occasionally beheaded characters simplified into adorable childhood cartoons. It also makes characters like White Walkers and Joffrey a little bit more endearing. The tumblr is being regularly updated, so keep checking in to see who's next. We're hoping for Melisandre–"Little Miss Sinister" perhaps?
Here's Arya, unfortunate haircut and all. Though she'd never be caught in pink.
Here's the adorably bearded take on Kahl Drogo.
Check out many more here.