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Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The_Hunger_Games_Catching_Fire_PosterBetween the prime source material, built-in fan base, epic star power and increased budget, Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” had all the potential in the world, but that also shrouded it in an exorbitant amount of pressure and expectation, so it’s a good thing Lawrence rose to the occasion.

The second installment picks up shortly after the events of the first. Katniss and Peeta (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) are home sweet home in District 12, but still suffer from the repercussions of surviving the Hunger Games, one of which is participating in the Victory Tour. Even though the Capitol’s beloved star-crossed lovers travel from district to district professing their devotion to Panem, there’s no stopping what they started. With a rebellion on the horizon, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) opts to hit the districts where it hurts, targeting their resources, safety, and their Hunger Games victors.

Scoff at the “Hunger Games” craze all you want; this is a franchise that earns every ounce of attention, press and profits. Not only did Gary Ross’ film do the pre-release hype justice by kicking off the series with a riveting, well-composed and highly effective adaptation, but now Francis Lawrence and writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt build upon Ross’ success by taking the budget boost and funneling it into quality talent, stunning visuals and creating an all-consuming experience.

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Breaking Down the ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Trailer for Nonreaders and Hard-core Fans

The-Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire-TrailerThe trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has finally arrived via the MTV Movie Awards and not only does it meet expectations, but far exceeds them by delivering a more thorough teaser trailer than the one for the first film. However, that initial reaction comes from someone who’s read the books time and time again. As exciting as it can be to see material you know and love come to life, in the case of this promo there’s a chance Catching Firenewcomers are till yearning for a clear-cut narrative to latch onto.

For the Nonreaders

The piece appropriately opens in a way that gives you the sensation that it’s picking up right where the first film left off, making for the perfect stepping stone back into the world of Panem. Whereas the editors could have shown a cut-and-dry clip of Katniss and Peeta greeting the Victory Tour crowds, the scene gets layers and more weight courtesy of the intercutting between that moment and the chat between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), before culminating with quite the bang.

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‘The Hunger Games’ Countdown: The Movie Is Out and So is Gary Ross, So What’s Next?

The Hunger Games just wrapped up its third weekend in theaters and, naturally, Catching Fire chatter is already taking over. Making a movie is a very temperamental process, so while the Hunger Games sequel does have a definitive due date, November 22nd, 2013, the road to that release could veer in all sorts of directions.

Search for a Director

We’ve been whipped around quite a bit with this whole Gary Ross/Catching Fire issue, but just last night it came to an official close. After a lengthy back and forth, some reports claiming Ross was a no-go for Catching Fire and then others saying it was still possible, we received the man’s definitive decision: Gary Ross will not continue to direct the franchise.

According to Deadline, Ross’ exit “shocked” a Lionsgate executive. In a personal statement, Ross said, “I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.” He goes on to talk about how much he enjoyed making The Hunger Games and refutes claims that he’s had difficulties negotiating with the studio. In fact, Ross noted, “They have also been very understanding of me through this difficult decision.”

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Review: The Hunger Games

The pressure is on. The time has come and now the world really is watching. Does The Hunger Games live up to the hype that’s preceded its release? Most certainly.

The nation of Panem consists of 12 districts and the Capitol. As punishment for a rebellion, each district must pay penance to the nation by sending one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, to the Capitol to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death.

When Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) younger sister Prim’s (Willow Shield) name is randomly selected during the District 12 reaping, Katniss does something no District 12 citizen has ever done before; she volunteers to take Prim’s place in the Hunger Games. And so it is done; Katniss is forced to say her goodbyes and board a train to the Capitol alongside her fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), to fight for her life.

The concept in itself is enough to get just about anyone hooked. No, the idea of children killing each other in order to preserve their own life isn’t appealing, but it is intriguing. However, what’s even more captivating than that is the world that’s built around it – the people in it, the districts that keep it running and the values that make the nation of Panem what it is when we enter The Hunger Games.

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‘The Hunger Games’ Countdown: What To Watch While You Wait

The Hunger Games may have gone without a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic Con this year, but not only did it make an impact on the event with a booth on the convention floor, Lionsgate’s been able to maintain a bit of a ripple effect, keeping the film in the spotlight with the help of Entertainment Weekly. Like with Jennifer Lawrence, EW had the honor of debuting both Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) on the cover of their August 5th issue as well as some exclusive stills and behind-the-scenes photos inside. Click here to catch the cover as well as the general consensus on the image, and here to see three of the photos from inside, two of which are The Hunger Games’ first official stills.

Just the other day, we tracked down official still #3 and #4. While they don’t offer too much more in terms of details on the costume and set design, they do provide up close and personal looks at Katniss and Peeta in the arena. You can see those and read about the announcement ofCatching Fire’s November 22nd, 2013 release date right here.

In terms of unofficial photos, one popped up online that’s of interest: an image of some extras killing time before shooting a scene in the Capitol. Nailing the looks of the District 12 residents and the Hunger Games tributes are one thing, but the costume design for Capitol folk is undoubtedly a bigger challenge. Crazy hairstyles, dyed skin, odd piercings, outlandish makeup – I’d like to bet designer Judianna Makovsky is having a field day. Thanks to the Charlotte Observer we have an early taste of what she’s working on via a photo snapped while a small group of extras headed into the Duke Energy building for filming. It’s hard to pass judgment just yet as these actors are clearly not big-screen ready, but it seems as though Makovsky is heading in the right direction.

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Review: Horrible Bosses

Sure, all comedies should be funny, but, let’s face it, what comedy is really that funny that it can keep you laughing for a full 90 minutes? This tends to be a bit of a pitfall with the genre; writers have joke tunnel vision and then, when that tunnel collapses, we’re left with a neglected story that leaves us checking our watches until the next funny gag arrives. In the case of Horrible Bosses, however, the story and consistent tone of the film, take the form of a robust safety net, catching up when a joke falls through and bouncing us right back into the action.

Think your boss is tough? Nick (Jason Bateman) is a long-time, dedicated employee who’s long overdue for a promotion. Too bad his boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), is a power happy lunatic who enjoys dashing Nick’s hopes and dreams. Then there’s Dale (Charlie Day), a soon-to-be-married dental assistant who suffers the wrath of Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Anniston), a boss who enjoys gassing her patients into oblivion so she can continue her effort to get a piece of Dale’s you-know-what. Meanwhile, over at the Pellit family chemical business, the super sweet papa Pellit (Donald Sutherland) is out, leaving his drug addict of a son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), to reign supreme and make poor Kurt’s (Jason Sudeikis) life miserable.

Thanks to the economy, blackmail and superiority complexes, ditching their jobs isn’t an option, so Nick, Dale and Kurt go for the next best choice, killing their bosses. In an effort to do the deed and actually get away with it, the guys hire a professional (Jamie Foxx) to take care of business for them. However, things get complicated when their hitman refuses to pull the trigger himself, rather instruct his costumers on how to take care of their problems themselves.

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Review: The Eagle

Who better to star in a swords and sandals movie than Channing Tatum? He’s basically built for the role. However, just because he looks good in Roman soldier garb doesn’t mean he can act like one. In fact, after The Eagle, it’s impossible not to recognize the fact that Tatum might not be able to act at all. Then again, all the blame can’t fall on this film’s star. Not only is director Kevin Macdonald to blame for the incredible amount of missed opportunities, but so is writer Jeremy Brock for adapting Rosemary Sutcliff’s book into a screenplay that, to a point, permits the stars to have the emotional range of a block of wood.

Tatum is Marcus Aquila, the son of Flavius Aquila, the man who led Rome’s Ninth Legion into the tumultuous land of Caledonia only to lose 5,000 men, Rome’s beloved golden eagle and his own life. Twenty years later, in 140 AD, Marcus is determined to clear his family name and begins his attempt to do so by assuming the top post at a disorderly fort. When they’re attacked, Marcus selflessly risks his life for the safety of his men and for that he’s awarded a top military honor, but also receives an honorable discharge. He’s left severely crippled with no chance of achieving his goal.

It isn’t until Marcus spares the life of a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), that he begins to heal and his hopes to restore his family’s name become a top priority yet again. Marcus’ Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland) purchases Esca and names him Marcus’ personal slave. Insisting he has no need for a servant, Marcus is resistant to Esca’s presence, but the two soon grow close to one another. When Marcus hears a rumor that the golden eagle has been spotted, their newfound friendship is really put to the test. Together, they ride into the brutal land of Caledonia to do the impossible and bring the golden eagle home to Rome.

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