Archive for November, 2013

It’s rare occasion these days in cinema where a sequel film is more ambitious and edgier than its predecessor, especially when the films are adapted from a spectacularly popular book series.  However, that’s just what is accomplished in this weekend’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

There’s a moment of dialogue when the movie begins where the film’s President Snow (a much edgier Donald Sutherland) tells Katniss, “You fought very hard in the games, Ms. Everdeen. But they were games.”  It’s an apt description of Snow’s intentions for Everdeen and all 12 Districts that make up Panem, but it’s an even better description for director Francis Lawrence’s sequel.  You see, Catching Fire not only tells us what’s in-store but it delivers on an emotional level as well as a physical.  It’s the sequel we were all hoping for and, frankly, it’s the sequel we deserve.

The film opens up with our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) hunting in the woods with her on-again-off-again flavor of the week, Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  Katniss is about to embark on her weeks-long Victory Tour with for-show boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson – underrated here).  It’s in this moment that we learn that ‘Katnip’ and Gale have expounded on their relationship and are more than “just friends”.  President Snow knows about Katniss’ love for Gale and her “TV love” for Peeta, but uprisings in some of the Districts have Snow a bit worried about the image Katniss is projecting to the masses.  Therefore he instructs Katniss to make her and Peeta’s love more believable.  This only leads to more uprisings and eventual 75th Hunger Games or “Quarter Quell” casts a male and female past victor from each District against each other.  Naturally Katniss and Peeta are once again teamed up together to try to stay alive.  However, this time around there are plans bigger than Katniss and they’ll take her to places she never thought she’d go.

Catching Fire is everything The Hunger Games wasn’t.  With nearly double the production budget of the original film, Catching Fire is wonderfully acted and meticulously scripted to piece together the story without things becoming redundant.  It’s hard to tell a different story while much of the film is the same as the original.  Really, how interesting is it watching the same characters battle it out for a second time in nearly identical fashion?  Well, we don’t have to worry about that because Francis Lawrence takes Suzanne Collins beautifully crafted characters and adds layers to them.  Where the original Hunger Games failed, Catching Fire more than makes up for.   First film director Gary Ross, while building these characters, never really told their story.  He more-or-less presented them as is and let the actors do all the work.  While that’s fine, these characters deserved better.  With Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) they got it.  The actors are more involved, the settings are more unique, the camerawork is tons better, and perhaps most of all the violence feels more immediate.  These characters are more dangerous but they’re in more danger as the film progresses.

The violence, while contained to the arena in the first film, is more than present outside of the arena in this sequel.  From the beginning we see Katniss hallucinate that she’s killed someone while hunting, then during their Victory Tour we see an act of defiance met with execution, point blank.  It’s shocking really, because it’s such a sharp contrast to what was present in the original film.

As the film progresses we are slowly introduced to new characters; whether they’re new opponents in the arena or potential opponents in the Capitol.  However, each of these characters brings something meaty to the film – especially Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) who first appears as a rival but eventually allies with Katniss and Peeta.  He’s essential to their survival in the arena but there’s also more to the character than what is let on.  Odair has a significant other back in his original District that he’s fighting for and you can see it in his eyes every time he looks at Katniss and Peeta.  The other main newcomer to the film is Phillip Seymour-Hoffman who plays new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee.  Hoffman plays the role with such ease that at first glance it may look as if he’s coasting in a lesser role, however that’s anything but the case in Catching Fire.  Hoffman is such a gifted actor that he tones down the role and lets his demeanor do the heavy work.  While the first film’s Gamemaker – Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) – was more of a do-boy for President Snow, as Heavensbee is more on Snow’s level and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with the President and it shows through Hoffman’s performance.

The film runs a tad long weighing in at about two and a half hours but it’s so wonderfully paced you don’t even notice.  Catching Fire is a rare sequel that works better than the original but doesn’t cast disparages on it either.   Don’t be surprised when, at the end of the film, you’re left can’t believing you’re going to have to wait another year for the next film.

Stand back kiddos, The Flash will soon be coming to a television set near you.  However, you’ll get your first look at the character on the CW Network in an upcoming episode of Arrow where The Flash – also known as Barry Allen – makes an appearance.

It’s not known whether or not the speedy character will be donning his trademark red suit in the Arrow episode but if you don’t get to see him in costume there you’ll be able to see the superhero in all of his glory in an upcoming CW pilot.   Yep, the speed demon is getting his own show even before audiences have a chance to react to the character in the Arrow episode.  Apparently the CW studio decision makers have seen the upcoming Arrow episodes that co-star The Flash (played by Grant Gustin – who may be best known as Sebastian Smythe in Glee) and they liked the direction so much they immediately ordered a pilot episode starring the character.

The series creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg will keep The Flash‘s story arc and setting in the same universe as Arrow, allowing cross-over episodes and guest appearances by common characters.  While Arrow is a procedural series it remains to be seen whether or not Flash would be as well.

While I like the idea of The Flash getting his own show, I don’t know if the character is interesting enough to draw the audience that Arrow has built.  That, also, remains to be seen.  I kindof wished they would have saved a spin0ff show for Nightwing, who is set to be introduced in Arrow later this season.

Whatever, I’ll be tuning in.

Via Cinemablend

Darren Aronofosky’s end-of-times Biblical adventure film Noah has received the its first full trailer and judging by the looks of things, it will be this generation’s Passion of the Christ.  It’s not going to be the bloody affair that Mel Gibson’s epic was, but it looks like it’s going to at least be pretty accurate.

Starring Russell Crowe as Noah, Aronofsky will look to establish his film version of the Great Flood.  The film also stars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

The film is out in March 2014.

 

 

Another day, another rumor.  The rumor mill is swirling today regarding the news that the DC Batman-universe character Nightwing will be introduced in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel 2015 sequel Batman vs. Superman.

The oft-rumor site Latino-Review is claiming they have sources that point to the character of Nightwing starring in the upcoming superhero sequel.  Nightwing, known as one-time Robin – Dick Grayson, is said to be in the sequel as someone that has taken up the Gotham “savior” moniker in Batman’s absence.  That absence, taken on by Bruce Wayne’s retirement as the Dark Knight, has soured Dick Grayson and Bruce on each other.  They supposedly haven’t talked in years and don’t really want anything to do with each other.

The LR states that their sources say Snyder is looking for a “young John Hawkes type” which is weird because when you think of Nightwing or even Robin you don’t think of John Hawkes.

We shall see.

The Walt Disney Company, Marvel Studios, and Netflix announced a partnership deal today that will see four new original television series coming to the streaming video service in the near future.

With ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. having lukewarm success (we could talk about that in a separate article) in a primetime slot on Tuesday nights, Disney is looking to catch lightning in a bottle.  The company has approved series about four Marvel superheroes; Dare Devil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones.

Each hero will get their own 13 episode series hoping to establish a larger universe in the Marvel Initiative.  That new initiative is “The Defenders”, which will be a mini-series that brings the four heroes together on-screen and that  “reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.”

Marvel is using the same blueprint with this small-screen initiative that they used with their original cinematic blueprint with the characters of Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor which ultimately set up The Avengers.

The Walt Disney Company originally shopped the series around to different cable networks including WGN America and also other online streaming services, such as Amazon Prime.  Disney already has an exclusive deal with Netflix that brings all DVD/Blu-ray releases to the service first before going to retailers starting in 2016.

As far as the characters go, they will each be getting their own original stories.  You may remember that Daredevil was one of the first superheroes to get the big movie treatment back in the early 2000’s with Ben Affleck starring.  After FOX relinquished the movie rights to the character Marvel opted to swoop in with their own plans for the character.  Luke Cage and Iron Fist are two of Marvel’s older and more well known characters who haven’t seen the level of interest in other characters.  Jessica Jones is a recently new addition to the Marvel squad, first appearing in the ABC TV series Alias and then appearing in cross-over comic book stories with Spider-Man and the New Avengers.

These new series will start in 2015.

Netflix has grown its reputation on the back of their other original series including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Hemlock Grove.

Via CinemaBlend

As far as action films go, you probably couldn’t find a better one than 2011’s The Raid.  A surprising Indonesian extreme-action flick, director Gareth Evans – a pretty fantastic foreign action man – brought the goods as his action film became a cult classic. 

Evans is back with the sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal, which takes the focus of the first film but expands the scope.  The sequel will follow the first film’s main character – Rama (Iko Uwais) – as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Jakarta crime syndicate.  He has to go deep to protect his family and expose the corruption within his own police department.   The sequel looks every bit as crazy, fast paced, gory action that the first film was, which is a great thing.

The Raid 2 was recently picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for a 2014 release in the U.S.

Go here for the trailer

There’s a ton of superhero talk going on these days, especially with Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World releasing in the United States on Friday.  One of the film’s stars, Jamie Alexander – who plays the Asgardian warrior Sif – recently sat down with Forbes magazine during Stan Lee’s Comickaze Expo over the weekend to talk shop.

Alexander began discussing The Dark World and it’s surprising overseas box office numbers (newsflash, it’s a hit) and stated that Marvel definitely has plans for a third Thor film – depending on this sequel’s success.  The conversation then turned to potential Marvel/DC crossover appearances in which Alexander stated that she’s had thoughts about it.

The interviewer then asked what Alexander thought about Ben Affleck playing Batman in Batman vs. Superman in 2015, to which she responded that she thinks he’s perfect for the role because she “kind of knows the story line for that movie.”   Hmm.  How does she know the story for that film?  Rumors have been flying lately that Wonder Woman is going to be in the Man of Steel sequel.  Could Warner Bros. have been talking to Alexander about playing Wonder Woman in the upcoming film?  Did she read the script?  So many questions…

The interview probed some more into her comments, to which she responded;

“I would love for DC to put Wonder Woman in one of their upcoming flicks, either in her own movie or Batman vs. Superman, or just something even to introduce her. … Being in the comic book world, we know a lot of the same people at DC and Marvel, so we hear a lot of things, but it’s all speculation right now. But I would absolutely love that [Wonder Woman appearing in one of the upcoming films]. Thankfully and gratefully, I’m appreciative to the people who ask my opinion of the character, and that’s been pretty amazing.”

Alexander really is the perfect actress for the role.

What says you?

Via Cinema Blend