Catching Fire

You know what The Hunger Games: Catching Fire really needs? Some gravitas. Though the first film was an unmitigated success, and it certainly benefited from its young and vibrant cast, most the of “elder statesman” work fell on the shoulders of Donald Sutherland as evil President Snow. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone around that we can trust? If you’re unfamiliar with the second book in Suzanne Collins‘ smash hit book series, a brief character description of the brand new Head Gamemaker for The Hunger Games, Plutarch Heavensbee, might not make you feel the warm and fuzzies. After all, Wes Bentley‘s cold and calculating Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, seemed bent on rivaling snow for the film’s evil points, and how could anyone in his same position be anything less than a foe? Well, perhaps when he’s played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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While rumors have been swirling for months over possible candidates for some meaty roles in the upcoming The Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire, today brings the first news that even remotely resembles a casting confirmation. THR reports that Jena Malone is in talks to play tribute Johanna Mason in the upcoming film. “I volunteer as tribute!” says Malone. Sigh, say fans of the franchise. The role of Mason is a key one – along with fan favorite Finnick Odair, Johanna is one of the most essential new characters we meet in Suzanne Collins‘ second novel in her three-book series. Snide, snarky, mean, and biting, Johanna is one of many other former tributes who get introduced in Catching Fire, and she’s one of the most complex and confusing. She’s also one of the most severely damaged.

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Fans of Suzanne Collins’ whimsical child murder novel, “The Hunger Games,” will tell you that one of the big differences between her book and its eventual film adaptation was that the role of the deadly games’ designer, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), was dramatically increased for the screen. In the book we see the events of the games from solely the protagonist’s perspective, so the deadly obstacles that are put in her path always come as a surprise. But in the film, we see Bentley’s character setting everything up and reacting to the ways the players handle his tricks and traps. It made the position of the Gamemaker seem far more important than it ever had before. Seeing as Bentley’s character had fallen out of favor with the powers that be by the end of The Hunger Games, its sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is going to have to find a new puppet master. And given the newfound importance of the role in the story’s movie universe, as well as the fact that the second Gamemaker is a more important character than the first in the source material, Catching Fire’s director, Francis Lawrence, will seemingly have to find a big name actor to step into the role. There isn’t need to worry though, reports are he’s already made an important move toward doing just that.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s your nightly gateway to all that is interesting, lively and sometimes sad about the world of entertainment. If it bumps in the night, we’re the ones laying down the beat. We being this evening with the saddest story of the day. Yes, it’s May the Fourth (Star Wars Day) and the day many of you will finally realize the giddy kid dream that is Joss Whedon’s Avengers, but it’s also a day upon which the world of entertainment has lost a true pioneer. Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away today at age 47 following a long battle with cancer. You undoubtedly know him as 1/3rd of the Beastie Boys, but he’s also impacted the world of film, co-founding Oscilloscope Labs, the distributor of such films as We Need to Talk About Kevin and Bellflower. To read the best of those remembering him, I’d suggest you spend some time with AV Club’s Nathan Rabin’s obit. There’s also a story about Oscilloscope’s plans going forward in the wake of its co-founder’s passing. He will be missed, but more importantly, he will be remembered fondly as the multi-hyphenated pioneer that he was.

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After losing Gary Ross, Lionsgate put a bunch of names into a big bowl and finally pulled one out. Turns out, they can’t get enough of people named Lawrence. According to The Hollywood Reporter, they’ve chosen Francis Lawrence – the director behind I Am Legend, Water for Elephants and Constantine – to take the reigns on the massively successful franchise. He beat out Bennett Miller (Moneyball) as well as a wishlist that included Duncan Jones, Tomas Alfredson and exactly zero women. The reason Lawrence won out seems to be in his abilities as much as it is his availability. His main contender, Miller, is already knee-deep in preparations for Foxcatcher, the filming of which would be right in the middle of Catching Fire‘s attempt to be finished in time to release Jennifer Lawrence back into the X-Men wilds. As for the prospect of Lawrence handling the material? Who knows. Nothing in Ross’s resume suggested he was the right choice for Hunger Games, and if you mash up Water for Elephants (with its rusty, sepia-tone-emulating style and romance) and I Am Legend (with its violence and poorly CGI-ed monsters), you’d end up with something living next door to the Hunger universe. Right? Now to complete the triumvirate, they need to hire Martin Lawrence. There’s gotta be a role for him.

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Reel Sex

As any The Hunger Games fan already knows, the director who took on the challenge of bringing the first book in Suzanne Collins’s seminal series to life has stepped away from the sequel, Catching Fire. While many critics and fans have spent the past month arguing Gary Ross’s handling of the film, it is beyond a doubt going to be one of the most financially successful films of 2012 if not of all time. The trilogy came in with a built-in fan base, something which Ross respectfully acknowledged with his adaptation but that didn’t stop him from adding his own creative flourishes. Who would have ever thought a character that is mentioned three times in the novel would go on to steal the film with his steely blue eyes and amazing follicle art work? For giving us Seneca Crane, Mr. Ross, the pogonophiles of the world thank you. However what we face now is a three-fold issue: who will take over Catching Fire from Ross, does the next director need to keep the same aesthetic of the first film, and is there a responsibility to appoint a female director to take on the challenge of continuing the story of one of the strongest heroines in 21st Century literature?

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The Hunger Games was a massive movie, but Lionsgate is definitely appealing to geek credibility when it comes to their wish list covering who should take over the franchise now that Gary Ross is gone. According to the LA Times Blog, that list includes seven or eight names, and none of them are women. The only names they’ve revealed are serious heavy-hitters –  Alfonso Cuarón, David Cronenberg and Alejandro González Iñárritu. All three would be stellar choices. They’re icons, visionaries. Of course, this is more than conjecture. This is a theoretical list of random names – not some concrete list of conversations that the studio has had. However, if it’s true that the list doesn’t include any women whatsoever, it seems like a calculated misstep from Lionsgate –  a poor, yet unsurprising oversight.  

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First, there was some question as to whether he’d be back. Then there was word that he was still taking meetings. Now, it’s double super official: Gary Ross won’t be directing Hunger Games follow-up Catching Fire. According to Deadline Russell, the direct issued a statement claiming that the truncated preparation and shooting schedule was not acceptable. So now, Lionsgate is back to square one and facing down a movie that has to be wrapped by January in order to set Jennifer Lawrence free to turn back into a member of the X-Men. The question now: who should replace Ross? A deeper question: should it necessarily be a female director?

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After Rob won Best Headline last week with the story about Gary Ross potentially leaving The Hunger Games movies over a money issue, it appears as if it’s all still on the table. He’ll be meeting with Lionsgate today to talk about whether they have the pockets deep enough to woo him on back. That’s the story at least. The inner workings of all this will remain secret until someone writes a book that no one buys, but all that really matters is that Ross is in talks to come back on board as the clock ticks down to a shooting schedule that starts in August so that Jennifer Lawrence can fight oppression before she has to start her second year at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in January. For those who loved the movie, and for those that hated it, is Ross the right choice to return to the franchise, or is there a better director out there just waiting for a phone call? [THR]

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Per The Playlist, the rumors have now been confirmed. Gary Ross will not be returning for the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. The film is set to begin production this fall (which should allow time for star Jennifer Lawrence to start working on the X-Men: First Class sequel come January) so this doesn’t appear to leave a lot of time to find a new director. But Ross wasn’t initially contracted for more than the first film, unlike the cast, so presumably Lionsgate has been thinking about this for some time. Which would be good. Wouldn’t want to have to rush the choice and end up with one of the Weitz brothers (who’ve never met a teen franchise they didn’t like). The Hunger Games was Ross’s third film as director, and he did a solid job with the material. Initial speculation was that he and the studio were at odds over pay for the sequel, but as The Playlist rightly points out, that’s most likely not the case. Ross’s more consistent career is in screenwriting (Big, Dave, Pleasantville, The Hunger Games), and with his three directorial efforts being spread across fourteen years, it’s clear he’s choosing his films carefully and knowingly.

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The marketing was wrong. While the buzz has been on Gary Ross’s cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular book series, The Hunger Games, since the first film was announced, all of the stills, trailers, and posters that have trickled out over the months have not captured the stunning final product. Ross’s film is an engaging, energetic, and emotional journey that should please the series’ dedicated fans while also luring in new ones. Cinephiles who are drawn to science fiction and dystopian stories will likely find a new favorite franchise, a YA adaptation elevated by a talented cast, skilled direction, and a tone and story that feel vibrant and applicable beyond just this single film. The film is set in a future version of the United States in which the country has been fractured and then tenuously reunited after an uprising nearly seventy-five years prior. The rebels were eventually quelled, and the resulting country consists of a rich and powerful central Capitol and twelve individual “Districts.” Each District is responsible for one type of provision or industry and, as the Capitol restricts communication and interaction between the Districts, they are at the mercy of their government to get supplies that are necessary for even basic survival. And though that should be enough to keep the Capitol satisfied in their power, it’s not, and they use the annual “Hunger Games” to remind their citizens just how in control they are. The Games are a televised fight to the death, with its […]

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Pretty much from the first moment that the Hunger Games movie became official, Lionsgate has been confident that it’s going to be a huge hit. The entire production of the film has been the subject of a media blitz too large to recap here. So it comes as no surprise that even before the first film has been released, work has begun on getting its sequel together. For those not in the know, Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” was the first part of a trilogy of novels whose subsequent books are titled “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.” So what’s the news on development for Catching Fire? The Wrap is reporting that not only has Lionsgate secured Hunger Games director Gary Ross to come back and do the sequel, but they’ve also hired screenwriter Simon Beaufoy to come on and adapt the book into a screenplay. Beaufoy has an impressive resume that includes films like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, so I don’t really think his hiring can be seen as a disappointment, even though it might point to the notion that Collins and Ross might not be as hands-on with the writing process on this one as they were the first.

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Coming as a shock to absolutely no one, Lionsgate has gone ahead and announced a release date for the second film in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, which will hit theaters on November 22, 2013. For a bit of reference here, the first film in the series has not even released a trailer yet and will not arrive in theaters until March 23, 2012. So while Lionsgate has apparently seen a bunch of stuff they like, fans of Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy beat themselves bloody to grab Hunger Games pins at Comic-Con. Accessories are the new sizzle reels. There are no other details about Catching Fire as of yet, but the principal cast’s contracts all include options for up to four films (should the films prove successful, the final book in the trilogy would be split into two films). Basically, get ready to see lots of Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson going nutty and murderous on-screen, because this franchise is not going to rest on its laurels.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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