Francis Lawrence

The Hunger Games Catching Fire

At the tail end of 2013, Iron Man 3 received one of the biggest bitch-slaps of the year, courtesy of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The teen novel adaptation swooped in and eclipsed the Marvel superhero’s spot as the highest grossing movie of the year, at least in terms of domestic box office. While The Hunger Games: Catching Fire didn’t overcome the worldwide box office of Iron Man 3, it had its own victory by besting the first installment by more than $200m worldwide. As the movie-going audience prepares for the first of two final sequels releasing later this year, they can stave off their hunger by checking out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on DVD and Blu-ray. Included on the discs is a commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. Lawrence had already been working on the final two films at the time of recording, so his insight goes beyond the production of this film and extends into the grand finale. Even if you’re not a huge fan of these films, you can take solace in the fact that the filmmakers behind them are striving for something better and deeper than the previous box office champs in terms of young adult fiction. (Yes, I’m talking about the thank-god-it’s-over Twilight films.) Now, with that dig against Stephenie Meyer and all things sparkly out of the way, on to the commentary.

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For a variety of reasons, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is considerably unlike its predecessor. Structurally the sequel isn’t a 180-turn, but the world itself, while keeping in touch with what director Gary Ross achieved with the first film, has a different texture to it. When the girl on fire is on fire, it actually looks like fire. It’s a sequel, but also a new direction for the franchise, in both small and major ways. That’s what clearly piqued director Francis Lawrence‘s interest. Catching Fire is only Lawrence’s fourth film, but he’s faced considerable storytelling and technical challenges in the past, making him an obvious choice for the franchise. From his films, music videos, and television work, the director behind I Am Legend and Constantine is more than up to the challenge of adding new shades to an already established world. We discussed adding new building blocks to author Suzanne Collins’s creation, along with fandom, subversive blockbusters, and more:

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review hunger games catching fire

It’s been nearly a year since Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) captured the hearts of the people of Panem by winning the 74th Hunger Games in extremely unorthodox fashion. Where there should have only been a single victor the two illusory lovebirds stood together as champions in defiance of both expectations and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Fearing that seeds of rebellion are breaking through the hard earth outside of the Capitol, Snow carts the two from district to district pimping their celebrity in the hopes that it will distract the people from their day to day drudgery. Instead, the trip spurs more unrest and unruliness leading Snow to make a change for the upcoming 75th Games. In direct conflict with the life of wealth and peace their previous victory had earned them, two past winners from each district, one male and one female, will once again be chosen as tributes to fight until only one remains. Katniss and Peeta are forced to continue the charade that is their love affair as they reunite with their Capitol entourage and attempt to make allies amid the roster of past champions and imminent threats. The games are still about life and death, but this time it’s the heart of the rebellion that the pair are hoping to keep thumping in addition to their own. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second film in what has quickly become one of the biggest YA franchises yet, and while it features many of the […]

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She just can’t wait to be tribute? The newest poster for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire seems to be nodding quite firmly to a most unexpected influence – Disney’s The Lion King. While we can’t quite remember any sort of magical jagged rock in Suzanne Collins‘ bestselling YA book series, it certainly looks like Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is hanging out on Pride Rock, surveying all the land that belongs to her, and plotting to overthrow her mean Uncle Scar – or is that just us? At least this new poster also includes a nice cloud-based nod to Katniss’ budding wings, as it looks like our very own Mockingjay just might take flight, until you realize, nope, those are just clouds. Fine then, Katniss, do it your way. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hits theaters on November 22nd. [Press Release]

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trailer catching fire

The Hunger Games was the third highest grossing film of 2012 beating out gigantic (and expected) hits like the final Twilight film, the first Hobbit, the latest Bond and the Spider-Man reboot. Hurray for originality! The film, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, followed a teenager in a dystopian future where people are saddled with ridiculous names and a government that controls people through fear, force and dietary restrictions. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in a televised competition to the death meant to distract the masses from their real miseries, and she surprises everyone involved by winning. The new film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, picks up the story with Katniss and her friend/co-victor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) dethroned and forced to fight again by a president (Donald Sutherland) concerned that the duo are waking the sleeping populace towards rebellion. Also, I was mostly kidding about it ripping off Battle Royale II. Check out the first trailer for Catching Fire below.

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Obviously the one thing that movie-goers desperately wanted from The Hunger Games was to somehow feel closer and more involved with the child-on-child murder-for-sport that played out before their very eyes. Isn’t that what entertainment is for? Luckily enough, the Hunger Games team has heard our cries (some of them muffled by the blood that is filling our lungs, thanks to a hearty jabbing from a fellow Tribute), with Peeta Mellark himself (Josh Hutcherson, if you’re not hip to it) revealing which portion of the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be filmed in native IMAX. Which portion? The best kind! The one with the killing! Hutcherson told MTV (via /Film) in a new interview (which you can check out after the break) that the Francis Lawrence-directed film will feature IMAX scenes in the arena during the games, saying: “I think, all the stuff in the arena is going to be IMAX. So when you go see it in IMAX, you’ll see the regular movie when we’re in the Districts and in the Capitol. When you see us go up in the pod in the games, it will open up into IMAX. It will be amazing. It’s very cool.” Jokes about murder aside, the arena used in Catching Fire is going to be awesome (should the film stick to the original vision of the book, which is sort of a no-brainer), and to be immersed in that world via IMAX should prove to be one hell of a time. Also, huge plus […]

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Director Francis Lawrence has yet to even wrap his first Hunger Games film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but the helmer is apparently doing a stellar job, as Lionsgate has just announced that he is booked to direct the final two Hunger Games films. Lawrence will again be joined by stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth for the third and fourth installments of the already-massive YA franchise cash cow based on Suzanne Collins‘ book series. The second film, Catching Fire, is currently filming in Atlanta. From a script by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, that film will send heroine Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and her possible paramour Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) straight back into a brand new Hunger Games arena, mere months after the two barely escaped their last round in the battle-to-the-death. Catching Fire arrives in theaters on November 22, 2013.

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Sam Claflin in The Hunger Games

Those who are familiar with Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” novels know Finnick Odair. He’s the charming and gorgeous survivor of the 65th version of the games, who’s deadly with a trident and quick to blow the cameras a kiss – and he’s the sort of person who could mean trouble for the story’s protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, unless her and the cocky superstar from District 4 are able to find some common ground, and somehow become allies. The basic thrust of the plot for the second book, “Catching Fire,” is that a group of survivors from past Hunger Games are gathered together and forced to once again compete in an all-star version of the event referred to as the Quarter Quell. As discontent among the districts simmers in the background, Katniss and company find themselves once again thrust into danger, and once again thrust into the nation’s spotlight. Think of it like the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, but with slightly more murder. Suffice to say, Finnick is an important character from the second installment of this story on, so playing him in Lionsgate’s upcoming adaptation of the second book, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was probably a coveted job among many of the handsome young actors in Hollywood. Unfortunately for everyone who’s not Sam Claflin, they can stop sending in their head shots, because a press release from the studio has now confirmed that the Snow White and the Huntsman and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides actor has landed […]

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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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Ever since James Cameron’s Avatar made an unheard of amount of money and wowed audiences with its visuals by shooting natively in the 3D format, nearly every big release we’ve seen since has tried to cash in on the craze by offering up a 3D version of itself. This has been going on for a few years though, and in showbiz time that might as well be a century. By all accounts the 3D craze is getting a bit long in the tooth, and it’s probably time for the next big trend to come along and replace it. What will that trend be? If a couple of reports that came out today are any indication, it’s going to be filming portions of your movie with IMAX cameras. The idea of filming select sequences of a film with IMAX cameras and charging customers a premium to experience the scope and clarity of the images on IMAX screens isn’t exactly a new one. Already Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol have used the technique to create unique visuals and score some impressive box office dollars. But, with dueling announcements that two new gigantic franchise films also intend to use this strategy, we might be seeing the birth of a full-on trend.

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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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The world was shocked when, after directing the biggest financial success of his career with The Hunger Games, Gary Ross decided to pass on making the sequel, Catching Fire. Does he hate money? No, it turns out he just hated the too-tight schedule the film has to work under due to its star Jennifer Lawrence’s other commitments. But, do you know who has no such qualms with churning out a Hunger Games sequel on a truncated timeline? I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence. It wasn’t long after Ross dropped out that he stepped in. Only time will tell if Ross was right and Lawrence is stepping into a poisonous situation with Catching Fire; once the second film comes out, we’ll just compare who did the better work. But news that broke today hints at the possibility that Ross and Lawrence might soon be competing for our hearts and minds with more than just their individual takes on Hunger Games material; they might soon be earning comparisons to one another because of dueling Houdini biopics as well.

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Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon Palmer busy (read: probably writing a thesis on Sexual Deviancy in John Wayne Films in the Greater Context of Post-WWII America As Seen Through the Work of Southern Filmmakers), the excellent, insightful Adam Charles has stepped in to write this week’s entry. Enjoy. Few things have been as equally discussed and deliberated over the past few weeks than that of who Lionsgate was going to choose to take the reigns from Gary Ross to direct the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The first film had one of the biggest opening weekends in history (and it didn’t even require 3D price-hikes to get there), earned a positive majority from critics, and has a dedicated fanbase that defies demographic lines of fandom; and they’re chomping at the bit to see the next adaptation in the series, Catching Fire, as quickly as possible. Neither Lucas, Spielberg, or even Peter Jackson’s franchises could replicate just how much of the domestic populous is waiting for the next picture.

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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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The news that Warner Bros. has just made deals with Akiva Goldsman and Overbrook Entertainment to bring us an I Am Legend sequel is not surprising (as it’s been chattered about for years now), but it does somewhat confoundingly smack of an article from The Onion yesterday. That article, titled “Moviegoers Not Interested In Hearing What Is, Isn’t Possible, Demand Heath Ledger ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Appearance” might focus on the impossibility of bringing back the deceased Ledger for The Dark Knight Rises, but it does remind of the impossibility of bringing back the central character of I Am Legend: Will Smith‘s Robert Neville, who (spoiler alert?) crocked off at the end of the first film. But no matter in Hollywoodland! Though a second film has been talked about ever since the first film did big business at the box office (making $584m worldwide), it was long thought that the new film would be a prequel, but today’s report from Deadline Staten Island refutes that: “the film is not being called a prequel.” Well, alrighty! Maybe if they can bring back Neville, they can bring back his charming German Shepard, too. The new film is set to be penned by Arash Amel (the scribe behind the new Grace Kelly biopic, Grace of Monaco). Smith is reportedly waiting until the script is ready before he commits, and director Francis Lawrence has yet to weigh in on his potential involvement.

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Francis Lawrence keeps himself busy, and it shows when you look at his untrusty IMDB page. The director’s name has been tied to a lot of projects in the past few years – Survivor, Sgt. Rock, Houdini, and more — but many of those films aren’t ones Lawrence will be making. In my interview with the director, we spent some time discussing what may be next for him, either Houdini or Unbroken, and why certain projects didn’t come together. First off, Lawrence won’t be adapting Survivor, which he backed away from over two years ago. Not because the project died while he was working on it, but over a tonal issue:

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Let’s say you’re a greasy-haired young man of the 1930s, on the cusp of completing your Ivy League studies in veterinary medicine (which is apparently animal doctoring and not war fighter doctoring), when tragedy strikes. Your whole life is stolen away. Your first instinct is to hop on the first train out of town, right? Of course it is. That’s exactly what happens to young Jacob (Robert Pattinson) in Water For Elephants. He loses his parents (the only family he has) and jumps aboard a train in the dark of night only to find out he’s accidentally joined the circus. He proves his worth enough to stay by impressing the iron-fisted ring master August (Christoph Waltz), but he ends up impressing August’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a bit too much, and the elephant pile gets higher just in time for the company to buy an elephant meant to save all of them.

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Studios have been afraid for too long. It’s time to put Palahniuk’s long, strange trip into the heart of American commercialism and religion on the big screen.

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Earlier this week, we began to hear rumblings about potential reshoots on Jonah Hex. But at the time, there wasn’t much information. Now we’ve got some, and it’s juicy.

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Borys Kit over at Heat Vision is reporting today that the long-gestating Sgt. Rock movie is being given to a new creative team by producer Joel Silver.

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