Gary Ross

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Whether you’re been a fan of the books from the beginning or constantly find yourself grumbling “Battle Royale ripoff” under your breath, it’s hard to deny the pop culture phenomenon that is The Hunger Games. However, there’s a lot to the series – especially as it is committed to film – that is left unexplained. The premise is simple: After an uprising and war that wiped out much of the North American population, the oppressive government of Panem now demands that two tributes a year are chosen from each of the sparsely-populated districts to compete in the Hunger Games, a battle to the death with a single victor. The story opens in the poverty-stricken District 12 where our heroine is marched into the town square to be part of this annual Reaping. However, knowing that District 12 makes up a large portion of Appalachia and supposedly is larger than the modern state of West Virginia, it seems this Reaping is like the people struggling to survive: a little thin. Do they have the Panem equivalent of draft dodgers? Do the THX-1138 stormtroopers not notice that the ranks are a bit small? How are they getting away with this? In the interest of fairness, this got us thinking: Were the good folks in District 12 scamming the Hunger Games?

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Burial Rites

If you’ve ever lived in a city that has an active public transportation system, you may be able to sympathize with a growing issue I have been facing lately – the overwhelming and keen possibility that I am going to miss my subway or bus stop because I have my nose buried in a book so engrossing that I have significant, measureable trouble putting back in my bag when it’s time to move about like a normal person. Published back in September, “Burial Rites” is Aussie Hannah Kent’s first novel, a historically based tale of murder and mystery in isolated Iceland that may sound dry and wonky, but is one of the most enthralling novels I’ve read all year. Based entirely on my personal experiences reading it slack-jawed on the 6 train, it’s entirely unsurprising that Kent snapped up a hearty seven-figure deal from Little, Brown for the book (seven figures! That’s like movie money!) and that it’s now set to hit a movie theater near you with some big name talents attached.

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Ross and Lawrence

Following the success of their partnership on The Hunger Games franchise, director Gary Ross and star Jennifer Lawrence are teaming up again to remake the classic John Steinbeck tale that we all skimmed/just watched the movie instead, “East of Eden.” For those upset that Lawrence and co. will tread on the memory of the 1955 James Dean classic, the new adaptation appears to be different enough to not make too many comparisons (or to the 1981 miniseries either). While Dean’s movie, directed by Elia Kazan, focused on the second half of the novel, East of Eden: 2013 Edition will encompass the entire novel’s material; so much so that Deadline reports Ross is planning on telling the story in two films. Which…is an inspired choice. Brace yourselves – there’s a whole lot of Steinbeck coming to a theater near you. Lawrence will be playing Cathy Ames, the cold and calculating mother of Cal and Aron, whose role was greatly diminished in the first film by cutting down the source material to the second half of the book. She was portrayed to conniving perfection by Jane Seymour in the 1981 miniseries, however. Lawrence is very talented, and as we’ve all seen (and The Academy has confirmed) can do crazy like nobody’s business. But I’m curious to see how a 23 year-old is old enough to play the mother of these brothers. Am I mixing up my Steinbeck here?

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Drinking Games

Along with Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, and Batman, a lesser-known heroine named Katniss Everdeen became one of the biggest box office draws of 2012. Now the immensely popular dystopian science fiction adventure The Hunger Games is available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Hunger Games tells the story of a dark future where the government punishes the people by forcing their children to fight to the death in an arena. You know the drill, basically a less-Japanese version of Battle Royale with some really funky fashions. Still, it’s an enjoyable film and worth enjoying with a drink in your hand.

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Gary Ross shocked the world by directing one of the year’s most wildly successful films, The Hunger Games, and then opting out of coming back and making its sequel. What could he possibly have to do that’s more important than making another bajillion dollars by directing Jennifer Lawrence shooting arrows at people? So far, we’re not exactly sure. He’s become attached to a biopic about the life of famed magician Houdini, but there’s no concrete word whether or not that’s actually going to be his next job. And now another possibility has popped up. THR is reporting that the director is currently in talks to helm an adaptation of the children’s novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” over at Disney. The book, which was written by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson and has already been adapted into a successful (it won five Tonys!) stage production, is a Peter Pan prequel that tells the story of Peter and a girl named Molly going off on an adventure that involves the keeping of a trunk filled with magical starstuff out of the clutches of the evil pirate Black Stache (so called because of his back mustache, who knows what he’d be called if he got his own boat and had his hand replaced by a hook…). A screenwriter by the name of Jesse Wigutow is said to be penning the adaptation.

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In a roundabout spiral of movie news from Cinema Blend via The Playlist via Deadline Barsoom, we are seeing another explosion of development frenzy. This time, instead of competing movies about Snow White or The Wizard of Oz, there are now multiple Tarzan movies getting put through the development wringer. According to the story, screenwriter Adam Cozad (Untitled Jack Ryan Reboot/Remake/Redo/Rehash) talks about his script for Tarzan generating interest from some major directors, including David “Four Harry Potters” Yates and Gary “Only One Hunger Games” Ross. Suzanne White, who is most known for her work on television but recently directed Nanny McPhee Returns, has also expressed interest. This film would be the second one in development, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous novels about a boy stranded in the African jungle, raised by great apes. Craig Brewer (Footloose and Hustle & Flow) is already developing his own version of the story based on his own script and starring Twilight beefcake Kellan Lutz. No word yet whether Lutz as the title character will rap or sparkle in this film, but it is hard out here for a pimp ape man.

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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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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 Hunger Games

Just when you thought the news of an Anchorman sequel would wash away all the talk of The Hunger Games, we’ve got more fun stuff from the movie on fire. The talented folks at the Soundworks Collection have profiled the sound team behind the adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular novel, with director Gary Ross, Supervising Sound Editor Lon Bender, Re-recording Mixer Michael Keller, and Re-recording mixer Mike Prestwood Smith weighing in on giving sound to the landscapes of this futuristic young adult battle to the death. As a film, The Hunger Games accomplishes just as much with quiet as it does with sound and score, a delicate balance that can be credited to Bender and team. Because a good sound editor knows when to make noise and when to stay still. It’s a fascinating featurette for those who want to see behind the curtain on one of Hollywood’s hottest new films.

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Culture Warrior

Most dystopian science-fiction narratives feature stories in which a protagonist experiences a process of ‘waking up,’ transitioning from a state of blind ignorance to one of newfound enlightenment. The protagonists of The Matrix (1999), Brazil (1985), and the ur-text for dystopian futures, George Orwell’s 1984 (and its numerous film adaptations), all feature primary characters who transition from a state of passivity and complicity in an oppressive and manufactured society and transition to a newly critical, empowered state of being in which they are able to see beyond the veil of ignorance and witness the world for what it ‘really’ is for the first time. These protagonists are made capable of seeing beyond the structures of propaganda and carefully constructed illusion that they previously accepted to be objective reality and develop a political impetus in direct reaction to their previous state of complicity and ignorance. As someone previously uninitiated to the world of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (I hadn’t read any of the books prior to seeing the film), what struck me most about Gary Ross’s adaptation is the spin it puts on the typical ignorance-to-enlightenment narrative of dystopian science-fiction.

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The Hunger Games

Maybe our science fiction writers have failed us with all their damned pessimism, or maybe we’re all just obsessed with the world ending because it’s definitely going to stop spinning this year. Either way, everyone on this doomed planet is currently obsessed with the cold, distant Dystopian futures of hits like The Hunger Games. Now it’s time to figure out what it all means (which also means a bit of psychoanalysis). Good thing the Jennifer Lawrence-starring flick has people hungrily dissecting it for meaning. The results? Old Jewish heroines, our cinematic past, Occupy Wall Street, unspoken sexuality and the anti-Twilight.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is feeling hungry. Of course, this is nothing strange because he’s always feeling hungry. But this week, he’s extra hungry because only one movie is opening wide, and that is the highly anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel, The Hunger Games. So Kevin grabs a bow and arrow, a tub of magical antibiotics, tracker jacker repellant and a big bucket of popcorn to check out what is sure to be the next big young-adult-novel-turned-billion-dollar-franchise. (Spoiler alert: Kevin is still hungry when the movie is over, but that’s no surprise either.)

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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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The Hunger Games

The cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games series has a number of obstacles, including: making child-on-child murder fit into a PG-13 film, pleasing fans with casting decisions, not looking silly, appealing to fans, appealing to non-fans, not getting lumped in with The Twilight Saga just because the film includes a love triangle, giving Lenny Kravitz something to do, hiring someone to etch out Wes Bentley’s facial hair, and making back enough bank to not only make the film a “success” but to also provide some financial padding for sequels. And then there’s the Katniss Everdeen problem. Jennifer Lawrence‘s character is the center of the story, the leading lady, a rebel and a firebrand – and she’s also kind of an inscrutable jerk sometimes. But fans who have read Collins’ books love Katniss, even if they had to grow into that love – moviegoers who don’t know her from Bella Swan don’t have that luxury. So what to do? Well, make a new trailer that shows Katniss’ softer side. And release a new clip that show what an absolute badass Katniss is – both with her bow and arrow and her total disregard for authority.

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