Leave it to The Girl on Fire to ignite an otherwise sparks-free awards show. Last night's Video Music Awards offered the usual mix of underwhelming live performances (Adele excepted), slumming movie stars shilling for their upcoming features (way to slip a Moneyball reference into your stage patter with Nicki Minaj, Jonah Hill!), forced acceptance speeches (could Katy and Kanye have looked more awkward?) and embarrassing attempts at comedy (go back to your day job Kevin Hart... whatever that is). But things finally started looking up towards the end of the night when Jennifer Lawrence appeared via videotape to introduce the first footage from The Hunger Games, the upcoming film version of Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel (the first in a trilogy) that's due in theaters on March 23, 2012.
Now that the Olympics are over, check out the deadliest sporting event out (future) Earth.
If there's a single takeaway from The Hunger Games, the first of four planned movies based on the omnipresent YA book franchise by Suzanne Collins, it's that Jennifer Lawrence is a genuine, true blue, big time movie star. Coming off a deservedly acclaimed breakout performance in the indie drama Winter's Bone and a strong supporting turn in last summer's comic book blockbuster X-Men: First Class, the actress picks up the archer's bow wielded by Katniss Everdeen, the girl revolutionary at the center of the novels. On the page, Katniss functions as a kind of wish-fulfillment character for every teen reader -- girls and boys alike -- that has ever felt alienated and aggrieved by an unjust society. (And that's pretty much every teenager from the dawn of time.) The great accomplishment of Lawrence's performance is that she takes a person that every fan of the book has imagined themselves being and makes her completely her own. From the opening scenes, she's completely locked in to Katniss's headspace and vividly portrays her transformation from amateur hunter to battle-tested fighter. So yes, Lawrence is terrific. The movie itself, unfortunately, is a disappointment.
The standards for budget, special effects and an audience's tolerance for teenagers killing each other are much higher now than they were back in the early '00s -- a fact made extremely clear when Battle Royale was essentially banned from United States theaters. But what if this week's The Hunger Games movie had been released in 2002? (Yes, we know the book would've had to existed first, but just go with it.) Who would've starred in it? What would the music have been like? Would it have been better than the actual 2012 version? Let's speculate:
Before the angry hordes gather outside my window with their pitchforks and torches, I want to make something clear -- I do not think Harry Potter is replaceable. Without getting all weepy on you (just kidding, I've been crying since last Monday), Harry was a huge part of my upbringing and is still a part of my life today, even as it ends. The thing is -- and I know this doesn't make me special, because I'm not alone here -- I was 11 years old; Harry's age (as well as Daniel Radcliffe's) when the first film came out. So ten years later, as the core "growing up" years come to an end, it feels like -- and I know this sounds dramatic if you don't "get" Harry Potter -- but it feels like I'm losing a big part of myself.
After a few days of "is he in or is he out" speculation, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross finally made it official yesterday: he will not be returning to helm the second installment in the wildly successful YA (and now film) franchise, Catching Fire. This leaves the movie, which is set to begin filming in the fall for a November 2013 release date, without a guiding hand behind the camera. While Lionsgate will move to fill the director's chair quickly, the question of who will and should nab this plum assignment will be bouncing around Hollywood (and Hunger Games fan sites) for the next few days. Personally, we're excited at the prospect of seeing what another filmmaker might bring to the series because while Ross certainly deserves credit for getting the series off the ground -- and bringing the best out of Jennifer Lawrence -- based on what we saw in the first film, there's definitely room for improvement. Here's our own personal wish list for Catching Fire's helmer: