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The Hunger Games had a pretty massive cast to start with, but since the first film ended with (um, spoiler alert) a whole bunch of characters dead, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is reloading with tons of other new characters.

Though we’ve already seen most of them thanks to the posters, trailers, and stills, a new batch of images offers an even closer look at the fresh faces we’ll get to know this fall — as well as another peek at our favorite returning stars. Hit the jump to take it all in.

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Left to his own devices Lee Daniels makes films that are eccentric and sometimes just way the hell out there. (The Paperboy) But he has called his newest film, The Butler, “a big compromise” and explained that the film might be “the closest I will come to as a work-for-hire.” Does that mean that, on the relative scale of whackadoo films, The Butler will be far closer to “normal” than anything else he’s made?

Hard to say at this point, but the first trailer suggests that there’s some weird stuff going on here. There’s the parade of cameo players appearing as a string of US Presidents. Among them is John Cusack‘s turn as Richard Nixon, which is… interesting. Then there’s Alex Pettyfer playing an uber-douchebag cotton farm overseer, and the digital effects and makeup that shave a few decades off lead Forest Whitaker in some scenes.

Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served several different President as the White House butler, and the trailer suggests the film traces his entire life story, using it to frame the sweep of the civil rights movement. It’s a good story, but this trailer looks a lot like a parody that might show up on SNL. So we’ll see — maybe The Butler will be just as crazy as the rest of Daniels’ work. Read More »

The first Hunger Games film was released one year ago this month. Feels longer than that, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s because so many other huge blockbusters have been released since then. But The Hunger Games, unlike those other blockbusters, continues with a sequel coming out this year.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be released on November 22 and Lionsgate has already started marketing for the film. We saw the Victors Posters and now individual character portraits are being released. To start, we see Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), all of whom are reprising their roles in the sequel.

UPDATE: We’ve added Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz.
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We just mentioned the fact that Beyonce will direct her own bio-doc for HBO, but there are a few other biopics in development, too. Andrew Dominik has only released two films to date: Chopper, and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. The former got worldwide attention, and the latter quickly developed a fervent cult following despite being a relative failure at the box office. This week Dominik releases his third film, Killing Them Softly, and with any luck, Dominik’s next film will arrive a lot sooner. Before making Killing Them Softly he was working on the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, and that film is moving forward once again, with Naomi Watts (above) still set to play Marilyn.

Dominik told The Playlist, “It’s about her whole life. It starts when she’s seven and it ends when she dies… It’s sort of a Polanski descent-into-madness-type movie. It’s about this orphan girl who gets lost in the woods.” That latter statement is interesting, especially since the film comes from Joyce Carol Oates‘ book about Marilyn, but taking the eccentricities of Killing Them Softly into account, it isn’t all that surprising. Dominik clearly has more than the mundane in mind. In fact, he says “fantasy and reality become very blurred in the story.”

Dominik hopes to shoot the film next year, and says “It’s my dream project and I’ve been working on it for years and years and years.” But let’s move on. After the break,

  • Lenny Kravitz will play Marvin Gaye,
  • and Fox Searchlight is developing a Susan Boyle biopic,
  • and Michael Hutchence of INXS is the subject of dueling developments.

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Even as Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to Precious, The Paperboy, makes its debut at Cannes this week, the filmmaker’s wasting no time assembling a stellar cast for his next project, The Butler. The talented Forest Whitaker leads the picture as Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served under eight different presidents from 1952 through 1986, with Oprah Winfrey and rising star David Oyelowo signed to play his wife and son.

And the cast only gets more buzzworthy from there. The roster also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nicole Kidman, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and John Cusack. Now we can add Minka Kelly to the list as well, as Daniels says he’s cast her to play Jackie Kennedy to Matthew McConaughey‘s John F. More after the jump.

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When Lionsgate began the task of adapting The Hunger Games for the screen, the odds were never in its favor. The book was too violent, too well-known and too hard to translate because not only was it about kids killing each other, it would also have to create a whole new world.

I’m happy to report that director/co-writer Gary Ross has made the impossible possible. With The Hunger Games he has made a rousing, highly-emotional, and epic film that will be engaging for new audiences and give chills to true fans. It’s hard to imagine someone making a better adaptation of Suzanne Collins‘ popular novel.

Major set pieces all carry the emotional resonance and excitement they deserve. Every single performance pops with life and energy. When changes are made, they’re made to streamline the huge story. Even so, the film never feels slight. If anything, at 2 hours and 22 minutes, it might be too long and a little more subtle than most audiences are used to. It demands us to infer and enjoy the ride. And we oblige.  Read More »

Where last week’s The Hunger Games clip focused on Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) fury with the indifferent panel of Gamemakers, today’s sees her meeting one of her allies for the first time. As the stylist assigned to help Katniss prepare for the opening ceremony of the Games, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) quickly wins her over with his common sense and compassion. (Rare qualities in the Capitol.) Watch the clip after the jump.

Of course that last The Hunger Games poster wasn’t really the final one, no matter what the marketing folks claimed. But I’m not complaining. Two more banners have just dropped, promoting the film’s recently announced IMAX run. One is very much in line with the earlier poster, showing Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) taking aim with her trademark bow and arrow, while the other shows a uniformed Katniss in her training gear. In addition, we have a dozen new character photos of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie (Elizabeth Banks), Caesar (Stanley Tucci), and more, fresh from the official website. Check ‘em out after the jump.

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