With a change in director, it isn’t surprising to see a new writer come on to The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, and now Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for scripting Little Miss Sunshine, is in talks to work on the film with director Francis Lawrence. Read More »

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Setting a director to make The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire turned out to be a little more complicated for Lionsgate than was originally expected. While Gary Ross was first thought to be fully set to reprise his directorial duties after making the smash first film, he moved on to other jobs. After casting about for follow-up options, Lionsgate made an offer to I Am Legend, Constantine and Water For Elephants director Francis Lawrence.

Today Lawrence has signed to make Catching Fire. The film will start shooting in the fall, and “Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth will reprise their roles as Katniss, Peeta and Gale, with Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, and Woody Harrelson also returning to their respective roles.” The release date remains November 22, 2013.

Read the full press release below. Read More »

After narrowing down the field to two possible contenders earlier this week, Lionsgate has finally settled on a new director to replace Gary Ross for its Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. Francis Lawrence has just received the offer to helm the sequel, beating out fellow finalist Bennett Miller (Moneyball). Though Lawrence and Lionsgate have yet to finalize the deal, considering how quickly the studio is moving on this project, we can probably expect them to do so soon. More after the jump.

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There’s a great semi-futuristic story of brutal combat, in which a battered nation is captivated as two-person teams battle one another to the death in an ironic but potent allegory of public entertainment and government control gone wrong. A reserved but driven hero manipulates public perception to gain an edge in the games, and could ultimately become something more significant than a survivor.

I’m not thinking of The Hunger Games; I’m thinking of Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000, released in 1975 and made under producer Roger Corman. Death Race 2000 does a lot of things right, as Corman’s shoestring affairs go. It has the silly, exploitative and satirical angles covered with material to spare. What it doesn’t have, however, is a truly compelling main character. The Hunger Games has that one thing Bartel didn’t: a killer lead performance, in this case from Jennifer Lawrence as the young family provider turned warrior Katniss Everdeen. That’s just about all it’s got.

As satire and allegory, The Hunger Games is a whiff and a miss. But as a portrait of Katniss, it has the benefit of featuring Lawrence in nearly every scene, and the young actress doesn’t squander the movie’s opportunity. I suspect that in twenty years Winter’s Bone will be the movie in which we turn back to see Lawrence play an impressive provider, but The Hunger Games makes a good introduction to the fierce Lawrence, if nothing else. Read More »

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 »

The news fans of The Hunger Games have been waiting for is finally here. I’m now allowed to officially say the movie is exceptional. A full review will be out next week as we get closer to the March 23 release but, the second you walk out of it you’ll be dying to see the sequel: Catching Fire. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy is adapting the book and director Gary Ross, who knocked this movie out of the park, will be back along with the entire surviving cast. And if we’re talking about Catching Fire, it’s hard not to think of MockingJay, the third and final book in the series.

A few months back, Lionsgate suggested they might go the Twilight/Harry Potter route and split that final book into two movies, a decision many fans saw as unneccsary. At a recent junket, I asked producer Nina Jacobson – the woman who discovered Suzanne Collins‘ book in a book store and brought it to Hollywood – if that was actully going to happen. Read her answer after the jump and check back soon for a full interview with Ross. Read More »

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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Lionsgate may have purchased Summit and consequently got its grubby little hands on the rights to Twilight, but before the lion can further exploit Stephenie Meyer’s sparkly vampires, the company will be releasing the first film based on Suzanne Collins‘ novel series The Hunger Games.

Last time we checked in on development of the sequel, Catching Fire, the word was that Lionsgate wanted Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) to script. Now he’s reportedly already at work. Read More »

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