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Francis Lawrence (#110 of 6)

Red Sparrow Starring Jennifer Lawrence Gets New Trailer and Poster

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Francis Lawrence’s Spy Thriller Red Sparrow Starring Jennifer Lawrence Gets New Trailer and Poster
Francis Lawrence’s Spy Thriller Red Sparrow Starring Jennifer Lawrence Gets New Trailer and Poster

Last night during the Golden Globe Awards, 20th Century Fox premiered a new trailer for the spy thriller Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence. As far back as 2014, director David Fincher and actress Rooney Mara were circling the project, looking to re-team for the first time since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That, of course, did not come to fruition, though the new trailer for the film not only suggests the influence of Fincher, but also that of Darren Aronofsky, whose last film, the divisive Mother!, also starred Lawrence. Directed by Francis Lawrence, Red Sparrow also stars Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeremy Irons.

Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion

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Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion
Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion

The image of women spontaneously combusting while doing housework was one of the most popular tropes of filmmaking more than a century ago. In a widely viewed early film from 1903, Mary Jane’s Mishap, a British housemaid accidentally immolates herself while attempting to light a hearth fire with paraffin and subsequently explodes out of the chimney. It was, of course, not uncommon for 19th-century women to catch fire in their own homes when their bulky hoop skirts would graze against an errant spark from the fireplace. Women spontaneously combusting in their own homes was a frequent hazard of the time that journalists then tastefully referred to as “crinoline conflagrations.”

Comical media images of women exploding provided outlets for spectators to laugh off the hazardous politics of everyday domesticity. While many aspects of the relationship between gender politics and media culture have changed since the early 1900s, we still harbor an unconscious tendency to laugh at otherwise horrific images of violence inflicted on women’s bodies. Fortunately, 21st-century domesticity isn’t quite so fraught with the perils of instantaneous conflagration. Yet, the image of women catching fire—quite simply as a metaphor for women’s ambitions to be visible at all—continues to spark our cultural imagination.

And perhaps no other movie star walks this fine line between media visibility and human calamity as deftly as Jennifer Lawrence. There’s something oddly literalistic about the actress’s star appeal. From her “electricity” with Bradley Cooper, to her near-fatal calamity with a 1970s microwave in American Hustle, to her iconic portrayal of “The Girl on Fire” in The Hunger Games trilogy, Lawrence draws on a long tradition of female combustion in cinema.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade

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<em>The Hunger Games: Catching Fire</em> and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade
<em>The Hunger Games: Catching Fire</em> and the Emotional Breakdown of a Totalitarian Facade

Of the many surprisingly poignant moments in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the most jarring comes courtesy of Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the über-styled PR puppet who serves the corrupt Capitol, and is tasked, like many, to coddle the oppressed, dystopian Districts of Panem, distracting them from the horrors that pervade their daily lives. (Spoiler alert: the Capitol annually sends the Districts’ youth to compete in televised, fight-to-the-death bloodsport.) After the unprecedented announcement that the latest Hunger Games will force two past winners, or “victors,” from each District into a deathtrap-filled arena, Effie, the irrepressible fraud whose job includes gleefully declaring which males and females will fight, gets mildly choked up, her meticulous mascara slightly running.

Of course, in this moment, Effie is reading the names of the chosen victors from District 12, who include co-protagonists, ostensible lovebirds, and last year’s winners, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a tailored pair Effie regards as the crowd-pleasing achievement of her career. But just as Catching Fire never feels like it’s merely peddling a Chosen One narrative (or, worse, an unfounded Special Girl saga a la Stephenie Meyer’s oeuvre), Effie’s break in character seems less rooted in personal bias than the growing, common notion that something’s epically off in Panem. Katniss’s concocted act of defiance in the last film, wherein she and Peeta threatened suicide in favor of killing each other, didn’t just yield a dual triumph, but the start of an uprising. And even Effie, a picture of privileged, blinder-wearing, Capitol hypocrisy, is being forced to feel—to truly face her world’s radical injustices.

Box Office Rap The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma

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Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma
Box Office Rap: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the No-3D Karma

When a film is set to make the exorbitant amount of money that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire surely will this coming weekend, further lamenting the woes of global capital via cultural products will undoubtedly find little purchase among fans ready to see Katniss and Peeta unwillingly do battle yet again for (and against) the Capitol. Nevertheless, take note of Thelma Adams’s review, which details how “The Hunger Games has become a victim of its own success, co-opted by Hollywood, a rebel not without a cause, a money minter.” Adams’s attention to film-as-product engages a discussion of economics too often omitted from film reviews, especially when a film’s “call to arms” doubles as a “call to more ticket sales.”

This week, a more essential nerdist box-office question emerges: Can Catching Fire top the $207.4 million opening weekend of The Avengers without the support of 3D showings? And true to the spirit of this franchise, it’s only appropriate to evaluate the competitors in relation to this new, Francis Lawrence-directed entry. To recap, The Avengers opened on May 4, 2012 in 4,349 theaters (still the widest North American opening of all time) in IMAX 3D, regular 3D, and regular 2D, with a 40% 3D share, a number that helps to explain how the $169.2 million record previously held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 could be so bracingly shattered. Earlier this year, Iron Man 3 took the second-highest opening with $174.1 million, with a similar 3D share as The Avengers. Much like Warner Bros. with The Dark Knight films, though, Lionsgate has elected not to dabble with 3D in hopes that the film’s quality will be all the pull needed to get audiences into theaters; it’s a decision that, while certainly forgoing the surcharge on each 3D ticket, retains a degree of integrity on the part of the studio, which isn’t trying to milk consumers for every last penny in their pockets.

Music Video: Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé, "Telephone"

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Music Video: Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé, “Telephone”
Music Video: Lady Gaga featuring Beyoncé, “Telephone”

Last fall, while everyone was going gaga over Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video, I found myself scratching my head. I had already paid penance and proudly secured my seat on the Gaga train, but the crowning of the pop singer as the music video medium’s new queen seemed premature at best. Directed by the always reliable but often unremarkable Francis Lawrence, “Bad Romance” was like 2001 meets Alien meets an Alexander McQueen runway show; from Gaga’s outlandish couture (dig that pre-coital polar-bear-rug getup) and a plot ostensibly warning about the dangers of hatching hot alien babes and trying to mate with them (which admittedly sounds pretty awesome on paper), the clip was a mishmash of ideas that simply didn’t gel.