Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly | R | 3 Stars
From the minds of horror buffs and proven smart guys Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, Cabin is unquestionably sharper than your usual spooky fare. No sooner do five college kids pack up for a weekend in the woods than we realize someone is following them and that this someone might have more control over their fates than they do. To say more would be to ruin the film's puckish agenda to upend every ghoulish trick we've come to know and mock. Still, I can't shake the notion that a really good horror spoof, especially one as clever as this one, should be scarier and funnier.
It's official: The Hunger Games is a box office behemoth, racking up more than $300 million. I couldn't be happier-because every ticket sold is a vote for a new kind of blockbuster. If they truly care about audiences, here's what I hope studio moguls take away from this hit:
ACTION DOES NOT EQUAL MEN
I've seen enough guys with swords and sandals fighting CGI monsters to last a lifetime, and I'll bet you have too. Hollywood is flummoxed about how to get women interested in male-driven action films, unless the character's name is Bond or Bourne. (John Carter, not so much.) Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is exciting because we so rarely see complex, believable female action stars, much less one who's as appealing to 11-year-old girls as she is to their teen brothers and middle-aged parents. Katniss is tough but not invulnerable, kind but not soft, noble but hardly sappy. She's a great character, whatever her gender, and I want to see more like her.
DOWN WITH LOVE
Just because Twilight breaks down into Team Jerk A and Team Jerk B doesn't mean female-centric films need a love triangle. Granted, Katniss has two admirers, best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but she's ambivalent about her feelings for either of them and focused on merely surviving. I'm not heartless-I don't hate love. I just hate it when women are defined by it.
THE STARS ARE FALLING
It's been ages since A-list movie stars generated automatic hits. No worries: They don't need to. Jennifer Lawrence's relative anonymity hasn't hurt The Hunger Games. In fact, it serves the film by letting us immerse ourselves in Katniss's world. Can you imagine Jennifer Aniston in District 12? Actually, don't.
Rejoice, bookworms, for we are the most powerful people in Hollywood! Megahit series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight make studios ever more reliant on readers to know what will sell, which means they have to listen to fans. In the end Hollywood has a simple choice, really: Surrender or die!
"Katniss is a great character, whatever her gender, and I want to see more like her"
HOW WAS FILMING THINK LIKE A MAN WITH CLOSE FRIENDS?
When you have intimate knowledge of people, especially the awful relationship stuff, it lends itself to humor. Regina Hall and I have been friends for a long time. She was around for my marriage folly, which is the nicest way I can describe some of my marriage [to ex-NFL pro Chris Howard]. She's got a lot to joke about with me.
DO YOU HAVE ANY DATING "RULES" LIKE IN THE FILM?
I think after divorce I've learned 1,001 lessons. You just have to be very clear about what you want and what you need. More than anything, my rule is to be incredibly honest.
WHAT DID YOUR BOYFRIEND THINK OF THE MOVIE?
Filming was during the [NBA] lockout, so [Miami Heat guard] Dwyane [Wade] was on-set. He had a lot of opinions about the film. But it's the first time he was carrying the bag, driving the car and being the cheerleader on the sidelines, so it was nice.
HALLE'S SHARK TALE
Halle Berry is as lovely as ever, but sometimes you have to root for the shark. Dark Tide, starring Berry as Kate, a shark whisperer filmed on risky dives by her ex Jeff (Berry's real-life fiance, Olivier Martinez), is as plodding as direct-to-DVD (and on demand) gets. When a cocky mogul (Ralph Brown) hires Kate to take him and his son (Luke Tyler) on an outing, we know it won't end well for them-or for us. Berry, at least, got a boyfriend in the bargain.