Sunday, August 19, 2012

Confirmed Cast for "Catching Fire" - So Far

There have been a lot of announcements lately about who's going to play who in the next Hunger Games film, Catching Fire (official title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). And since this is release weekend for the first film, I thought I'd post about this.

So who for sure is in the cast?

Well, one thing we know is that pretty much all the main cast from the original film is returning. This means we will once again see:

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hensworth as Gale Hawthorne
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Stanley Tucci as Cesar Flickerman
Willow Shields as Primrose "Prim" Everdeen
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Donald Sutherland as President Snow
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith

The next film depicts the Quarter Quell, in which (in the case of Catching Fire) Katniss and Peeta are put into the Games once again. So of course this film will have some new faces portraying the Tributes for the Quell, all former winners of the Games, as well as any other new characters. Here's who we know the casting of so far:

Jena Malone as Johanna Mason

Johanna I think appears in Mockingjay as well, so we may see Ms. Malone in more than one Hunger Games movie as this District 7 tribute. Jena Malone's an up-and-coming actress who has already had 7 award wins and 12 nominations, including two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and a Golden Globe nod. Her wins consist of one Saturn Award (an award given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films that honors the top sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films, TV shows, and home videos of the year), a DVD Exclusive Award, a Sonoma Valley Film Festival award, three Young Artist Awards, and one YoungStar Award. Her trademark appears to be playing teenage girls with problems or from dysfunctional households (a sort of typecast Lawrence herself has complained she's been getting). Her roles so far seem to have been pretty small, though she did voice Lettie in the dub of Howl's Moving Castle and played the starring role in Saved!. The roles she's known for are her award-winning role as Young Ellie in Contact, her SAG Award-nominated role as Carine McCandless in Into the Wild, her role as Lydia Benett in the 2005 Focus Features version of Pride and Prejudice (in which Donald Sutherland also appeared as Mr. Benett), and her role as Rocket (sister of Abbie Cornish's Sweetpea and Babydoll's first friend) in Sucker Punch.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen anything Malone's been in, so I can't say whether she'll be good or not. District 7 is the lumber/paper-making district, and based on Katniss's POV, one of the poorer districts, so we'll see how that is portrayed in Johanna.

Alan Ritchson as Gloss

Alan Ritchson is cast as Gloss, who along with his sister Cashmere represents District 1 in Catching Fire. He's mostly done TV movies up to this point, it looks like. He's also known for his starring role as Thad Castle on the Spike TV series Blue Mountain State and a recurring role as Arthur Curry/Aquaman on Smallville. He looks pretty handsome, as one might expect from a District 1 guy. Again, haven't seen anything he's been in.

Amanda Plummer as Wiress

Amanda Plummer has been cast as Wiress, Beetee's fellow tribute from District 3 who becomes an ally of Katniss's in Catching Fire and is the one who figures out the arena is clock-shaped. She's an award-winning actress, having won multiple Emmys, as well as being nominated for a Golden Globe. She also has some stage experience, which I think is always good for a film actor. She also played the recurring role of Alice Hackett on the TV show L.A. Law. The roles she's known for are Honey Bunny/Yolanda in Pulp Fiction, Laurie in My Life Without Me, the voice of The Fates in Disney's Hercules, and Rose Michaels in So I Married an Axe Murderer. She looks promising. I did see Hercules, but it was a long time ago, and I don't remember what the Fates were like talking.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee

Hunger Games fans have been waiting ravenously for this role to be cast, considering how big of a role Plutarch plays in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Hoffman's primarily known for his roles as Brandt from The Big Lebowski, Art Howe in Moneyball, Owen Davian in Mission: Impossible III, and Andy in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. He's also appeared in a number of other films, including Pirate Radio, Doubt, Charlie Wilson's War, Capote, the TV movie Empire Falls, Cold Mountain, Almost Famous, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patch Adams, Boogie Nights, and When a Man Loves a Woman. An impressive résumé indeed. I just hope he plays Plutarch right.

Meta Golding as Enobaria

Meta Golding is cast as Enobaria, one of the Tributes from District 2 in Catching Fire, along with Brutus. She doesn't seem to be known for anything of note. She did, however, play recurring roles in a few TV shows: as Melissa Curtis in the TNT show Dark Blue (a show about the leader of an undercover unit), Jordan Todd/Agent Jordan Todd on Criminal Minds, Jennifer Mathis on Day Break, Lt. Tali Mayfield on JAG, and Tina Brown / Rachel / Tina Brewster on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Seems like a good résumé for a Tribute who got her teeth cosmetically modified to look like fangs.

Lynn Cohen as Mags

Lynn Cohen plays the oldest Tribute in Catching Fire, Mags of District 4. Mags was a character that seemed really positively portrayed in the book, so I hope the movie does the character justice. Cohen is a busy lady, with one movie already out this year (Not Waving But Drowning), four other movies scheduled for release this year, and a movie scheduled to come out in 2014. She's known for her roles as Mrs. Wierzbowski in Eagle Eye, Golda Meir in Munich, and Patty at the Good to Go in The Station Agent. She's also known for her recurring role as Magda, nanny/housekeeper to Miranda Holmes (Cynthia Nixon's character) on Sex and the City, and reprised her role in the 2008 Sex and the City movie. Her other major TV role is the recurring role of Judge Elizabeth Mizener on Law & Order. She looks the part I think (it's been a while since I've read Catching Fire). We'll see.

Bruno Gunn as Brutus

Bruno Gunn plays the other District 2 Tribute, Brutus. He definitely looks menacing. Gunn has done mostly TV work before this. He's known for playing Rawley on the long-running soap Guiding Light, a police officer in Bad Teacher, a technician in Mickey Blue Eyes, and "Bald Trip Fan" in Herbie: Fully Loaded. Mostly he seems to guest star in shows as a guard or a policeman. So I guess that explains the menacing look?

Patrick St. Esprit as Romulus Thread

St. Esprit plays Romulus Thread, the newly-appointed Head Peacekeeper of District 12 in Catching Fire. Don't know who that is? Well, he's the guy who had Gale flogged in public. Yeah, not a nice guy.

St. Esprit seems to be known for his recurring role as Elliot Oswald on the popular FX show Sons of Anarchy. He's also had recurring roles on Fox's The Chicago Code and TNT's Saving Grace and played a number of roles on Walker, Texas Ranger (a popular cable TV series starring Chuck Norris). In short, he's mostly done TV. I guess we'll see how he does.

E. Roger Mitchell as Chaff

Mitchell plays Chaff, one of the representatives of District 11, the same district Rue from the first film is from. Like Rue and Thresh, he is black. (I don't know where they got the idea that people from District 11 are black...supposedly this is actually canon though). Mitchell is known for his roles as Agent Kirkland in S.W.A.T., Fire Chief Tom in The Crazies, a Company Captain in Battle: Los Angeles, and Aaron in The Legend of Bagger Vance. He's also made appearances in the TV series The Shield and One Tree Hill. He has four movies set to come out this year: The Last Exorcism 2, Blackhats, Awakened, and Flight.

Maria Howell as Seeder

I love the plant-themed names in District 11. After all, they are essentially the Bread Basket of Panem. Anyway, Maria Howell plays Seeder, the other District 11 representative in Catching Fire. She is known for her roles as a welfare worker in The Blind Side, Jules's doctor in What to Expect When You're Expecting, a wife in Daddy's Little Girls, and Momma in the short film Reverie. She's also appeared on several TV shows, including The Vampire Diaries (as Ayanna and Mrs. Halpern), Army Wives (as a Counselor and Major Barcenilla), and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (as Goldie). She certainly looks lovely, and is more lighter-skinned like Rue.

Stephanie Leigh Schlund as Cashmere

Cashmere's role is the latest one to be cast. Cashmere is the sister of Gloss and his fellow Tribute from District 1. Schlund's list of credits is still quite small. She is known for her role as Megan Blakelee in The Last Song (in which Liam Hensworth starred - it's where he met his fiancée Miley Cyrus), an uncredited role as a waitress in We are Marshall, and an unknown role in The Survivor. She also had another uncredited waitress role in Stomp the Yard and was a model for 7 episodes of The Price is Right. Since she is so new, I'm not sure what to say about Schlund. I hope she can manage such a big role.


So that's who's been confirmed. Now on to who hasn't been cast (or announced to be cast anyway).

So far, according to the official Catching Fire cast page,  the roles still up in the air are:

  • Beetee, the other District 3 tribute. IMDB states that Tony Shaloub is being rumored as playing this role.
  • Finnick Odair, the hunk District 4 tribute. A number of actors have been considered for this role, namely Taylor Kitsch, Armie Hammer, Hunter Parrish, Grant Gustin, Luke Mitchell, and Garrett Hedlund. English actor Sam Claflin (William in Snow White and the Huntsman, among other roles) is the current rumored actor for this role. Robert Pattinson was also rumored to have been cast as Finnick, but THANKFULLY that rumor was debunked. I've had about enough of Pattinson, thank you very much.
  • The nameless Tributes from Districts 5, 6, 9, and 10
  • Cecelia and Woof, the Tributes from District 8.
  • Blight, Johanna Mason's fellow Tribute from District 7.
  • An unknown female character whose silhouette appears next to Jennifer Lawrence's picture and just below Chaff and Seeder's pictures on the official Catching Fire cast page's gallery of cast members. 
Thanks to IMDB and the official Casting Fire casting page for the info above (to access the casting page, you'll have to be signed into Facebook and then like the page in order for it to appear).

Even though Catching Fire's release is a ways away yet, I'm still looking forward to it. I just wish Gary Ross had stayed on to direct this one. According to the Hunger Games fan magazines I have, he is a big fan of the book series. I'm not sure why he chose not to direct this film (and I think he's not doing Mockingjay either, though that might change obviously). The new director, Francis Lawrence, is primarily known for directing music videos, and has directed music videos for the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Aerosmith, Will Smith, and Britney Spears. But he has directed regular movies as well, having directed I Am Legend, Water for Elephants, and Constantine. So at least we know he has experience in fantastical genres and in post-apocalyptic stories. He's also currently filming a fantasy drama TV movie called Gotham, about a female cop who discovers an unseen fantasy world within New York City.

So...I hope more of the cast is announced soon. I am a little worried that most of the new announced cast members have just done TV; I hope they do ok in a film. Bye for now!

(Oh, and btw, I bought the Target-exclusive 3-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD set of The Hunger Games yesterday. I have put pics of it on Instagram. Either look for user "vegastarlite17" on your Instagram app, or look up the username on Instagram viewing sites like Pingram).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trip to Little Tokyo

I took vacation this week (for reasons I am not permitted to broadcast), and I want to make the most of it! After resting all day yesterday, I decided to have some fun today and make a day trip up to Los Angeles, specifically to a district of downtown L.A. called Little Tokyo. I'd first heard of the area from a one-page article in Sunset magazine (a magazine devoted to the western US), which I later adapted for a Web Design 3 assignment. But today was my first time going there.

The last time I went to L.A. on the train was January 2011 for Anime Los Angeles. That time I took the Amtrak because I did not know any other way to get there. This time though I took the Metrolink, a commuter train line, because it was considerably cheaper ($15 each way as opposed to $27 each way on Amtrak). It turned out also that your Metrolink ticket also gets you free rides on the L.A. Metro and downtown bus lines all day (this is what I was told anyway; I never got a chance to find out for sure as they never checked my ticket on the Metro), which is great because it saved me the $5 I would've spent on a L.A. Metro day pass otherwise.

I admit I was somewhat disappointed by the place; a vibrant cultural enclave Little Tokyo is not. People at the train station where I had to switch trains on the way up (the downside to taking the Metrolink) warned me that there wasn't much culture there, and they were right in a sense. The same can be said of L.A.'s Chinatown (which I found myself in as well because I was given bad directions regarding what Metro line to take and ended up walking through Chinatown for a while before deciding walking to Little Tokyo from there didn't make much sense - they look close on the Metro map but they really aren't). Both are rather spread out areas, covering a couple streets apiece that don't look much different than your average downtown streets, except for the Chinese or Japanese signs. Chinatown was particularly uninteresting; along the main drag (Hill St.) there isn't much except for some restaurants (including one whose facade proudly proclaims it as a shooting location for the movie Rush Hour), tiny shops, a Chinese Methodist church, and a Best Western hotel. Most of the shops are in little alleys off the main street, like Chung King Road. I also found a nice bookstore there (Numing Book Co. - it's located on the edge of the main area a little way past Chung King Road), which has shelves and shelves of books in Chinese, as well as a small selection of books in English and a couple books in French. The prices are great too; I got a book of Chou En-lai's poems (in English) for $3.25.

If you do walk toward Chinatown from where I started (the Civic Center Metro Station, which has the tallest escalator I've ever seen), you do at least get to see Grant Park and the Pioneer Memorial (honoring Mormon pioneers who helped fight for the independence of the area). Also, the Cathedral of the City of the Angels is near the Civic Center station; I heard its bells as I crossed the street from the station. Supposedly the Walt Disney Concert Hall is nearby as well.

As for Little Tokyo, this is situated more in downtown (whereas Chinatown is kinda in the middle of nowhere), mostly around 1st Street (the historic center of Little Tokyo) and 2nd Street. The Metro Gold Line is the quickest way there; it's only one stop south of Union Station, the city's main public transport hub, and two stops south of the Chinatown station (located on N. Spring St). The Dash A bus also serves it. Just make sure you don't miss your stop going southbound, because otherwise you'll find yourself in East L.A., a neighborhood you don't really want to find yourself in (so I've heard). If you go too far north on the Gold Line, you'll end up in Pasadena, so watch that too. The Little Tokyo station also serves the Art District of L.A., by the way, if you want to go to an art museum like MOCA while you're there.

Right across from the Metro is one of Little Tokyo's main landmarks, the gargantuan Japanese-American National Museum. Unfortunately, it was closed today (museums like to be closed on Mondays, I guess; most of the Balboa Park museums are closed on Mondays too) so I didn't get to look around there. Across the street is a Buddhist temple, though it's so integrated into the Western-style architecture you could easily miss it.

Across the street is where the true district begins. If you get lost, pretty purple signs (topped with a fan and the words "Little Tokyo") will direct you to the main landmarks. I relied on these a lot. On the main street there are pretty much just small shops and LOTS of restaurants featuring Japanese food such as udon and sushi. Along this street you can find the anime DVD/manga/CD part of the famous Jungle Collectors' Shop (which at the moment is in three parts; they're going to be combining at the end of August, an occasion that will be marked by a Hatsune Miku-themed event) - whose selection of items is not bad, particularly of Studio Ghibli stuff (they also play anime openings on the TV there; I was delighted to hear/see the "xxxHolic" opening "19sai" play while I was there) - Fugetsu-do Sweet Shop (a long-standing establishment that sells Japanese sweets, including several flavors of mochi), the Visitor Center for the area, and the Koyasan Buddhist Temple (which turns 100 this year; I had trouble finding it without directions as it's not listed on the purple is accessible via an alley just past the Miyako Hotel - look for the obelisk that says "Koyasan Buddhist Temple" on its base). There are also little shops selling various things; I found some nice things at a store here called Bunka-do ("Bunka" means "culture" in Japanese, and true to its name, the shop has a lot of cultural stuff, including books on Japanese culture and on learning the Japanese language. I even saw the new Sailor Moon manga there, and a picture of Haruka and Michiru from one of the original Sailor Moon S DVD covers hung by the stairs leading upstairs).

Little Tokyo has three major shopping areas: Weller Court (near 2nd Street), Japanese Village Plaza (near the entrance to the district), and Little Tokyo Mall (just behind Japanese Village Plaza). Weller Court is home primarily to restaurants (including a coffee place called Demitasse that boasts a sign saying "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks," which is somewhat ironic as there is a Starbucks on the other side of Weller Court) but does boast a large market, Marukai Market (small grocery store-type "markets" seem to be popular here), a store called Marukai Kawaii (which mostly has Hello Kitty stuff) and a branch of the popular bookstore chain Kinokuniya, which has tons of books, mostly in Japanese, though their selection of English books is quite good too. Their manga selection is quite massive, featuring manga both in English and Japanese (the Japanese manga being arranged into sections by publisher - Kodansha, Shogakukan, etc - which is helpful for non-Japanese-speakers) as well as manga magazines and artbooks. Their kids' section is pretty decent too. Weller Court is also home to a monument honoring Ellison Onizuka, the first NASA astronaut of Japanese descent, who died in the Challenger disaster.

Japanese Village Plaza is like your typical outdoor mall, except mostly with restaurants serving everything from mochi ice cream to shabu-shabu (Japanese hot pot), as well as a small market (like I said, they're popular). It also has a Sanrio store (with a UFO Catcher machine outside) and a couple stores that felt like they were targeted to tourists IMO but which had a lot of interesting things like various Japanese cooking utensils, Hello Kitty stuff (also popular here), and some anime stuff. One of the stores, Maneki Neko, has some nice cultural stuff (including a number of figurines of the famous Japanese "lucky cat" the store is named for).

Little Tokyo Mall is right behind Japanese Village Plaza. It only has a few shops, as well as a fusion restaurant upstairs. Here is where you will find the other two thirds of Jungle Collectors Shop. One of them is right as you come in and boasts nothing but several purikura machines (fancy Japanese photobooths). For $5/person, you can rent cosplay outfits, wigs, and accessories such as headbands to wear while you pose in the photobooths (which cost $10 just by themselves); however, be warned - they only have size medium in the outfits. You might also need some help from the attendant with working the machines as they're in Japanese (translations are provided next to the screen for when you print out your stickers at the end, but I didn't find them very helpful). That being said, the machines are fun and feature many cute backgrounds (at least mine did). You can also add little hearts and stuff to the pics at the end. And even if you're like me and the provided costumes don't fit you, you can still cosplay! I rented a wig and a bow headband and did just fine.

The other third of the Jungle Collectors Shop is mostly figurines and knick-knacks like keychains, cell phone charms, pins, notebooks, etc., with both new and used items on sale. They also seem to be rather paranoid there; I wasn't allowed to hold on to anything I picked up to buy more than a few seconds before some guy came up and offered to hold it for me up front. I'm curious what Jungle will be like when the three separate stores get combined.

Another highlight of Little Tokyo is the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, located on San Pedro Street (near where Little Tokyo meets the Civic Center district). Nothing was going on there when I went there, but this place is also home to the James Irvine Japanese Garden, accessible from the center's basement level. It's a seiryu-en, or Japanese walking garden, and though small is very quiet and peaceful (amazing for being in the middle of downtown L.A.!). I also saw dragonflies there - and I don't think I've ever seen dragonflies in person before! (I tried to get a picture of one, but they were too fast).

In short, I spent a good ~5 hours in this place, which was plenty of time to look around (though if the museum had been open I might not have had as much time to do so). What the place lacks in culture it makes up for in shopping and restaurants; just be careful and don't spend TOO much money (which I ended up doing). Also keep some cash handy; stuff is pretty cheap here (except at Kinokuniya) but pretty much every shop has a $10 or $15 minimum for you to use your credit or debit card. Also get it out on the way; there aren't many ATMs in Little Tokyo, and the ones that are there have steep fees ($3!). Also, if you know some Japanese, use it; many of the shops, especially the smaller ones, are run by Japanese people. They will usually know English, but in one store I thanked the people in Japanese and they seemed delighted). And look into other places to go ( has a good list); the Little Tokyo branch of the L.A. city library is supposed to be great, for instance). Most of all, have fun. And try not to go on a really hot day (like I did; though you may not be able to control this). Oh and also, while you may want to snap a pic of everything you see in a store here, BE CAREFUL - most of the stores here (Kinokuniya included, unfortunately - I really wanted to take pictures in there) have "no photography" policies. You MAY be able to sneak a pic or two though, particularly if you use your iPod or phone, but if you do don't use a flash (which will give you away) and do it in a place where the employees are not as likely to see you. (I did this for one picture I took at Kinokuniya; I took it in the kids' section, which was pretty far from the register). Though it's probably best to just follow the rules and not take any pictures at all.

That's all I can think of to say. Despite my gripes, I did enjoy myself. I also apologize for the less subjective nature of this post - I didn't intend for it to sound like a school report or travel magazine article, but I wasn't sure how else to approach this. Will have pics up soon - both regular camera photos and Instagram ones. At least writing this post gave me something to do on the way home (my Blogger app is usable offline).

Good night!

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