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Why Viola Davis is pitch-perfect casting as Hunger Games prequel villain

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Megawatt actress Viola Davis has joined the cast of ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, as the prequel film’s main villain, in one of the best casting choices made in the franchise since the original quadrilogy’s lead actress.

By Justina Terhember        

As Viola Davis gets set to antagonize Rachel Zegler in ‘Hunger Games’ prequel ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, fans are praising the casting as being ‘pitch-perfect’. Per a report on The Hollywood Reporter, Davis will play Dr. Volumnia Gaul, the head gamemaker of the 10th annual Hunger Games. The actor, who is best known for portraying Amanda Waller in the DC Extended Universe Suicide Squad films, joins a massive ensemble cast that includes Zegler, Tom Blyth and Peter Dinklage.

“The Hunger Games films have always been elevated by their exceptional casting, and we are thrilled to be continuing that tradition with Viola Davis as Volumnia Gaul,” said Nathan Kahane, President of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group, explaining why she is a great choice. “Her formidable and powerful presence will add layers of complexity and menace to this story.”

‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ will be set several decades before the events of the original film quadrilogy and before Blyth’s Coriolanus Snow became the tyrannical President of Panem. The film will instead focus on an 18-year-old Snow, who is seen as the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol. The prequel will follow Snow as he is assigned to mentor District 12 tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Zegler) in the 10th annual Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games franchise producer Nina Jacobson shared Kahane’s excitement at Davis joining the prequel film’s cast. “From the beginning, Viola has been our dream for Dr. Gaul because of the finely layered intelligence and emotion she brings to every role. A brilliant and eccentric strategist, Gaul is instrumental in shaping a young Coriolanus Snow into the man he will become,” Jacobson stated. “We are incredibly fortunate to have an actor with Viola’s extraordinary range and presence to play this pivotal role.”

Davis, Blyth, Zegler and Dinklage star alongside an impressive cast that includes Hunter Schafer, Jason Schwartzman, Irene Boehm, Cooper Dillon, and more.

‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ will premiere on Nov. 17, 2023.

MOVIES

How ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ passed $2 billion globally

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After six weeks of release, James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has surpassed $2 billion in global ticket sales. It’s the sixth film in history — and first in pandemic times — to cross the coveted milestone, joining an exclusive club that includes ‘Avatar’, ‘Avengers: Endgame’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

The long-delayed sequel opened in December and remained hugely popular in the weeks since its release. Helping it to soar like the original, the release was boosted by Imax and 3D screens, as well as repeat customers across all ages and demographics, propelling ticket sales to dizzying heights. It is expected to continue, even if slowly, garnering brisk box office.

Disney, which holds the rights to ‘Avatar’ after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent roughly $460 million to produce and promote ‘The Way of Water’, making it one of the most expensive films ever.

Cameron is responsible for three of the six highest-grossing movies of all time. He’s also the only director with three films to cross $2 billion. Notably, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Neytiri in the ‘Avatar’ series, has now starred in four of the six films to cross $2 billion. She also appears in both ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, reprising her ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ role of Gamora.

‘The Way of Water’ has officially hit the lofty goal that Cameron set for himself prior to the film’s release. Before the sequel opened in theaters, he told GQ that ‘Avatar 2’ represents “the worst business case in movie history” because it needs to become one of the three or four top-grossing movies of all time to break even. (Analysts believe the film’s breakeven point was close to $1.5 billion, so ‘The Way of Water’ has already been in the black.) But in the coming days, it’ll take down the fourth- and fifth-biggest movies, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($2.07 billion) and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ($2.04 billion), to achieve that feat.

The original ‘Avatar’, which debuted in theatres 13 years ago, remains the biggest movie of all time, with $2.9 billion.

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‘Avatar 2’ hits $1.4 billion after $86 million new year haul

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James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ loomed large at the box office during the New Year’s holiday, generating a towering $86.3 million over the four-day weekend. Through New Year’s Day, the blockbuster sequel has grossed $444.4 million in North America and roughly $1.4 billion globally. It has been holding strong in the time since its release, dropping only 8% in its third weekend in theaters. Over the traditional three-day period, the movie brought in $66.8 million, which marks a 4% increase from its sophomore outing.

With its worldwide ticket sales, ‘Avatar 2’ stands as the 14th-highest global release in history, just ahead of ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’. After only three weeks, it’s already primed to pass Paramount and Tom Cruise’s box office smash ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ ($1.488 billion) as the highest-grossing movie released in 2022.

‘Avatar 2’ is expected to remain a top draw throughout the month of January, which will be necessary to justify its massive price tag. Cameron estimated the $350 million-budgeted movie (not including at least $100 million in marketing fees) needs to generate roughly $2 billion to break even, though analysts believe the threshold to profitability is probably closer to $1.5 billion. As a plus, it looks to hit that benchmark in a matter of days.

The original ‘Avatar’ was released in 2009 and stands as the highest-grossing release in history with $2.97 billion worldwide. The follow-up film, which debuted 13 years later after many, many delays, will struggle to make that much money because the global box office hasn’t fully rebounded from the pandemic. Moreover, China, a major theatrical market, is experiencing a resurgence of COVID and Russia, another big territory, won’t have access to the film.

The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, in the sequel which follows the Sully family as they head underwater to battle the elements and keep the Na’vi safe from humans.

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‘Deadpool 3’ might involve time travel – Hugh Jackman

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Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman reveals how Weapon X can appear in Marvel Studios’ Deadpool 3 despite the character dying at the end of 2017’s Logan. During an appearance on Sirius XM, the actor revealed how Wolverine will cross paths with Deadpool despite the former dying in 2017’s Logan. “All because of this device they have in the Marvel world of moving around timelines, now we can go back because you know it’s science,” Jackman said. “And so I don’t have to screw with the Logan timeline which was important to me and I think probably to the fans too.”

Jackman and his Deadpool 3 co-star Ryan Reynolds previously confirmed that the threequel would not touch Logan, which initially served as Jackman’s swan song for Wolverine. “Logan takes place in 2029,” Reynolds said at the time. “Totally separate thing. Logan died in Logan. Not touching that.” Deadpool 3 will mark Jackman’s tenth time playing Logan/Wolverine, with the film also serving as the character’s official Marvel Cinematic Universe debut.

Even with Jackman’s time travel reveal, there is still a lot about Deadpool 3 that Marvel Studios is keeping under wraps. However, Jackman has recently teased that Deadpool 3 will be a buddy cop comedy adventure film, explaining how he has always envisioned that type of movie for the two characters. “I went to a screening of Deadpool. I was 20 minutes in, and I was like, ‘Ah, damn it!’ All I kept seeing in my head was 48 Hrs. with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy,” Jackman said. “So it’s been brewing for a long time. It just took me longer to get here.” Deadpool 3 director Shawn Levy has also confirmed that he and Reynolds are working hard on keeping the MCU’s “Deadpool raw, gritty, grounded in the ways that those movies have been and that all of us love.”

At the time of writing, Jackman and Reynolds remain the only X-Men actors officially confirmed to be reprising their roles for Deadpool 3. The movie is currently scheduled to open in theaters on Nov. 8, 2024, as the first film of Phase 6 of the MCU.

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