Why ‘The Hunger Games’ Franchise Should Stick With Gary Ross

Plus, 'The Cabin in the Woods' is a must-see, and stop hating on 'Titanic.'
By Josh Horowitz

Director Gary Ross on the set of "The Hunger Games"
Photo: Murray Close

It's been a hectic few weeks for "Hunger Games" fans, to say the least. After seeing their beloved book realized at last on the big screen and opening to great reviews and record-breaking box-office numbers (it only took three weekends for the start of this franchise to overtake any of the "Twilight Saga" films — amazing!), some backroom Hollywood negotiations went public when Gary Ross was reportedly in and then out and then maybe back in again for helming the second installment, "Catching Fire."

I'm not privy to any insider information on this one, but I will say I hope Ross is retained for the sequel and all the installments to come in the series. First of all, his passion and understanding of the material is genuine and impressive. In my conversations with Ross, it was clear that he was not just a gun for hire to launch a franchise and then take the money and run. (If reports are to be believed, in fact, his payday wasn't all that exorbitant by Hollywood standards.)

Ross is a filmmaker who takes his time when choosing projects: "The Hunger Games" was only the third film he's helmed in 14 years as a director. He's credited as a co-writer on the film (a smart move by the studio for a man whose credits include "Big" and "Dave"), something none of the "Twilight Saga" directors, for instance, had an opportunity to do. And while I like the practice in some franchises of letting a different director put their stamp on a series in each go round (the "Mission: Impossible" movies are probably the best example of this), my gut tells me "The Hunger Games" would benefit from a consistent voice. I had some issues with the first "Hunger Games" film, but on the whole, Ross got it right. I'd love to see his vision realized for what's to come in the life of Katniss Everdeen.

Must-See of the Week
I've seen two huge crowd-pleasers thus far this year: "21 Jump Street" certainly found its audience last month and rightfully so. But "The Cabin in the Woods" (opening Friday) has a slightly tougher road to navigate toward finding the audience it richly deserves. The horror/thriller from the minds of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard really does benefit from knowing as little as possible before stepping into the theater. Unfortunately, that requires a lot of faith from an audience. All I can say is I saw this with a group of maybe 20 journalists and there was screaming, big laughter and actual talking to the screen going on in that theater — something that never happens in that kind of environment. I highly recommend "The Cabin in the Woods." It's fun and unique. Plus it's Chris Hemsworth, so consider this your "Avengers" amuse-bouche.

Let Summer Begin!
Speaking of which, "Marvel's The Avengers" is just around the corner (opening May 4), in case you couldn't tell from all the recent ads. There are some huge expectations on this one obviously, but color me cautiously optimistic. There's too much talent in there for it not to be pretty damn entertaining, right? RIGHT? Any summer that kicks off with a one-two punch of the biggest superhero team-up movie of all time followed immediately by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp doing vampires — "Dark Shadows" opens May 11! — is all right by me.

Yes, the Ship Still Sinks
I'm officially sick and tired of hearing some of you groan whenever "Titanic" is brought up. It was an amazing movie. It remains an amazing movie in 3-D. And if there's any flick that demands to be seen on the big screen, this one is it. I feel like there is some revisionist history going on with this film. It was not just 12-year-old girls who made "Titanic" the #1 movie in America for 15(!) consecutive weeks. You all loved it back in '97. And it's not exactly dated now. It's the same as it was back then.

All of which is to say I'm thrilled to be catching up with filmmaker James Cameron this week. Every conversation with him is a reminder that there's no one smarter making movies today. If you've got a question for the former king of the world, hit me up on Twitter @joshuahorowitz.

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