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Friday box office: everyone's going to see 'Mockingjay'

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 looks like it just had the best opening day of the year.

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Let's talk about where 'Mockingjay -- Part 1' ends -- and where 'Part 2' is going

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read Mockingjay and don’t have a desire to know what happens in the second half of the book, you probably shouldn’t read this post.  READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: 'Doctor Who' alum Matt Smith to star in 'Patient Zero'

• Doctor Who alum Matt Smith will star opposite Natalie Dormer in Patient Zero. Stefan Ruzowitzky is directing the action thriller from a script by Mike Le. The story follows the spread of a super strain of rabies, which leads to the evolution of a new, violent species. An immune survivor must race to find Patient Zero, and a cure, to save his infected wife and the human race at large. [Deadline]

• Brenton Thwaites is in final negotiations for the role of a British soldier, Henry, in the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean installment. The actor is known for this year’s Maleficent and The Giver. The film, once again starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, will hit theaters July 7, 2017. [Deadline]

• Bryce Dallas Howard is in negotiations for the female lead in Pete’s Dragon. David Lowery is directing the film, a remake of the 1977 film. The film follows Pete, a young boy who is raised by a dragon when his parents pass away. The pair live in a forest, which is being threatened by loggers. Lowery and Toby Halbrooks penned the script. Robert Redford is also in talks for the film. [The Wrap]

• Ashley Bell has been cast in Chris Siverston‘s Maternal Bonds, which stars Sarah Rue and Dean Geyer. The story follows a “baby whisperer” named Beth (Rue) who befriends a group of exhausted new parents. Beth, however, is not the perfect person she appears to be. Bell will play a new mother who turns to an online support group for motherhood advice. [The Wrap]

• Katee Sackhoff is set for the indie dramedy Girl Flu. Dorie Barton is directing the film, which stars Jade Pettyjohn, Jeremy Sisto, Heather Matarazzo, Judy Reyes, and Isaiah Mustafa. The film follows a 12-year-old girl, Bird (Pettyjohn), who moves from the San Fernando Valley to Echo Park. Upon moving, she gets her period, is abandoned by her mother, and learns that she can never move back home. The film is in production in Los Angeles. [Deadline]

Hear Jennifer Lawrence sing 'The Hanging Tree' in 'Mockingjay'

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Jennifer Lawrence is bringing her vocals to The Hunger Games film series once more, whether she likes it or not.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss sings “Rue’s Lullaby” to say goodbye to her friend and late District 11 tribute. In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1, Katniss sings “The Hanging Tree,” which she learned from her father. The song becomes an anthem for the revolution against the capitol. The lyrics are from the book, written by Suzanne Collins. The Lumineers, known for hits such as “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love,” wrote the melody for its big-screen debut.

In an interview with AOL, director Francis Lawrence said his lead actress wasn’t thrilled about having to sing: “Jen was not happy she had to sing it all day long. She cried a little bit in the morning.” For what it’s worth, we think it turned out pretty well. Take a listen, here:

Watch the first trailer for Lucasfilm's 'Strange Magic'

While fans may have to hold out more than a year for the next Star Wars film, Lucasfilm’s animated project Strange Magic is a much shorter wait away. And now, the first trailer is here, meaning we finally get to see what Alan Cumming would look like as a singing bug.

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NSYNC alum JC Chasez joins cast of Topher Grace musical 'One Shot'

Hot on the heels of the news that Topher Grace and Taye Diggs will star in an upcoming film musical entitled One Shot, the production’s added another big name. According to Deadline, *NSYNC veteran JC Chasez has signed on to play a bad guy, the star of the stage musical within the film who sleeps with the ex-girlfriend of Grace’s character, a production manager who has to pull together an eccentric cast and crew for the musical’s opening night. READ FULL STORY

Channing Tatum to co-direct YA adaptation 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock'

Channing Tatum is getting behind the lens for his next project, an adaptation of the YA novel Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. READ FULL STORY

Richard Linklater to receive career achievement award from Casting Society

Director Richard Linklater will be honored by the Casting Society of America with the Career Achievement Award at the 30th annual Artios Awards.

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'Pitch Perfect 2' star and YouTube sensation Flula goes Christmas caroling at EW

Pitch Perfect 2 features a number of new faces, among them YouTube sensation and DJ Flula Borg. He’s the lead male vocalist for the Bellas’ biggest rivals, the very German (and very tough) Das Sound Machine.

In honor of this week’s cover, Flula paid a visit to EW’s office to spread holiday cheer.

Critical Mass: 'Mockingjay' reviews hung up on two-part finale

The biggest clash at the movies in this year might not be Katniss against the Capitol, but Katniss against Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2013, Catching Fire was the year’s top grossing movie, and now, with Mockingjay—Part 1, Jennifer Lawrence has a chance to make it two years in a row. Industry analysts are expecting the biggest opening weekend of the year, one that could approach $150 million (though Thursday-night business was soft).

The sequel—the first of two films based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling finale, Mockingjay—picks up right after where Catching Fire concluded. In the end of the previous installment, Katniss’ family and Gale escape, but District 12 is annihilated after she sparks an uprising during the Quarter Quell. In Mockingjay, however, instead of channeling the rage that’s promised, Katniss is suffering from PTSD and reluctant to engage with the spartan society living underground in District 13, which wants her to become the symbol of the fight against President Snow and the Capitol. Julianne Moore joins the franchise as Alma Coin, 13′s steely leader, and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright return as part of her braintrust.

But while Katniss has been rescued from the Hunger Games arena, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capitol and is being manipulated as the government’s puppet. “In a series of interviews with the sensationalist journalist Caesar (Stanley Tucci), he denounces Katniss and urges a cease-fire,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. “The betrayal devastates her, forcing her to realize that her feelings for him weren’t a charade after all. With its Wag the Dog subplot and fist-in-the-air proletarianism, Mockingjay may be the most harmlessly Marxist movie to come out of Hollywood since Reds.”

Mockingjay is hardly a poli-sci assignment, but the action and adventure of the first two films, which showcased the spectacle of the Hunger Games, share the stage with more complex themes of the ramifications of what revolution really means. Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. READ FULL STORY

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