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3/26/2012 8:03:00 AM
MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games another score for Jennifer Lawrence
LionsgateJennifer Lawrence volunteers for a deadly competition in The Hunger Games.
Lionsgate

Jennifer Lawrence volunteers for a deadly competition in The Hunger Games.


The long awaited and eagerly anticipated film, The Hunger Games, from the international best selling trilogy by Suzanne Collins, is not disappointing. It is already breaking box office records and will continue to do so, with bright prospects for the future sequels. That said, The Hunger Games is like caviar and champagne for young moviegoers, but more like a good hamburger for adults and seniors.

It takes place in the future after there has been a major upheaval of society in America. The surviving government has divided the nation into 12 districts, each with its own leadership and culture, but all subservient to the central authority, The Capitol. District 12 is the poorest and most squalid of the group. The principal activity is coal mining and their existence is rife with starvation and disease.

The Capitol instituted an annual event about seven decades earlier called the Hunger Games. Two teens, one boy and one girl, are chosen randomly from each district. The 24 youths, labeled Tributes, are then assembled in an area of the land that is barren and wild. They must not only survive the hardships of the environment, they must fight each other, as gladiators, until only one of them is still living. One will return home as the pride of his or her district; the others do not return. The entire process is shown on live television.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a teenage resident of District 12 with her mother and younger sister. Katniss is a very talented huntress with a bow. She is also very protective of her sister, Primrose (Willow Shields) and her limited mother. Primrose is terrified that she might be selected. She is chosen but Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take her place.

The Tributes are given mentors and trainers in preparation for the Games. Katniss and the boy from District 12, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are assigned to a mentor who is a former winner. He is older, very scruffy-looking, drunk and drinking Haymitch Abernathy, played wonderfully by Woody Harrelson. Haymitch stays sober long enough to be an effective and caring mentor for Katniss and Peeta.

The Games, including training sessions and ceremonial preliminaries (a la Red Carpet shows), are televised, hosted by Caesar Flickerman. Caesar is a caricature of some of today's TV hosts, with his gleaming smile and witty banter. Stanley Tucci is Caesar, in wild sparkly costume and thick, blue multilayers of hair (yes, Stanley Tucci) and he is great in the role, as usual. Each Tribute is injected with a tracking capsule, so their locations and actions are always visible and always in view.

Donald Sutherland is the President of The Capitol. He's steely-eyed cynical and fully dedicated to the Hunger Games and its purpose of eternal punishment for the people.

The idea of killing other young people is abhorrent to Katniss. She focuses on survival and uses her energy and her wits to avoid the others. Some of those others are more eager to eliminate competitors.

The Hunger Games is a long movie and there are some stretches that seem to drag, but overall it is interesting and holds our attention.

The Hunger Games is another tour de force (after last year's Winter's Bone) for Jennifer Lawrence. It's her movie, front to back. The Hunger Games avoids showing a lot of the actual killing. The camera cuts away or there is just a notification that another Tribute has fallen. But I found this film disturbing because it is a story about children being sacrificed while the entire population is watching and enjoying the ugly spectacle. It strikes me as the ultimate extension of how television has exploited the exhibition of people being demeaned, humiliated and dismissed as losers on "reality" shows.

The Hunger Games is playing at the Cottonwood Cinema and at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.


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