The Hunger Games

This PG-13 movie, based on the best-selling Young Adult novel by Suz- anne Collins, describes a not-too-distant future when teenagers selected by lottery are sent to an isolated area to fight to the death on live television. The last one standing will enjoy freedom from hunger for his or her loved ones. To me, this theme is absolutely off-putting, but the book itself isn't as bloody or as sensational as I had feared. Whew!

My favorite part is how they skewer Reality Shows! Stanley Tucci is absolutely spot on as the master of ceremonies: complete with fluffed hair, ridiculous makeup, phony smile and over-the-top enthusiasm.

Based on this first one's phenomenal success, a franchise is in the works for these actors:
  • Jennifer Lawrence ("Like Crazy") as Katniss, our resourceful hero- ine, already familiar with survival skills because that's how she keeps food (illegally) on the table for her widowed mother and frail little sister.
  • Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids are All Right") as Peeta, one side of what will be an eternal triangle; the two masculine sides are very different, but each is appealing in his own way. This sweet young baker slips our heroine an occasional loaf of burnt bread for her hungry family and has packed a torch for her most of their lives.
  • Liam Hemsworth ("The Last Song") is Gale, an outdoorsy guy, handsome, kind, and very much in love with our heroine; he looks out for her mother and sister when she leaves.
  • Willow Shields (TV) is Primrose, that frail sister whose name is drawn in the lottery. (Shades of Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery.") It's her big sister Katniss who leaps to her defense and volunteers to take her place.
  • Woody Harrelson ("Rampart") is Haymitch, the only previous winner from District 12. He's a drunk and is supposed to mentor our two teenagers. He knows they must land some sponsors in order to get much-needed emergency supplies during the games.
  • Lenny Kravitz ("Precious") is Cinna, the creative genius who designs our heroine's "Dress of Fire." His kindness offers the first glimmer of hope our heroine can see.
  • Stanley Tucci ("Margin Call") is Flickerman, that annoying, insincere master-of-ceremonies.
  • Donald Sutherland ("Horrible Bosses") is President of Panem, the dystopian country created by a global conflict. He is irked by the games and is cooking up some new trouble for our star- crossed characters in the sequel.
Director Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") is a terrific director. I lost my way a couple of times (maybe I don't remember the book correctly), but this film kept me involved every minute. In keeping with her persona, our heroine rarely smiles, is intense, focused, and clearly uncomfortable during her public appearances. Her forced smile is perfect and she does 95% of this film without a trace of makeup. She doesn't stumble in the woods, instinctively comes to the rescue of others, and is a crack shot with a bow and arrow.

What a welcome change from the self-centered, foul-mouthed floozies who prance across our modern silver screens. Here is a heroine worthy of admiration for today's teenagers!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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