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The Hunger Games

Ho-hum. Extremely safe, neutered and ultimately boring…if they didn’t have a few characters sporting powdered wigs, make-up and frilly clothing it would be a drab sleep-aid. All these books I keep seeing on the beach…is this really what adults are reading now? I eventually got suckered into reading the Stieg Larsson “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy a couple of seasons back, and that proved to be a waste of time. Refusing to get roped in again. Next up consumers, the “Shades of Grey” movies! Your being programmed people. Prediction—they’ll make two “Shades of Grey” films and then announce they are splitting the third book into two releases. It’s the going trend and it’s designed to scrape every last penny out of you. The makers of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” are kicking themselves. But, of course, they’ll stick it to you this time around with Peter Jackson’s announcement that “The Hobbit” will be split into three feature films. I’m strongly considering a boycott. Especially after having to endure “The Lovely Bones” in 2009. And I have yet to see “Battle Royale”, Quentin Tarantino’s favorite flick of the last two decades(and the one that “The Hunger Games” apparently robs shamelessly from), but I bet it’s superior to this “Twilight”-crowd nonsense. Hoping to review the Japanese hit in the not-too-distant future. Also, I’m pretty certain I’m going to start hating Jennifer Lawrence before this series is completed, despite the fact that I admired her performance in “Winter’s Bone” and that she’s one of the best things about this movie. Just a feeling I’m getting.               Must I rehash the plot of this nearly 700 million dollar grossing blockbuster? Some kind of post-apocalyptic world is sending 24 kids into the woods each year to fight to the death. There is one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 selected via lottery from each of twelve districts. The lone survivor gets to live like royalty for the rest of their days. Katniss Everdeen(Ms. Lawrence)is our heroine, and she volunteers to stand-in for her first-time eligible chosen sister, Primrose. Peeta Mellark is the male pegged from Katniss’s zone and there are hints of romance as he once showed her some kindness by supplying her with food(the chosen ones and their families are dirt poor and living a life of constant struggle). Woody Harrelson has some fun as washed-up former winner Haymitch Abernathy, who acts as a mentor to Katniss and Peeta. Once the games begin, alliances are formed, rules are “adjusted”, and certain characters are written to behave nobly and/or cute before eventually being knocked off. Should I mention the racism inherent in having the only two black participants being sacrificed(of course)in this offensively stereotypical manner? I just did. Will Katniss and Peeta be forced to face off? That supplies some middle-of-the-road tension in this middlebrow exercise. Oh, and the reliable Stanley Tucci gets to emcee/host the whole thing as media personality Caesar(get it?!) Flickerman.               Apologies to Danny Glover, but I certainly feel “too old for this shit”, despite the fact that its obviousness is occasionally pulled off with a certain aplomb. Dashes of “American Idol”, “Survivor”, “Lord of the Flies”, “The Running Man”, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and the games of the Roman Coliseum are unmistakable, but most likely go right over the heads of the tween crowd who probably believe these are all incredibly original ideas. The film might be a degree better if it didn’t play so fast and loose with its supposed “rules”. And it would, without question, be more inspired if some good, old-fashioned blood-and-gore were permitted. Not in this day and age where even the darkest material is sanitized to PG-13 level for maximum audience garnering and sustained teenager repeat views. Unfortunately, director Gary Ross(“Seabiscuit”)doesn’t have the gift of a Christopher Nolan to sanitize his work just enough to have it appear more violent than it actually is, therefore appeasing the studio and the ratings board while still making the audience uncomfortable as they fork over their bucks. And I guess you’ll need someone else to tell you if the film stays true to the spirit of the books, or not, because I have plenty of other reading to do. “The Hunger Games” movie is certainly no disaster. But it ain’t all that interesting either, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be visiting the follow-ups when they appear. They’ll rake in loads of cash, but discerning viewers need not bother. However, I’m really jazzed to experience “Battle Royale” now, so I suppose author Suzanne Collins has performed some type of service.      Grade: C


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