Let me start by saying I would watch Jennifer Lawrence reciting the phone book in a coffee shop. Yes, she’s a beautiful young woman, but I am just as enthralled by her acting chops. Anyone who has seen WINTER’S BONE knows what I mean. So, that is the only reason I even considered going to see THE HUNGER GAMES. These young adult novels hold no interest for me. Twilight? Harry Potter? MEH! But the draw of Lawrence made me go, and I am glad I did. To say this movie has been an enormous hit is a massive understatement. Lionsgate can now afford to pay Matthew Weiner and the MAD MEN cast whatever they want (both this film and that show are owned by this studio). HUNGER GAMES gets going fairly slowly. It takes a while to learn about this post-apocolyptic culture and this bizarre need to kill off 23 young people every year. But once Katniss and Peeta get on that bullet train, the movie takes off. Some scenes drag on too long (yes, we get that Katniss is upset by the death of a fellow competitor, the prolonged weeping and flowers were just overdone). But even that scene is telling for Katniss. She has avoided killing anyone, but when her friend is attacked she doesn’t hesitate to pull her bow with deadly accuracy. The production design and direction are above average and the script is good enough. It’s fantastic performances from Lawrence, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci that floored me. I am hungering for the sequel. — Alan Yudman

An hour into the years most overhyped movie, I thought it was actually very good. A cool setup in a dark world where these violent games are the focal point of an entire society. Brutal, relentless, and unflinching. Then the games began and the air slowly comes out of the whole thing. There are times where a PG 13 movie doesn’t need violence and can still be effective. This isn’t one of those times. By the time the obligatory love story is thrown in and characters you didn’t think will die don’t (those that do may as well be wearing red shirts a la Star Trek), the only people suffering are those who didn’t read the book. My wife told me several details that weren’t in the movie that would have made it a lot better. For whatever reason, Gary Ross didn’t feel the need to include them in his TWO AND A HALF HOUR MOVIE! Can’t say there was no time. Congratulations Gary, you’ve turned solid source material into another Twilight franchise. Great if you’re the one cashing the checks I guess.
Stormy Curry

A studio tentpole with a massive built-in audience who loved the
books; but what’s it got for the rest of us, who come to the
(familiar, derivative) material cold? Two words: Jennifer Lawrence,
ably jumping the Great Divide between indie fame (WINTER’S BONE) and
blockbuster stardom. 21 in beauty, but older in grit and will, she is,
in a sense, the Alpha Male of the movie, co-star Josh Hutcherson
taking the sensitive, gentler half of the relationship (and doing fine
with it). The set-up pulls you in; the first hour is the best part.
But once the Games begin, a sense of place is lost: the lengthy middle
plays out in an undifferentiated forest that might as well have been
the setting for a well-shot low-budget flick. And then the end comes
rather abruptly. Although it resolves the story, it doesn’t seem quite
enough to wrap up the first installment of a POTTER/RINGS/STAR WARS-
caliber trilogy. (The sequels may answer that qualm.) Also worth
mention: Woody Harrelson, having a ball as the kids’ mentor, and
Stanley Tucci in a role similar to The Real Don Steele’s turn as the
announcer in the first DEATH RACE 2000. Tucci is pretty much a
national treasure. — Jeff Schultz

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