Sunday, December 29, 2013

'Hunger Games II': Lawrence and Not Much Else

Jennifer Lawrence: One expression's enough for her.
The latest take of "Hunger Games" ("Catching Fire") is reminiscent of the transition in the  1960s Herman's Hermits tune "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am": "Second verse, same as the first."

This is another of those series movies that annoy the hell out of me because they become tediously repititious and simply refuse to reach any conclusions. What has to happen here (a rebellion of oppressed minorities) is obvious, but they need to get to it before we lose interest. Before you lose interest. I've lost mine.

Without Jennifer Lawrence's presence, my thought is that "Hunger Games," regardless of the take, is a two-star movie (of five) at best. She elevates it to three stars simply by being there, since she doesn't really have to act. Lawrence is one of the truly remarkable screen presences I've seen in the past 20 or more years. Her love affair with the camera reminds of Marilyn Monroe's capacity to take over a scene without having to do anything. In "Hunger Games," Lawrence has basically one expression and is not pushed to do anything, as she has been in other, much, much better movies.

But this is a kids' movie (kids into their 30s, as it were) and those who want to see "Hunger Games" want explosions, special effects and cute tricks, not complex and difficult story lines. They get it with "Catching Fire," since it has absolutely nothing new to offer and wastes performances by such noted veterans as Woody Harrelson, , Stanley Tucci,  Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland.

This is a season of very good movies. Go see one. You won't get it, however, with "Hunger Games."

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