In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
James MacArthur, who for 11 seasons booked ‘em on Hawaii Five-O, passed away earlier this morning. He was 72. Born in 1937 to playwright Charles MacArthur and EGOT winner Helen Hayes, he is survived by his wife of 25 years, Helen, and their four children and seven grandchildren.
Forever remembered as the second in command on Hawaii Five-O, he also had a prosperous stage career before and after the long running program. MacArthur joined the classic tropical cop show after the pilot was created when test audiences didn’t like the original. The producer remembered MacArthur from his work on Hang ‘Em High and brought him in as a replacement. An avid golfer and traveler, he once drove all the way from London to Malawi, Africa.
Read on for the official press release:
Today the world mourns the loss of internationally-known actor, family man, and humble human being, James Gordon MacArthur. He passed on October 28th 2010 at the age of 72 with his family by his side.
James was born on December 8, 1937 in Los Angeles, California and raised in a theatre atmosphere by his parents, the First Lady of the American stage, Helen Hayes and noted playwright Charles MacArthur residing at their home, "Pretty Penny", on the bank of the Hudson River in Nyack, New York.
As an actor, James had three strong separate careers, Live Stage, Movies and Television. In 1955 prior to his senior year at the Solebury School, James appeared in the TV play, "Deal a Blow". After graduation and before going to Harvard, he went to Hollywood to make the film version of it, renamed "The Young Stranger" which earned him a nomination in the Most Promising Newcomer category at the 1958 BAFTA awards. During summer breaks from Harvard he made "The Light in the Forest" and "Third Man on the Mountain" for Walt Disney. In 1959 and 1960, he made both "Kidnapped" and "Swiss Family Robinson" for Disney and made his Broadway debut playing Aaron Jablonski opposite Jane Fonda in "Invitation to a March" which won him the 1961 Theatre World Award for Best New Actor. He then appeared in "Under the Yum Yum Tree", "The Moon Is Blue", "John Loves Mary", "Barefoot in the Park" and "Murder at the Howard Johnson's" before returning to Hollywood to star in such movies as "The Interns", "Spencer's Mountain", "The Truth About Spring" with Haley Mills, and "Cry of Battle". In 1963, he was a runner up in the Golden Laurel Awards in the "Top New Male Personality" category. He then was a member of the all-star cast which included Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, George Montgomery, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas in "The Battle of the Bulge".
In 1968 producer Leonard Freeman remembered the actor who did a cameo in the Clint Eastwood movie "Hang 'em High" as the traveling preacher who came on the set, requiring only one take which was excellent. He called James, and cast him as Detective Dan Williams of Hawaii 5-0, who will be forever tied to the phrase "Book 'em Dano!".
After 11 years as Detective Dan Williams, he returned to the live stage in "The Hasty Hearst" with Caroline Lagerfelt", "The Front Page", a play written by his father Charles MacArthur, "A Bed full of Foreigners" in several locals and then played Mortimer in the national tour of "Arsenic and Old Lace" with Jean Stapleton, Marion Ross, and Larry Storch.
MacArthur loved life and all that it had to offer. He was adventurous and a world traveler. In the early 1970s he spent six months driving his Land Rover from London, England to Malawi, Africa with friend, Stan Hattie. He also enjoyed sharing his love for travel with his family taking them on numerous vacations to many exotic locations. James was an avid tennis player and enjoyed skiing, fishing, and hiking. He was a skilled flamenco guitarist and a consummate reader. His passion for playing golf led him to meet and fall in love with his wife, LPGA tour player and teacher, "H.B." Duntz. Throughout his life James developed a long list of friendships and stories to tell along the way. He had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. He was witty and charming always enjoying a good time. He was often the recipient of practical jokes; however, one could always tell when he was the instigator of a few good ones of his own by that famous little crinkle at the side of his mouth and the twinkle in his eye. He was never one to be lost for words.
MacArthur was deeply honored to speak at the Library of Congress. He also was the Master of Ceremonies at Dan Quayle's Inaugural Ball. He was most supportive of the theatre through the Helen Hayes Awards in Washington, DC serving as a Board member, participant in the Annual Charity Auction and as the presenter of the Charles MacArthur Award for Best Screenplay at the annual Washington Theatre Awards.
In 2001, James was honored with his own star along the Walk of Fame in Palm Springs, California. In 2003, the fourth annual Film in Hawaii Award was bestowed upon him and Hawaii Five-O. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honored James with a Gold Circle Award for 50 years of outstanding contributions to the medium in 2008. He was a true master of his craft.
His retirement was as busy as his career spending time with his family, who meant the world to him. He leaves behind his wife of over 25 years, Helen Beth (H.B. Duntz), four children: Charles P. MacArthur (Jenny), Mary McClure (Kevin), Juliette Rappaport (Kurt), James D. MacArthur and seven grandchildren; Ruby Johnstone, Riley Kea MacArthur, Ford and Daisy McClure, Jake, Luke, and Julia Rappaport.