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.
The actress and former Playboy model was flying from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her boyfriend Roy J. Bank and her 17-year-old son Rhyan.
D'Errico was pulled aside by workers who told her she would have to go through the controversial scanner, which displays the contours of passengers' bodies.
The blonde beauty claims she felt "overexposed" and is adamant staff could have picked anyone from the crowd, but chose her because of her looks.
She tells AOL News, "It is my personal belief that they pulled me aside because they thought I was attractive... My boyfriend sailed through with no problems, which is rather ironic in that he fits the stereotypical 'look' of a terrorist when his beard has grown a bit.
"After the search, I noticed that the male agent who had pulled me out of line was smiling and whispering with two other agents and glancing at me. I was outraged.
"This could, and I'm sure does, happen to other women. It isn't right to hide behind the veil of security and safety in order to take advantage of women, or even men for that matter, so that you can see them naked. It's a misuse of power and authority, and as much a personal violation as a Peeping Tom. The difference is that Peeping Toms can have charges pressed against them."
A spokesperson for airport security has denied there was any improper behaviour from employees.
Heartthrob Brad Pitt finally may be getting rid of that skanky beard he's been sporting lately.
The actor has pulled out of director Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain seven weeks before the shooting was set to start in Australia, and the film's 1,000 crew members who are now out of work are reportedly furious at Pitt.
According to Australia's The Daily Telegraph, a disgruntled worker on the set of The Fountain said most crew members were informed Friday that their services were no longer required and problems with some being paid were anticipated.
"A lot of work so far has been done on good will. Purchase orders were already in place
--hopefully they will be paid for," he told the paper.
Aronofsky's sci-fi epic tells the tale of one man's psychological journey set in the present as well as 500 years into the past and future. Cate Blanchett and Ellen Burstyn were set to star alongside Pitt.
The Ain't It Cool News Web site published an open letter from some of the crew members hired to build and paint the film's massive sets, blasting Pitt for his "Hollywood prima donna antics."
"Apparently, Brad cannot be talked back into the film," the site reported the letter as saying.
"The real bummer is for the 400 or so crew who have flown in from all corners of Australia and overseas--out on their asses. What amazes us is that it appears Brad Pitt has no real understanding of the impact of his decision, now only seven weeks from shooting.
"We estimate there is over 1,500 people here in Australia, including family and children, who are now displaced and unemployed.
"Word from the top is that we have to carefully wrap and store the enormous sets we have built, because the picture will go ahead, probably in twelve months time, with another star. Someone, hopefully, who is a bit more respectful of all the 'little people' who make their stars shine," the letter said.
According to Variety, Pitt opted out of Aronofsky's The Fountain due to concerns over the complex script, and will likely move on to play Achilles in Wolfgang Petersen's Iliad update Troy. This also translates to a bigger paycheck for Pitt, who had agreed to $6 million for The Fountain in order to keep the budget manageable. He will reportedly command his full $17.5 million salary for Troy. Both projects are set up by Warner Bros.
Variety reports that the Troy talks now depend on reaching a resolution that would allow the studio to pay some of The Fountain's $8-$10 million pre-production costs by subtracting some of Pitt's compensation for Troy.
Meanwhile, The Fountain's future remains uncertain. Studio execs have reportedly been calling around town about replacements for Pitt, but it remains unclear if the project will go ahead.
That won't help the Australian crew however, who say they have coined a new Aussie phrase. "When someone shafts you: 'You've been Pitted,'" the letter concludes.