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The Hunger Games

Bookstores in Hollywood must be empty given how much it plunders books for fresh ideas.  It seems every new franchise is based on a long-running novel series with ‘The Hunger Games’ the latest.  Based on the trilogy by Suzanne Collins it mixes some social commentary amongst the action teenage readers have found captivating.  The movie version has been eagerly awaited by fans helping the books fly off the shelves as fast as Tinsletown can adapt them.

 

Every year the young citizens of Panem, a city arising from the ashes of North America, are forced to endure a deadly televised competition.  Called The Hunger Games, a boy and girl are chosen to participate in various challenges where the surviving victor gains untold riches.  Chosen are Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).   With the help of former competitor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), they compete in the game of their lives with victory continually slipping from their grasp.

 

Targeted at the same teen audience who have helped the ‘Twilight’ saga to great heights, ‘The Hunger Games’ is far superior.  The arresting totalitarian world Collins has created which director Gary Ross brings to stark life is the main reason.  Whilst the George Orwell ‘big brother is watching’ motif is one oft seen, this new spin gives it a fresh slant as adolescents turn into killers.  Doing so for the amusement of the idle rich, the participant’s primal need for survival is effectively contrasted with the high life the upper classes lead.

 

Against that strong background the action sequences become genuinely exciting.  The tense atmosphere as each contestant dodges danger is keenly felt.  Lawrence shows her fine acting skills in these sequences and makes for an engaging heroine.  She is supported by a strong cast who make this futuristic world seem all too real.  Whilst certain narrative strands don’t quite make sense overall this first instalment of the trilogy hits its targets.

 

There may be those tired of seeing yet another teen orientated franchise on screen.  Thankfully ‘The Hunger Games’ is one of the better productions with a well utilised concept ensuring book sales of this series will further increase.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

 

 

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Gathering a group of respected actors is usually half the struggle in making a memorable film.  They can be only as good as the words given which certain movies fail to recognise.  Thankfully ‘Marigold Hotel’s story engages while utilising its cast as best as possible.  Its visually splendid location is also a massive plus with India’s many charms equalled by the thespian’s skills.

 

Retired and bored with their lives, a group of pensioners decide to re-locate to India to start a new life. Among them are Evelyn (Judi Dench), Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Muriel (Maggie Smith).  Their fresh beginning is rudely shaken when they discover the hotel they are staying in is less than fantastic.  Assured by its manager Sonny (Dev Patel) that it is a ‘work in progress’, they stay. Forming new friendships and making peace with old ones, the group become entranced by India’s allure and many secrets.

 

Despite copying a rather creaky formula, ‘Marigold’s Hotel’s screenplay maintains interest.  Due to the efforts of the fine cast and wonderful location, you genuinely care for the characters.  Their need to still be relevant in a sometimes uncaring world is one some can relate with as is their awkwardness in their new surroundings.  Whilst some characters fare better than others, the occasionally episodic and somewhat clichéd script generally makes effective use of those involved.

 

John Madden directs with a steady hand and photographs India in all its amazing glory.  It could almost be called a travelogue given the ancient beauty the locale offers.  The culture itself plays an important part in shaping the character’s viewpoints thereby making India a true harbinger of personal change.  The vast landscape almost becomes a metaphor for the opportunities they face with only their entrenched mind-set a barrier from them fully embracing it.

 

Audiences will probably know what to expect when seeing this.  It isn’t a bad thing however as the performances and scenery make for diverting viewing in its exploration in refusing to surrender to ageing.

 

Rating out of 10:  7