Inside Pulse » Gary Ross http://insidepulse.com A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Sun, 28 Sep 2014 23:00:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Gary Ross http://insidepulse.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://insidepulse.com The Hunger Games‘ Gary Ross To Direct Peter Pan And The Starcatchers For Disney http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/20/the-hunger-games-gary-ross-to-direct-peter-pan-and-the-starcatchers-for-disney/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/20/the-hunger-games-gary-ross-to-direct-peter-pan-and-the-starcatchers-for-disney/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2012 21:00:10 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=309547 With Gary Ross dropping out of helming Catching Fire, the second in The Hunger Games series (citing the turnaround time as the biggest concern), he has been eying a number of projects. One was set to be The Secret Life of Houdini for Summit Entertainment, but it now seems that he will be doing Peter Pan and the Starcatchers with Disney.

The film is an adaptation of the novel by the author tandem of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. According to Deadline, a new draft of the script should be delivered to Disney this October. Even with a budget still to be determined Ross is confident that it’ll go into production sometime in 2013.

As for the story, it is a prequel of sorts to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, “a fantasy pirate adventure full that starts when Peter leads a group of orphaned boys sent to work as servants for King Zarboff. He winds up on a ship with Molly, who intrigues him with a story of how she is an apprentice Starcatcher, a group that collects starstuff that falls to Earth and gives power to those who find it. They must keep it away from the pirate Black Stache, as well as the king.”

The Pulse: Why do I get the feeling that this will become some yearly thing where Disney has a production that either serves as a prequel or a live-action version of one of their classic animated towns. It happened with Alice in Wonderland and next spring they’ll be releasing Oz: The Great and Powerful. Once the film goes into production it will again be another competition movie as Sony Pictures has Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Warrior) attached to make Neverland, another Peter Pan flick.

What do you think? Does cinema need more Peter Pan?
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Blu-ray Review: The Hunger Games http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/17/blu-ray-review-the-hunger-games/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/17/blu-ray-review-the-hunger-games/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:00:23 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=309186 The Harry Potter and Twilight series are two of the most successful book to film adaptations ever, and now The Hunger Games can be added to that list. In fact – at least domestically – The Hunger Games has earned more than any of the individual Potter or Twilight films, which is quite an impressive feat. Still, these are different stories told in different genres for different audiences, and that’s where The Hunger Games has that extra appeal.

While there’s no denying the worldwide popularity of the Harry Potter series, not everyone is excited by the idea of a boy wizard trying to find his way in the world; however, when there are 24 teenagers fighting to the death in an arena where only one can survive, that opens up a lot more doors in terms of broad appeal. That may sound somewhat sadistic, but it’s true. It’s a scenario where the viewer is able to put themselves in the shoes of the participants in this life or death situation without putting anything at risk. It’s a shock to the system to ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” even though as it’s shown multiple times throughout the film, you really don’t know until you’re there.

Yes, The Hunger Games has a different sort of subject matter, and because of that it’s able to appeal to both sexes equally. Boyfriends and husbands – or just guys in general – are able to go and see it because it’s cool and action packed; not just so they can please their significant other. And of course it appeals to women of all ages due to the incredibly strong female lead Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her journey, as well as the love triangle that subtly, yet effectively, weaves its way into the story.

The story, based off the novel by Suzanne Collins (who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Gary Ross and Billy Ray), sees a nation divided into 12 districts, and the Capitol. Each year the Capitol selects a male and female between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the Hunger Games. The games are a battle to the death, which serves as a penance for each district to pay for their rebellious ways of the past, and out of the 24 teenagers, only one can be declared winner.

Now, I have not read the book, so I can’t do a comparison; however, I’ve heard that while there are minor complaints with how certain things were handled, overall this is a strong adaptation. For someone like me, I can assure you that the film is impressive, and story is easy enough to follow without having read the book.

While there are a few supporting and minor characters who suffer from lack of depth due to time constraints (and the fact that this simply isn’t a book), the writers hit the nail on the head for most, especially considering how much they had to work with in such a short period of time. And while you may not consider two hours and twenty minutes a short period of time, this movie sure makes it feel like it is.

The greatest character, and rightfully so, is Katniss. In a time where there is definitely a shortage of inspirational, strong-willed, heroines for young women to look up to, Katniss definitely helps fill the void. Her attitude and ability to handle herself in ever changing situations, along with her spirit and determination is something that younger females will hopefully take away from the film as well.

While talking about the violence in the film may be a bit pointless, simply due to the fact that odds are those who wanted to see the movie likely already have, I’ll still touch upon it for those who may be curious. Director Gary Ross does a fantastic job of using handheld camera motions, as well as quick edits to help cover up what would otherwise be some hardcore violence. These tricks make it so that the violence is shown in a more effective way, with sharp cutaways and reaction shots instead of being gratuitous. The film definitely earns its PG-13 rating, and younger kids may find it to be a bit much, but for the most part Ross does a fantastic job of making the story work without making the violence the central focus.

The casting for this film was remarkable, as there are so many great performances by a wide variety of characters. Lawrence is superb as Katniss, and really brings her strength and spirit to life on screen. Everything that makes Katniss great in this film is because of Lawrence, and that’s easy to see right from the start. Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District 12 (Katniss’ district). Peeta is also part of the love triangle that forms around Katniss, with the other interest being Gale Hawthorne (Thor’s younger brother, Liam Hemsworth), Katniss’ friend back home. Hutcherson does a good job here, and his chemistry with Lawrence works on the awkward, more unnatural level because that’s pretty much how their relationship is defined. Hemsworth plays a very minor role this time around, though I’ve heard Gale has a bigger part in the sequel, which is good because it looks like Hemsworth could make the character work well.

The supporting cast is also great, with my favourite character from the film (right up there with Katniss) being Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a former Hunger Games winner, and the mentor of Katniss and Peeta. Harrelson is just fun in the role, delivering some great lines while also playing the part of a mentor who knows his students have very little chance of winning perfectly. Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley and Donald Sutherland also play their roles incredibly well, with Tucci being a scene-stealer, Banks giving her character the theatrical feel needed, and Kravitz being awesome in his somewhat minor role. Sutherland is perfect as the evil leader, though his character likely won’t get a chance to truly shine until the sequel.

The Hunger Games is a great story about courage, strength, trust and honour, which just happens to take place inside an arena where teenagers must fight to the death. With a strong cast led by Lawrence, The Hunger Games is a movie that has something for everybody, and isn’t just for fans of the book.

The video transfer for this Blu-ray looks great. There are some fantastic colours used throughout, with vibrancy being highlighted when need be, and a more dramatic, toned down pallet transition when the story calls for it as well. The audio quality is flawless, with the soundtrack coming through beautifully, and the sound effects adding the perfect ambiance for the scenes without any music whatsoever.

The Blu-ray comes with a nice assortment of extras.

The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games This is the main attraction of all the special features found on this disc, and it comes in at just over two hours in length. This feature covers everything any fan of the film or book would want to know about the making-of process from pre-production all the way to post. Ross gives a huge amount of insight into how much he himself put into making sure this story was told right. For those who didn’t like the shaky cam (which was there for smart reasons) or thought that he left too much out of the film, watching this may change your mind as to how much Ross truly cared about the source material, and how now that it’s been confirmed he won’t be returning for the sequel, just how much of a void there is to fill in the director’s chair. This feature is incredibly thorough, and even if this were the only feature offered, it would still be seen as plenty, as everyone from the production crew, to the actors give their thoughts on the story and film.

Featurettes: There’s a section that holds six featurettes in it that cover other pieces that the above feature doesn’t focus on.

Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon – This featurette comes in at just over 14 minutes in length, and talks about the book, and how the idea came to Collins, as well as how the popularity of the book spread incredibly fast, and why it appeals to so many people. Like the above feature, Collins doesn’t actually speak, though those who know her speak on her behalf.

Letters from the Rose Garden – This featurette comes in at just over 9 minutes in length, and actually explains how the scenes with the President in the rose garden came about. It’s a very Donald Sutherland-centric piece, and tells the story about how he wrote a 3-page letter to Ross explaining the importance of roses to President Snow, and after reading the letter, Ross got the idea to add in those scenes.

Controlling the Games – This featurette comes in at just under 6 minutes in length, and shows how the control room where the games are run came to be.

A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell – This featurette comes in at a bit under 15 minutes in length, and sees film critic Elvis Mitchell interviewing Ross about his work on the film, and why certain things were done the way they were.

Preparing for the Games: A Director’s Process (Blu-ray Exclusive) – This featurette comes in at three minutes in length and basically touches on Ross moving from writing the screenplay to actually working on the film.

Propaganda Film – This is the film shown during the Reaping, where President Snow talks about the history of the Hunger Games, and why they’re necessary.

Marketing Archive – This section holds all the production aspects of the film, such as the trailers, posters, and photo gallery for those interested in checking them out.



Unlike Twilight, The Hunger Games has an appeal that stretches beyond female audiences, and creates a world that, while being set in a dystopian future, remains realistic and eerily similar to our own. With a well told story filled with strong thematic elements, and a vibrant heroine that should serve as a role model for young women, The Hunger Games is a film that has something for everyone, and shouldn’t be missed.

Lionsgate presents The Hunger Games. Directed by: Gary Ross. Written by: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland. Running time: 142 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: August 18, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.


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Francis Lawrence To Helm Hunger Games’ Sequel, Catching Fire http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/20/francis-lawrence-to-helm-hunger-games-sequel-catching-fire/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/20/francis-lawrence-to-helm-hunger-games-sequel-catching-fire/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 04:00:53 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=296912 In a story that began as will or won’t Gary Ross return to direct Catching Fire, the sequel to the now $500+ million international hit, The Hunger Games, has now become what director will board the project? (Ross vacated the director’s chair feeling he couldn’t prep the sequel for the August production start.)

Lionsgate had a list of directors that it whittled down to just two: Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I Am Legend) and Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball). Despite the fact that both know their way around helming adaptations of popular works of literature, the studio is going with Lawrence – his work on Legend and Constantine probably weighed heavily in the decision, considering the production design of the Hunger Games saga.

Lawrence, who has no conflicts with productions, is jumping right into the project and will be raring to go for August. While there was an issue to as whether or not Jennifer Lawrence’s commitments to a X-Men: First Class sequel would delay Catching Fire‘s production, it appears that 20th Century Fox has pushed its production back to a January 2013 start, thus allowing Lawrence to go from one franchise to another with ease.
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Gary Ross Officially Exits Catching Fire, The Hunger Games Sequel http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/12/gary-ross-officially-exits-catching-fire-the-hunger-games-sequel/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/12/gary-ross-officially-exits-catching-fire-the-hunger-games-sequel/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 14:30:20 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=296037 The Hollywood Reporter is officially reporting that Gary Ross, director of The Hunger Games, is reporting that Gary Ross has officially exited its sequel Catching Fire.

“As a writer and a director, I simply don’t have the time I need to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule,” he was quoted as saying Tuesday.

What does this mean? Ross departing is a significant blow but not one that’ll kill the franchise. The Hunger Games is having a remarkable run at the box office and a new director wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The Twilight films have had different directors per film and haven’t missed a beat box office wise and Harry Potter changed directors and didn’t miss a beat either.

What do you think? I’ve already speculated as to who would take over if Ross did exit, which you can view here, but who do you think would be the best choice to step in? Let us know below.
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Monday Morning Critic – Captain America: The First Avengers, Gary Ross and The Hunger Games Sequel http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/09/monday-morning-critic-captain-america-the-first-avengers-gary-ross-and-the-hunger-games-sequel/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/09/monday-morning-critic-captain-america-the-first-avengers-gary-ross-and-the-hunger-games-sequel/#comments Mon, 09 Apr 2012 13:00:49 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=295605 Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

Since there’s nothing of real note coming out this week that warrants anything of note in terms of column work, the one story that’s been catching fire this week has been whether or not Gary Ross will be directing the sequel to The Hunger Games. Some sources are saying yes, some are saying no, but there hasn’t been an official word on whether or not Ross will be helming the presumed sequels to the biggest grossing original franchise starter in some time in Catching Fire or Mockingjay for the matter. There’s been a tug of war over Jennifer Lawrence, mainly because she’s also a key to the X-Men: First Class films as well as the headliner of The Hunger Games franchise, but whether or not Ross returns remains an interesting one.

One imagines that with the overwhelming success of the film that everyone involved is going to look for more money to return.

It’s not rocket science; part of why Terrance Howard was replaced from Iron Man and a number of lesser actors from the Twilight series have been changed out is over cash disputes. So I can see why Ross might be hesitant to return to the franchise: it’ll probably be over $500 million by the end of the month at the latest. This is easily his biggest hit ever, which isn’t all that hard considering he’s only directed three films. But all three have been commercial and critical hits, kind of like Terrence Malick but without the bloviating from many films fans.

The thing that stands, though, is that he’d be coming back after the film most likely made the studio somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-200 million before taxes. He’s been successful before but not THIS level of success. The Hunger Games will most likely end up being one of the highest grossing films of the year both domestically and internationally. It says a lot that over three weeks it’s grossing a ton more than a number of high profile films being released afterwards.

That kind of success means he’ll want something more than the reported $3 million or so he received to make the film because he made the hit, pure and simple. You can narrow it down to a number of factors as to why the film hit as large as it did but the one thing you know Ross can argue is that the film was a hit because he did such a good job with it. It gives him an odd sense of leverage.

Now the thing that’s amusing is that if the studio replaces him, or he walks away, is that another major franchise will have a new director step in midway through the proceedings. The one thing Lionsgate will argue, and I think successfully too, is that there’s nothing about The Hunger Games that screams anything from Gary Ross was noticeable. He doesn’t have anything stylistically that sets him apart; you could hire Brett Ratner for the film and get another sequel that makes a ton of cash without skipping a beat. And that got me thinking: If Gary Ross does walk away, who steps in?

So, in grandiose fashion, I’ve opted to come up with a handful of directors who could be interesting choices to step in. You would ideally want someone with an ability to craft a summer blockbuster (which the next film most likely would be), someone with experience working in a franchise and someone able to step in and take another director’s vision and fashion it into their own. Plus you have to have a certain visual sense, as well; this is a franchise that’ll now be expected to sell a ton of tickets and make oodles of cash and has to look the part.

And in true fashion I’ve got an awesome list for it in no particular order.

The Top Five Directors Who Could Make Catching Fire And Not Miss a Beat

1. Brett Ratner

We can laugh all we want, because Ratner is a bit of a toolbox, but he has experience stepping into a franchise for someone else (X-Men: The Last Stand) as well as helming his own nondescript blockbuster franchise in Rush Hour. While the bigger themes of the novel will probably get lost in his usual frat boy cum auteur style, Ratner has experience in these kinds of things and needs a hit after Rush Hour 3 and Tower Heist underperformed.

2. Justin Lin

He’s already stepped in and delivered the best films in the Fast and the Furious franchise already, and has some directing chops, so one can see Lin coming in for this film. The one thing that was interesting about his involvement is that he took Rob Cohen’s style, which is a rip off of Michael Bay’s blockbuster style, and refined it to make a much slicker and more stylistic film than the first.

3. Tony Scott

He may not have stepped in and taken over someone else’s franchise but he’s been around long enough that he could step in and not miss a beat. Scott also has an excellent visual sense which could serve this film well.

4. Kathryn Bigelow

You know what I’d love to see? A female centric action franchise, which is what The Hunger Games franchise is all about, helmed by a woman who knows action. Bigelow is used to smaller budgets, too, so you might be able to make this film cheaper without losing anything in a visual sense. She might not have helmed a franchise before, or stepped in for someone else, but Bigelow has been around for long enough that it wouldn’t matter.

5. Robert Zemeckis

He is returning to live action with Flight but Zemeckis has crafted a number of visually arresting and powerful films already. Zemeckis also has experience with a franchise that was snake bit with Back to the Future as well; Flight will most likely be a hit because it has a stellar cast. But he has a whimsical visual sense I’d love to see in a film like this.

What do you think? Does anyone else come to mind that could step in for Gary Ross? Let me know below.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Captain America: The First Avenger

When it comes to superhero films, Captain America: The First Avenger gets one thing extraordinarily right: character. I loved this film in theatres because it got the main character so absolutely, insanely correct. And while Captain America didn’t set the box office on fire as much as it could’ve. This is a shame because it’s a damn fine film.

You can read my review of it theatrically here and my thoughts haven’t changed since the first viewing. I loved it as a character piece in theatres and it’s just as good on DVD.

Strong recommendation

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Cabin in the Woods – A bunch of soon to be dead teenagers and Thor go into the woods to a cabin. Shenanigans ensue.

See It – This has had some buzz around it so far and looks to be pretty solid.

Lockout – Guy Pearce goes into space, Taken style.

See It – Luc Besson has action films down to an art.

The Three Stooges – Larry, Moe and Curly are back … for a feature length film.

Kill Yourself Instead – You know how you can tell if someone is a moron? Look around a theatre when this film’s trailer is being played. If they laugh, there’s your answer. If they pay to see this film … well … might not be someone you ought to be friends with.

Badass – Danny Trejo is that old dude in that internet video who beat up people on a bus. In Limited Release

See It – Danny Trejo in a starring role in anything is good enough for me.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
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Gary Ross Still Hungry: Director Has Not Withdrawn From Hunger Games Sequel http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/07/gary-ross-still-hungry-director-has-not-withdrawn-from-hunger-games-sequel/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/04/07/gary-ross-still-hungry-director-has-not-withdrawn-from-hunger-games-sequel/#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2012 01:00:08 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=295538 Regardless of what showbiz sites might report, there’s been no formal announcement on Gary Ross’ withdrawal from helming the sequel to The Hunger Games. On a family vacation, Ross has been unable to verify or deny the rumor mill gossip.

There’s also a studio standoff between Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox as it pertains to starlet Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence, who played the heroine Katniss in The Hunger Games, is set to reprise her role as Mystique in the sequel to X-Men: First Class. At the time of doing the X-Men flashback/reboot the studio had an option on her to return. This deal was inked prior to Lawrence getting the role of Katniss Everdeen. With the script to Catching Fire complete, 20th Century Fox has allowed Lawrence to film The Hunger Games sequel prior to the X-Men sequel. (Catching Fire‘s production supposedly starts in late summer. The X-Men sequel begins its production in January 2013).

Ross made a great pitch for the Hunger Games directing gig, a move that has ultimately led to him having his biggest hit yet as a director (currently $400 million and climbing). And in the process of bringing Suzanne Collins’ hit novel to the silver screen he was already in sequel mode, staying active in development of Catching Fire. When post-production ran long, Ross and Collins got the help of in-demand screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) last November to finish a screen outline and later pen the sequel with Suzanne Collins.

Unless there’s a dispute over money – back-end profits are a likely culprit – then I suspect Ross will be back for the sequel.

What Do You Think?: If Gary Ross isn’t in the director chair, who would you like to see direct?
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Just Seen It Movie Review: The Hunger Games [Video] http://insidepulse.com/2012/03/26/the-hunger-games-just-seen-it-movie-review-video/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/03/26/the-hunger-games-just-seen-it-movie-review-video/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 11:02:06 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=294214 Set in the future, Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in a nationally televised fight-to-the-death. Along with her partner Peeta, the two are trained in combat in preparation for the battle. But they both must weigh their survival against their friendship and their humanity. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Gary Ross Written by Gary Ross (screenplay) and Suzanne Collins (screenplay and novel). Produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik. Genre: Action Thriller.


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The Hunger Games – Review http://insidepulse.com/2012/03/24/the-hunger-games-review/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/03/24/the-hunger-games-review/#comments Sat, 24 Mar 2012 13:00:58 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=293922
Sci-Fi morality tale succeeds because of its accessibility

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first and foremost. The Hunger Games is NOT Twilight. Outside of being young adult literature that includes a female as the protagonist the two series are opposites of one another. And don’t even begin to bring up the romance triangle angle that exists in both. No need to take sides and be part of a “Team”. M’kay?

With the Harry Potter saga complete and Twilight nearing the end of its series, a void was imminent when it came to young adult to big screen translations. Fantasy fare like The Golden Compass and The Chronicles of Narnia either bombed or suffered setbacks in the form of switching studios between productions. But The Hunger Games roots itself in science-fiction taking place in a dystopian society. It’s a popular novel, with more than 2.9 million copies in print, so a leap to the big screen as a franchise wasn’t unexpected. What is unexpected is that this first entry outdoes the likes of Twilight (an easy feat) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the films wouldn’t get really interesting until Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

The subtext of The Hunger Games offers unique themes about the proliferation of reality television and human suffering as a means of subterfuge for the real problems that exist. The best science-fiction touches upon events or situations that mirror our own. For instance, Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was released during the Vietnam War and depicted a human raised by Martians interacting with the culture of Earth. Now replace the protagonist with a returning veteran reviled upon his arrival home to America, and imagine the difficulty he faced integrating back into society.

The core idea and its plot is borrowed from other sources – The Lottery, The Running Man and Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale novel spring to mind immediately – but the film is done in such a way to make it unique; fans will be appreciative, while at the same time it is accessible for non-fans. And if the film is any indication of what’s in store for Catching Fire and Mockingjay – the two novels that complete Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series – then we can expect two more stylized and engrossing works about society and morality in the coming years.

The setting is North America, but gone are the states and cities that we know. Even America isn’t America. It’s Panem, rising like a Phoenix from the ashes after a major catastrophe destroyed our civilization. Instead of fifty states there are twelve districts that operate to stimulate the prosperous Capitol, a city where the furnishings and fixtures are far removed from anything you’re likely to find in an IKEA catalog. The year the story takes place is not given; our only clue of time is at the start as the districts are preparing for the 74th annual Hunger Games. Each year the districts must select two “tributes”, a man and woman, ages 12 to 18, to compete in a last-man-standing fight to the death where hidden cameras capture the carnage for all the districts to see.

Twelve-year-old Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected as the female tribute for District 12, but her older sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. Her male counterpart in the journey to Capitol is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). It is there where they receive combat training from Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), a perceptive drunkard who won the games for their district more than 20 years earlier. To put on a “show” for the spectators to acquire sponsors as if they were NASCAR drivers, Katniss and Peeta receive makeovers and image overhauls from Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks looking like she was the missing cast member of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) and Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Katniss quickly establishes herself among the tributes by her boldness and fan-favoritism. This does not amuse President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who sees her as a potential threat in disrupting the Games. It’s not that no one ever wins from District 12, but Haymitch’s victory twenty-plus years earlier is an indication that it doesn’t happen often.

The pomp and circumstance that comes from visiting the Capitol changes once the games begin. A bloodbath ensues, but choreographed and edited in such a manner to confound and confuse one’s equilibrium. This was to ensure an audience friendly PG-13 rating. Similar to the TV series Survivor, there are alliances and eliminations to help speed up the game. There are no immunities, time outs, or restarts – only finality (ahem, death).

Prior to the games there is a moment shared between Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), her closest friend (maybe something more?). He asks the question: “What if one year everyone just stopped watching?” It’s an interesting question and one that bares greater importance once the games begin. Several cutaway shots show the districts glued to giant electronic billboards in town squares standing like lemmings, totally fascinated by the death of others. It’s not much of a reach to see that the yearly ritual is a means for the Capitol to divert attention away from the problems facing most of the outlying districts – namely famine and destitution.

Remarkable female protagonists in cinema are somewhat of a rarity. Directors like James Cameron and Ridley Scott have a well-established history of making films that center on great heroines (like Aliens and Thelma & Louise). Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs and most recently Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) showed how a compelling figure in literature could make a credible leap to the silver screen because of the performance of the actress cast in the role. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss can be added to the likes of Jodie Foster and Noomi Rapace/Rooney Mara. She is the movie’s key and there’s hardly a minute that goes by where we aren’t pulling for her to escape impending death or rooting for her when she brandishes a bow and arrow (her preferred weapon for hunting). It’s far too early to say if this is a career-defining role for Lawrence, who has already been the recipient of an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone. But she definitely stands out among the talented cast.

For me, the drawing factor for this film wasn’t the story or the actors involved, it was the participation of Gary Ross. Up until helming The Hunger Games he had only directed two other films (Pleasantville and Seabiscuit). While his prevalent use of shaky-cam in the action scenes follows a tired trend, it helps to offset the impact of the violent images. Had the sequences been filmed as they were originally intended – I’m told the veracity of violence in the books is drawn out – it would have achieved a restricted rating. Examining his earlier works it becomes clear why Ross would be interested in tackling such an adaptation. Pleasantville is a mix of reality and television and Seabiscuit is a real-life underdog tale. Both aspects feature heavily in The Hunger Games.

Unfortunately, even though the film runs 140 minutes (trust me, the time flies), some of the backstory appears truncated. But to fault the adaptation would be to blame the author herself. Suzanne Collins and Ross worked tirelessly on a screenplay that later got assistance from Billy Ray (State of Play, Breach). I’ll admit the dialogue comes across pretty cheesy at times. The repeated “May the odds be ever in your favor” phrase becomes tiresome in its usage to point that audiences may roll their eyes.

Despite its dark subject matter and being influenced by other sources, The Hunger Games is still effective. Sure, it may sidestep moral complications in certain situations with Katniss’ character, but it offers a number of topics worthy of discussion (importance of self-sacrifice; violence as entertainment; teenagers as sacrificial lambs to appease the masses watching, et al.). It also helps that the film’s sophistication extends beyond its genre to be something appealing to most audiences.

Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray, based on “The Hunger Games” written by Suzanne Collins
Notable Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci

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The Hunger Games Capitol Motion Ads Revealed http://insidepulse.com/2012/02/13/the-hunger-games-capitol-motion-ads-revealed/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/02/13/the-hunger-games-capitol-motion-ads-revealed/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2012 07:00:50 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=289474 A trio of motion ads from The Hunger Games have been revealed from this spring’s The Hunger Games have been revealed. You can view them below.


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New The Hunger Games Trailer Debuts http://insidepulse.com/2012/02/03/new-the-hunger-games-trailer-debuts/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/02/03/new-the-hunger-games-trailer-debuts/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2012 11:00:54 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=288231 A new trailer for the Jennifer Lawrence starring The Hunger Games has debuted at Yahoo! Movies and you can watch it below.

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