28 March 2012

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from "The Hunger Games."
Does anyone else find it really weird that "The Hunger Games" is the book and movie that has captured the imagination of so many readers and viewers, young and old alike?

Playing like a cross between "The Running Man," "Lord of the Flies" and "The Truman Show," the movie tells a brutal, bloody story. You can talk about its themes of government control and how we glorify violence, but what it comes down to is teenagers killing each other, sometimes with their bare hands.

For a scene in which up to a dozen kids die in a matter of seconds, Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") employs a handheld camera and quick cutting, never lingering on the horrific acts and minimizing the blood on the screen.

I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

16 March 2012

21 Jump Street

Jonah Hill, left, and Channing Tatum are shown in a scene from "21 Jump Street."
I have vague recollections of the late-1980s TV series "21 Jump Street." I know it starred Johnny Depp and involved police officers going undercover at high schools and colleges. I do not remember it being a comedy.

But that's what we get with the 2012 movie adaptation.

The bigger surprise? It doesn't just work, it works really well.

Star Jonah Hill and screenwriter Michael Bacall, who share the story credit, and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs") run the basic scenario through the modern, R-rated comedy machine and give us a movie loaded with laughs, colored with a layer of self-awareness, peppered with action and built around a surprisingly sweet emotional core.

An even bigger surprise? Channing Tatum, whose acting in the past always has failed to be as interesting as his name, gives a fine comedic performance.