Reel Critics: 'Hunger Games' satisfies

OK, I didn't read the books, but let me just say, as pure movie entertainment,"The Hunger Games"is a "wow."

This dystopian drama portrays a society where 24 children between the ages of 12-18 are randomly selected for an annual survivor/gladiator-style tournament to the death. Just living is winning. Or is it?

Katniss Everdeen is already a survivor in an outlying rural district by keeping her family fed and together. When her little sister is chosen to play in the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to replace her as a "tribute" and is sped off to the Capitol and groomed for this gruesome human chess game. Suddenly, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar-nominated for her portrayal of another backwoods girl in"Winter's Bone") is outstanding as Katniss. It's a star-making display of physical and mental toughness as well as natural beauty.

"Games" is an astounding feast for the eyes, using fantastic sets and costumes for the city scenes and lush mountain landscapes. It's unique in that people are challenged by the elements as well as by technology, and a chilling commentary on a society that thrives on blood-soaked pageantry for sport.

This is just the first of a trilogy. Let the games begin.


Weisz shines in 'Deep Blue Sea'

"The Deep Blue Sea"is a classic art house film. It's an intense character study showing the emotional storms wreaking havoc on a woman making major life decisions. Rachel Weisz gives another Oscar-worthy performance as the woman living in the eye of her personal hurricane.

She plays Hester Collyer, the wife of a wealthy aristocrat in postwar London. The damaged city is a fitting backdrop to her dreary but comfortable life. It all begins to unravel when she begins a passionate affair with a former RAF fighter pilot.

She leaves her husband's manor house for a dingy flat in the city to be with her exciting new man. However, this dashing but hard-drinking combat hero takes her on a romantic roller coaster ride that challenges her sanity. To complicate matters, her still caring husband offers the hope of reconciliation.

Over time, her relationships with both men slowly decay. The heart-wrenching situation is amplified by the real anguish Weisz radiates in the role. This excellent small film is very well acted, but it's haunting and painful to watch.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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