“Hunger Games” may not equal book

“The Hunger Games” trilogy is upon us in the theaters, and as with
any wildly popular book series, those who are avid fans of the
written material will be disappointed in the film version. For those
who have not read the novel series by Suzanne Collins, it should
stand alone OK is yet another futuristic scary story of government
power gone mad.

Using elements of “The Lottery,” “The Truman Show” and “Rollerball,”
“The Hunger Games” focuses on a nation called Panem, which is a
country with a Capitol city and 12 districts, divided by class. Each
year two young representatives, a boy and a girl, from each district
are picked by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. This is a
televised event and a case of reality TV gone berserk. Seen as
entertainment, and intimidation of the lower-class districts, the
games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced
to try to survive in harsh elements and kill competitors, with all
citizens required to watch.

Jennifer Lawrence, wonderful in her Academy Award-nominated
performance in “Winter’s Bone,” is the main character Katniss
Everdeen, who will be the pivotal person as the trilogy plays out.
Collins followed “The Hunger Games” with “Catching Fire” and
“Mockinjay,” all based on Panem. Lawrence’s Katniss is very similar
to her Ree character in “Winter’s Bone” in that she is a teenager
already thrust into an adult role of trying to keep her ravaged
family together. A resident of the lowest-class mining District 12,
she volunteers to take her sister Primrose’s place in the Hunger
Games when the younger girl is selected in the annual lottery. Also
selected from the district is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, most recently
seen in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”), who has harbored a crush
in Katniss for years.

There are a lot of garish pre-show presentations featuring an
over-the-top Stanley Tucci as the emcee Caeser Flickerman, wearing a
hairstyle reminiscent of powdered wigs, without the powder. Indeed,
the residents of the Capitol have embraced a style of the Brady Bunch
gone amok, and anyone holding stock in Maybelline had to be rich,
with all the makeup these citizen slather all over their faces.
Katniss and Peeta are tutored by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody
Harrelson, masterfully drunken and slovenly) and the more refined
Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).

In a pregame interview, Peeta reveals his attraction to Katniss, and
although this angers her, it actually provides a human interest story
that helps them win sponsors, who are able to provide equipment and
food to the Tributes — as the game participants are called — via
delivery balloons.

At takes more than an hour for “The Hunger Games” to actually get to
the deadly competition. Naturally, unlike game shows of today that
are intensely monitored to ensure their integrity, these games are
altered as they progress to favor the Tributes from the
lower-numbered but higher class district. While Peeta wisely latches
onto a group of these favored players, Katniss elects to go alone
except for a brief alliance with District 11 Tribute Rue (Amandla
Stenberg, who was amazing in a physical role of the young, terrified
but resourceful Cat in “Colombiana”).

Donald Sutherland is regal and terrifyingly stoic as President Snow,
who is not pleased that Tributes from the lower class are prevailing.
In the end you know he will be around in the next movies of this
series.

Collins co-wrote the screenplay with director Gary Ross
(“Seabiscuit”), and she no doubt had to endure the painful reality of
cutting the story down from the book presentation. As it is, “The
Hunger Games” runs more than two hours.

Lawrence, who showed her action-acting chops in “X-Men: First Class”
as young Raven/Mystique, does a lot of running and is excellent with
a bow if not the best at hand-to-hand combat. If we are lucky we will
get to see her as the reluctant hero Katniss as this trilogy
progresses.

***

A beef: “Silent House” is a unique offering in that it appears to
have been shot in one long take. While it was done masterfully, this
was the wrong movie in which to use this gimmick. The twist at the
end indicates the terrified Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) committing acts
she was not aware of. Yet how can this be if she is on camera the
whole time and we viewers do not see these acts? It just ruined an
otherwise interesting take on the horror movie genre.

***

Coming up: Speaking of scary movies, Monsterpalozza 2012 is planned
for April 13-15 at the Marriot Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention
Center. Among the events is a look at Jack Pierce, the makeup artist
who created some of the iconic monsters; a tribute to Julie Adams of
“The Creature from the Black Lagoon’; “In Search of Zombies,” a video
series based on the 1970s show hosted by Leonard Nimoy that
investigated supernatural and paranormal events; members of Stan
Winston’s location team who will talk about the making of “Predator”
25 years ago; Cinema Makeup School presenting “Blood, Bath and
Beyond;” and a salute to the groundbreaking, wickedly funny and gory
“An American Werewolf in London.” Star of that movie, David Naughton,
is expected to be on hand.

Tickets are $20 each day with a Saturday day of entry charge of $25.
A $50 three-day pass also is offered. Check www.monsterpalooza.com
for more information.

Bookshelf news: For all you Peanuts fans, the 17th volume of “The
Complete Peanuts,” featuring all of the strips by Charles Schulz
published in 1983-84, has been published. This is part of the
25-volume set Fantagraphics Books has been releasing for the last
several years.

As in the previous 16 volumes, an introduction has been written by a
celebrity fan, in this case movie expert Leonard Maltin.

By the early 1980s, Schulz’s panels focused mainly on Charlie Brown,
his sister Sally, the Van Pelt children – Lucy, Linus and Rerun, the
unlikely girl chums Peppermint Patty and Marcie, Snoopy and his bird
buddies, and Snoopy’s rail-thin, fishing-hat bedecked brother Spike
living in the desert outside of Needles.

As always, unrequited love is a theme in this Peanuts series. Sally
remains delusional in her belief Linus is her “Sweet Babboo.” Lucy
has a few unsatisfying visits with her crush, pianist extraordinaire
Schroeder. And Peppermint Patty, though in denial about it, continues
to try to break through Charlie Brown’s cluelessness about their
more-than-friendship while Marcie flat out pursues “Charles,” as she
calls him, exasperated he just can’t seem to realize she likes him.
Three of the original five characters of the strip that debuted on
Oct. 2, 1950, have pretty much disappeared. Patty and Violet have
only cameo appearances in this volume while Shermy, who started out
as Charlie Brown’s best friend, a role Linus moved into later once he
grew out of babyhood, is not presented at all. Frieda with the
naturally curly hair is gone, and Pig Pen shows up for a few panels
here.

Of the story arcs, two are shown here that were adapted to the
second animated Peanuts Christmas special, “It’s Christmastime Again,
Charlie Brown.” December 1983 panels cover the story of Sally getting
a part in the school Christmas play in which she has one line,
“Hark,” but ends up flubbing it. In December 1984 panels, Peppermint
Patty believes she should take on the role of Mary in the play, but
it already has been given the role. “Mary never wore glasses,” cries
a frustrated Peppermint Patty.

Underused in this volume is the youngest Van Pelt, Rerun, the key
character in some wonderful earlier story arcs. Rerun is a kid
already with a jaded view of the world, often seen from the backseat
of a bicycle wildly guided by his mother.

“The Complete Peanuts: 1983 to 1984″ sells for $28.99.

Reaching birthday milestones in April:
30: Kirsten Dunst, Seth Rogen
40: Jennifer Garner
60: Mary McDonnell
70: Barry Levinson, Marsha Mason, Barbra Streisand
80: Joel Grey, Debbie Reynolds, Omar Shariff
90: Jack Klugman
Birthdays in April: (age in parenthesis)
Jessia Alba, 4/28 (31); Patricia Arquette, 4/8 (44); Hank Azaria,
4/25 (48); Alec Baldwin, 4/3 (54); Ellen Barkin, 4/16 (57); Maria
Bello, 4/18 (45); Jack Black, 4/7 (43); Adrien Brody, 4-14 (39);
Blair Brown, 4/23 (66); Carol Burnett, 4/34 (79); Amanda Bynes, 4/3
(26); David Cassidy, 4/12 (62); Hayden Christensen, 4/19 (31);
Francis Ford Coppola, 4/7 (73); Russell Crowe, 4/7 (48); Penelope
Cruz, 4/28 (38); Jon Cryer, 4/16 (47); Claire Danes, 4/12 (33); Judy
Davis, 4/13 (57), Doris Day, 4/3 (88); Daniel Day-Lewis, 4/29 (45);
Robert Downey Jr., 4/4 (47; Kirsten Dunst, 4/30 (30); Michael
Fassbender, 4/2 (35); James Franco, 4/19 (34); Andy Garcia, 4/12
(56); James Garner, 4/7 (84); Jennifer Garner, 4/17 (40); John Gavin,
4/8 (81); Sarah Michelle Geller, 4/14 (35); Crispin Glover, 4/20
(48); Joel Grey, 4/11 (80); Anthony Michael Hall, 4/14 (44); Melissa
Joan Hart, 4/18 (36); Celeste Holm, 4/29 (93); Djimon Hounsou, 4/24
(48); Felicity Huffman, 4/19 (33); Linda Hunt, 4/2 (67); Kevin James,
4/26 (47); Ashley Judd, 4/19 (44); Perry King, 4/30 (64); Jack
Klugman, 4/27 (90); Christina Lahti, 4/4 (62); Jessica Lange, 4/20
(63); Martin Lawrence, 4/16 (47); Cloris Leachman, 4/30 (86); Jason
Lee, 4/25 (42); Barry Levinson, 4/6 (70); Jet Li, 4/26 (49); Andie
MacDowell, 4/21 (54); Ali MacGraw, 4/1 (74); Shirley MacLaine, 4/24
(78), Marsha Mason, 4/3 (70); Ian McDiarmid, 4/17 (68); Mary
McDonnell, 4/28 (60); Leighton Meester, 4/9 (26); Hayley Mills, 4/18
(66); Rick Moranis, 4/18 (58); Michael Moriarty, 4/5 (71); Kate
Mulgrew, 4/29 (57); Eddie Murphy, 4/3 (51); Craig T. Nelson, 4/4
(68); Jack Nicholson, 4/22 (75); Cynthia Nixon, 4/9 (46); Ryan
O’Neal, 4/20 (71); Haley Joel Osment, 4/10 (24); Annette O’Toole, 4/1
(61); Al Pacino, 4/25 (72); Barry Pepper, 4/4 (42); Ron Perlman, 4/13
(62); Michelle Pfeiffer, 4/29 (54); Jane Powell, 4/1 (84); Dennis
Quaid, 4/9 (58); John Ratzenberger, 4/6 (65); Debbie Reynolds, 4/1
(80); Peter Riegert, 4/11 (65); Eric Roberts, 4/18 (56); Seth Rogen,
4/15 (30); Paul Rudd, 4/6 (43); Steven Seagal, 4/10 (61); Omar
Shariff, 4/10 (80); Talia Shire, 4/25 (66); Paul Sorvino, 4/13 (73);
Kristen Stewart, 4/9 (22); Barbra Streisand, 4/24 (70); George Takei,
4/20 (75); Shirley Temple Black, 4/23 (84); Emma Thompson, 4/15 (53);
Uma Thurman, 4/29 (42); Max von Sydown, 4/10 (83); John Waters, 4/22
(66); Emma Watson, 4/15 (22); Billy Dee Williams, 4/6 (75); James
Woods, 4/18 (65); Robin Wright, 4/8 (46); Burt Young, 4/30 (72);
Renee Zellweger, 4/25 (43)