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The Hunger Games

Pleases the senses without losing the story
I have to admit I went in to the theater last Friday afternoon slightly apprehensive. I hadn't heard of this series until I started seeing previews a few months ago, and then read the first two books a week before the movie came out at the urging of my boss. I really enjoyed the books not only because of the tension filled action-y bits, but also because of the political background about a repressed people.However, I was building up the movie in my mind at how good it could be that I was getting afraid it would let me down. I got to the theater with only 32 tickets left, my friends a few places in line behind me, and grabbed a free poster from the dwindling pile next to the register. I even was interviewed by the local paper about seeing the movie. But the apprehension was still there. By the time the movie ended, it was all gone. This movie captures the feel of the book wonderfully. It has the usual variations that book-to-movie films always do, but those usually don't bother me. The movie version of The Hunger Games captures the feel of a girl thrust into a much bigger world than the one she knows and then is dropped into a deadly game in which she does everything she can just to survive. Some people will say the movie isn't gory enough compared to the books, or that there isn't enough action, or that it is just a retelling of this movie or that movie. The Hunger Games melds two stories together; one about a girl's will to do what it takes to survive in a deadly environment, and two, the political movings of a society where she is just a piece of a much larger game. I think the aspect of the movie that struck me the most was how it strikes the audience visually and audibly without overwhelming you. The score was woven in to bring out the emotions of some scenes, and help hold them back in others. The movie looks great too. The actors give genuine performances that capture the essence of their characters. This movie is a must see for fantasy-story lovers anywhere. It is forward enough to hold teenagers attention and deep enough to engage those that are a little bit older. It leaves you invested in the characters and yearning to know what is coming next. Back to book three for me....

The Fighter

Human realism elevates beyond boxing
In what could have easily been just another underdog story "Fighter" gets audiences pumped and feeling connected to life-like characters. Many of the major players in the movie, Wahlberg and Adams in particular, are out of their normal role. Adams, featured mainly in "chick flicks" shows her gritty and sexy side. Wahlberg finally breaks out of the action role to show a very real character the audience members can't but help to support. Bale, however, steals the show. Taking a short break from Batman, he portrays Wahlberg's older, crack-addicted, ex-boxer, brother. Bale captures the mannerisms of not just a stereotypical junkie but of Dickie Eklund himself. This film pulls the focus away from an underdog sports story to one of a family struggling to hold itself together and its members coming to terms with the truth.

True Grit

Less gun-work than expected
The Coen brothers team up again in this remake of the 1969 film and manage to make an audience think during an "action" movie once again. Advertised like a western gunslinger's tale it will leave action fans wanting more. In traditional Coen fashion the movie ends just as it feels like the pace is finally starting to pick up. However, what makes this movie great is not the story itself, which is rather straight forward and dry, but the acting. Bridges and Damon make this movie a fun watch, and seem to always put on a stellar show. Many will leave the movie wondering what the real point was as it feels the Coen brothers were being too subtle, but Bridges and Damon make this film live up to some of the expectations.

Iron Man 2

Sequel rises to expectations
The second installment of this Marvel series does not disappoint. Downey Jr. is once again a hit with a stunning performance as the narcissistic Tony Stark. This time around Tony is dealing with a health problem; the same miniature Arc-reactor that is keeping him alive, is also killing him. The metal needed to run the device is poisoning him. Stark starts down a destructive path until helped out by Sam Fury, who surfaced in the after-the-credits spoiler of the first movie, and the drop-dead gorgeous Scarlett Johansson. Don Cheadle enters as the replacement for Terrence Howard as Stark's best bud Jim Rhodes. Mikey Rourke continues his action-movie prowess as the villain and Rhodes and Stark team up as Iron man and War Machine to bring him down. An action-packed thriller, Iron Man 2 keeps all on the edge of their seats.

Also of note, fans of the upcoming Avengers movie, based off the Stan Lee superhero team, will enjoy the not-so-subtle look at Captain America's shield and of the after-the-credits allusion to a Thor movie.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Slightly Better Than Average
Prince of Persia does a decent job of adapting video game to movie, a task previously known to be extremely difficult (see Doom). Gyllenhaal surprises with a solid acting job. Gemma Arterton dazzles the screen with her looks and performs well alongside the abundantly muscular Gyllenhaal playing the orphan Prince Dastan. Richard Croyle, playing Tus, delivers a striking performance that cuts away from his best known role as Jeff in the British sitcom "Coupling". The film doesn't disappoint in bringing plenty of action and parkour-like acrobatics. Don't expect it to win an awards but does entertain for an afternoon. Fans of the game will be pleased with the result of the movie but the large-scale audience will soon lose interest.

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