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Hammerle on ... 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire','Dallas Buyers Club'

Robert Hammerle
December 4, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviews“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” combines the adventure, power and allure of such classics as “Avatar” (2009), “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the unforgettable “Harry Potter” films. However, there is one significant difference, as the central star of this superior film is not a hero, but a heroine, something not missed by young women of this country.

As the unforgettable Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence dances in the same cinematic galaxy as Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” and Vivian Leigh in “Gone with the Wind,” both released in 1939. Trying to save her country and family, she repeatedly risks her own life while dancing on the edge of destruction.

Not to be overlooked is the simple fact that she is also wrestling with her own personal life. Emotionally drawn to two endearing young men, played by Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, she may be the first young actress in a great film to repeatedly kiss two men.

hammerleIn summary, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” picks up following the triumph of Katniss and Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark in the original film. Becoming the symbol of a growing public dislike of the central government, Katniss is involuntarily sucked back into another fight for her life.

Donald Sutherland is again magnificent as the malevolent President Snow, a man now dedicated to seeing that Katniss dies. The film is further helped by the appearance of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman as the president’s right hand man, a guy who you sense from the beginning has questionable loyalties.

Despite the film’s multiple tragedies – you see protesters whipped at the stake and killed – several brilliant performances inject enjoyment and humor into this adventure from the very beginning. Woody Harrelson is perfect as Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss’ adviser, a guy who will drink anything just to keep his edge.

Stanley Tucci again appears as Caesar Flickerman, the patron saint of all game show hosts. He is a man with a great ponytail and a record number of gleaming white teeth.

Elizabeth Banks, playing the ostentatiously dressed Effie Trinket, is again Katniss’ guide, and she begins to show a bit of sympathy for the beleaguered young girl. And good grief, take a look at her eyelashes and clothes, as costume designer Trish Summerville is surely destined for Oscar recognition.

Finally, don’t overlook the performance of Jena Malone as Johanna, a Hunger Games contestant who teams up with Katniss and Peeta. She is both daring and attractive, and she has a sarcastic edge that makes her memorable.

Unlike the “Twilight” movies, there is nothing cheap or artificial about “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” A government is suppressing its people while trying to divert their attention with young people fighting to the death. A growing number of participants aren’t buying it for a second, and it is clear that a civil war is brewing.

There are two more films to be released in this saga so Katniss’ battle with President Snow continues. My money is on Jennifer Lawrence. Enjoy the ride!

“Dallas Buyers Club”

“Dallas Buyers Club” is the type of movie that all loyal cinema fans cherish. It stomps on your heart while simultaneously soothing your soul. Much like “12 Years a Slave,” it recreates a staggering moment in our country’s history that brings shame on our national heritage.

hammerleMatthew McConaughey continues his resurrection, here playing Ron Woodroof, a Texan living in 1985 who rides bulls in the rodeo when not working as an electrician. Skinny as a rail, he cares about little else other than gambling, whisky, cocaine and having sex with strippers whenever they are available.

In failing health, he ends up in a hospital and is stunned to learn that he has HIV. A morbid heterosexual who hates gays, he retreats into the dark corners of his pedestrian life. Think of him as related to the present mayor of Toronto or the prior mayor of San Diego.

Facing a medical projection that gives him 30 days to live, the film erupts beyond description from captivating performances by Jared Leto and Griffin Dunne. Leto is devastatingly compelling playing Rayon, an AIDS-stricken transsexual that Woodroof meets in the hospital. Initially repulsed by Rayon, they become unexpected business partners after Woodroof flees to Mexico for drugs that are unavailable in the States.

Leto’s performance is magnificent on multiple levels. He is as attractive as he is vibrant, and you never can take your eyes off of him while he travels his painfully slow road to the great beyond.

As for Dunne, he plays Dr. Vass, an unlicensed American physician who has retreated to Mexico. He takes Woodroof under his wing, providing him with non-FDA approved medication to take back to the States. Dunne is charming at every turn.

The film then centers around Woodroof and Rayon forming a company known as the Dallas Buyers Club. While they are not selling illegal drugs, they allow AIDS patients to join on a monthly basis so that needed medications can be provided. Everyone is smiling but the United States government and America’s pharmaceutical industry.

The performance by Jennifer Garner should also be noted, here playing Dr. Eve Saks, one of Woodroof’s original treating physicians. She becomes the centerpiece of the AIDS treatment controversy experienced by all physicians in our country at the time. She and her colleagues had to choose between the accepted treatment with a drug known as AZT or tolerate clubs like Woodroof’s that won’t wait for the FDA to get off its reluctant butt. Simply stated, AIDS patients were left to sink or swim under a national policy dictated by the political influence of drug manufactures.

This is a film that will force you to remember how horrified the country became when Rock Hudson died of AIDS. Citizens had to ask a difficult question, namely “If Rock was gay, then who else is?”

When you see the moment Woodroof hugs Rayon publicly simply to provide him with a bit of dignity, you know the answer to that question remains “Who cares?”•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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