THE HUNGER GAMES:
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Lionsgate//Rated PG-13//Fantasy//146 minutes
President Snow (Sutherland) makes a surprise visit to District 12, where he informs last year’s Hunger Games winners: Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), they are competing in this year’s Hunger Games, along with other former winners. Having outwitted the game-makers last time around, Katniss and Peeta know they are targeted for death this time. Game training and interview rounds begin anew, as it becomes clear these games will be the most fantastic and treacherous competition yet. Adapted from the second book in a trilogy of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, the film’s special effects are in top notch. Readers will be pleased with this faithful recreation which remains comprehensible even to Collins’s adult nonreaders.
CR: * * (C)
Directed by Ken Scott
Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Jack Reynor, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Bobby Moynihan, Dave Patten
Disney//Rated PG-13//Comedy 103 minutes
Nearly 20 years after donating to a fertility clinic, delivery truck driver David Wozniak learns he’s the sperm donor for 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a lawsuit to learn his identity. Overwhelmed by the prospect of coming forward, Wozniak decides to reveal himself just to one of his progeny, beginning an incredible journey of discovery. Coincidentally, Wozniak also learns that his policewoman girlfriend (Smulders) is pregnant. Canadian director Ken Scott remakes his French language comedy “Starbuck,” for the American market — the equivalent of giving birth to fraternal movie twins.
THE DARK WORLD
* * (C)
Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Chris O’Dowd
Disney//Fantasy//Rated PG-13//112 minutes
Estranged brothers Thor (Hemsworth) and Loki (Hiddleston), must unite forces to save the nine realms (one of them being Earth) after an “ancient force of infinite destruction” known as the Aether, is unwittingly reactivated by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman). The brains behind the mayhem, supervillain Malekith (an unrecognizable Eccleston) is leader of the Dark Elves who attack Thor’s homeworld of Asgard in search of the Aether. Thor finds some consolation in Foster who is his mortal soul mate, and he longs to save her from the destructive Aether while vanquishing the Dark Elves. The film attempts to revive its sometimes ponderous plot with unsatisfying comic passages involving Foster’s intern (Dennings). The production is given touches of class by Hopkins’s portrayal of King Odin, Russo playing Odin’s wife Frigga, and Elba in the role of Asgard’s all-seeing guardian.
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Nonso Anozie
Summit Entertainment//Rated PG-13//Sci-Fi//114 minutes
Set in the near future, pubescent Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Butterfield) is recruited to Battle School where he and other kids are trained to fight against a hostile extraterrestrial race known as Formics. An army consisting of child-warriors is explained by Col. Graff (Ford), “Because children make leaps of logic and intuition that adults can’t follow.” Fleet Commander Rackham (Kingsley) doesn’t like it, but he oversees the youngsters’ combat training — in Earth’s orbit — where a rotating, fluorescent simulator allows the kids to learn their craft in weightless conditions. Competition among squads is harsh, but within Ender’s crew he can count on pretty Petra (Steinfeld) and upon Ender’s empathetic sister (Breslin). Adapted from the 1985 young adult novel by Orson Scott Card, the story’s unlikely protagonist, and its futuristic setting, have already captured many a young