Friday movie roundup: 'Fire' in the belly
This is what a "Hunger Games" movie should look like.
The second installment in Suzanne Collins' dystopian saga, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," has all the excitement and emotion that the first movie sorely lacked. This time, warrior Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) must cope with the aftermath of how she and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) won the kill-or-be-killed televised arena battles and how their win has sparked revolutionary inklings in the hinterlands. With President Snow (Donald Sutherland) eager to quiet the rebellion, Katniss and Peeta find themselves forced back into the arena in an all-star edition of the Games engineered by the cagey Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to his star) creates strong action sequences, and deploys Jennifer Lawrence's fiery rage and gritty strength to maximum effect.
The only studio film willing to get in the ring with Katniss is the comedy "Delivery Man." This tired farce follows a screw-up slacker (Vince Vaughn) who learns that his sperm-bank donations 20 years earlier have led to 533 children some of whom have filed a class-action lawsuit against the sperm bank, demanding their father's identity be revealed. Vaughn sleepwalks through various episode in which his character meets some of his kids. The one saving grace is Chris Pratt as Vaugh's best friend, a put-upon father and underqualified lawyer.
Also in several theaters is "The Christmas Candle," a faith-centric holiday story about a young minister (Hans Matheson) arriving in a Victorian-era village where a superstition over a blessed candle dominates the parishioners' thoughts. The movie has its charms, particularly in a cast that includes Samantha Barks ("Les Miserables") and Sylvester McCoy ("Doctor Who"), but a lot of sappy sentimentality.
Lastly, the Broadway has "Kill Your Darlings," a well-acted period piece starring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg, arriving in college at Columbia and falling in with other future Beat writers, Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). There's also a charismatic fellow student, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), whose troubles ensnare Ginsberg and their friends in mystery and murder. The performances, particularly by Radcliffe and DeHaan, make this one worth a look.