The Hunger Games is a movie that wants to have it both ways. It badly wants to be the new hit zeitgeist that springs to life as a theatrical franchise yet through its assured marketing for the last year (social media) it has already reached that zenith, so it’s as if the phenomenon has already begun before birth; the movie is a infant even though it’s delivered as a fully grown adult. Talk about immaculate conception.

The Hunger Games shows smart production values, typical action bouncy camera work that’s in vogue lately and sharp editing. One scene in particular cuts back and forth at lightning speed between one person throwing a spear and one person shooting an arrow. But when wild dogs are released among the participants of the hunger games the sequence is edited so repetitively that it’s unbelievable the humans could outrun the animals they way they do.

The bottom line dictates that most people will be intrigued by Hunger Games’ dystopian society with its televised death matches enough to go along with the ride. If you like The Hunger Games it’s because you’ve already experienced this blend of sci-fi and social observation in The Most Dangerous Game, Lord of the Flies, The Lottery (those last two were on the reading list when I was in school), Logan’s Run, Death Race 2000, some of the stories of Stephen King, and most recently Battle Royale.

Also opening this week are some small releases, a couple of which are worthy of attention, a span that was broken by the slow moving romance Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Ewan McGregor, normally an exciting actor, plays a marshmallow of a man who doesn’t so much hook up with Emily Blunt so much as they grow on each other. Like lichen. They’re both over educated and boring and with other partners until the winds of agricultural change in Yemen make them realize their mutual attraction. One expects Lasse Hallstrom films to be occasionally bland but not this much.

In the Land of Blood and Honey takes the audience on a more realistic romance, one set among Serbian and Bosnian genocide. The only reason this couple unites is because it’s the only way the woman can avoid rape camps and certain death. An assured writer/director debut from Angelina Jolie ITLOBAH overflows with sexual masochism and the irony of conflict.

October Baby offers good father-daughter bonding. When a precocious teen realizes she’s adopted, she takes off on a trip of self-discovery. Mostly dramatic rather than comic OB is able to grasp some basic truths about family relations and that, along with great performance from a uniformly no-name cast, makes the film work. In a sense the target audience for October Baby are teens that are way too mature for their age.

— Michael Bergeron