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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hunger Games

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth star in "The Hunger Games."
Though presumably targeted — at least in part — at teens, the dystopian adventure "The Hunger Games" (Lionsgate) involves enough problematic content to give parents pause. Responsible oldsters will want to weigh the matter carefully before giving permission for clamoring kids to attend.

At first glance, the depressing futuristic premise of the piece — inherited from Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy of novels, on the first volume of which the film is based — makes it seem unlikely fare for a youthful audience.

In a post-apocalyptic North America, have-not youngsters from oppressed outlying districts are chosen at random to participate in the titular event, a televised survival tournament staged each year for the entertainment of the decadent elite who populate their society's luxurious capital city.

Since combatants are forced to battle one another — and the hostile wilderness environment in which the games are set — until only one remains alive, the fearful ordeal also serves to keep the once-rebellious, now cowed underlings intimidated.

Director and co-writer Gary Ross' script, penned in collaboration with Collins and Billy Ray, tracks two teens caught up in this gladiatorial horror show. As early scenes reveal, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) was selected in the usual way. Heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), by contrast, altruistically volunteered herself as a substitute after her vulnerable younger sister Primrose's (Willow Shields) name was drawn.

What follows, as this sympathetic duo confronts their doom, is an effective combination of epic spectacle and emotional drama during which humane values are pitted against Darwinian moral chaos.

Insatiable media coverage, led by smarmy TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), and the wildly off-kilter values of the foppish upper crust, embodied by Peeta and Katniss' nannylike escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), satirically mirror some darker aspects of our own time. (Interestingly, depending on the individual viewer's politics, the basic allegory can be read either as a critique of overweening big government or of the trampling under of the 99 percent.)

But sensibilities are not spared as the grim contest unfolds: painful injuries brought about by swords, arrows, hatchets and even the creative use of a hornets' nest are all portrayed unblinkingly. On the upside, foul language is entirely absent, as too is any sensual activity beyond kissing. So, despite the elements listed below, "The Hunger Games" may possibly prove acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains considerable, sometimes gory, hand-to-hand and weapons violence and graphic images of bloody wounds. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Pedro de San José Betancur: Central America claimed its first saint with the canonization of Pedro de San José Betancur by Pope John Paul II in Guatemala City on July 30, 2002. Known as the "St. Francis of the Americas," Pedro de Betancur is the first saint to have worked and died in Guatemala. 
<p>Calling the new saint an “outstanding example” of Christian mercy, the Holy Father noted that St. Pedro practiced mercy “heroically with the lowliest and the most deprived.” Speaking to the estimated 500,000 Guatemalans in attendance, the Holy Father spoke of the social ills that plague the country today and of the need for change. </p><p>“Let us think of the children and young people who are homeless or deprived of an education; of abandoned women with their many needs; of the hordes of social outcasts who live in the cities; of the victims of organized crime, of prostitution or of drugs; of the sick who are neglected and the elderly who live in loneliness,” he said in his homily during the three-hour liturgy. </p><p>Pedro very much wanted to become a priest, but God had other plans for the young man born into a poor family on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Pedro was a shepherd until age 24, when he began to make his way to Guatemala, hoping to connect with a relative engaged in government service there. By the time he reached Havana, he was out of money. After working there to earn more, he got to Guatemala City the following year. When he arrived he was so destitute that he joined the bread line that the Franciscans had established. </p><p>Soon, Pedro enrolled in the local Jesuit college in hopes of studying for the priesthood. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could not master the material; he withdrew from school. In 1655 he joined the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he opened a hospital for the convalescent poor; a shelter for the homeless and a school for the poor soon followed. Not wanting to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro began walking through their part of town ringing a bell and inviting them to repent. </p><p>Other men came to share in Pedro's work. Out of this group came the Bethlehemite Congregation, which won papal approval after Pedro's death. A Bethlehemite sisters' community, similarly founded after Pedro's death, was inspired by his life of prayer and compassion. </p><p>He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve <i>posadas</i> procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night's lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. </p><p>Pedro was canonized in 2002.</p> American Catholic Blog We sometimes try to do everything on our own, forgetting that the Lord wants to help us. Let's never be afraid to admit that we are weak and can't do things on our own. St. Paul gives us a great example: "On my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:5).


 
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