In Theaters: March 23
Us Rating: ***1/2
Believe the hype! The highly anticipated epic has arrived -- and it's gripping, breathtaking and poignant. Jennifer Lawrence is wonderfully steely as Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant heroine in a fight-to-the-death Survivor-like competition that's broadcast on television. She appears in -- and carries -- nearly every scene with aplomb, from the violent, bloody fights to tender moments with her fellow "tribute" Peeta (a charming Josh Hutcherson).
Largely faithful to the first book in Suzanne Collins' smash trilogy, The Hunger Games brings the pages to vibrant life: The outfits of Capitol residents are even more garish than you'd imagine and Katniss' magnificent "girl on fire" gown is a flaming spectacle.
One cool element not in the book: watching oily host Seneca (Wes Bentley) reinvent the arena as the Games unfold! Though the climactic battle and its aftermath feels somewhat rushed for a 142-minute film, the movie still leaves you, well, hungry for the next installment.