“The Hunger Games” — to my complete surprise — actually lives up to the hype. Jennifer Lawrence plays a young woman in the poorest region of a futuristic society. As part of a treaty to end an uprising, society decrees that once a year two teens from twelve regions will compete in a nationally televised fight to the death. Only one can live. Lawrence shares traits with her character in the star making “Winter’s Bone”. She’s taken over the functioning for her family after the death of her father. She volunteers for this ordeal to spare her younger sister. The first hour of the story shows us a mind boggling future with 200 mile an hour trains and a capitol city that looks more like Vegas than Washington. We go behind the scenes of the televised spectacular for a few lessons in marketing and styling and political impact. Once the games begin, the tension never stops. Josh Hutcherson of “The Kids are All Right” forms one point in a love triangle—a childhood friend and fellow competitor. Liam Hemsworth plays the hunk back home who has to watch the real or imagined romance of Jennifer and Josh on national television. The death scenes arrive effectively. And the end satisfies and subtly lays the groundwork for the rest of this series. A strong cast includes Elizabeth Banks as a wacky chaperone, Woody Harrelson as a behind the scenes coach, Lenny Kravitz as a stylist, and Donald Sutherland as a Hitler like head of state. Does it deliver what it promises? Absolutely. Is it entertaining? I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Is it worth the price of admission? Go for it.
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