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The Hunger Games

A film directed by Gary Ross based on the book by Suzanne Collins

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Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called "Battle Royale"

  • Mar 23, 2012
“The Hunger Games” had been getting a lot of press and ‘hype’ when word had gotten out that Suzanne Collins’ novel (published in 2008) was going to be adapted into the big screen. Director Gary Ross adapts this dystopian world along with screenwriters Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray into an action-drama. I have to admit the book had garnered quite a following, and this film has been heavily anticipated. I have seen several threads about the controversy due to its similarities to Kinji Fukasaku’s “Battle Royale” (2000 film) which was based on the novel published in 1999, and has also inspired a long-running manga (Japanese comic book) from 2000-2007. I have to say, the film is eerily so similar to that Japanese film (named as one of Tarantino’s favorites and banned in several countries until 2005-06 that the only way you can get a copy in the U.S. before was by importing the Asian and European releases) save for devices that made it different and how its focus and tone is more set to appeal to commercial viewers.

                    Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in ``The Hunger Games.''

Let’s not kid around. Its premise has Japanese manga and anime written all over it. The premise of “kids killing kids” and 'children fighting adult wars' had spawned several Japanese creations through the past two decades. I can understand why Collins was criticized for her book. Panem is a nation in an unidentified future. Due to an unsuccessful uprising by the districts of Panem, a lottery called the ‘reaping’ had been introduced to choose one boy and one girl from each district of the 12 districts to participate in the “Hunger Games”. It is a competition where the competitors kill each other until only one remains. Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16-year old who volunteers for the games when the name of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) is drawn. Now, Katnis is taken to a vast complex to be trained and prepped alongside others. With a past contestant (Woody Harrelson) handling relations and strategy and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) handling everything else, Everdeen is soon named a favorite, even over fellow district 12 contestant Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The games are about to begin….

                     Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Liam Hemsworth as Gale in "The Hunger Games."

                    Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in ``The Hunger Games.''

The film’s premise is pretty ambitious. I mean, it has the workings of a blockbuster as long as it didn't fumble the ball. The film has some deviations from the novel, but really, that didn’t really bother me. However, if it did adapt the novel to the letter, then it may be a much more intriguing movie. The direction opts for a more mainstream, crowd-pleasing tone to keep the film from becoming a little too depressing (or even more similar to “Battle Royale‘s“). The film deviates from the how the novel played out in some ways and certain things came at a different order, just so it can do a different tempo from its source material. In many ways, the film reminded me of “The Running Man” and “Death Race”, all wrapped around a premise so similar to “Battle Royale”. Characters are outrageous (Effie had “anime” screaming all around her) and the set designs in the first act give a viewer a peek at this dystopian world. The film works in its own way, I was rather engaged in the film’s first two acts, it was at the middle of the film that I began to lose interest, as the film introduced devices without groundwork and it fell to the trappings of what I would call ‘teen love and angst’.

                         Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna in ``The Hunger Games.''

                        Amandla Stenberg as Rue in "The Hunger Games.''

I liked what I saw in the film’s first act, I thought that perhaps the direction would have the guts to follow through the inherent darkness of its premise. It began as the direction made a commentary on how society can be distracted through entertainment, and with the small semblance of hope even when things are dire. Then there was a strong opportunity to build paranoia and fear, but I guess those were beyond the filmmakers’ intentions since they were limited to the source material. I suppose the film had to tone down the violence to try to keep the film grounded and keep it from becoming rated R. Do not get wrong, the film had some action and suspense, I have to admit it even had some clever things in the screenplay that held my interest, but after the second act, it all becomes for naught. In the place of the thrills and suspense, we get to see Everdeen develop a ‘roll your eyes’ relationship with Peet (for a reason). I know, this was all supposed to be seen in one’s point of view, but this time, the direction goes into things that diverts from the potential horror, hardship and pain when one needs to compete in “the Hunger Games”. It loses the potentials of a script that could have dealt with certain social rules of survival and the way the human mind worked (true, for a young character like Rue to perish is very tragic). It also misses the opportunity to develop the nation of Panem and how it really worked since some devices in the 3rd act felt out of place because of the 'cheese'. I mean, I know it is all about “working the crowd” in this installment, as the film’s script even expresses, but in this manner, I immediately began to lose interest, and it all started to feel the ‘same old thing’.

                      Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games.''

                     Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games."
Jennifer Lawrence did however, do a phenomenal job with her role. She was able to bring a certain feel of realism in her scenes. Even when the film felt ‘cheesy’, Lawrence was still able to come through with a performance filled with the right emotions. Harrelson also added some flavor to the film. I liked his role as Abernathy; he added some bits of sly humor and even some depths to the script. The rest of the supporting cast had been severely underdeveloped, and you can tell from the beginning as to who would be a ‘filler’ and who would play a part in the climax. To tone down the violence of teens killing teens, the direction goes for quick cuts and close camera shots to keep the action close, it is sort of an imitation of 'shaky cam' to hide details of a fight. Even with its weaknesses, the film was able to have a pace that moved evenly, and I was kept within an arm's length of entertainment.

I suppose “The Hunger Games” can be entertaining in a way. It was good for what it was, but I've seen this type of premise done a lot better. Myself, I was very disappointed. I understood, and I accepted the fact that adaptations needed revising when it comes to the big screen and I was not the book's target reader nor was I this movie's target audience. "The work the crowd-star-crossed lovers" kind of thing that became the focus rather than what should have been really turned me off and I felt that the script wasn't as smooth as it should've been, and it assumed that whoever saw the film had read the books. I suppose you can say that this movie adaptation sets the tone and groundwork for the next chapter in the book trilogy; if so, then it would be a highly commercial model of its source material. If you want this premise done right, you are better off watching “Battle Royale” but if you are hungry for Katnis Everdeen and just a fan of the books, see it.

Recommended to Fans of the Book, RENTAL to Everybody Else [3 Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "The Hunger Games." Poster art for "The Hunger Games."

Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called Decent...But I Liked This Premise Better When It was Called

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March 28, 2012
Great review WP, I'll wait for the rental.
March 31, 2012
Yeah, this is recommended only if you're a fan of the book.
March 27, 2012
Solid review. I personally have no desire to see this film or even pick up the book it's based on. I have no idea why, as it seems like it would be something that appeals to me. I know quite a few people who have seen the film and so far their opinions have been mixed. I guess I'll eventually see it on DVD. Heck, I've been so busy lately that I haven't even made it to the movies to see "John Carter" yet.
March 27, 2012
Thanks, Kendall. I mean, if you have read the source material then this would be essential, but really, I think this would be better as a rental for non-fans. By then, the 2nd movie would be scheduled to be released and this would be fresher and the experience would be much better. "John Carter" was a fun watch....but it isn't essential and would be fine to see at home as long as you have a good TV with bluray....
March 27, 2012
I love the review itself but I can't help but disagree with the Battle Royale comparison. I see that there are some similarities between the two, kids killing kids because of a totalitarianism style government, but that's where the two end. While Suzanne Collins focused much more on the over saturation of violence in the media, Mikami was writing directly off his own experience with untrustworthy adults due to a much more militaristic government. The two may have the same sight but a much different taste. I do love your review don't get me wrong, just food for thought, I hope to read more :)
March 27, 2012
thanks! Yes, I know they have different intentions, I mean, I guess I just prefer what Mikami did with the concept--one thing also is that I felt that the movie was watered down compared to the book. Not sure, I read that Gary Ross had to tone down the shots of violence; and understandably so to get the PG-13 rating. Thanks for the comment :)
March 27, 2012
Yeah, I think the violence was toned down both for the accessibility for a younger audience and for more of a focus on the character interaction, I really have to honestly see the movie I've read the book but I need some insight on the film itself before I see it
March 27, 2012
I do think that you will like this one. It is really aimed for fans of the book; I really enjoyed the first two acts of the film, but thenI felt that the last act just felt rushed and it stooped to devices that I did not like. Thanks again, let me know when you post your review, be interested in reading it!
March 25, 2012
great review as always. I agree...the relationship between Kaniss and Peeta worked so much better in the book. You couldn't really tell what she was feeling.
March 25, 2012
Thanks! It felt like it came from left field. It was a little out of place and cheesy I thought. How are things going? Are you seeing "Wrath of the Titans" soon?
March 25, 2012
Yes We're seeing it on Tuesday...So the question is will it incur Johnny's wraith?
March 25, 2012
cool. I think it will get John's wrath LOL!
March 25, 2012
Yep. My thoughts exactly. LOL
March 24, 2012
Another wonderful review Will. My daughter just started reading the book and she loves it, so I think I'll save this as a rental as she'll be finished the book by then. I don't know if I'll enjoy the movie so much, but hey if it's a rental one I can always just fall asleep if I don't like it!! Thanks Will......
March 24, 2012
Thanks, Brenda! This was alright. I read the first two books (but not the whole thing) but I decided to skip the last one. This was enjoyable. It has some merits even though it wasn't as strong as it could've been. It is only the first chapter so maybe the next movie will pick up more steam.
March 24, 2012
tell Brandi I said hello!
March 24, 2012
LOL -- she said "Hello Woo!" - - - I asked her which book she was reading and it's the first one; I didn't realize there were more till you said something about it. Now she wants to see the movie but I told her we'll wait later to rent it. She's still your number 1 fan!!
March 24, 2012
tell her that she may be the next generation of woopak review readers called "woopakolytes" LOL!
March 24, 2012
lol - yeah I told her -- now she thinks you're comical!!
March 25, 2012
you know I am also a comedian LOL!
March 25, 2012
Yeah -- you definitely are popular with Brandi for sure!! And in case I didn't tell you before, she asked to see your picture; I showed her on FB and she said "Hey he looks like George Lopez!!" lol and yes, she does like him too.....lol
March 25, 2012
LOL! actually that was just in the photo, urged on by Orlok. remember, neither Debbie or Sam or Adri said I looked like Lopez, and they were the ones who saw me in person. Yeah, my friends say I look like someone else but i am not saying LOL! oh, here is another horror movie...yep, I am in the mood.
March 25, 2012
Well I myself thought you looked like Lopez in the picture too - I guess the pic and in person are two different images where you're concerned....LOL! Brandi or I will ever see you for real, so we'll just stick to our Lopez opinions!!!!!
March 25, 2012
March 25, 2012
March 24, 2012
I'll never really understand the, "because it's not as good it sucks," premise that comes from the snarky, snobby "Battle Royale, was better crowd," concerning this movie (I like Battle Royale better but I'm not quite sure the premise here is EXACTLY Battle Royale... especially considering the story isn't done yet)., but I do know that my review was definitely spot on in contrast to yours.  In my review I actually said myself that people would not like this because it didn't dive in nearly as deep as they thought it should.  But there is a reason for that: Because it's actually a trilogy.  It dives into those social and moral issues later.  If anything this isn't meant to mimic Battle Royale.  Suzanne Collins (the author, of course) has written SEVERAL stories about child combatants.  It's her trick of trade.  It's what she does.  And anyone who has taken five minutes to simply read about the book already knows it's inspired by Battle Royale.  It was never a secret.  No one ever made it one and it's why I don't understand the snarky, "I liked it better when it was Battle Royale," comments from people because... it's not a big secret and neither is it a big deal.  It's not as though people who've heard of Battle Royale or read the book are some exclusive club or something that isn't known.  But for those willing to dive into the books and who will eventually see the future films that ARE coming... there's quite a big difference between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.  Those who read Battle Royale don't know it because they've simply "heard about the premise," but aren't exactly paying attention to the story.  Each book, for instance, was intentionally left with unanswered questions that either challenged the reader to think for themselves, or answered it later down the line.  Again, no big secret.  It's something everyone knows she did.  It's how the books were marketed.  It's how the movies were marketed... and it's why in the first film the audience is left without answers but only challenges and more questions.  So it's not that the script doesn't actually dive into the social rules or survival, it's that we are introduced to a world that works in such a way it doesn't have to... but eventually it does in the later books.  The entire point of the story is, eventually, about survival.   

As I mentioned in my review, it's actually a strange thing about the film.  Audiences who DIDN'T read the book aren't given enough info because it's supposed to be intentionally left out.  It also suffers from the same pitfall of the book: That being they hope their audience knows it's supposed to be continued.  The book actually tells you by saying "End of Book One."  The film just ends hoping the audience knows there are three books.  Nothing conclusive is given to the film when it ends and THAT'S going to bug anyone who HASN'T read the book.  It's not that The Hunger Games isn't challenging or anything, it's that it takes a little longer to tell its story.

As for the Teen angst and love, though... if there's one thing that I think we HAVE to give leeway to with movies such as Twilight, Harry Potter etc... it IS that we ARE dealing with adolescents.  There's angst here, but you should expect it given the age of those involved.  It's a lot like saying, "Why is a twenty-one year old drinking and panicking about his unknown future."  Well... because he's twenty-one... duh.  But love is not the emphasis on The Hunger Games... it's survival.  The angst is there, mostly because it's there for everyone in the districts.  Not just the teen cast involved.  The difference is that Katniss is young enough, naive enough and stupid enough to try and challenge the capital (and how she does it is by accident).  So I don't think it's fair to criticize the teenagers in a movie for, well, being teenagers.  It's annoying, but only because you and I are not exactly teenagers and thus we understand it's no big deal.  But the movie isn't exactly made for our age group (although I'm not usually bothered by that... remember, I didn't like Bella because she was a Mary Sue character... not because she was brooding).  But even that is shown to be something entirely different later.

But as for the anime inspired stuff... I think that was more for the film than the book.  But as I said, I really don't think that The Hunger Games is suddenly bad or mediocre because it isn't Battle Royale... or even becaue Battle Royale is better.  I get it... the premise is similar, but what I'll NEVER understand is this strange, snarky behavior that both crowds have which disallows them to see them as two separate entities.  The Hunger Games isn't supposed to be Battle Royale, for instance.  Sorry, if you couldn't tell, people tell me this a lot... and they always do it in this tone which suggest that I haven't heard of Battle Royale or read it or seen the movie.  And after a while it's just something I get so sick of hearing.  It wouldn't be so bad if these people just picked up the books already and actually read them.  Mostly I'm just tired of it.  And I certainly think that while the comparison is warranted (rightfully so) there's something odd about the Battle Royale fans inability to think that both might be okay (especially considering the audiences of both books is quite different) or that they might both even be able to be good.  That's something I've never understood.  Not that The Hunger Games fanbase doesn't do that as well.  Although they mostly torture Twilight fans which is both strange and annoying all on its own.  But I've never accepted nor will I ever accept, "This movie isn't as good as this movie," as a valid reason why one movie is necessarily mediocre or something along those lines. 

But in truth, I think the biggest problem with the movie is that it is specifically made for those who actually read the books.  Until all the movies are out... it seems strangely inconclusive on its own.  But it's not something on its own.  And that made reviewing the movie somewhat difficult.  I'm HOPING that when my review is read people will understand there ARE going to be more films to come (a contract has been drawn up and everything).  I don't know, I guess I loved the film.  It may, in part be because I love the books.  But I can already see the tides of backlash coming against The Hunger Games.  Won't be long before the, "It's popular and mainstream therefore it sucks," crowd shows up.  At the very least your review is insightful, but I think you might want to check out my review.  There is one part in particular I think might help one who hasn't read the book gain a better understanding. 
March 24, 2012
Well, according to several sources I've seen, Collins denies that she has read "Battle Royale" which was why she was cirticized by many including the snarky fans of "Battle Royale" (I was stunned when Anchor Bay even sent me a free copy of the bluray of Battle Royale to coincide with this movie). I understand your frustration with the snarky crowd, but really, if they said from the get-go that this was inspired by "Battle Royale" then I probably would live with it and see it as a re-interpretation. Yes, I understand that it is a trilogy and yes, the story isn't done yet (I actually read parts of the book but never finished because....well, it pales to Battle Royale).

I know that the book and the film had different things going for it and I appreciated its first two acts as I've said. However, whether trilogy or not, however different the intentions are, even when the the delivery of those themes of survival was very watered down and it misses in the film. Let's take for instance, the way the story here was laid out. It has three acts: Act One: The Reaping and the training--the supposed groundwork for what was Panem. Act Two: the realization of their grim situtation, Act three: we get to see how people can influence a "game" and its final result. I actually have a huge issue with Act three, seen "Battle Royale" or not, it was when it began to lose its footing. I mean, introducing the dog-like beast in act three suddenly and making me believe that it was just like that is a mistake in storytelling. Now as for the survival parts, they introduced several things as to how aliiances work and how to use the environment which was later on abandoned for what I saw as "teen angst'.

I saw those anime influences meant only for the movie also. The reason why those fans cannot see it as two separate entities is because....well, those fans have seen this premise done way better. One cannot make a harrowing premise of a world that forces kids and teens to kill without going into darkness, not boldly going into the depths of this grim flavor is just not realistic. Now if they began this movie (I say movie) as to explain really as to why things really are or used more foreshadowing, then maybe it would be seen as another entity. My small comparison with Battle Royale stems from this, and if they simply said that "based on the book which was inspired by that Japanese creation, then it would be easier to accept. I know, it may have a different target audience than the two of us, but I just cannot rate "Battle Royale" the same score as this one. "Battle Royale" was better; it was written by an author who went through a harrowing experience burying his friends during the last great war. This was written by someone for teens, so BR gets a 4.5/5 and this gets a weak 3.5/5. This loses a lot of points for originality

Now, you have brought up an interesting point. It was made for readers of the book. That by itself was a flaw. (I often get this when I see a Chinese historical epic and it drives me crazy) If this was a sequel or a prequel for another creation, this may be ok. The thing is, writing a screenplay is different, and even in my review, I said that "this sets the groundwork for the next chapters..." so the verdict may still be out.

I know the book may be good for its intentions, and perhaps as you've said, it is a trilogy, but my 3.5 star rating does not mean it is a mediocre film (It actually means it is good), but it just misses. Not to worry, anyone who says "it is mainstream so it sucks" would not know what he is talking about. I'll be right by to read your review as soon as I finish something first, I may re-read your review of the book too.

You know your comment can be a sort of a review itself. :)
March 24, 2012
My thing is, even if the author didn't know (I've got conflicting information on that) it still shouldn't suggest that The Hunger Games shouldn't be allowed to stand on its own, is what I'm getting at.  The reason I say the "Battle Royale," crowd comes off as snarky about it is because it's just annoying to hear for the billionth time since 2008 the same thing over and over again.  It's almost like they all formed a club, went to it, took notes and then left to tell their, "oh so stupid friends," all about it.  They all say the exact same thing as though they're somehow above anyone who actually sat down and enjoyed the books or the film.  And again, it's coming from someone who rather liked Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.  To me which one is "better" is insignificant to the quality of either one.  It just feels like an empty thing to say in the entertainment world.  It's like the group of Shakespeare scholars who said The Lion King was Hamlet.  Yeah.  We know.  Yeah, we also know Hamlet was better.  But seriously... who cares?
March 24, 2012
I understand. I've seen them troll the folks in amazon, both sides trolling the opposite fanbase LOL! "Hunger Games" fans are also after the "Battle Royale" fans. It can be frustrating. I hope I wasn't snarky at all, I just wrote how I felt. You do make a strong point, they are different. It is all how someone rates one and the other. I just tend to rate exactly how I measure each thing in terms of plot, direction and acting based on my preferences. Btw, I even saw that you could not help but poke fun at Bella from Twilight in your review LOL!
March 24, 2012
Hahaha, well at least I did it to illustrate a point.  Sort of.  But I actually liked your review.  I guess you could say "Battle Royale" is like a trigger word by now.  I'm hoping that when all three (four, I hear one will be split) it answers what is left open.  I think they got off to a good start, though.  It's just a shame that they rely quite heavily on the audience having knowledge that more is to come.  It seemed to work with Lord of the Rings but I found the movie had the same dissonance as when the first book ended.
March 25, 2012
from now on, I will say "Battle Royale" so you can review something LOL! played the new Resident Evil game yet? Heard Battle Royale was better hahahah
More The Hunger Games reviews
review by . September 16, 2012
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review by . March 23, 2012
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The Hunger Games is the first of three books written by Suzanne Collins, the other two being Catching Fire and Mockingjay. With a huge opening weekend predicted there is little doubt that the studios will green light the other two movies to have them made as soon as possible. For those who have not read the book I suggest you do as not only is it a quick read but frankly this movie is made more for fans of the book than it is for someone going in knowing nothing about the series. …
review by . May 02, 2012
Full disclaimer, I've not read the books that this movie is adapted from. Before going in I had no idea what to expect from this film except teenagers killing teenagers in a dis-utopian world sometime in the future. I had no knowledge of the story, the characters, the world this film is set in, nothing at all.    Now that that's out of the way, I would like to also state that going into this film I had my reservations. When people you know have probably never read a book in their …
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               By Joan Alperin Schwartz      I'm sure by now almost everyone is familiar with the story of 'The Hunger Games'.  The book was the first in a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins and all three novels have been on the bestseller list for several years.      But for those people unfamiliar with the story of Katniss Everdeen, the 16 year old girl who competes in The Hunger Games...   …
review by . March 21, 2012
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THE HUNGER GAMES Written by Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross Directed by Gary Ross Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth   President Snow: Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.   Having just finished reading the incredibly addictive Suzanne Collins novel, and having fallen completely in love with the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, in the process, I could barely breathe before seeing Gary Ross’s film adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES. I was downright giddy …
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Star Rating:         That The Hunger Games is so timely and intelligent is precisely the reason why it’s also so frightening. It depicts a time and place in which the failures of mass society are exploited for the entertainment of the privileged few. In this case, it’s in the form of an annual competition to the death, one that’s captured via hidden cameras and aired for the rest of the world to see. Whatever they call it in this alternate reality, …
review by . April 21, 2012
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      There's something about this movie that makes me like it more than I should. I don't know what... but I know it's there. I've never read the books so when I saw it I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately for me I was pleased with the product and it's like it became one of my guilty pleasure movies.      The Hunger Games strives away from the usual and synthesizes elements that are rarely common in movies like these. The story serves …
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  • The Hunger Games
  • Opened March 23, 2012 | Runtime:2 hr. 22 min.
  • PG-13
    Intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says Iffy for 13+. Read More
  • Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister's place to enter the games, and is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy when she's pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives. If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
  • -fandango.com
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    Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

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