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The Hunger Games: The Reviews Are In!

Screen shot 2012-03-22 at 5.20.24 PM.pngIn case you've been living in a bunker somewhere, The Hunger Games premieres at midnight tonight and has already sold out advance ticket sales in 2,000 theaters nationwide, surpassing the first of the Twilight saga films in pre-sale numbers (if you're keeping score).  For all its hoopla, the critics have either meted cautious praise or witheld it entirely.  Reviews ranged from mixed opinions about Jennifer Lawrence's performance as central character, Katniss, to questions about director Gary Ross' suitability for the project to the critique that the film watered down the intensity of Suzanne Collins' original novel.  See what they had to say below:

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times:
Gary Ross, the unlikely and at times frustratingly ill-matched director for this brutal, unnerving story...has a way of smoothing even modestly irregular edges...Again and again Katniss rescues herself with resourcefulness, guts and true aim, a combination that makes her insistently watchable, despite Mr. Ross's soft touch and Ms. Lawrence's bland performance...A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission. The graver problem is a disengaged performance that rarely suggests the terrors Katniss faces, including the fatalism that originally hangs on her like a shroud.

Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post:
That perverse dystopia is brought faithfully, if un-spectacularly, to life by director Gary Ross...Ross judiciously sidesteps the most barbaric aspects of Collins's tale, saving it from becoming a Scholastic version of Cormac McCarthy at his most ruthless...[Jennifer] Lawrence is never less than grounded and believable as a young woman forced by circumstance to assume wisdom far beyond her years.

Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times:
Making a successful "Hunger Games" movie out of Suzanne Collins' novel required casting the best possible performer as Katniss, and in Jennifer Lawrence director Gary Ross and company have hit the bull's-eye, so to speak...Lawrence's ability to involve us in her struggle is a key to the effectiveness of "Hunger Games." The film's strengths are not so much in its underlying themes or its romantic elements, (the weakest aspect, in fact) but its recognition of the book's narrative strengths and its ability play them straight. If, as the ads suggest, the whole world will be watching this, viewers will likely be satisfied with what they see.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times:
"The Hunger Games" is an effective entertainment, and Jennifer Lawrence is strong and convincing in the central role. But the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism; compare its world with the dystopias in "Gattaca" or "The Truman Show."  Director Gary Ross and his writers (including the series' author, Suzanne Collins) obviously think their audience wants to see lots of hunting-and-survival scenes, and has no interest in people talking about how a cruel class system is using them. Well, maybe they're right. But I found the movie too long and deliberate as it negotiated the outskirts of its moral issues.

Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
Was it wrong to expect something from a "Hunger Games" movie other than pajama-party fodder?...What director Gary Ross opted for is an earnest, plodding thumb-sucker -- a sugar-coated pacifier to appease the screaming hordes. This is a science-fiction movie of the blandest, most generic order, technically adequate but devoid of any wit or insight or anything more substantial and lasting than the cool image of Jennifer Lawrence wielding a wicked bow and arrow...If you haven't read the book, opt instead for "Battle Royale," the controversial Japanese movie made in 2000 that has a near-identical premise and is (not coincidentally) being released on DVD for the first time in the United States this week. That movie takes no prisoners: The Hunger Games takes no risks.

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal:
In life it's usually feast or famine. In "The Hunger Games" it's both a feast of cheesy spectacle and a famine of genuine feeling, except for the powerful--and touchingly vulnerable--presence of Jennifer Lawrence as the 16-year-old heroine, Katniss Everdeen...Young audiences are sure to embrace Katniss on screen--the movie is off to an epic start--and all the more so because Ms. Lawrence is the perfect choice for the role...But this movie about kids being manipulated--literally unto death--manipulates its audience clumsily, and shortchanges it shamelessly.

Justin Chang, Variety
Proficient, involving, ever faithful to its source and centered around Jennifer Lawrence's impressive star turn, this much-anticipated, nearly 2 1/2-hour event picture should satiate fans, entertain the uninitiated and take an early lead among the year's top-grossing films. Yet in the face of near-certain commercial success, no one seems to have taken the artistic gambles that might have made this respectable adaptation a remarkable one.
 here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/22/2707579/the-hunger-games-pg-13.html#storylink=cpy

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