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Hunger Games Is Enjoyable Even If You Didn't Read Suzanne Collins' Books

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The Hunger Games is the latest pop culture phenomenom to captivate audiences young and old throughout the nation. The movie, starring Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence, is based on a trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins.

When I saw the film last night, I went into it completely blind, having never read the novels. And I must say after watching the first film, I was blown away. The film is an epic tour de force, with dazzling visual effects, plenty of action, and full of raw emotion and sadness. When you get deeper into the film you root for the poor people and despise the elite class more and more.

Jennifer Lawrence carried the young cast on her shoulders and proved that she is here to stay for a while. You don't get nominated for an Oscar by accident. Lawrence was nominated in 2010 for "Winter's Bone."

Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games while she was watching TV and flipped back and forth between a reality TV show and coverage of the Iraq war. This affected her in a profound way and spawned the idea for The Hunger Games books.

The Hunger Games takes place far in the future after our nation is destroyed by an apocalyptic event. America is no longer America, but now called Panem, which is comprised of 12 Districts. As punishment for a rebellion against the Capital, which resulted in the destruction of a now-extinct 13th District, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected from each district to participate in The Hunger hunger games effie and katnisGames. The goal is survival and there can only be one winner. Each year a lottery takes place to select the 24 participants.

We open the film in District 12, which is a coal region in downtrodden Appalachia. Jennifer Lawrence's character Katnis Everdeen steps up and volunteers to participate when her sister is selected by Effie Trinket (who is played by Elizabeth Banks, but you don't recognize her due to tons of makeup). There is a look of sorrow on her (Katnis) fellow citizen's faces as this is a certain death sentence. We will soon learn that Katnis is ready for the challenge.

She is selected along with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) from District 12. Effie takes Katnis and Peeta for a ride on a train, riding at 200 miles per hour to the Capital. When the participants arrive to the capital we can see an obvious cultural contrast between the haves and have-nots. When you consider District 12 looks like a civilization from the 1800's compared to the futuristic Capital, it's incomprehensible how much wealth the citizens of the capital possess.

Each of the districts are mentored by previous winners. In this case, Katnis and Peeta get to be mentored by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) who drinks whisky like it's spring water. Haymitch and Katnis get off on the wrong foot and he tells her she better shape up and get people to like her, or she can forget about getting sponsors. When you get sponsors, it drastically increases your odds for survival since they will send you parachutes with medicine and other necessities.

Katnis Hunger GamesThe 74th annual Hunger Games get under way with the pomp and circumstance you would see at the Academy Awards. Caeser Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) is the Bob Costas of these events, serving as the lead commentator and interviewer of all of the partcipants, which are called "Tributes."

Overall, I was amazed by the sickness of the aristocratic capital citizens and the gamemakers. The capital citizens cheer on gladiators, which are randomly chosen poor children. And, the game itself is rigged. Game creator Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and his cohorts pick and choose their favorites and alter the game at will. When they decide that Katnis veered off the beaten path too far (2 kilometers from the nearest Tribute) they create forest fires and hurl fire bombs at her so she's forced to confront the remaining survivors.

Without getting into a scene-by-scene analysis - I'll say that the battle scenes in the woods are intense. And, there is plenty of violence, obviously since 23 people must die. Or, will there be just 1 single winner?

I'll let you see the movie yourself without ruining that plot detail for you.

The Hunger Games is a sure bet to make $125-150 million this weekend at the box office. It already made nearly $70 million in the first day alone - the best opening day ever for a non-sequel. And I'm not at all surprised. Look for this film to become the next Harry Potter.

The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Willow Shields, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, and Lenny Kravitz

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

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Photo of Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks from people.com

Photo of Jennifer Lawrence from Lionsgate