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The Hunger Games: movie review

'The Hunger Games' has echoes of some great films of its type: the reality-show forerunners.

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It's tempting – though probably foolhardy – to look for cultural/political connections to explain the emergence and immense popularity of Collins's vision. But first you'd have to trace the social and political origins behind the rise of reality TV in the '90s – which is the obvious inspiration for a number of similar films, including "The Truman Show" (1998), "Series 7" (2001), and "The Condemned" (2007). What sets Collins's books apart from these is the idea of the warriors being average teenagers; but even that twist has already been used in director Kinji Fukasaku's great "Battle Royale" (2000), to which "Hunger Games" has many similarities.

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The real mystery is how the greatgranddaddy (and possibly best) of the genre – Elio Petri's 1965 "The 10th Victim," starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress – somehow managed to predict and satirize reality TV as we know it 25 or 30 years before it existed.

Director Gary Ross ("Pleasantville," "Seabiscuit") and screenwriter Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass") – who share the screenplay credit with Collins – have wisely cleaved very closely to the tightly written novel. (One or two bits of exposition may be briefly confusing to those who haven't read the book.) Ross manages to keep the pacing remarkably swift, given that the games themselves don't start until halfway through the 144-minute running time.

Ross also got the casting dead right: Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic former champion who coaches Katniss and Peeta; Stanley Tucci as the broadcast's preening host; and Lenny Kravitz as the only city dweller Katniss might be able to trust. Casting Lawrence in the lead was a no-brainer, given the role's similarities to her character in "Winter's Bone," which earned her an Oscar nomination. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images involving teens.)

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