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'The Hunger Games' review: murderously good fun

Star Jennifer Lawrence elevates this post-apocalyptic and very gory for PG-13 tale.

Sure it's based on a wildly popular book series with a love triangle as one of its central conflicts and has legions of devoted teenage — and adult — fans, but to call "The Hunger Games" the next "Twilight" is reductive and dismissive, and doesn't do the sci-fi dystopia justice. And the film adaptation is no different. Whereas those pesky vampire films rate from laughably bad to boring, the first "Hunger Games" film — deftly directed by Gary Ross and anchored by a fantastic performance from Jennifer Lawrence — is high quality.

Ross' shaky-cam glimpse into a grubby, post-failed-revolution future is equal parts fantastical and grounded, with the violence of the films' titular kiddie gladiator contest shockingly realistic — pushing the upper edges of the PG-13 rating — driving home the brutality young Katniss (Lawrence) is facing. And it's Lawrence, imbuing young adult fantasy with the same grit and heart that earned her an Oscar nomination for "Winter's Bone," who makes the movie.