"Hunger Games"

I was one of the few on the planet for which the "Harry Potter" books and movies did nothing.

The multipound tomes scared me away, and the equally time-consuming movies left me confused.

So I had some trepidation when joining my son to watch this film adaptation of the book that he -- and every other middle-schooler -- loved. Set in a bleak future, the raged remnants of the human race are divided into districts. Every year, all of the districts must offer up two of their children to fight against each other to the death in a television spectacular hosted in the prosperous capital. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson star as two of the teenage tributes who, despite knowing that the odds of their survival are small, band together and battle to save their own lives.

Solid acting, appealing set design and quality directing are all on display. But the real winner is the story by author Suzanne Collins.

The disturbing gladiator-games premise, mysterious post-apocalyptic setting and strong characters sucked me in, along with all of the tweens. Bring on the sequels.

Too intense for kids under 11 years old. (PG-13: Violence). 2 hours and 22 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3½ stars

Kids: 4 stars

Teens: 3½ stars

Adults: 3 stars

Seniors: 2½ stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- dark action movie hits the bull's eye.

"Chimpanzee"

Another of Disney's nature documentaries, focused, as the title implies, on a community of chimps. The storyline of death, love and border wars is so compelling as to almost feel contrived. But it's real, which makes it all the more remarkable.

TV funnyman Tim Allen detracts with a too cheeky narration, but the stunning cinematography and visual storytelling of Martyn Colbeck and Bill Wallauer more than make up for it.

Some "Bambi"-like moments may be too much for younger or more sensitive kids, but everyone 6 years old and up will enjoy. (G: Peril). 1 hour and 18 minutes.

Ratings (out of 4 stars):

Overall: 3 stars

Kids: 3½ stars

Teens: 2½ stars

Adults: 3 stars

Seniors: 3½ stars

Should you watch it? Yes -- beautiful, moving animal documentary.

J.B. Alderman lives in Piedmont and can be reached at jason@alderman.net.