Let me start this off by saying I haven't read the books and prior to this movie I had no strong desire to. This review will focus only on the movie itself, as I sure reviews of the books are available all over the place.
First impression? I liked it. It plays upon the strength of its Young Adult fiction roots and presents a straightforward story drawing upon universal themes. It's also something adults would enjoy, as my friends and I, who all love classic sci-fi, can see bits of films from the sixties and seventies reborn but not rehashed in this film.
The greatest strength of this film is Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence does a great job in the role, making the character both strong and intelligent while remaining vulnerable and feminine. This isn't a girl with the characteristics of a man; this is a girl who's strong on her own terms. And even better, unlike Kristen Steward, Lawrence has more than one facial expression!
(Kristen Stewart is the only reason I may not go and see Snow White and The Huntsman. The rest of the cast in that movie looks good.)
We need more characters like Katniss in popular films and books, especially after Bella Swan from Twilight, or as I like to call it Abusive Relationships 101. Strong female characters are something creators shouldn't shy away from thinking that girls won't relate to them. They will, and grow stronger because of it.
The only thing about this movie that annoyed me was how shaky the camera was at times, sometimes feeling needlessly so and especially early in the film. The problem with it was that it pulled my out of the story at those moments, something I hate to have happen.
Finally, parents should be careful when taking younger children to this. There is, to put it mildly, a great deal of violence and most of it is directed towards young people. The "Tributes" taken to the Hunger Games in the film are between twelve and eighteen, and yes, the younger ones die brutally. (But then, death is always brutal, isn't it?) Parents will need to judge how ready their kids are to view this. I'd recommend letting them see it a little bit younger than most parents would, but I believe kids shouldn't be hidden away from all the nasty things in this world as it stunts their emotional growth. Still, I wouldn't take a five year-old to see this.
If you're staying away from this movie because you've heard it's just like Twilight, all I can say is don't. This is something newer sci-fi fans can enjoy while older fans can compare it to classic films of yesteryear. I hope you get a chance to check it out.
Oh, and the best thing is this wasn't in 3D.