Spring Arts 2012: The Hunger Games, festival season and more.

What to watch for at the movies.

Don’t miss…

The Hunger Games. Out March 23, The Hunger Games is easily the most anticipated movie of the spring. Based on Suzanne Collins' bestseller (and adapted for the screen by the author herself), Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future North America where children compete in a yearly, televised battle to the death. (Think The Running Man mixed with Lord of the Flies.) Gary Ross (Pleasantville) is directing, with Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right) starring. There’s a rabid fan base that read the book and can’t wait to see the movie, which begs the question: Is Hunger Games the next Twilight? Stay tuned …

Film festivals. Spring is festival season. One of the best fests in the area, the 2012 Gasparilla International Film Festival (March 29-April 1), promises stars, parties and screenings spread around town at the Tampa Theatre, Cinebistro and others. (Watch for a screening of winning videos from our new CL Visions contest.) April 12-15 sees the Sunscreen Film Festival light up downtown St. Petersburg with screenings, celebs and an eye more toward education and workshops than other local festivals. Further south is the Sarasota Film Festival (April 13-22), which is even more jam-packed than GIFF and is a must-hit for film fans not afraid of a little driving. And don’t forget the Swede Fest Tampa, which is holding a “Swede the Oscars” event on Feb. 24 at Muvico Centro Ybor for just $5 a ticket.

3D re-releases. Call me curious (or a glutton for punishment), but I’m intrigued to see how the first wave of vintage Hollywood blockbusters to be converted to 3D and released in theaters will fare with the general public. Up first is Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace 3D, which bows on Feb. 10 (though you might be better off waiting for Episode IV), followed by Kate and Leo holding on for dear life in Titanic 3D, out April 6. Titanic director James Cameron and Star Wars creator George Lucas are the big dogs in the world of special effects, and these two projects should reveal whether adding a third dimension to formerly “flat” movies is a viable practice.

Also on the radar…

The Woman In Black. It’s going to take more than starring in a horror movie for Daniel Radcliffe to put Harry Potter behind him. Call it a first step. Opens Feb. 3.

Safe House. Denzel Washington is the badass rogue CIA agent, Ryan Reynolds is the guy who sinks the movie. Feb. 10.

This Means War. Elite CIA agents do battle over the same woman, starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Chelsea Handler. Feb. 14.

The Lorax. 3D animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss classic, with voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle and Betty White. March 2.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. The guys behind Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! somehow landed Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John C. Reilly, Jeff Goldblum and Will Forte for their movie. March 2.

The Bully Project. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch follows five families through the course of a school year in a documentary about the consequences of bullying. March 9.

The Avengers. Summer starts with this superhero confab, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson. May 4.

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