It namedrops a lot of people and places that it doesn't properly introduce; but then so does The Lord of the Rings, to no harm and to great effect. I'd be interested to see what people who haven't read the Silmarillion (or tried and failed) make of it.
As to the story itself?
Well. It's a grim tragedy. Hurin defies the dark lord Morgoth, who then places a curse on his children and forces him to watch. His son, Turin is a mighty warrior and leader of men; indeed, in the end, a dragon-slayer.
But in, I guess, a subversion of the heroic norm, all Turin's schemes lead to naught in the end, and his advice proves ruinous to those who take it. He accidentally kills someone who can loosely described as his best friend, marries and gets his sister pregnant, and then finally kills himself. With his talking sword.
Turin himself is responsible for the fall of Nargothrond, one of the three great elf-refuges, and they start a chain of events leading also to the fall of the other two, Gondolin and Doriath.
(you get in The Children of Hurin a tiny epiloge with Hurin released from Morgoth's captivity and meeting my namesake, his wife, Morwen, just before she dies. Tolkien did continue the story after here, with Hurin travelling more and effectively continuing Turin's curse-bringing actions: he is spotted by Morgoth looking for the hidden kingdom of Gondolin, slays Mim, and brings the Nauglamir to
Doriath, which then eventually leads to its ruin as well. this bit, which is possibly the most detailed of Tolkien's Silmarillion narratives cuts off with no clear end-point, and is published as The Wanderings of Hurin in The History of Middle Earth vol. 12)
In summary: grim, mythic, probably non-mass-market. I hear they are talking about making a film of it. It seems unlikely Christopher Tolkien is going to sell the film rights; his successors in management of the estate would be another matter. At least this is not quite as absurd as seeing talk of a film adaption of the Silmarillion.
Although having said that, these bits would make REALLY AWESOME FILMS in their own right
*The Rebellion of the Noldor
**this lasts, what, 20 pages in the Silmarillion? if that? i'd say it's ideal, in that the basic plot is pretty kick-ass, and there is room for filmic innovation in details. the lord of the rings films suffered somewhat from compressing stuff; this does not need to happen here.
**it would start some time after the captivity of morgoth. his evil acts before would be described but not actually shown.
**events covered would be the killing of finwe and the theft of the similarils, the poisoning of the trees, the flight of morgoth to middle-earth, the rebellion itself, the doom of mandos, the kinslaying, feanor's betrayal of fingolfin, the ice, the death of amras by accidental burning
**it would end soon after feanor is killed (suicide-by-balrog), at the exact moment the SUN RISES for the first time
*Beren and Luthien
**this would just cover from Beren noticing Luthien in the woods (probably with a short segment about Beren's childhood to begin with). I'm not sure when it would end. probably it would end with them being restored to life after pleading with Mandos.
*Children of Hurin
**the book has the right scope
*The Fall of Gondolin
**Children of Hurin should pretty clearly set up the mystery of where is Gondolin; finding Gondolin will take a good portion of this film but not the bulk of it - we have another damn human/elf love story between Tuor and Idril to develop as well etc
The fourth great tale, Earendil, leading into the War of Wrath, is a tricky one. It's important as it is an ending, but in its barest form it consists of a sea voyage followed by a war between demigods. And then Earendil gets turned into Venus. WTF?
However, there is a really good hook into that final part. Elrond, who just so happens to be the hero's son. Follow events from POV of little-Elrond; have him be taken to Lindon as a refugee by Maedhros and Maglor. Who then promptly try to recover the Silmarils finally, and discover it burns them due to their kinslaying. This is the really important bit of the entire cycle, and would provide closure for the rebellion.
Finally, let us end on a quote. "[Tolkien]'s written work is characterized by disputes over the ownership of jewelry, and the hand injuries that occur as a result." - uncyclopedia