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The Hunger Games Catching Fire Blu-Ray Review (Highly Recommended)



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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted March 04 2014 - 06:28 PM

The Hunger Games Catching Fire Blu-Ray Review (Highly Recommended)

The idea of presenting dystopian future as the setting or a scifi epic is not a new one. Numerous films, books, comics and shorts have dealt with the subject matter. It’s hard to know whether that’s because we are attracted to these kind of tales or because the setting allows for such rich characters. Being a fan of the book series, I eagerly awaited the Hunger Games films. The First film, while solid, seemed to make me think too much about elements that were missing from the screen, things I had loved in the book. I sat in the theater watching “The Hunger Games” and I was uncertain if they were going to pull it off, all the way until Jennifer Lawrence delivered the big emotional moment from the book during Rue’s death. Her portrayal of that scene nailed it for me. I was able to forgive the things in the film I was unsure of because the core of the book was retained, and the actress who delivered it nailed her performance.


Cover Art


Studio: Lionsgate

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 2.40:1

Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA

Subtitles: English

Rating: PG-13

Run Time: 2 Hr. 26 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)

Region:

Release Date: 03/07/2014

MSRP: $39.99




The Production Rating: 5/5

Catching Fire brings us back to Panam, the future Americas set in a time of near indentured servitude and manipulations of a ruling class. Catching Fire doesn’t just bring us back to the land that these characters inhabit, it manages to use that environment to convey the desperate feeling of having your life controlled.

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I’m often reminded of those who view “The Hunger Games” as another in a series of girl-power literature with hunky boyfriends, and a girl who can overcome all odds. That simplistic view really loses what makes the Hunger Games work. The Hunger Games, both as a book and as films, isn’t about a future Romeo and Juliet. It’s not a love story. In almost every way, it is an open enactment of the realities of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Feeling unsafe, in a community desperate for food, Katniss can’t have a love interest – her love interests are fake, pretend, only to accomplish her first need: survival. People who look to Katniss, in both the books and the films, manages to put this openly clear to other characters, specifically in Catching Fire to Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who she points out she can’t love that way because she can’t get that far ahead of her need to survive.

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In lesser movies, this would be a plot point “oh, she’ll find her way back to someone she loves” or “maybe she will love Peeta”. But in the end, the film stays on point with the book with a character who deals with a mental state that battles with the reality that her survival is the only thing that matters and her cold assessments within the arena.

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This view of the future is dark, dreary, gutty and bold for a film aimed primarily at a teen audience. But as the film proceeds it doesn’t shirk from its duties of making Katniss a troubled killer in an environment where it is forced on her. It doesn’t change characters, even characters you want to like from witnessing horrible things and moving on.

I had initial reservations that as this film came to the screen the direction would be to play down more of the unsavory content, from death on their tour to Katniss that was free to tell Peeta and Gale that the one she cared about was her, her and her family. But the film spared nothing that would change the feeling of the book, and Lawrence sold her character not as a troubled but in love young girl, but from a girl who has a troubled psychiatric state that wishes for death and simply hopes for the survival of her family by halfway in.

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Catching Fire was a film that was high on my list of great films last year, and the direction by Francis Lawrence nails the heart of this book. Moving between large CGI set pieces to unbelievable real world effects, the direction provides a world that is far better fleshed out and realized then the first film with actors who seem much more confident in their roles.
Catching Fire is simply a great film – not a good kid film – it is a great Science Fiction film that tells a story that resonates beyond kids and presents a lot of difficult ethical choices.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

Explained in the extras, which we get to later, the Hunger Games splits its aspect ratio between 2.40 for the majority of film, and 1.78 when in the Arena. Before you feel as though you are losing elements, as this is explained in the extras, all Arena Sequences were filmed and designed for a full IMAX experience and were designed and framed in 1.78 for that environment. This shift as chosen by the director is a brilliant use of camera, aspect ratio and scenery to give us a feel of the world. For as much as Katniss hates the arena her first experience there has branded her with it, and this arena experience as it fills the screen makes the audience realize that this is not the same world these characters live in.

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Not only is the experience solid, the encode does this film justice. Delivered in AVC/MPEG4 with an AWBR of 26, and a peak BR of 37.1Mbps, the Catching Fire is the kind of film that sucks you right in on your home screen. Projected out in my theater, I found that the experience preserved the theater. The bright nature of outdoor scenes to the dark and cramped feeling as the capital comes for Katniss puts this as a disc that will have a great deal of re-watchability. There are no noticeable errors no errors that I found to pull me out, just an encode that tells you this is what HD should be.

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Audio Rating: 5/5

Are you looking for a reference quality disc to start of 2014 for your home theater? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is presented in 7.1 DTS-MA and it nails it. This film moves from quiet, subtle dialog heavy scenes to bombastic explosions and orchestral movements that tell you characters are under pressure. The sound setup within this film isn’t just engrossing it is mindboggling in moments, using subtle audio effect that normally go missing in major blockbusters but manage to create solid tension for our characters. This is truly a fantastic soundtrack.



Special Features Rating: 4/5

Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson. Standard fare commentary. There aren’t a lot of new discoveries here, I think only die-hards will listen through

Surviving the Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (1080p; 2:24:55) There are nine segments here. They are: A New Kind of Hunger: Continuing the Saga; Visual Vocabulary: Building a World; Stirring things Up: The Cast; Fashion Forward: Costume, Make Up & Hair; Let it Fly: Production in Atlanta; Moves & Countermoves, Stuns & Cooridinators; Tick Tock, Production in Hawaii; Threading the Needle, Post Production; The Revolution Lives: Looking Forward.

These featurettes really worked for me. Some more than others but those segments about set construction in Atlanta and Hawaii were eye opening. This is one of those films that as you realize how much work went into it, and how many sets were not CGI but real, I grew to appreciate it much more. There is a sequence in here, detailing how they created the center of the arena, the clock, by pumping out a lake, making it deeper, re-filling it, and rebuilding it. The sheer work that went into some of these sets, characters and choices is laid out in a way that made my sons think of Discovery Channel documentaries. They go beyond dry recounting of events into a documentary that asks: how do you think we did it? And I was surprised how often elements I would have been sure were CGI were, in fact, the real deal.

Deleted Scenes (1080p; 4:35) These are slightly extended scenes, and in the case of at least one, it is one of the few times I will say I am very glad something was cut, as I felt it would have undermined some of the strength of the film by playing it too transparent.

Ultra Violet Copy & DVD.
An extended look at the upcoming “Divergent” is also included. Now, this brings me to my one negative on the extras, I generally dislike forced trailers, and yep, there is one here. You’re going to sit through at least part of the Divergent trailer every time you pop this disc in. If the extra wasn't forced on you, I'd probably rate this portion higher.



Overall Rating: 5/5

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is, for book fans the best outcome they could have expected. It doesn’t feel as forced or hurried as the first film, more confident in its ability to tell a story. The film moves at a pace that allows the audience to grab hold of the small moments and realize what is really happening. The film doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of the book, it embraces them at every turn. I was glad to hear that the Hunger Games has retained Lawrence (director) for the last two films, as Mockinjay is a very complex and difficult book. The first time I read through Mockingjay I was somewhat disappointed, but as time has gone on, and as I’ve watched the films I have realized that done correctly it could be a fantastic set of films if done by the right director. Lawrence nailed Catching Fire, and it gives me real hope looking forward to the next two films. This isn’t just highly recommended, it should be a part of every self respecting Blu-Ray owner’s library. Period.


Reviewed By: MattCR


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#2 of 21 OFFLINE   Wayne_j

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Posted March 04 2014 - 06:45 PM

Thanks for the review, glad everything held up OK.  I am a big fan of the books and plan to pick this up on Friday.



#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted March 04 2014 - 07:48 PM

Mine should be here on Friday from Amazon (the charged me for it this morning).  Catching Fire is going to be a great way to spend Friday night.



#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted March 04 2014 - 08:10 PM

This isn’t just highly recommended, it should be a part of every self respecting Blu-Ray owner’s library. Period.

Thanks for the review.  That's a pretty resounding endorsement!  My copy arrives Friday.



#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Tina_H_V

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Posted March 04 2014 - 08:24 PM

Touche, Matt!!!!! I went on and also ordered up my Blu-ray Disc as well for a Friday release-day delivery!!!! I am looking forward to viewing it very soon!!!!!! Thanks for this!!!! :D
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#6 of 21 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted March 04 2014 - 08:51 PM

The 7.1 audio mix on this is sensational.   Just fantastic.    It's one of the few titles though where the behind the scenes extras blew my mind.   Watching construction crews dig out olympic pond to make the 'clock' is an just a wow moment for how much work goes into a product like this one.   You also don't think about a film having to deal with the growth of actors.. Harry Potter maybe, but when they pointed out that the actress who played Primrose grew about 6" between the shooting of Hunger Games and this film, outside of thinking she hit a growth spurt (which they all laugh about) you realize how that can complicate the shooting continuity of a film.

 

But the audio mix is just fantastic.   The role of Jabberjays in the middle of the film stands out as one of the best done audio que effects I've ever heard on Blu-Ray.   It's fantastic, I rewound back several times to just listen to them move around you and thought: if other films put this kind of effort into a 7.1 audio mix, you could do some unbelievable things.


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#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Cory S.

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Posted March 05 2014 - 12:24 AM

Excellent, excellent review, Matt.  Very detailed.

 

Would love to own this on Friday considering how massive of a fan of the films/books that I am but the inevitable box set looms and I think I'm going to hold out for that...no matter how much that pains me!

 

Glad the documentary is excellent and not just standard fare.


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#8 of 21 OFFLINE   Tina_H_V

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Posted March 05 2014 - 08:31 PM

And to think...I am looking for some fresh 7.1 DTS-HD MA material. I look forward to adding this one soon for my birthday!!!! Here is hoping it will be delivered timely on Friday. Thanks again, Matt. :)
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#9 of 21 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted March 05 2014 - 08:51 PM

And to think...I am looking for some fresh 7.1 DTS-HD MA material. I look forward to adding this one soon for my birthday!!!! Here is hoping it will be delivered timely on Friday. Thanks again, Matt. :)

 

Watch through this.  And then with the volume up experience the moment at 1:54-1:57.   That three minute segment in 7.1 is NUTS.   It is the first time in a long time where I've heard a 7.1 mix that is truly discrete.  Not a matter of 'oh, the rears are kind of copies of each other' I mean, they each have such different movement going on in them it's dizzying.   You feel absolutely surrounded.  It's better then when I saw it in a theater, in part because the closer proximity of the speaker layout just forces the action on you, but it is just fantastic. 

 

Before we built out new theater, I had always used 6.1, with a rear configuration that matched my fronts because mentally it made more sense to me.  When we rebuilt this last year, we went full 7.1, and I've had some films that use a 7.1 mix "OK", but this is one of the first films that isn't a straight up music mix or demo disc where I've thought: someone put a hell of a lot of thought into how to make this terrifying.    If horror films put this much effort into sound mixes, something that I think in the past they did more of, they would creep the hell out of me.  

 

That three minute segment above is going to be demo material in my main theater for a while.   Sit down in the middle of the room and it's a full on assault of your senses.


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#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted March 05 2014 - 10:50 PM

Hopefully, rentals will be in DTS-HD MA as well. Lionsgate has had a habit of using lossy Dolby Digital on their rental discs.

#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Brian Dobbs

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Posted March 06 2014 - 07:57 AM

Glad to see that they've embraced IMAX enough to include the arena scenes in 1.78:1.  While it's not the 1.44:1 I got in the theater, I really can't blame them for the technical limitations of home theater technology.

 

Too bad Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission Impossible 4 didn't do the same for their blu ray releases.  I haven't bought those discs because of that reason.  Idiots.


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#12 of 21 OFFLINE   jayleaf

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Posted March 08 2014 - 01:51 PM

Hopefully, rentals will be in DTS-HD MA as well. Lionsgate has had a habit of using lossy Dolby Digital on their rental discs.

that would explain my problem then.  i rented the movie looking forward to the 7.1 soundtrack but all i got was 5.1 dolby digital.  i didn't realize they did this.  



#13 of 21 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:23 PM

Lionsgate tries to cram their rentals onto BD25's wherever possible, that is why they often drop the DTS-HD track and replace it with lossy DD 5.1.



#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Tina_H_V

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:28 PM

Cool, Matt!!! I look forward to giving this a particular glance once I get going. As I had mentioned previously, I originally bought this for my birthday. However, since Amazon came through for me so very timely with its day-of-release delivery...I am going to relent and make this an advance birthday present!!!! I will check this one out once I am through with all of my chores. Thanks again, Matt. I will post again once I check that particular segment of the film out!!!! :)
The Acid Queen Still Rocks and Souls!!!! ;D

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:45 PM

Glad to see that they've embraced IMAX enough to include the arena scenes in 1.78:1.  While it's not the 1.44:1 I got in the theater, I really can't blame them for the technical limitations of home theater technology.

 

Too bad Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission Impossible 4 didn't do the same for their blu ray releases.  I haven't bought those discs because of that reason.  Idiots.

 

Paramount and Bad Robot/JJ Abrams were behind both of those releases - makes you wonder if it's a Paramount policy or a Bad Robot preference.



#16 of 21 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:46 PM

We watched this last night and it is a fantastic presentation.  


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#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:46 PM

Thanks for the in-depth review, Matt.

 

I've read some complaints elsewhere about the occasional lack of sharpness and fine detail during the District 12 scenes on this disc. It should be noted that this is not a flaw in the transfer but rather a deliberate stylistic decision by Francis Lawrence and his director of photography Jo Willems. All of the scenes before Katniss rises into the arena were shot 35mm anamorphic, and for the District 12 scenes they used older 1960s lenses. The arena scenes were mostly shot in IMAX with fine-grain 35mm spherical shooting where the IMAX cameras were not feasible.

 

The two "Mockingjay" films are being shot with Alexa cameras, so expect a cleaner look on the eventual Blu-Rays than the sort of cinéma vérité-style film look of the first two movies.



#18 of 21 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted March 08 2014 - 05:54 PM

As much as I love the look that most filmmakers get out of the Alexa, that's a bit of a bummer because I LOVED the look Catching Fire. I thought it was brilliantly shot and the transfer captures it perfectly. Of course they can do something similar with their lens choices on the Alexa, but it's not quite the same. 



#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Brian Dobbs

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Posted March 12 2014 - 06:02 AM

The two "Mockingjay" films are being shot with Alexa cameras

Whaaat?  Why no IMAX 15/70 like Catching Fire?



#20 of 21 OFFLINE   Blu_rayfan66

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Posted March 15 2014 - 01:53 AM

Just fyi...someone just commented on UK disc release thread on BR dot com that the Swedish disc is fixed 2.40:1 for those interested, so no IMAX scenes. Might be useful for those with fixed 2.35:1 type screens?    :thumbsup:







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