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"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

After Katniss and Peeta’s victory in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, President Snow’s grip on Panem starts to loosen. Katniss has inspired a long-brewing rebellion and Snow must find a way to stop her before he loses control. His plan is to bring back past victors for the 75th Hunger Games in hopes of destroying Katniss’ reputation when she kills her former allies. Despite these odds, Katniss and Peeta enter the games and find themselves fighting more against the environment than the other Tributes. A new Gamemaker stacks the odds against the contestants making the arena a deathtrap rather than a battle between foes. Katniss and Peeta manage to survive long enough to cut off the video feed and in a surprising twist, they find themselves on the frontlines of Panem’s civil war. The ending is a tremendous cliffhanger that leads the way right into the next film coming in November 2014.

Specifications

  • Lionsgate
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 24 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78 & 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
  • English, 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
  • Directed by Francis Lawrence
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

My expectations for sequels are usually low but this one was a happy exception. I liked it even better than the first film. I have not read the books so my perception is not influenced by them. Even though it’s fairly long at almost two-and-a-half hours, the time flies by and suddenly you’ve been delivered a fantastic plot twist and a killer cliffhanger! I’m not sure I can wait for the next film due out this November. I’ll just have to read the book!

Jennifer Lawrence once again shows her ability to carry an entire movie by herself. Her supporting cast is excellent and they all turn in memorable performances but Lawrence’s charisma is hard to ignore. The production design is suitably dark and foreboding; appropriate for a world that lives under relentless oppression. Donald Sutherland is just superb as the principal villain, President Snow. You just know a showdown is coming between him and Katniss! For action and drama fans alike, this Blu-ray is a must-own.

Technical

I can’t fault the transfer’s image quality in the slightest. Contrast is easily reference level with some of the best shadow detail I’ve ever seen. Color is used sparingly as nearly the entire movie seems to take place on either a cloudy day or at night. Detail is sharp and free of edge enhancement. My complaint refers to the choices made by the director. Like many contemporary films, Catching Fire is dark, dark, dark. It avoids becoming murky but I’d like to see just a little more color and vibrancy. And I would say you’ll need a display with excellent contrast for this Blu-ray to look its best. It’s a torture test that I’ll be including in future display reviews.
 
The audio makes for a fantastic surround demo right from the get-go. Many effects are hard-mixed to the surround channels which create a lot of startling moments when a sound suddenly comes from behind you. There’s plenty of opportunity to show off your sub as well. My favorite example is when the Tributes ride their chariots into the capital accompanied by long lines of tympani. The drum beats sound almost angry in their intensity; which I’m sure was the director’s intent.

Extras

In addition to audio commentary from the director and producer, there is a 2 hour and 25 minute making-of documentary presented in nine chapters. It’s one of the most thorough behind-the-scenes features I’ve ever seen. Included in the package I received were Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy versions of the film.