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April 19, 2014
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
21/11/201312/3/2014Village RoadshowFrancis Lawrence
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1MJennifer Lawrence

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Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.

Released in 2012 The Hunger Games was a phenomenally successful film taking a monstrous $US691 million at the box office worldwide - indeed it broke even the loftiest expectations and the sequel bettered it with $US864 million worldwide. Sadly due to the birth of my little girl I never saw the sequel in cinemas, but was very keen to check it out on Blu-Ray, and I wasn't disappointed.

After winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark the District 12 victors are enjoying their lives however winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.

While Gary Ross directed the first film the directing reigns have been handed over to Francis Lawrence (who is also handling the two upcoming sequels). While the film is a little slow in the opening segments, in no way does this feel like a film that runs for 146 minutes. The actual Games are a lot more deadly with some big twists and turns while the ending is, well, somewhat surprising if you're not familiar with the story. The film does up the ante on an emotional level - but most of that comes from Katniss remembering Rue - the young girl who died in the first film, but there are a few other moments which are handled quite well too. If we do have one complaint it's that the Games take place in the jungles yet again - it would have been nice to see a change to an urban environment, a more inhospitable desert/scrubland or something different. Still, that's how it is in the books so the filmmakers weren't going to change that!

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President Snow senses a rebellion.
As expected all the actors from the first film (well, those who survived) return for this sequel and they are led by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen who looks more comfortable in this second outing. Liam Hemsworth gets more screen time in this sequel while Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson are fantastic in their roles of Effie and Haymitch respectively while Donald Sutherland - just wonderful. Two new characters we really loved in Catching Fire were Beetee Latier (played by Jeffrey Wright who most would know as Felix in Casino Royale) and Amanda Plummer (yes, she from Pulp Fiction as Wiress - a rather mysterious "crazy" lady in the games. Actually we also loved Jena Malone as Johanna who has a pivotal role in the film - but has a fantastic rant on stage about coming back for another Hunger Games.

If there was a disappointment it was that Lenny Kravitz gets very little screen time although it's hard to see where it could have been expanded while the late Philip Seymour Hoffman also had a smaller role then I expected - although I would assume this increases in the upcoming sequels (no, I have not read the books!).

In many regards this sequel feels like a rehash of the original, but the games are more brutal, and the film does set up for the two sequels due this year and next. Catching Fire is a great film and one to watch if you enjoyed the first.

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The 75th Hunger Games are, well, deadly.
As expected from a major film release the visual quality on this release is superb. The film ranges from bright, colourful visuals in the capital city while, in contrast, District 12 where Katniss resides is bleak and lacking vibrancy - exactly as one would expect from a starving, poverty-ridden area. Also impressive are the sets and costumes seen throughout the film - the attention to detail is astounding.

On a technical level the Blu-Ray is presented in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and during our viewing of the film we noticed no issues of concern and indeed the darker scenes, of which there are many more then in the first film, are handled well with fine detail retained.

For a company formed only 20 years ago, Lionsgate isn't considered one of the big players in the industry, but with a hand in franchises such as Saw, The Expendables and The Hunger Games they have pushed up in the relevance stakes, and are now considered a pretty big player in the industry. When it comes to Blu-Ray, Lionsgate often provides they are ahead of the pack by providing the best audio experiences with cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks while most other studios, even with tent pole releases, remain with 5.1 audio.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles.
In any case audio on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is superb. Naturally the subject matter - that being an action film - is a prime choice for a lively sound field with plenty of bass, and that's exactly what we get with this film. Great sound priortisation, and a fantastic musical score rounds out this impressive sonic experience.

The disc also includes an English Audio Description Track for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps, while there is only a single English caption track for subtitles which is accurate the on- screen dialogue.

This Blu-Ray comes with a few extras, most of which are worth checking out. Having said that we would certainly suggest that if you enjoy behind the scenes documentaries you head over to JB Hi-Fi who have an exclusive in Australia with a bonus disc containing a documentary called "Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire" which runs for a whopping 145 minutes! Anyway, here's what you can expect on the "standard" retail release...

Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence & Producer Nina Jacobson: As far as audio commentaries go this is a pretty good track which details much of the production and details about the story and scenes that would probably go unknown without this track. Definitely the pick of the extras on the disc is well worth a listen.

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Back in the jungle for another Hunger Games.
Deleted Scenes (4:31/HD): The Blu-Ray contains five deleted scenes "The Hob", "Train Station", "A Wrinkle", "Switching Envelopes", and "Finnick Ties Knot". There really isn't a great deal of new or interesting content here, with the exception being the "Switching Envelopes" which hints at some behind the scenes meddling.

Inside District 12: The Hob (2:13/HD): This is a quick look at The Hob, or market within District 12 including the people and what they are selling. Pretty pointless really.

The Alliance: Returning Cast (14:27/HD): As the title suggests this extra looks at the cast returning from the first film to work on this second. There's a little too much gushing about Jennifer Lawrence but it's great to hear from almost the entire cast about returning for the second film.

Friend of Foe: New Cast (18:25/HD): This featurette looks at the new cast added for this second film, with the filmmakers detailing why actors were cast, their experiences of working on the film and creating their characters.

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Jena Malone as Johanna going off at Caesar (Stanley Tucci) on stage.
One Vision: A Faithful Adaptation (12:38/HD): Here the director Francis Lawrence details how he remained faithful to the original book going so far as to meet the original author Suzanne Collins. This yet another worthwhile extra on the Blu-Ray.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a great sequel to the fantastic original and looks to have set up the two upcoming sequels perfectly (the final book is being split into two films). The audio visual transfer is superb and the disc contains a few extras of interest although those wanting an in-depth look at the films creation should hunt down the version at JB Hi-Fi with bonus Blu-Ray. In any case, even in its "standard" release this is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.