HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
HTS Overall Score:87
Once more into the breach my friends! Lionsgate is decided not mess around give us just one of "The Hunger Games" series on 4K to test the proverbial waters. Instead we get the WHOLE enchilada on one day (all 4 films for those of you not thinking of food now). It's once again a solid upgrade for the 4K format and gives us the much coveted Atmos to balance things out quite nicely. Like usual, below is my original synopsis of the film (which still stands) but the audio, video and final conclusions have been modified to update you on the new audio and video encodes for the 4K disc. Have fun!
With Dystopian tween novels being adapted to screen in droves and failing miserably, it’s a wonder that “The Hunger Games” series has garnered such success in an area where most of the tweeny books being adapted are bombing on the big screen. “The Host”, “Beautiful Creatures” and the like such as the upcoming “Divergent” all have one thing in common, poor actors and poor scripts. Strangely enough, “The Hunger Games” has dodged that bullet by actually hiring competent actors, directors and script writers (shocking isn’t it?). Where others have failed, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and the rest have made millions upon millions and endeared themselves to fans everywhere. I’m going to be the first to say that I wasn’t THAT impressed with the first film. It wasn’t a bad film by any means, but it relied too much on fans knowledge of the source material and catered directly to that bunch. I had never read any of the books so I went into the film without any prejudice or preconceptions and constantly had to ask my wife (who has read the books) what something meant, since symbolism and events whizzed right over ones head if you hadn’t read the books. This time, director Francis Lawrence, did a much better job at creating a cohesive MOVIE, instead of a companion piece to the books. I was actually shocked at how much I truly enjoyed “Catching Fire” and cannot WAIT for the 3rd book to be adapted to film (2 films to be exact, since it’s getting the “Twilight Breaking Dawn” treatment).
The battle is over for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), their time in the hunger games has brought them fame and fortune beyond compare. While the rest of the 12 districts live in squalor they are playing the crowds, touring the capitol, all for the amusement of the fat cats living in luxury, ignoring the plight of all those people who weren’t as lucky. While it may seem to be fun and games to the rest of the world, Kaniss and Peeta are in turmoil, having to live with the lives they took in the 74th Hunger games and keeping up appearances that they actually ARE in love, for the camera. Haymitch, their mentor drinks himself under the table and Katniss finally starts to understand WHY he has lost so much hope. To make matters worse the rest of the 12 districts have put Katniss up on a pedestal and see her as a dim ray of hope for the rest of them. This hope is NOT something the capital and president Snow (Donald Sutherland) want to happen. This “hope” has fermented rebellion and the tenuous hold the capital has on the downtrodden is starting to fade. In an effort to curb the rebellion Snow and the new Game Keeper, Plutarch Heavensbee (The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) come up with the new and improved 75th anniversary Hunger Games, where instead of random tributes the pool of candidates will be the winners of previous games. This means that Peeta and Katniss are now back in the games again, and this time they’re pitted up against winners of years past who are all just as hungry as they are and just as anxious to win.
Fighting for their lives, Katniss and Peeta have to make new allies and new friends in order to survive. Teaming up with Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee, the technological genius and a group of others they band together and try and fend off a hunger games filled with new traps and even more devastating machinations thought up by the game master. As they wind their way through the course, Katniss starts to realize that not everything is as it seems, contestants seem to be keeping things from her and the course of the game itself is strange to the touch. What lies beneath will take her and mold her, from the young girl who wants to save her family and friends, to what her destiny has always been, the savior of her entire people.
As I said earlier, I really didn’t think the first movie was all that spectacular, much to my shock, I enjoyed “Catching Fire” enormously. The actors seemed to have hit their stride here, flexing their muscles and growing into the role put before them (well, except for Liam Hemsworth who lacks all the charisma that his brother has). Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth banks now are as comfortable in their roles as old clothes, both hamming it up and becoming endearing at the same time, and Stanley Tucci…well the man can do no wrong. Even playing the wildly ridiculous role of the TV host Caesar, he still manages to be funny instead of wildly annoying, which is a feat in and of itself since the Caesar’s character is so annoying that you’d expect to want to hang Stanley Tucci out to dry. Not only has actors stretched but with the addition of director Francis Lawrence the pace has dramatically picked up. Even with an hour and 20 minutes of exposition and character building before the games, the pace never drags and never seems dull. The machinations of the despotic government and the sheer anticipation of the games to come is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. When the games do start it flies off the handle and is barely contained as the action heats up and the tension builds to epic proportions.
While the first film felt like backstory, “Catching Fire” is the real start of the series as the film runs at a break neck pace, slowing down only enough to keep the viewer’s onboard. It’s always sad to see a movie where you realize that this is their last film on earth, and it’s heartbreaking to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing his last major role so soon after his demise on earth. Sometimes it’s so distracting that it’s hard to focus on the movie, but Hoffman is such a master at his craft that you’re more than willing to get lost inside of his character, instead of thinking about what happened.
I do have SOME complaints. Again, Liam Hemsworth was an EXTREMELY poor choice for Gale, Katniss’s true love, and his bland acting is just jarring when he’s on screen. Josh Hutcherson isn’t the greatest actor on earth, but still he can act circles around Thor’s younger brother. I do wish Lenny Kravitz was more prominent in the film, he was such an under rated character in the first film and his heartwarming performance was just as poignant in “Catching fire”, albeit just a bit shorter.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14684[/img]“Catching Fire” is presented with another excellent HEVC encode for us today with a dual aspect ratio. The first hour and twenty minutes of the film are in 2.40:1 and then once the games start the film opens up to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio to accommodate the IMAX section of the film. "Catching Fire" was shot using 35 mm film for the scope aspects of the movie, but also uses IMAX cameras during the 1.78:1 opened up portions of the movie. Once again the colors are simply spectacular here, showing off a richer saturation levels as well as the added benefit of deeper blacks. The IMAX portions of the film look noticeably better than the scope portions do, with the added benefit of how wonderful IMAX cameras are in general. textures are beatifully nuances, with ever grain of sand on the beach showing up with pinpoint clarity. So much so, in fact, that I had to A/B the Blu-ray and the difference is fairly startling if you compare the two formats. The detail level captures so much more intimate details upon closer inspection. Sure there's still some banding and the 2K DI keeps the movie softer than it could be, but the uptick in detail is noticeably nicer upon first viewing.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14685[/img]Once more, we get another Atmos track! Atmo has given us some of the best recorded mixes of modern history, and I'm always delighted to see another addition to the club. "Catching Fire" had an awesome 7.1 DTS-HD MA sound track on Blu-ray and the Atmos mix is just that much better.Surrounds are in constant use and give us a wide array of sounds to immerse the listener in. The roars of the capital elite flood through all channels and the sounds of Katniss’ steel arrows whistle over your shoulder with pin point accuracy and clarity. Dialogue is never too soft and or too loud so my remote stayed right on the floor the whole time without need for adjusting, even during the heaviest action scenes. Dynamic range is excellent and gives us a really well done array of effects that range from the soft sounds of a footstep crunching in the forest or the overwhelming roar of the surf as it pounds our heroes into the ground. The overheads get a pretty hefty workout with the sounds of chaos amidst the games themselves, and there's several moments with ships dropping by overhead that really make you look upwards. The LFE was fairly restrained for the first hour and twenty minutes, giving us some nice weight to the capital scenes, but when the games begin, all gloves are off and the sheer power of the low end really tears up the room. Well done and nicely detailed, the Atmos mix pushes past the already great 7.1 track and into perfection category.
• “Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire” – 9-part feature-length documentary
• Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
• Deleted Scenes
Most sequels tend to not hold up as well as their predecessors, but luckily the “Hunger Games” series appears to be getting better with each film. I can only hope that “Mocking Jay” part’s 1 and 2 keep rising in quality as this one has done. A tight and cohesive film that really brings home the action and makes you even more revolted at the despicable actions of the domineering President Snow, and the apathetic citizens in the capital. The film is great, the audio is great and the video is great. My only real complaint in the whole enchilada is the missing extras. “The Hunger Games” was LOADED with extras on a second disc, while this set has a meager 3 special features. Still, the audio and video upgrade are nice and the new collector's packaging is enough to get my OCD kicked into overdrive. It's a solid 4K offering to one of the most popular sequels of the decade. Still highly recommended as my favorite film of the franchise.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Emily Banks
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 and 1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Runtime: 146 minutes
Release Date: November 8th 2016
Buy The Hunger Games: Catching Fire On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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