At this point, you probably know something about The Hunger Games. A film just can't be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year and completely escape your peripheral vision.
Besides the film hype, I knew very little about The Hunger Games going in. Sorry, my kid is still not through all of the adventures of Curious George, so Katniss Everdeen isn't even on his radar. However, this movie was a big deal because the books are an even bigger deal. Author Suzanne Collins has a whole series of these things and thanks of the success of this film, more movies will follow.
And I'm actually happy about that. Because frankly, The Hunger Games lives up to the hype.
The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic ruins of what used to be North America. If movies have taught us anything about the future, it's that people love violent entertainment. OK, that could be said about the present as well. However, these people host an annual fight-to-the-death event and make it into a big, elaborate production, known as The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are broadcast live to all of the Capitol's wealthy people. Of course, only the poor get to play -- and not willingly. Instead, the surrounding 12 districts have to cough up one boy and one girl every year, via a random lottery. When her little sis gets the call, 16-year-old Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to go in her place alongside Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
It's not groundbreaking stuff (see Battle Royale), but The Hunger Games is pretty entertaining stuff. It's a romance, an action flick, and sort of sci-fi all at the same time. It's got a little something for everyone, as well as a massive all-star cast, which includes Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland.
Want to play around a little more with this movie? Read Joe Lozito's theatrical review of The Hunger Games.
Lionsgate isn't going to give its biggest film ever a crappy image. The Hunger Games is pretty much everything you'd expect it to be. It's got a lot of shaky cam, but don't confuse that for something it's not. This 2.40:1 transfer is extremely clear and a lot of fun to watch. Colors are wonderful throughout, with strong black levels and good contrast. However, the detail is what really stands out here. Close-ups offer the best moments, particularly showing off Efie's (Elizabeth Banks) caked-on makeup, Katniss' porcelain-like complexion, and the almost-blinding sparkle on Caesar Flickerman's (Stanley Tucci) blue-tinted hair and pearly teeth. Wider shots are just as strong, though. The control center and the shots of the people in The Capitol have a lot going on and you won't miss a moment of it.
In a word: Awesome. Lionsgate has given its blockbuster a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, and it slightly one-ups the image by using every ounce of the soundfield at every opportunity. Dialogue is clear and centered, even throughout the mayhem. However, the surrounds are the real show and are busting with breezes, critter chirps, the rustle of the trees, and contestants running from one end to the other. Directionality is wonderful, but you should also be prepared for this track to shake the room and scare household pets with the rumble of planes, trains, the boom of the cannon, explosions, a swarm of Tracker Jackers, or just the general killing spree. It's an immersive experience that will have you clinging for dear life every step of the way. You can definitely put this one in the demo pile.
The film disc has a bunch of previews, as well as options for the Metabeam Smart Remote, BD Touch and a DTS-HD Master Audio Sound Check. The companion apps allow viewers to take advantage of second-screen technology for photos, fan commentary and other extra tidbits. This is nice and all, but the second disc is where all of the goodies are. Yes, there's an entire extra disc worth of extras, and it's a Blu-ray.
The gem of the lot is the full-length documentary titled, "The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games." At a little over 2 hours, this piece covers everything and anything you'd want to know about the movie. At times, it's a bit of a puff piece, but it's so in-depth. Cast and crew cover conception, casting, the design, the costumes, the training involved, the locations, the special effects, the post-production and the phenomenon. If you still have outstanding questions, there are featurettes on author Suzanne Collins, two more with director Gary Ross, and even Donald Sutherland gets a say.
One quick note on the Digital Copy included with this disc. According to the insert, this release comes with either the iTunes digital copy or the UltraViolet Digital Copy. The code is only good for one or the other.
As one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, it's hard to resist The Hunger Games. Don't even try to stay away. The film is exciting and entertaining -- and that experience is completely pumped up to the next level with demo-quality audio and video, and an entire Blu-ray worth of extras. Believe the hype, people!
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