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The Hunger Games & Catching Fire, both Blu-ray (2016)

The first two films of four Hunger Games, viewed as standard Blu-ray though UHD available.

The Hunger Games – A Hero’s Journey Begins, UltraHD+Blu-ray+Digital HD (2016) 

 Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Gary Ross
Studio: Lionsgate [11/8/16] (2 discs)
Video: 2.40:1 for 16:9 screens, HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Audio commentary track with editor, visual effects supervisor and supervising sound editor; “Game Maker; Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Phenomenon,” “The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games,” Letters from the Rose Garden
Length: 111 min.
Rating: ****

The Hunger Games – Catching Fire – Every Revolution Begins with a Spark, UltraHD+Blu-ray+Digital HD (2026) 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Francis Lawrence
Studio: Lionsgate [11/8/16] (2 discs)
Video: 2.40:1 for 16:9 screens, HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish DD 5.1, French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Commentary track with director and producer Nine Jacobson; “Surviving the Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” documentary; Deleted scenes
Length: 146 min.
Rating: ****

I haven’t reviewed these before, but all four Hunger Games are now available as UltraHD, so-called “4K” (even though that is only in most commercial theaters) and though I viewed these as standard Blu-rays, I will review the other two as UHD versions (even though they are actually upsampled from 2K and not truly 4K originals) as soon as I receive a proper UHD deck and video display. (I also have several others to review then.) I’m told not to expect a tremendous improvement with either image or sound in these UHD versions – there are better examples available.

The entire series of four Hunger Games films is supposed to be very close to the three popular book series with much of the dialog taken right out of the books, and with nearly 37 million copies in circulation. The series is set in the future on what was once North America. There is a glittering Capitol of the country of Panem, with its wealthy over-dressed people. One teen-aged male and one female from each of the twelve districts of the nation are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, which is videocast thruout the nation. The “tributes” are put in a computer-controlled area and must fight one another to the death until there is only one victor. The idea is supposed to be a remembrance of the cost of freedom. But after an unsuccessful revolution by one district, it is now a punishment designed to slap the faces of those who might seek to rise up again. When her younger sister is selected by lottery, 16-year-old Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Game. Her competitors have often been highly trained and have prepared for the Games their entire lives. Katniss has known very tough times in her backward village and is wary of trusting people. Her mentor in the Games turns out to be a former victor, Haymitch, who has become something of a drunkurd, but helps her out and eventually will probably be part of the successful revolution (as well as the super-overdressed Effie).


The spectacular Catching Fire is the second adventure in the series of four. The new director has upped the settings of especially the Capitol, while retaining all the mood of the original Hunger Games. Katniss and fellow tribute Peta are now a pair (though she has a real-life lover {Gale} back in District 12).  They fooled President Snow and the Capitol crowd by agreeing to swallow some deadly berries when they were the only two left standing at the end of this Hunger Games and when the rule of a pair of victors was rescinded.  They are forced to pretend they will get married and a big party is held for them in the Capital. During their Victory Tour of the districts, Katniss senses a rebellion simmering, which she really may have sparked.

President Snow announces a 75th Hunger Games that is even more deadly than those in the past. He wants Katniss dead and takes a tip from his gamemaker Plutarch to to launch the Quarter Quell, in which past champions will fight again to the death. During this competition there are amazing killer baboons and giant waves courtesy of wonderful cgi. The costumes of Effie and Caesar should also not be missed. The fighters include, of course, Katniss and Peta. They win, and at the end she is somehow aboard a ship with others who want to rebel. In the fourth and fifth films, Mockingjay 1 & 2,  we’ll find out how the rebellion goes.

—John Sunier

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