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The Hunger Games (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 14, 2012 by  



“The Hunger Games” was a film that was pulse-pounding, exciting and all-out entertaining!  Not only was it an effective sci-fi film but it’s been a long while since I watched a new sci-fi film that made me excited for the upcoming sequels and yes, even making me want to read the books.  I enjoyed the film that much!  And while I have no doubt that the Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Hunger Games” will be an amazing success for Lions Gate Entertainment, I’m also confident in highly recommending this Blu-ray release.  It’s a must buy!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Lions Gate Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Hunger Games

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 142 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Widescreen Presentation, English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English and Spanish Subtitles, English SDH, Metabeam Smart Remote App Enabled, Enabled for BD-Live

COMPANY: Lions Gate Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Intense Violent Thematic Material and Disturbing Images – All Involving Teens)

Release Date: August 18, 2012

Directed by Gary Ross

Screenplay by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray

Based on the original novel by Suzanne Collins

Produced by Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik

Co-Produced by Diana Alvarez, Louis Phillips, Aldric La’auli Porter, Bryan Unkeless

Executive Produced: Robin Bissell, Suzanne Collins, Louise Rosner

Co-Executive Producer: Chantal Feghali

Music by James Newton

Cinematography by Tom Stern

Edited by Christopher S. Capp, Stephen Mirrione, Juliette Welfing

Casting by Debra Zane

Production Design by Philip Messina

Art Direction by John Collins, Robert Fechtman, Paul Richards

Set Decoration by Larry Dias

Costume Design by Judianna Makovsky

Starring:

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

Sandra Ellis Lafferty as Hob Vendor

Paula Malcolmson as Katniss’ Motehr

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy

Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith

Kimiko Gelman as Venia

Nelson Ascencio as Flavius

Brooke Bundy as OCtavia

Lenny Kravitz as Cinna

Amandla Stenberg as Rue

Dayo Okeniyi as Thresh

Leven Rambin as Glimmer

Jac Quaid as Marvel

Latarsha Rose as Portia

Donald Sutherland as President Snow

Alexander Ludwig as Cato

Isabelle Fuhrman as Clove

Jacqueline Emerson as Foxface

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her younger sister’s place to enter the games, and is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy when she’s pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

“The Hunger Games”, the award winning young adult novel by American television writer and novelist Suzanne Collins.

Inspired by watching a competition on reality TV and the invasion of Iraq, the Greek myth of Theseus and Roman gladiator games, “The Hunger Games” received rave reviews in 2008 by film critics but also criticized for its similarity to Koushun Takami’s 1999 novel “Battle Royale” and Stephen King’s “The Running Man” and “The Long Walk”.

But despite its criticism, “The Hunger Games” did receive a number of awards and honors in 2008and would go on to receive a film adaptation courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment and produced by Nina Jacobson’s production Company Color Force. The film adaptation was done by Suzanne Collins with help from screenwriter Billy Ray (“Color of Night”, “State of Play”, “Flightplan”) and also featured a collaboration with filmmaker Gary Ross (“Big”, “Pleasantville”, “Seabiscuit”). Ross would direct the film and would work with cinematographer Tom Stern (“Gran Torino”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Mystic River”) and feature music composed by James Newton Howard (“The Sixth Sense”, “The Fugitive”, “Unbreakable”).

“The Hunger Games” would star actress Jennifer Lawrence (“X-Men: First Class”, “Winter’s Bone”, “Like Crazy”), Josh Hutcherson (“Bridge to Terabithia”, “The Kids Are All Right”, “American Splendor”), Woody Harrelson (“No Country for Old Men”, “Zombieland”, “Natural Born Killers”, “Cheers”), Donald Sutherland (“The Italian Job”, “Pride & Prejudice”, “Ordinary People”), Liam Hemsworth (“Last Song”, “Knowing”, “Triangle”), Elizabeth Banks (“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “The Next Three Days”), Stanley Tucci (“The Devil Wears Prada”, “The Terminal”, “The Lovely Bones”), Wes Bentley (“American Beauty”, “The Four Feathers”) and rock star Lenny Kravitz (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”, “Previous”, “Bad Boys II”).

The film which was budgeted at $78 million would become an enormous success in the box office, earning over $684 million surpassing “Eclipse” for the record of first-day advanced ticket sales and became the largest opening weekend for a film not released during the summer or holiday.  The film would receive favorable reviews from film critics, although similar to the novel, would be compared to its similarities with the Japanese film “Battle Royale”.

And now, “The Hunger Games” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 18, 2012.  The 2-disc Blu-ray comes with a digital copy, while the 2-disc DVD also comes with a digital copy and the film will also be available On Demand.

“The Hunger Games” is set in a nation known as Panem, established in North America after an apocalyptic event.  The nation consists of The Capitol and twelve surrounding districts which are poor and under The Capitol’s hegemony.

Because of rebellion by the districts, the 13th district was destroyed.  And to make sure the other districts do not revolt against the government ever again, “The Hunger Games” was created.

“The Hunger Games” is an annual lottery in which a boy and girl aged 12 through 18 from each district, must fight to the death until one survives.  The battles take place in a specialized arena created and controlled by the Capitol and those who win, will insure their district wins food.

In District 12, a young woman named Katniss Everdeen (as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother (as portrayed by Paula Malcomson) and younger sister Primrose (as portrayed by Willow Shields). Because her father died in a mining accident, her mother has been emotionally unstable for quite some time and Katniss has been relied on in playing not just the older sibling but also trying to take care of her mother.

So, Katniss is the main provider of the family.  She is a wonderful tracker and hunter and is used to hunting animals to feed her family.  She is also very close to Gale Hawthorn (as portrayed by Liam Hemsworth), a young man who has grown tired towards the treatment of people in the districts by those from the Capitol.  He is spiteful towards the government for making the districts suffer and wishes that one day, everyone could be a revolt against the Capitol.  But of course, realistically, the Capitol is too powerful but Gale hopes that one day, they will be free.

The day also marks the time of the annual lottery for “The Hunger Games”, the Capitol’s representative Effie Trinket (as portrayed by Elizabeth Banks) comes to District 12 to select a random boy and girl.  Both Katniss and her younger sister Primrose, along with Gale Hawthorn, must prepare for another selection process.  And the girl selected to compete for District 12 is Katniss’ younger sister Primrose Everdeen.  Katniss knows that her sister would not survive in competition and in fear of what may happen to her sister, Katniss volunteers herself as the female competitor for this year’s Hunger Games and thus sparing her sister from being selected.

The boy selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (as portrayed by Josh Hutcherson), the baker’s son. For Katniss, she remembers starving and Peeta using bread not to help feed families but to feed the pigs.  And so at first, she doesn’t like Peeta all that much.

As both have been selected, they will now be taken to the Capitol to represent District 12.  And to fight, they must learn from a Hunger Games survivor and now mentor Haymitch Abernathy (as portrayed by Woody Harrelson). Haymitch is not so helpful at first as the only thing the can tell them is not to die.  More concerned about drinking alcohol, Katniss proves how serious she is about winning by showing a defying moment towards Haymitch and thus their training begins.

The two learn that to survive “The Hunger Games”, one must play to the crowd and win over sponsors.  Those who do, will receive supplies during the competition.  The two also learn that the competition is dangerous and most will die from not just their competitors but also by nature (poisonous plants), wild animals or poisonous insects.

With a few days to prepare for their battle, each member representing their districts must do all they can to prepare for their upcoming battle but also win over the audience.  But immediately, Katniss and Peeta learn that their competition seems as if they are ready to kill.  But also, Katniss meets friendly young competitors who are not ready to fight, but must.

With only a few days to prepare for their competition, who will survive and who will die during “The Hunger Games”?

Will Katniss survive?

VIDEO:

“The Hunger Games” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Widescreen Presentation).  Its important to note that the “The Hunger Games” was shot on film and not digitally.  Shot in North Carolina, there was artificial coloring used in order to make Katniss’ area seem lush.  But its when the characters leave their district, we see how beautiful this film looks.  From the closeups of the characters, the detail in their costume design and even the use of visual effects throughout the film, the picture quality looked absolutely fantastic.

During my viewing, especially in scenes with a lot of red, I saw no banding, I saw no artifacts nor did I see any problematic issues with this film.  “The Hunger Games” is crisp, vibrant and looks absolutely amazing on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Hunger Games” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio,  I have to say that the 7.1 lossless soundtrack is absolutely immersive.  I was amazed of how sound was utilized, may it be for the sound of a spacecraft flying above, canons being shot, the crowd screaming all around you.  This is an immersive soundtrack in which the surround channels are effectively used, especially LFE.   There is no doubt that audiophiles will enjoy this lossless soundtrack.  It’s fantastic!

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH or Spanish Subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Hunger Games” comes with the following special features:

  • The World is Watching: Making the Hunger Games – (2:02:00) The making of “The Hunger Games” featuring an eight-part documentary: Countdown, Casting, Design, Arena Ready, On Location in Panem, Effects, Post-Production, May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor
  • Game Maker: Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games Phenomenon – (14:05) David Levithan (publisher of Scholastic, Inc.), book reviewers and educators talk about “The Hunger Games” phenomenon.
  • Letters from the Rose Garden – (9:08) Interview with director Gary Ross and Donald Sutherland.  Sutherland talks about taking part in “The Hunger Games”.
  • Controlling the Games – (5:50) Interviews with those involved with the visual effects and production design for “The Hunger Games”.
  • A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell – (14:31) Film critic Elvis Mitchell interviews Gary Ross.
  • Preparing for The Games: A Director’s Process (Blu-ray Exclusive) – (3:00) Director Gary Ross talks about his shot list, planning the film and a storyboard/screenplay comparison.
  • Propaganda Film – (1:34) The propaganda film shown to the districts (full, non-interrupted).
  • Marketing Archive – Featuring the theatrical trailers (sneak peek, theatrical trailer, second trailer), poster and photo galleries.

EXTRAS:

“The Hunger Games” comes with a slipcover case.

OK, I admit it.  I was wrong.

I was wrong to not to have interest in this film because of a few saying it was a “Battle Royale” knock off.

I was wrong not to have watched this film because my wife loved it so much, she wanted to see it again (and this never happens).  She loved it so much, she read all the books and was enthusiastic enough to recommend a movie to me (which rarely happens).

But when a movie does so well, receives its praise and also its controversial criticism, I figured that I needed to see what all the hype was all about.  See it for myself and decide.

And after watching “The Hunger Games”, I can tell you right now that I absolutely…loved it!

Granted, I’m a sucker for underdog type films.  Humanity being oppressed and someone to stand up and fight back.  We see it so much with male action heroes but here we are with a film with a strong female character.  But most importantly, director Gary Ross was able to transform Suzanne Collins novel to the big screen.

From the visual effects and production design, I immediately took notice to see how the children were dressed when they headed out to the lottery.  I took notice of the makeup of Effie Trinket, so different from others with her outlandish costume design but yet separating her from the people of the district.  From seeing how those selected to battle being part of the opening ceremonies to the viciousness of the battles that took place.  The storyline is so effective and you automatically pull for the underdog.

And yes, there are similarities to “Battle Royale” and even “The Running Man”, but that’s not to say that “The Hunger Games” was inspired by these films, as Suzanne Collins was not.  The fact is that we live in a society where reality TV has now become prime time television.  People love to see the underdogs win.  People love to see television taking things up a notch in order to surprise viewers and not succumb to last year and previous year’s banal circumstances.

“The Hunger Games” is sleek in style but pays off in character portrayal.    First, let’s talk about the visual style.

Director Gary Ross was able to take Suzanne Collins but build upon its story through visual effects.  Letting people know that the Capitol is responsible for this faux arena.  They are able to manipulate the games through technology, to effectively communicate with their viewers who are pulling for their district, but also seeing how those in competition must win over sponsors.  The way things were paced and executed was wonderfully done and the costume design, makeup, set design made this sci-fi film believable and effective.

But of course, you like any film or video game that can have a flashy presentation, it’s characters are important.

And that is where “The Hunger Games” wins over the viewer through its characters that are children fighting to survive.  Automatically, you get a good feeling of who is going to die.  When you see young kids, with no exceptional skills and are forced to fight but are in fear of being killed against older, much experienced teens, it’s heartbreaking.

All of these characters are vulnerable, but yet they fight for not themselves but their district, ensuring that their district can be fed for a year.  We see how the Capitol, especially through its President tries to manipulate the system, we see how the people of the districts are powerless and we see how these characters must put on a brave face and essentially market themselves to viewers in order to win over sponsors.

Where “The Running Man” was more about action and “Battle Royale” was more interesting of seeing how many violent ways teens can be killed, “The Hunger Games” does feature violence but it’s not the primary focus.

It was important to have an actress that is not a perfect hero, a character that is vulnerable and this is where actress Jennifer Lawrence shined as Katniss Everdeen.   Yes, she has experience as tracker and a hunter but she is also a young woman who doesn’t want to die.  Who wants to live for her family and be back for her sister.  And the way that Lawrence plays Katniss, is so convincing, so pure and just wonderful.  Yes, I am aware of the criticism of how the poor districts have people who must be thin and starving and that should reflect in the casting of its character.  But I’ve looked at it as her skills of a hunter allowed her and her family to eat.  Not everyone is a skilled hunter, she is.

We have her fellow district mate, Peeta Mellark, who has no major fighting skills, aside from working in a bakery and throwing flour and also knowing how to paint himself in order to disguise himself, so he would not be caught.  But then you have this romantic angle, with Peeta who has had a long crush on Katniss.  And part of you is pulling for him to also survive.  Actor Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta has come a long way as a child star and now a teen actor and to see how this actor has grown so much since starring in “Little Manhattan” and “Bridge to Terabithia”.

Woody Harrelson was also great in playing the District 12 mentor, Haymitch Abernathy.  Thinking that his kids don’t have a chance but then seeing Katniss’ resilience and believing in her.  It was an interesting role to see Harrelson play but it turned out pretty good.

And there are many more characters that are notable, talent who did a good job playing their characters.  Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley, Amandla Stenberg to name a few.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality and the lossless audio was fantastic.  I don’t think videophiles or audiophiles have anything to complain about this film.  As for special features, you get a lengthy making of featurette but also plenty of other shorter special features included.  The Blu-ray release comes with two Blu-rays, one for the film and the other for the special features but also a digital copy via Ultraviolet is included.

Overall, “The Hunger Games” was a film that I didn’t want to see because of its comparisons to “Battle Royale” but I realized that I was wrong to even think that way.  Not only is the film fantastic but while there are similarities to “Battle Royale” and “The Running Man”, this film is much more effective in how the characters are portrayed.

Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely amazing and well-cast for her role as Katniss and I will never understand why one would complain about young Black talents such as Amandla Stenberg playing  Rue or Dayo Okenyi playing Thresh.  It’s unimaginable that people complained about it and refuse to see the movie because of it.  Unimaginable but also another lesson that even though society has changed a lot in the last 50 years, ignorance still exists.   While the character of Thresh had a small part in this film, the character of Rue and Amandla Stenberg played this character magnificently and felt the character of Rue and her interaction with Katniss was one of the most important, unforgettable scenes of the film.

Overall, “The Hunger Games” was a film that was pulse-pounding, exciting and all-out entertaining!  Not only was it an effective sci-fi film but it’s been a long while since I watched a new sci-fi film that made me excited for the upcoming sequels and yes, even making me want to read the books.  I enjoyed the film that much!

And while I have no doubt that the Blu-ray and DVD release of “The Hunger Games” will be an amazing success for Lions Gate Entertainment, I’m also confident in highly recommending this Blu-ray release.  It’s a must buy!

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