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The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection: 6-Disc Blu-ray + Digital HD Review - Page 1 of 2

The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection: 6-Disc Blu-ray + Digital HD box art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection

The Hunger Games (2012),
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013),
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (2014),
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (2015)


2.40:1 Widescreen (Catching Fire: 1.78:1-2.40:1 Widescreen)
Films 1-2: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English) / Films 3-4: Dolby TrueHD/Dolby Atmos 7.1 (English)
All Films: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Films 2-4: Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service) / Film 3: DTS 2.0 Headphone (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: March 22, 2016 / Suggested Retail Price: $64.97
Six single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s)
Six-Sided Digipak in Embossed Cardboard Box
Also available in 8-Disc DVD + Digital edition ($54.98 SRP)

Buy The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection at Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital

Though they sport new labels in the interest of uniformity, the first four of the six discs in this collection are the same ones that have been previously released and sold. I've still got to address them for a thorough and accurate review, but if you already own them, you can just skip ahead to the parts relevant to Mockingjay, Part 2's Blu-ray and the new bonus features disc.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) are on hand for the opening ceremony of the third Quarter Quell Hunger Games in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

VIDEO and AUDIO

You know that no studio would release movies this big and popular to Blu-ray with less than stellar picture and sound. Lionsgate does not commit that blunder, making all four films look sharp and sound potent. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the only one of the four to alternate aspect ratio, opening up to 1.78:1 for scenes shot with IMAX cameras.
That approach, which wasn't taken for that movie's DVD but was previously taken for Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, may divide some and I'm not totally sold on it. But it's probably not a huge concern for most watching. All four films are offered with 7.1 sound, be it DTS-HD master audio on the first two films or Dolby Atmos/TrueHD on the latter two. There are also Dolby 2.0 tracks for those without surround sound setups, Spanish dubs, and, on all but the first film, DVS tracks for the visually impaired. There is neither reason nor room for these movies to get better picture and sound on the Blu-ray format.

BONUS FEATURES

The wrap-around on the box states the set contains over 14 hours of bonus features and you don't doubt that for a second, since four feature-length documentaries and two audio commentaries alone bring us close to that number. Before I get to Mockingjay, Part 2's extras and the contents of the exclusive new bonus disc, I've got to go through all the bonus features that are recycled from the first three films' releases. If you already know about them and want to skip ahead, click here.

The only things accompanying the first film on its disc are MetaBeam Smart Remote and BD Touch, apparently both referring to Lionsgate's version of a second screen app. "Also from Lionsgate" repeats the disc-opening promos, advertising The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, UltraViolet, and EPIX.

"The Whole World is Watching" documents the making of "The Hunger Games" from Jennifer Lawrence's archery training... ...to director Gary Ross and his three young leads introducing the film at its premiere.

A bonus disc is full of substantial supplements for the first film, all of them presented in full HD. The centerpiece is the 122-minute documentary "The Whole World is Watching: Making Hunger Games." Unusually comprehensive and thoughtful, this ranks among the best film-specific documentaries I've encountered. Broken into eight pieces but flowing like one long consistent companion, it covers adaptation; casting; characters; costumes, hair and make-up; set design; training and stunts; filming on location in North Carolina; adding visual effects; editing; scoring; sound mixing; and the film's premiere and reception. The content is a fairly typical mix of talking heads, candid B-roll, hosted behind-the-scenes, and film clips.

Next, we get six items under the header Featurettes.

The leonine Donald Sutherland reflects on and reads a rambling letter he wrote to director Gary Ross about President Snow. Actors have to use their imaginations on the predominantly greenscreen game control set.

"Game Maker: Suzanne Collins & The Hunger Games Phenomenon" (14:05) focuses on the book behind the film and contemplates why it has resonated with the public. While the author is a no-show, her publisher, critics, educators, fans, and cast members sing her praises.

The unusual "Letters from the Rose Garden" (9:08) shares and elaborates on a rambling three-page note from Donald Sutherland to director Gary Ross on the nature of Sutherland's character President Snow.

"Controlling the Games" (5:50) considers the usefulness of the green screen-heavy game control room invented for the film to give context.

"A Conversation with Gary Ross and Elvis Mitchell" (14:31) has the director talk to the film critic/radio host about The Hunger Games in between clips.

Every scene in the film was plotted by storyboard and shot list, as this split-screen demonstration from "Preparing the Games" illustrates. Excerpted in the movie, this Propaganda Film gives us The Capitol's version of the dark history on which The Hunger Games were founded.

"Preparing for the Games: A Director's Process" (3:00) lets Gary Ross share his process of creating a shot list for the film to guide him through production.
A split-screen demonstration compares moments from the final film to the corresponding storyboards and parts of the shot list.

"Propaganda Film" (1:34) gives us Panem's brief, expository history of the Hunger Games (excerpted in the feature film) narrated by Donald Sutherland as President Snow.

Finally, we come to the Marketing Gallery. It holds three Hunger Games trailers: a sneak peek (1:08), a standard trailer (2:39), and a shorter second one (1:12). The section also includes a Poster Gallery containing 11 movie and character one-sheet designs and a 73-image Photo Gallery offering a mix of film stills and behind-the-scenes shots. Each is presented with transitional "whoosh" sound effects and with the pictures smaller than they should be.


Elizabeth Banks undergoes extensive make-up as part of her transformation into Effie Trinket. Francis Lawrence directs his costumed cast in the comfort of shorts.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with a sneak peek for Divergent (6:43), which is more of a promotional making-of featurette than extended trailer with talking heads and behind-the-scenes footage complementing film clips.

Next up comes a feature audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. Featuring so little interaction that you suspect they were recorded separately, theirs isn't the most interesting or free-flowing of tracks. Information shared tends to be standard fare: filming locations and conditions, stunts and visual effects.
More remarkable is the revelation that a few frames of a violent moment had to be trimmed to secure a PG-13 rating from the MPAA. While some will certainly appreciate this, a movie of this caliber with such a huge, passionate fan base deserves a more exciting commentary.

"Surviving the Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2:24:55) is an epic nine-part making-of documentary which runs nearly as long as the film itself does. It aims for more than just the same old, starting with the cast and crew reflecting on the first film's impact. It moves on to discussing finding a new director to replace Gary Ross, finding and designing locations, shooting on film, the camaraderie of the new and returning cast, the characters' costumes and evolving looks, Effie's hair and makeup, challenges and perks of filming in Atlanta (including a frigid outdoor water park closed for the season), training and stunts, filming sequences in IMAX, the editing process, adding visual effects, scoring, and the series' future. The piece benefits from a wealth of perspectives: cast, producers, crew members, Scholastic publishers. It's an exhaustive documentary but one you enjoy watching given its fine treatment of an interesting subject.

This deleted scene shows an envelope catching fire in the hands of Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The Blu-ray's top menu employs the pretty colors of the 1990s Charlotte Hornets.

Most of the five deleted scenes (4:35) are short and insignificant, but the reel includes a good extended conversation between President Snow and Plutarch and a solo Plutarch scene (which bears greater than usual interest following Hoffman's recent death).

Catching Fire's disc opens with a standard trailer for Divergent, which is menu-inaccessible, while Catching Fire's own trailers are disappointingly absent.


"The Mockingjay Lives" gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Katniss and company's wire stunt. The score for "Mockingjay, Part 1" wouldn't be what it is without this trumpet man.

Mockingjay, Part 1's extras start with another audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.

On the video front, its offerings begin with "The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay, Part 1" (2:14:19), another feature-length companion documentary. This 7-part piece covers all the big and small bases you expect, from the adaptation and splitting the novel into two films to the cast to filming in Atlanta to technical facets like production design, war make-up, drab costuming, visual effects and sound design.

"Straight from the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman" (11:03) collects thoughts from the cast and crew about their prematurely departed collaborator.

"Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack" (8:10) lets the teenaged New Zealand pop singer discuss her contributions to the film and recruiting other artists to contribute.

Beetee meets with Katniss and Gale in this "Mockingjay, Part 1" deleted scene. New Zealand pop singer and Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack curator Lorde sings "Yellow Flicker Beat" in her funky music video.

There are nine deleted scenes (11:18), showing us Katniss acclimating herself to District 13, Beetee trying to establish communication, President Snow meeting with Peeta, Effie taking over Katniss' make-up, Snow enjoying Katniss' propo,

The music video for Lorde's Golden Globe-nominated original song "Yellow Flicker Beat" (4:05) finds the artist singing in distinct, vaguely futuristic locations inspired by the film. Credit the video for creativity, but the song doesn't really suit the film very well.

Finally, there is a sneak peek for Insurgent (4:11), an installment in the sci-fi franchise Lionsgate desperately wanted to be The Hunger Games' successor.

Mockingjay, Part 1 opens with trailers for The Divergent Series: Insurgent, "Manhattan", The Age of Adaline, Mortdecai, "The Royals", and EPIX, all of which also play from the menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing.


Hunger Games core cast members Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Liam Hemsworth are all ears during the series' wrap party toasts near the end of "Pawn No More." Set photographer Murray Close discusses his career, including shooting stills for all four Hunger Games films in "A Photographic Journey."

Mockingjay, Part 2's extras begin with another audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.

The finale's feature documentary is "Pawn No More: Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" (2:21:45), which is divided into eight parts and covers all the usual bases as they apply to this fourth film: story, settings and production design, new characters, costumes and hair, filming locations, visual effects, weapons, stunts, post-production, and the emotions of wrapping after years together. Like the others, this is exhaustive almost to a fault. I suspect many viewers would like to have the option to watch the more conventional 15-minute condensed version of these docs.

"The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey" (10:17) has Murray Close discussing his career in film set still photography, starting with The Shining, and extending through this franchise, imagery from which he shares along with insight into his profession and work.

"Cinna's Sketchbook" provides one last illustrated word on Hunger Games costumes. Oh, deep cable: one of the hosts of the Pop TV show "Jet to the Set" snags a selfie at an Atlanta parking lot where a "Catching Fire" scene was shot.

"Cinna's Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor" (9:22) details the creation of Cinna's sketchbook of the armored costumes of the Revolution, with discussion of the designs.

"Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition" (1:57) shows off some of the things you'll see of the traveling museum
section that opened in New York and has since moved to San Francisco, with enthusiastic remarks from the cast and fans alike.

A full episode of the Pop TV series "Jet to the Set" (41:58) is dedicated to visiting the filming locations of The Hunger Games (mostly Catching Fire) in Atlanta. A few other movies get mentioned, but most of the focus is on the Catching Fire, with scenes comparing our two lady hosts' explorations to the corresponding scenes from the film. Along the way, there's also an Effie-style makeover, appearances by minor Divergent Series and Mockingjay actresses plus a Real Housewife of Atlanta, an archery lesson, and visits to the city's hot spots for food and fashion. Clearly a deep cable program, it's something different from the typical bonus feature.

Mockingjay, Part 2 opens with trailers for Now You See Me 2, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Gods of Egypt, The Last Witch Hunter, and EPIX. Again, the same items play from the menu's "Also from Lionsgate" listing.

"Tribute Video Diaries" takes us with the young actors across the nation's malls on a promotional tour. A photo album shows us the tribute actors' fun times together when the cameras weren't rolling.

DISC 6

The sixth and final disc, as far as I can tell, is exclusive to this collection. It contains extras from each of the first three films, some of them never-before-seen and others curiously found elsewhere on this set.

From the original Hunger Games, we start with a number of features that are already found on that movie's bonus disc preserved here. Everything from the two-hour documentary "The World is Watching: Making The Hunger Games" through Propaganda Film resurfaces. But wait, there's more that was probably heretofore exclusive to certain retailers.

"Stories from the Tributes" (17:47) is the first of several extras dedicated to the young actors
filling supporting roles in the Games themselves. They describe a summer camp atmosphere to their work and downtime, which playful behind-the-scenes clips support. "Casting the Tributes" (10:42) explores the process of picking each of these actors to play the secondary tributes, with casting director Debra Zane and the actors describing the experience of getting the job.

"Tribute Video Diaries" (16:46) edits together highlights from flip cam videos taken by seven actors playing less focal tributes in the films. Their excitement at the film's prominent presence in Los Angeles and around the nation on their promotional mall tour leading up to the big premiere is endearing and understandable. It is kind of like just watching a bunch of teenagers' home movies, which makes it different from other bonus features.

A "Photo Album" is actually a music video (3:10) moving through a virtual album of the still photos depicting the generally unremarkable experiences of the actors playing these lesser tributes.

Making movies is all fun and games until you have to sit for hours while tracker jacker sting make-up is applied, as "Capitol Couture" shows. Prop master Trish Gallaher Glenn looks tough showing off "Weapons of the Arena."

"Stunts of The Hunger Games" (14:56) lives up to its title with looks at what went into Hunger Games fights, the young cast's general physical training, and Jennifer Lawrence's fiery forest runs, and her stunt double's work.

"Capitol Couture: The Styles of Panem" (17:54) addresses the distinct costumes and hairstyles in the film's settings and moves onto some tracker jacker sting make-up. With all that went into this, it's astonishing this franchise didn't get any costuming or hairstyling and make-up Oscar nominations.

"Weapons of the Arena" (6:47) predictably looks at the weapons used in the Games, with the film's prop master showing us and telling us about the knives and spears to Katniss' two different bows.

"EFFECTED: The Visual Artwork of The Hunger Games" (10:10) acknowledges and admires the layers of effects that bring the film's worlds to life.

An extended talk between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Rue features among the original film's many never-before-seen deleted scenes. Dayo Okeniyi (Thresh) is excited to attend the only Hunger Games premiere to which he'll be invited.

"Feast and Famine: Creating the Food for The Hunger Games" (6:58) digs into the process of making suitable looking food for both District 12 and the Capitol. The food stylist and others weigh in on this topic you might not consider.

"On the Black Carpet: The Hunger Games Premiere" (4:45) gathers both professional interview videos and behind-the-scenes footage
from lesser cast members at the event held across the street from the Staples Center.

Finally, "Blu-ray menu Easter Egg" takes you to a graphic of two lists that evidently decode some messages.

Sure to be a highlight for many is a section of deleted scenes, which the menu reminds us are "never before seen!" These twelve cut bits run 21 minutes and 14 seconds. They include a Prim nightmare that would have opened the film, Gale explaining how the system works, Katniss taking a vigorous and uncomfortable looking bath, Snow and Seneca talking underdogs, Peeta struggling during his training, Katniss and Peeta sharing a tender talk, Gale teaching Prim to hunt, significantly extended Caesar Flickerman hosting and interviewing tributes (with green screen unreplaced), a Katniss in-tree flashback, an elongated chat between Katniss and Rue, and more of Katniss in the games.

The Marketing Archive of trailers is repeated, with one addition: animated biographies of 9 tributes.

Director Francis Lawrence speaks from the scenic Hawaiian island on which "Catching Fire" was partially filmed. Coldplay lets their lyrics and animated constellations speak for themselves in their "Atlas" music video.

From The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we get a featurettes section consisting of twelve items, one of which is designated as never-before-seen. Most of these are shorter than the featurettes on the first film.

"The Alliance: Returning Cast" (14:27) lets the returning actors voice their excitement at reuniting on this sequel, as it runs through the principal cast to celebrate what each brings to their role. "Friend or Foe: New Cast" (18:26) moves through the sequel's newly introduced characters, paying notice to the actors who play them and recalling their casting. "One Vision: A Faithful Adaptation" (12:38) acknowledges the book for the film's value, with cast and crew sharing thoughts on the sequel's story, with Donald Sutherland injecting some history and politics. "The Look of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (3:14) briefly touches upon the flashy costumes and make-up

"The Quarter Quell Cast" (3:12) swiftly looks at the former victors who return to the Games in this sequel. "Bringing Panem to Life" (6:05) covers the Atlanta locations that housed scenes, from a Marriott and a water park to Swan House. "Taking Aim: Stunts & Weapons" (5:54), believe it or not, touches upon the stunts and weapons of the second movie from Sam Claflin's trident training to Cashmere and Gloss' knife throwing. "The Quell: On Location in Hawaii" (5:03) discusses filming scenes on an Oahu beach.

"Battling the Clock Arena" (5:33) addresses the production design for the film's big set piece. The music video for Coldplay's "Atlas" (4:01) animates lyrics and star constellations. That never-before-seen item "Capitol Cuisine" (4:55) lets food stylist Jack White discuss his and the crew's work on the film's opulent offerings. "Inside District 12: The Hob" (2:14) shows us around the grimy black market where Katniss does her trading, as workers silently carry out their work to score.

The second film's only other inclusion is a short never-before-seen deleted scene (0:36), which presents a green screen exchange between Katniss and Peeta.

Natalie Dormer gets an extreme haircut to play Cressida in "Utilitarian Chic." Katniss' dance with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is one of many Murray Close still photographs from the series displayed in "Picturing Panem."

From Mockingjay, Part 1, we get a featurettes section with six items.

"Rubble and Ashes" (9:13) looks at the production design for District 13, with lots of concept art and talk. As you can guess, "Utilitarian Chic" (13:38) considers the film's costume design, a sharp change from the previous two films, and make-up and hairstyling for new and returning characters alike. "The Propos Team" (11:57) profiles the characters introduced in this film and their dynamic. "Combat Zone" (11:51) covers the filming of action scenes. The very short "Katniss Propo Video" (0:19) is presented in its own.

The disc and collection's extras conclude with the never-before-seen "Picturing Panem" (7:50), a three-dimensional slideshow of on-set photographer Murray Close's behind-the-scenes pictures from all four films which he comments over.

A look at the discs and packaging of Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection Blu-ray + Digital HD.

PACKAGING

Packaging is kind of a big deal on box sets like this. It's got to be both pleasing to the eye and functional. Lionsgate mostly meets both of those standards here. The box, which is the width of two Blu-rays and the height of one DVD features an appealing understated design, with a profile shot of Katniss
The Hunger Games Official Store
and each film represented by a different Mockingjay logo. Awkwardly, the only part identifying the set as a Blu-ray is a cardboard wrap-around affixed by adhesive blobs. You'll probably opt to throw that away.

Sliding out from the box, which does not open in any other way, is a six-sided Digipak, whose back opens up to form a tasteful triptych composited of character poster poses from all four films. Flip it over and a single-sided insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet codes for all four films, the only insert found here, will fall out. You then can admire the uniformity of the six disc labels, which feature profile shots of Katniss, Peeta, Effie, and Gale on the four film discs, with variations on the Mockingjay logos adorning the two bonus features Blu-rays. Take out all the discs and you'll find the Digipak's plastic-covered interior features those same Mockingjay logos... on fire!

The Blu-ray menu for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" looks like a live Capitol transmission from President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

MENUS

So few menus these days do more than recycle poster art or loop a basic screen-filling montage. Recognizing the ample theming possibilities, Lionsgate did much more for all of these discs, incorporating everything from the televised coverage of the Hunger Games to those propos. The screens are extremely well done and even inject some creativity into auto-playing previews. All the discs are kindly authored to allow you to resume playback. The movie discs also let you set bookmarks.

District 12 tributes Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) stick together in the 74th Hunger Games.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Although the last two movies fell short of the excellence of the first two, The Hunger Games as a series does enough right to hold in high regard as one of those rare instances where broadly appealing entertainment has artistic worth and stands up to critical scrutiny. With a stronger finish, this might have stood as the definitive film franchise of the 2010s. It still merits strong consideration of that title.

Lionsgate's 4-Movie Collection puts fans in the position of having to rebuy the discs they probably already own to get the whole series in one place. The fine films themselves, stellar feature presentations and exhaustive bonus content all warrant high recommendations and the set is somewhat reasonably priced (and sure to get more reasonable by the end of the year).

Buy The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital


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Jennifer Lawrence: Winter's Bone X-Men: First Class Silver Linings Playbook American Hustle Like Crazy
Josh Hutcherson: Journey to the Center of the Earth Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Bridge to Terabithia The Kids Are All Right
Liam Hemsworth: Paranoia The Last Song
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Divergent
Franchises: Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration The Santa Clause: 3-Movie Collection

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Reviewed March 31, 2016.



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