Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Video review: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

The problem with many fantasy book franchises that get turned into a series of movies is the individual films often seem much like one another. I enjoyed the first couple of “Harry Potter” flicks, but by the time the third one rolled around I felt like I’d already paid enough for the same dance.

“The Hunger Games” only needs two films to arrive at dreary repetition. “Catching Fire,” the sequel to 2012’s mega-hit, unrolls in very much the same fashion, culminating with gladiator-like games where young champions vie to kill each other off while an agitated populace is forced to watch on TV.

The only real difference is that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is no longer an unknown novice from a remote district, but the reigning champion along with her childhood friend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), with whom she carries on a faux romance for the benefit of the cameras.

She’s recruited (aka forced) to participate in a new set of games featuring former champions by the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who fears Katniss has become the lynchpin of a brewing rebellion. He’s even hired a new Games Master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), to devise insanely diabolical challenges for the competitors.

Katniss and Peeta quickly find themselves in an unlikely alliance with other players, but at times it seems like the very environment is out to get them.

“Catching Fire” isn’t bad, but it takes a long time to get going, and even when it does we’ve already seen all there is to see.

Video extras are decent enough. The DVD version comes with a feature-length commentary track by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson and deleted scenes.

Go for the Blu-ray combo pack, and you add a nine-part feature-length documentary about the making of the film, “Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire.”

(Note: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” will be released on video Friday, March 7.)



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