Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blu-Ray Review - The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

The Film:

Released back in November of last year, Mockingjay Part 1 takes place after the events of Catching Fire the 2nd film in the series and here we see Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in the mysterious District 13 which she was always led to believe was destroyed by the Capitol but more on her mind is the capture of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the hope that he can be rescued, then and only then will she agree to become to Mockingjay and help save Panem from the tyrannical grip of President Snow (Donald Sutherland.)

Before going into this film I was very excited to see it mainly because Catching Fire in 2013 left a very distinct impression on me after I walked out of it and it made me keen for what would come afterwards and I wasn't disappointed despite feeling (as many others have) that this film was hurt somewhat by the split of the final book into 2 films but whether the split was justified we simply won't know until Part 2 hits cinemas on November 19th.

But there is one other thing I want to talk about and that is for me I honestly feel that this has become the new Star Wars (and trust me this is a question I have rattled around in my brain for a long while now) as this series and the way it has evolved in terms of its storytelling has brought back what it felt like to be 11 years old and seeing Star Wars for the first time (though X-Men has also given this a run for its money as well.)

The Video:

Presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio the film looks terrific here and this could have been a tricky transfer given how much of the film is very muted in its look and some scenes take place in total darkness but the team involved here have really pulled off something of a minor miracle.

And also I think the film looks better here than it did in cinemas which is slowly becoming more and more common I find and it's a real problem for DCP projection as on the right screen it can look very clear whereas on the wrong screen it can look pretty bad and pull you out of the experience somewhat and unless this is addressed then you might see some start to miss 35mm film projection more and more (personally I don't miss it all that much.)

The Audio:

There are 3 main audio options presented here, A Dolby TrueHD Atmos 7.1 track, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for night time watching.

The 2 main tracks I will discuss are the Atmos and night time tracks and both are very good indeed, there is a nice balance between the action scenes and the quieter scenes of dialogue and the mix is also very active with background noise, rain in one of Snow's scenes and James Newton Howard's very good musical score (his best for the series so far) not to mention the Hanging Tree scene when the choir comes in to take over the song.

The night time mix is a great addition and idea in general and will also come in very handy when you want to watch the film late at night and you don't want to wake anyone, hopefully this becomes a regular addition to disc releases in the future.

The Extras:

One big highlight of these disc releases for these films is the high quality assortment of extra features that come with them and I have to highly commend Lionsgate for going the full mile for fans as SO. VERY. MANY. other studios just ignore the extras and throw on a few bits here and there that are just unsatisfying.

But as I said when I talked about the Blu-Ray of X-Men Days of Future Past I can't help but think that this is a deliberate decision by studios so they can move consumers towards the streaming options (which I don't like) and that way they can have much more control over the distribution of film content and put things back to before the Video Revolution of the 80s and it is just very very sad but enough of that little rant let's get into this.

There are 2 discs to this Blu-Ray release (the 2nd disc is purely the Making of documentary which was the call of Roadshow Entertainment as they made it clear to me on Twitter that they couldn't fit it all onto the one disc so they moved it onto a 2nd disc all its own which is a very smart move.)

On the first disc lies the following extras:

Audio Commentary by Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson: The two reunite for a commentary track for this film and while they give out some interesting info, I found myself turning it off as the monotone sound to their voices got a bit much after a while.

Deleted Scenes: 12 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes appear here and while they are of interest it's hard to see them being put back into the film though one could argue the hunting scene with Katniss and Gale could've also been deleted from the film but given how that has been a key character trait for both of them I guess Francis and Co didn't want to rock the boat more by taking out that moment and given how some fans reacted to the changes in the story as it is (this is where it was going after Catching Fire people) I can't say I blame them for leaving that in.

Straight from the Heart - A Tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Pretty much as the title says, the cast and crew remember their castmate PSH with some coming close to tears as they do it (he had completed 80% of his filming for the Mockingjay films before he sadly passed away last year and the coffee scene with Effie was meant to be shot with him the Friday before he died but a snowstorm in Atlanta delayed the shooting of that scene to the following week.)

PSH was a very fine actor who rarely let you down even if the film he was in wasn't all that flash and I think that his casting as Plutarch Heavensbee in Catching Fire was a key reason for that films success as well as helping to bring in that wider audience that might have dismissed this film at first glance and his death last year hit a lot of film fans very hard (Nina states on the commentary track that he had completed 80% of his work on Mockingjay before he died and Francis states that the Coffee scene that Effie has in the film was meant to be shot with him on the Friday before he died but a snowstorm in Atlanta delayed shooting that scene to the following week.)

I also believe that when Mockingjay Part 2 hits cinemas in November you will have people go to see the film purely so they can have that one last goodbye to him much like with Robin Williams and Night at the Museum 3 at the end of the last year.

And also when I got my hands on the Roadshow Entertainment VHS of Pulp Fiction a few weeks back one of the previews on it was for Robert Benton's Nobody's Fool which had him in it and it made me smile so he's not really gone as long as we remember him.

Songs of Rebellion - Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack: Pop artist Lorde (who also did the end credits song) is interviewed here talking about the Pop songs she wanted to bring to that soundtrack for this film.

Yellow Flicker Beat Music Video by Lorde: Pretty much as the title says this is the Music Video for the end credits song of this film.

And now onto Disc 2's sole extra feature:

The Mockingjay Lives - The Making of Mockingjay Part 1: A doco that is 10 minutes or so longer than the actual film this doco covers almost everything you could want to hear about the making of this film.

And a fair bit is covered here but what really impressed me the most was that District 13 itself was created for real for the most part and the sets for it are very good (it also reminds me a lot of the Rebel Alliance bases in the original Star Wars films which is very cool) and the creation of the descent into the Tribute centre is remarkable to watch as it was done for real and the test footage made me gulp quite a bit.

Though it has to be said we don't get a lot about Part 2 in this making of in the final featurette though as Francis states that film had to be started on ASAP for the visual effects work to be completed on time (poor fellow could also do with a good night's sleep as there are times where you see him one step short of nodding off but this is the job and I'm glad I prefer talking about movies than making them as the shorts I made in 2007-08 were more than enough for me to go "never again" as it was tough so I give Francis a lot of credit here.)

Please also note that this doco and the PSH tribute are exclusive to the Blu-Ray release and don't appear on the DVD version so please keep that in mind.

But before I finish up I have to talk about the disc menus which are excellent as it shows off the various propaganda material from the film in a near full size and it makes me wish that they along with the films trailers were on this disc as that was a key part of the film and it would've been nice to see a full screen version of the Join the Mockingjay propo as its cut to resemble the previews for this movie.

Final Thoughts:

Mockingjay Part 1 has been given first class treatment on Blu-Ray and I am very impressed with what I've seen, I can't recommend this disc highly enough and for $25 its almost a steal.

No comments: