Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

WHO: Jennifer Lawrence stars in this.

WHAT: I pretty intensely disliked the first Hunger Games movie, feeling that it was the very model of a popular literature adaptation that was made to compliment a reading of the book, and not to stand on its own as an interesting-in-its-own-right cinematic work. But somehow I got the urge to see this sequel nonetheless, and found it far superior in just about every way. I haven't read more than a few snippets of the original novels (just enough to discern that Suzanne Collins is a better world-builder than prose-spinner), but I imagine that if I had, I'd agree pretty much wholeheartedly with Matt Prigge's review.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens multiple times daily (except for Christmas Day) through January 5th on the Tech Museum of San Jose IMAX screen, and on many other "normal" cinema screens around Frisco Bay.

WHY: With 35mm distribution of major studio films down to its last days (there were rumors prints would be completely phased out by the end of 2013 but it hasn't quite happened yet, and I'll believe it when I see it), it seems worth also turning to the state of the 70mm IMAX presentation world. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a good excuse to talk about the local IMAX scene, as a good portion of it was filmed using IMAX film cameras and is intended, where possible, to be screened in that immersive way. This article explains more. It's rumored that next year's Christopher Nolan film Interstellar may be the final major Hollywood release to be filmed and available for projection on 15-perforation, 70mm film on IMAX screens. 

There are currently three Frisco Bay IMAX screens with the capability to show 15/70 film reels, as opposed to the (in my opinion) falsehood that is called "digital IMAX", and two of those screens have recently made the conversion so that they can screen both forms: the Metreon in San Francisco (where I saw Gravity digitally on its IMAX screen) and the Regal Hacienda in Dublin. I believe both of these venues screened The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 15/70, at least for a few days. I was told by Metreon employees that either their 70mm print or their projection system itself caused a technical problem that forced them to switch over to the digital IMAX for Catching Fire screenings in the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless, the Metreon is currently showing The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug in 15/70, although it was not filmed using 70mm cameras but digitally, so I'm not sure how important it is for purists to see it that way. The Regal Hacienda is currently showing The Hobbit digitally only.

But the third local IMAX (not just "LieMAX") screen in the area is the Tech Museum of San Jose, which has not yet made the digital conversion to my knowledge, and has been confirmed by Carl Martin, keeper of the Bay Area Film  Calendar, to be showing the 15/70 version of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as well as its usual selection of nature documentaries through the end of the year. On January 6th the venue expects to close its run and resume to showing documentaries only for a while. Perhaps until Interstellar? If you're not just an IMAX fan but a Star Wars fan there's a double reason to visit the Tech Museum soon, as there's an exhibit devoted to the 1977 film and its offspring up through late February.

HOW: 15/70 IMAX at the Tech Museum, and digitally elsewhere.

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