The Hunger Games If you're like me, and you loved The Hunger Games in book or film form, you might have had the same reaction I did to its digital release: "What, no commentary or deleted scenes?!" With a franchise as rabidly picked apart and analyzed from all sides as early as the casting process, it seemed unthinkable that fans wouldn't be let in on the decision-making process behind co-writer and director Gary Ross' singular, visionary choices. Worry not: Ross almost never stops talking about his process, intentions, hell, his lenses throughout hours upon hours of featurettes, including a feature-length making-of largely narrated by Ross that's so jam-packed with behind-the-scenes revelations (example: the President Snow scenes were added largely thanks to pages of notes provided by the actor who plays him, Donald Sutherland, regarding the nature of power, lust and his roses, Joan of Arc and the Arab Spring.) that it actually serves fans better than a commentary would. While Ross can seem a bit enamored with himself, the result speaks for itself: Incorporating art-house angles that draw from the senses – a way of reminding us, according to Ross, that we're not supposed to be spectators to this event in the same gawking way the Capitol is – a jaw-dropping soundtrack of film-specific Americana songs overseen from the development phase by T Bone Burnett and a career-defining performance by phenom Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (truly one of the most unknowable heroines in cinema history) make The Hunger Games, in my opinion, the best film of the year so far. (available Aug. 18)
Special Features: Featurettes
Kill List Before it goes completely insane in the third act, writer-director Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace) tells a tidily familiar story – a couple of hit men with differing philosophies, one last job, etc. – in the messiest way possible. Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) are given, yes, a "kill list," which includes job titles like "librarian" and "priest" – all they're missing's a rabbi and a bar. What unfolds is a bloody, punishing alternative to The Hunger Games, one in which even some of the victims admit they deserve it and the men chosen to deliver justice are happy to do so with utter brutality. But just when you think Kill List is as straightforward as its title, things get murky – even metaphysical – in a hurry, and the thread starts to come undone. Still, until then, it's a difficult watch, but one not without its guilty, bloodthirsty pleasures. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentaries, featurettes, interviews
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