The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Lionsgate - Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci. Full cast + crew
As someone who just plain didn't see the same things in first Hunger Games that caused everyone to fall in love with the franchise, I hope it carries extra weight when I say Catching Fire is actually a pretty solid, entertaining, and intelligent piece of pop culture. It's a much more restrained, thoughtful film than the first, with better character work across the board. It's just an all around more complete vision that doesn't feel compromised and doesn't rush its way through anything. It's obviously recommended for fans of the first film, but even if you hated that one, you may want to give this a shot.
Special Features: Commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson; a massive, making-of documentary that's nearly two-and-a-half-hours long; deleted scenes (four minutes); a sneak peak at Divergent (seven minutes).
Note: This is a special Friday (3/7/14) release.
12 Years a Slave - Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt,Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti. Full cast + crew
Obviously 12 Years a Slave is an incredible film, and there's very little that I can add in a blurb like this to the already enormous conversation surrounding this film right now. So let's just say this is one of those years where the Academy Awards got it very, very right with its pick for Best Picture.
Special Features: "12 Years a Slave: A Historical Portrait" (41 minutes), a comprehensive look at the real Northup, with Chiwetel Ejiofor reading select passages from the original book, and a host of cast/crew/historian interviews; "The Team" (eight minutes), a broad overview of the cast and crew's careers so far; "The Score" (four minutes), a quick piece about Hans Zimmer's process in composing the film; trailer.
Other Notable New Releases
Oldboy is a fascinating disaster. The first 40 or 50 minutes of Spike Lee's remake of the iconic Korean revenge film are actually pretty decent, but then it just goes off the rails, making all manner of weird creative decisions along the way. This isn't a case where the remake just isn't as good as the original, it's a case where the movie just plain doesn't work.
Unfortunately thanks to the Weinstein Company's notorious habbit of reediting Asian movies, we Americans don't get to see the original version of The Grandmaster, Wong Kar Wai's long-gestating film about the legendary martial arts master Ip Man. What we get is nearly 30 minutes short. It's still a gorgeous film, but by all accounts it's lacking the real soul that makes the beloved director's intended version of the film so prized.
Getting away from Asian movies tarnished by American intervention, we can look to a company that actually celebrates original artistic visions with Drafthouse Film's rerelease of the 1979 horror/sci-fi/mind-bender The Visitor, about the God and the Devil fighting over the soul of a telekinetic girl. Another vintage film getting a nice, welcome Blu-ray upgrade this week is 1965's The Agony and the Ecstasy, the Oscar-nominated biopic starring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. It may not be the most historically accurate retelling of the influential artist's life, but it's a sweeping, fanciful trip back to ancient Rome.
And lastly this week brings us some of the coolest cover art we've had in a while: The Venture Brothers Season 5. We obviously don't cover many small TV shows on Movies.com, but this is a smart, funny, sharp series that owes a ton of debt to adventure films and series of yesteryear, and is highly recommended to all movie fans.
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