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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: 12 Years a Slave, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and More

Spike Lee's Oldboy remake and Wong Kar-wai's Ip Man biopic round out the list.

by | March 4, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got the newly christened Best Picture Oscar winner, as well as a Wong Kar-wai biopic that was itself nominated for two Academy Awards. Then, we’ve got the next installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, Spike Lee’s remake of a South Korean cult classic, and some notable releases in TV. Read on for more details:

12 Years a Slave

95%

Hot off its Best Picture win last night at the Oscars, 12 Years a Slave hits shelves this week, so if you haven’t seen it and want to know what the hype is all about, now’s your chance. The film, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery during the mid-1800s, earned a total of nine Academy Award nominations, taking home two more (Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay) in addition to its Best Picture trophy. The critical reception echoes the Academy’s honors: 12 Years a Slave is Certified Fresh at 96%, thanks to powerhouse performances (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender both earned Oscar nods, while Lupita Nyong’o secured the aforementioned Best Supporting Actress win) and Steve McQueen’s unflinching directorial vision. It’s not a feelgood movie by any means, and it’s difficult to watch at times, but it’s powerful, thought-provoking, and brutally honest.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

90%

Fans of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy were pleasantly satisfied with the adaptation of the first installment, and it appears its sequel, Catching Fire, is even better. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as Katniss Everdeen, who embarks on a victory tour with her partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) after the pair emerge victorious from the 74th Hunger Games. Unfortunately for President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss has become something of a symbol for rebellion within the districts, and to quell a potential uprising, Snow orders a special Hunger Games event featuring past champions, endangering Katniss’ life once again. Critics agreed that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was more artfully directed than its predecessor, which made it a much more enjoyable watch overall and led to a Certified Fresh Tomatometer score of 89%. Of course, with the tragic recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose character Plutarch Heavensbee played an integral role in this film and promised to feature heavily in the franchise’s two-part finale, there have been some lingering questions for future installments. That said, this is an effective action adventure that also mostly succeeds in exploring some deeper themes, and fans of the novels should be more than satisfied.

Oldboy

39%

South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film is a modern cult classic, beloved by many, so there was an immediate and intense reaction to the announcement that an English language remake was in the works. But with Spike Lee behind the camera and a cast that included Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharlto Copley, one couldn’t be blamed for giving the Hollywood interpretation half a chance. Unfortunately, critics weren’t particularly impressed with the film, which tells the story of a contentious man (Brolin) who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 20 years by an anonymous enemy, only to be set free and tasked with discovering who his captor was and what his motivations were. Oldboy hits most of the same notes as the earlier film, but the few tweaks in its narrative were enough to split critics at 44% on the Tomatometer. Spike Lee’s version does little to distinguish itself from Park’s film, and adds almost nothing to its legacy, but if you’re curious what the Hollywood touch is capable of, it’s available this week.

The Grandmaster

78%

Acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is best known for his moody, existential tales of longing and often ill-fated romance, but sometimes even he gets the itch to produce a martial arts film. When he does, the world gets something like Ashes of Time or, most recently, The Grandmaster, Wong’s take on the legendary kung fu master Ip Man. Working with frequent collaborator Tony Leung, Wong chronicles Man’s struggles against competing masters, his flight to Hong Kong during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and his cordial relationship with Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), daughter to a fellow master and a martial arts expert in her own right. Critics found that the storytelling could have been tightened a bit, but Wong’s trademark visual style was brought fully to bear on the film, resulting in masterful cinematography and, thanks to Yuen Woo-ping, impressively choreographed action set pieces. Certified Fresh at 75% on the Tomatometer, The Grandmaster has just enough to satisfy both fans of Wong Kar-wai and martial arts buffs alike.

Also available this week:

  • Girl Rising (88%), a documentary collection of stories from nine girls in nine different countries, narrated by celebrities, intended as a message piece for the eponymous organization concerned with girls’ education the world over.
  • Hours (61%), starring Paul Walker (in one of his final roles) and Genesis Rodriguez in a thriller about a man stranded in a hospital with his newborn child as Hurricane Katrina intensifies outside.
  • Cold Comes the Night (45%), starring Bryan Cranston and Alice Eve in a thriller about a criminal who takes a hotel owner and her daughter hostage.
  • Salinger (35%), a documentary about the reclusive author featuring photos, archival footage, and interviews with both celebrities and J.D. Salinger’s friends.
  • The Last Days on Mars (19%) starring Liev Schreiber in a sci-fi thriller about astronauts who find more than they bargain for when they discover evidence of bacterial life on Mars.
  • The 800th Doctor Who episode, The Time of the Doctor, the last episode to star Matt Smith as the Doctor, which aired on Christmas Day.

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