On Sunday night, 12 Years a Slave won three Academy Awards, including for best picture.
The film was directed by Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) and based on the real-life story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery in pre-Civil War America. Northup's memoir has resonated for more than a century, and the story was adapted for the screen 30 years ago, as Solomon Northup's Odyssey, with Avery Brooks as Northup and Gordon Parks directing.
McQueen's film has been overwhelmingly praised. The Blu-ray release ($39.99) includes a 40-minute making-of piece, including interviews with McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley and cast members, and Ejiofor reading from Northup's memoirs. The DVD ($29.98) and the Blu-ray offer two shorter segments, on the movie's creative team and the composing of the musical score.
Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for an Oscar for American Hustle, will be on store shelves Friday (instead of the usual Tuesday release) with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($29.95 DVD/digital, $39.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital).
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The successor to Hunger Games, and the second installment in the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire was an improvement on the first film, a more intense and grimmer tale. Lawrence again plays Katniss Everdeen, the plucky winner of the Hunger Games in the tales' dystopian future America; her victory galvanized protesters and revolutionaries and made her a threat to the head of state (Donald Sutherland). Katniss is sent into a deadlier round of games — with her fate and that of her followers in the balance.
Catching Fire ends on a cliffhanger; it might also leave some spectators uncertain about what will happen to a character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in February.
The harrowing presentation might upset younger fans of the Collins novels. There is a difference between reading a description and seeing the brutal killing of a protester or a bloody flogging. Take that PG-13 rating seriously.
The DVD includes audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson, deleted scenes, and a peek at the new movie Divergent, based on another hit book series. The Blu-ray also has a making-of documentary.