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New DVDs

It’s a hot week of releases with Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave” (which won for best picture, adapted screenplay and supporting-actress Lupita Nyong’o) coming out on Tuesday, March 4, and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” on Friday, March 7.

Star ratings for movies are by Seattle Times reviewers, freelancers or wire services. For full reviews, search the movie title at Release dates are subject to change.

4 stars“12 Years a Slave” (R): Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a free man in upstate New York who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s American South. Director Steve McQueen’s drama follows 12 years of his life on two plantations: one run by a well-meaning preacher (Benedict Cumberbatch), who eventually sells him to a vicious, drunken slave owner (Michael Fassbender).

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The film “wouldn’t be as effective,” writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald,” if it weren’t perfectly cast, performed with searing honesty, smoothly written (by John Ridley, from Northup’s memoir) and unflinchingly filmed; you’ll want to look away, particularly during a sequence involving Patsey (Nyong’o) near the end, but you won’t. It’s a chapter in American history that’s seen too little screen time, and it will haunt you long afterward.”

3.5 stars“The Grandmaster” (PG-13): Director Wong Kar-wai illuminates the life of kung fu legend Ip Man (Tony Leung), who late in life trained the young Bruce Lee.

2.5 stars“Oldboy” (R): In Spike Lee’s remake of a 2003 Korean thriller, the time for vengeance comes when a man (James Brolin), mysteriously locked up for 20 years in what appears to be a crummy hotel room, is finally set free.

Friday release

3.5 stars“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (PG-13): Performances by Jennifer Lawrence, as heroine Katniss Everdeen, and Donald Sutherland, as the president of a futuristic fascist society, help make this second installment of the trilogy “a significant improvement on the movie that launched the franchise last year,” says reviewer Soren Andersen. “Director (Francis) Lawrence adroitly mixes lavish spectacle with scenes of harrowing physical dangers during the game sequences while actress Lawrence anchors the picture with her character’s sense of grim purposefulness. The more she’s challenged, the stronger she becomes.” May the odds be ever in her favor.

TV and other DVDs

“Super Bowl XLVIII Champions: Seattle Seahawks”

“Ancient Aliens — Season 5: Volume 2”

“Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor”


Compiled by Lori Taki Uno:

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