Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the 12th year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.
Extras: Two making-of featurettes. Blu-ray adds "Historical Portrait," a documentary about how the film came together and the book that inspired it.
Vitals: Director: Steve McQueen. Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Garret Dillahunt.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 134 min., Drama, Box office gross: $45.850 million, Fox.
Action feature inspired by the life and times of the legendary kung fu master, Ip Man, who survived the turmoil of 1930s China to change the world of martial arts forever (he was Bruce Lee's teacher). The story spans the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China's last dynasty, a time of chaos, division and war that was also the golden age of Chinese martial arts. In Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles.
Extras: "The Grandmaster: From Ip Man to Bruce Lee," "A Conversation With Shannon Lee (daughter of Bruce Lee), "The Grandmaster: According to RZA," behind-the-scenes footage.
Vitals: Director: Wong Kar Wai. Stars: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Chang Chen.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Action, Box office gross: $6.505 million, The Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In the sequel to the blockbuster "The Hunger Games," Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have barely returned home after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games when they are whisked away once again by the Capitol. Forced to leave her family and best friend Gale, Katniss is dispatched on a victory tour of Panem with Peeta, where rebellion is seething in all 12 districts. The Capitol is enraged and ready to strike back ... as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) prepares the most diabolical edition of the Hunger Games yet.
Extras: Commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson, deleted scenes, sneak peek of "Divergent." Blu-ray adds "Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire" nine-part feature-length documentary.
Vitals: Director: Francis Lawrence. Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Amanda Plummer.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 146 min., Sci Fi Action, Box office gross: $418.019 million, Lionsgate.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles -- some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn's misadventures take him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club -- on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul -- and back again.
Extras: "Inside Inside Llewyn Davis" making-of documentary, featuring Joel and Ethan Coen, Oscar Isaac,
Elijah Wald, Stark Sands, T-Bone Burnett, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Chris Thile, John Goodman, F. Murray Abraham, Jess Gonchor, Mary Zophres and Bruno Delbonnel.
Vitals: Director: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, Ethan Phillips, Adam Driver, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 105 min., Drama, Box office gross: $11.239 million, Sony.
The Book Thief
Based on the international bestselling book by Markus Zusak, this superbly acted drama tells the story of an extraordinary, spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in WWII Germany. Intrigued by the only book she brought with her, she begins collecting books as she finds them -- with the help of the wife of the town's Nazi mayor, her new parents and a secret guest hiding in the basement -- a Jewish refugee -- she learns to read and creates a magical world that inspires them all. A bit sappy and sentimental but thoroughly enjoyable.
Extras: Deleted scenes, theatrical trailer. Blu-ray adds "A Hidden Truth: Bringing the Book Thief to Life."
Vitals: Director: Brian Percival. Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, Kristen Block.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 131 min., Drama, Box office gross: $16.596 million, Fox.
Out of the Furnace
Gritty drama about family, fate, circumstance, and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell's brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so -- with nothing left to lose -- Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother.
Blu-ray Extras: Four featurettes: "Inspiration," "Scott Cooper," "Crafting the Fight Scenes," "The Music of Out of the Furnace."
Vitals: Director: Scott Cooper. Stars: Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 116 min., Drama, Box office gross: $9.468 million, Fox.
Widowed ex-DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) retires to a quiet Southern town with his 10-year-old daughter and discovers that the idyllic setting is riddled with drugs and violence. When a riveting chain of events forces him to face off with psychotic local drug lord Gator Bodine (James Franco), Broker must retaliate using the fearsome skills he hoped to keep in his past.
Extras: Deleted scenes, alternate ending, "Standoff" featurette.
Vitals: Director: Gary Fleder. Stars: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 100 min., Action, Box office gross: $18.438 million, Universal.
A fictional film set in the alluring world of high-stakes scams and politics, loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early '80s that ensnared East Coast politicians and congressmen in accepting bribes for political favors. "American Hustle" tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), is caught in a loan scam and forced to work for wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting as he attempts to make a name for himself by toppling politicos and gangsters alike. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, a passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator who gets caught between the con artists and Feds and introduces the scammers to New Jersey mobsters. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) ends up having an affair with a mobster, and that relationship helps pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films, "American Hustle" defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.
Extras: "The Making of American Hustle" featurette, deleted and extended scenes.
Vitals: Director: David O. Russell. Stars: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Rohm, Dawn Olivieri, Jack Huston, Michael Pena.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 138 min., Drama, Box office gross: $132.1 million, Sony.
Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey, teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven, to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Snow Queen." Extras: Deleted scenes; original theatrical short: "Get A Horse"; "Let It Go" music videos by Demi Lovato, Martina Stoessel & Marsha Milan Londoh; "Frozen" teaser trailer. Blu-ray adds "The Making"; "Breaking the Ice -- The Real Making of Frozen."
Vitals: Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Stars: Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Williams.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 102 min., Animated, Box office gross: $388.736 million, Disney.
Saving Mr. Banks
When Walt Disney's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers' "Mary Poppins," he made them a promise -- one that he didn't realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Disney comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney's plans for the adaptation. For those two short weeks in 1961, Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Disney launches an all-out onslaught on Travers, but the prickly author doesn't budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp. It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Disney discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.
Extras: Deleted scene "Nanny Song," in which the Sherman Brothers composers perform a song that P.L. Travers is less than thrilled about. Blu-ray adds two more deleted scenes, "The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins to Present" featurette, "Let's Go Fly a Kite" in which the cast and crew sing break out in a rousing, heartfelt tribute to composer Richard Sherman on the last day of filming. Vitals: Director: John Lee Hancock. Stars: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Annie Buckley, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 125 min., Bio-Drama, Box office gross: $81.877 million, Disney.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela's extraordinary journey to becoming one of history's most iconic figures is brought to life in this bio-drama. The film chronicles his early life, education, marriage to Winnie Mandela and 27-year prison sentence before becoming South Africa's first democratically elected president and working to rebuild the country's once segregated society.
Extras: "Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn't" featurette, commentary with Director Justin Chadwick. Blu-ray adds behind-the-scenes featurettes and a tribute video gallery.
Vitals: Director: Justin Chadwick. Stars: Idris Elba, Naomi Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 141 min., Bio-Drama Box office gross: $8.079 million, The Weinsterin Co./Anchor Bay.
Kill Your Darlings
A murder in 1944 draws together the great writers of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. When Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is accepted at Columbia, he finds stuffy tradition clashing with daringly modern ideas and attitudes -- embodied by Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien is an object of fascination for shy, unsophisticated Allen, and soon he is drawn into Lucien's hard-drinking, jazz-clubbing circle of friends, including Burroughs (Ben Foster), the dissolute scion of a wealthy family, and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), an older hanger-on who clearly resents Allen's position as Lucien's new sidekick. This true story of friendship, love and murder recounts the pivotal year that changed Ginsberg's life forever and provided the spark for him to start his creative revolution.
Extras: "On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Film Festival"; commentary with Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, John Krokidas and Austin Bunn; "In Conversation With Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan"; Q&A with director/co-writer John Krokidas and co-writer Austin Bunn; deleted scenes.
Vitals: Director: John Krokidas. Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 104 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.019 million, Sony.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese has created some of the greatest films ever to hit the big screen: "Mean Streets," "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Goodfellas" and "Casino" are masterpieces. But his last couple of films -- "The Aviator," "The Departed," "Shutter Island" and "Hugo" have left me cold. Now comes "The Wolf of Wall Street," a big, rambling mess of a film based on the life of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a young Long Island, New York penny stockbroker hungry for a life of non-stop thrills who figures out how to parley his fast-talking style into millions of dollars by defrauding thousands of investors in a massive 1990s securities scam. Taking advantage of all that money could buy, Belfort entered an incredibly over-the-top world of sex, drugs and avarice that went on unabated until it came tumbling down on him after he was investigated by a multi-state fraud task force. Scorsese has created a three-hour opus glorifying Belfort and his boiler room henchmen with cartoonish, overblown and childish sex and drug sequences; his characters, particularly Belfort's best friend in crime, Donnie Azoff (played by Jonah Hill), are mere caricatures sprouting filth and malice; the action moves from one bloated and debauched scene to the next. And poor DiCaprio is saddled with three of the longest and meaningless speeches in recent cinematic history. It's all overacted and underbaked. Blu-ray extras: "The Wolf Pack" behind-the-scenes featurette.
Vitals: Director: Martin Scorsese. Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 179 min., Drama, Box office gross: $112.821 million, Paramount.
The story of affable underachiever David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn), whose mundane life gets twisted in a knot when he finds out that he fathered 533 children via sperm donations he made to a fertility clinic 20 years earlier. In debt to the mob and rejected by his pregnant girlfriend, things couldn't look worse for David until he's hit with a lawsuit from 142 of the 533 twentysomethings who want to know the identity of the donor. As David struggles to decide whether or not he should reveal his true identity, he embarks on a journey that leads him to discover not only his true self but the father he could become as well.
Extras: Bloopers, deleted scene. Blu-ray adds "Building Family" featurette, "Vince Vaughn: Off the Cuff," "I Got The Part."
Vitals: Director: Ken Scott. Stars: Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders, Chris Pratt, Britt Robertson, Amos VanderPoel, Jack Reynor.
2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 105 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $27.995 million, DreamWorks/Disney.
All DVDs are screened on a reference system consisting of a
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a
Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center),
and 50 (rear) speakers and Power 10 subwoofer.