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posted: 3/1/2014 5:45 AM

DVD previews: '12 Years a Slave,' 'Hours'

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  • Chiwetel Ejiofor earned an Oscar nomination for his role in "12 Years A Slave," available on DVD March 4.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor earned an Oscar nomination for his role in "12 Years A Slave," available on DVD March 4.

  • Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) must return to the arena in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," coming to DVD March 7.

    Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) must return to the arena in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," coming to DVD March 7.

The Washington Post

Here's a look at DVDs coming out Tuesday, March 4:

"12 Years a Slave" (R, 134 minutes, Fox): Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, "12 Years a Slave" in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine -- if not cauterize -- America's primal wound. But it's also a crowning achievement of a filmmaker, Steve McQueen, whose command of the medium extends beyond mere narrative to encompass the full depth and breadth of its most expressive and transforming properties. The film -- about a free black man forced into slavery -- earned nine Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director, best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role), best supporting actor (Michael Fassbender), best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong'o) and best adapted screenplay (John Ridley). Contains violence, some nudity and sexual situations. DVD extras are two making-of featurettes. Also, on Blu-ray, "A Historical Portrait" documentary.

"Hours" (PG-13, 97 minutes, Lionsgate): Paul Walker, in one of his last films, portrays a frantic new father in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his quiet, workmanlike way, he creates a stirring portrait of paternal devotion. When the New Orleans hospital staff and all other patients are evacuated, Nolan Hayes (Walker) struggles to keep his newborn daughter alive after he is left alone to tend to her malfunctioning ventilator. The baby's mother (Genesis Rodriguez), who has died in childbirth, appears in flashbacks and as a ghostly apparition. Nolan rushes around the abandoned building looking for medical supplies, growing increasingly desperate as time passes. As it does, Walker's performance -- along with the film -- gets more and more engrossing. Contains violence, drug abuse, mild sensuality, language and mature thematic material. Extras include a music video and an appeal for Walker's charity, Reach Out World Wide, with footage of relief efforts across the world.

Also: "The Grandmaster," "Oldboy," "Girl Rising" (documentary), "The Last Days on Mars," "1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story," "Wicked Blood," "Cold Comes the Night," "Children of Sorrow," "The Visitor" (1979, Italy) and "Snowflake the White Gorilla."

Television series: "Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States," "Bible Secrets Revealed," "Agatha Christie's Poirot, Series 11," "Ancient Aliens: Season 5, Volume 2," "Noah and the Great Ark," "Dora the Explorer: Dora in Wonderland!," "Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor," "The Vikings: Dark Warriors," "The Venture Bros. Season Five," "Mr. & Mrs. Murder," "Monsters: The Complete Series," "Teen Titans Go!: Mission to Misbehave Season 1 Part 1," "Thomas & Friends: Spills & Thrills" and "Rawhide: Seventh Season, Volume One & Volume Two."

Coming out Friday, March 7:

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (PG-13, 146 minutes, Lionsgate): Whereas for some of us the idea of kids killing other kids for pleasure and political expedience reeks of cynicism and downright perversion, fans of "The Hunger Games" should find "Catching Fire" a superlative advancement of the franchise. Director Francis Lawrence, taking the reins from Gary Ross, smoothly steers the characters through their latest course of depredations and abuse. Everyone hits their marks with gusto and believability in "Catching Fire" -- even Liam Hemsworth, who has next to nothing to do as Katniss' hometown squeeze, Gale. But the engine of the entire operation is Jennifer Lawrence, who in Katniss has found a character that chimes perfectly with her own persona as an earthy, blunt-speaking ingénue suddenly thrust into a world of celebrity. Contains violence, thematic elements and language. Extras include commentary and deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: a nine-part, feature-length "Surviving the Game" making-of documentary.

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