Two big releases shared shelf space with a cult television hit and an obscure 1970s flick that I’ve seen twice and still can’t figure out.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” — This sequel to the popular, young-adult hit finds Katnis victorious after overcoming the titular games in part one. Now she is on a tour to promote the games when the powers that be start worrying that she might pose a threat to their power structure. They decide to stage a championship version of the lethal contest and pit her against former winners. The story gets filled out here with more background but there is still plenty of action. Jennifer Laurence is back as the lead and joined this time by a sinister Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who filmed appearances for the next two films before his untimely death).
“12 Years a Slave” — The true story of free man who was drugged and sold into slavery by two unsavory businessmen. This is a compelling film but very hard to watch, as a free person is stripped of his dignity and must endure constant humiliation to get a shot at returning to the wife and two children from which he was torn. Superbly directed by Steve McQueen, with a heart breaking performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The screenplay is well rendered by John Ridley, who manages to keep the dialogue sounding proper for the period, without sacrificing our understanding of the narrative.
“Dr. Who: Time of the Doctor” — Matt Smith marks his final appearance as the Doctor in this adventure which brings in the 12th incarnation of the character via Peter Capaldi.
“The Visitor” — Obscure 1970s horror yarn that never made it to VHS finally arrives on disc. John Houston stars as an intergalactic wise man who teams with a cosmic Christ figure to bring down a demonic 12-year-old girl. Lance Henricksen also stars alongside such diverse talents as Franco Nero, Glenn Ford (who gets a cool death via a killer hawk servant while driving a big 1970s car), Shelly Winters and Sam Peckinpah. I’ve seen this film twice and totally enjoyed the visuals (look for the death by automatic chair going through a garrote) but still have no idea what transpired. Maybe it will be clearer on DVD.