March 2014 Home Video Picks
A look forward at the month's most interesting home video titles, from banner local releases and Criterion Collection special editions to international exclusives.
The Grandmaster (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 2013)
Based on the story of Ip Man, the Wing Chun kung fu grandmaster, The Grandmaster portrays fighting in the most graceful, poetic way you might ever see. Tony Leung plays Ip Man, and as usual delivers a nuanced and elegant performance (side note: in this entertaining and insightful interview between Martin Scorsese and Wong Kar-Wai, Wong explains how Leung broke his arm twice doing his own stunts). Zhang Ziyi brings a cold fire as Gong Er, the daughter of Gong Yutian, a martial arts master from northern China who is about to retire. After Gong Yutian appoints Ip Man as his heir in the south, Gong Er challenges Ip Man to a battle to claim back the title. The cinematic and physical showcase that ensues is surpassed only by a later battle between Gong Er and Ma San, who Gong Yutian appointed as his heir in the north. Somehow the scene thrills and excites as you’d expect from any fight sequence, yet stirs and captivates the way a well-choreographed dance piece would. Released in the United States on March 4, 2014 — DVD and Blu-ray.
12 Years A Slave (dir. Steve McQueen, 2013)
12 Years A Slave is on its way out of Australian cinemas now, so if you’re not able to see it on the big screen it’s definitely worth watching at home; on the plus side, you can sob as loudly as you want in the comfort of your own lounge room. Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley provide a powerful and harrowing interpretation of Solomon Northup’s real story, which features breath-halting performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Northup), Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender. As well as being a stunning film, it is an important one; although it’s the story of one man, it represents the general mistreatment and slavery of black people, the effect of which can still be seen today. Its Academy Award for Best Picture win is significant (the first time a film by a black director has won the award) and deserved. Released in the United States on March 4, 2014 — DVD and Blu-ray.
Fruitvale Station (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2013)
The theme of racism and prejudice are presented in a modern setting, again based on true events. It builds a picture of Oscar Grant’s life, in the lead-up to his premature death, a result of a shooting by a BART police officer. Admittedly, it’s a movie that sets out to tug on heartstrings, but the way in which Coogler sets Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan) up, only for the ending to be what it is, does not feel contrived. Knowing what’s going to happen in the whole movie before it even begins does not in any way prepare you for the effect it will have on you. And the most horrible part is that these kinds of cases are still occurring. Fruitvale Station is a heavy watch but Coogler’s first feature film succeeds in tenderly telling Grant’s story. Released in Australia on March 12, 2014 — DVD.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2013)
The fact that it’s based on a YA novel might put some off, but The Hunger Games series are strong enough to stand alone as action-adventure films. And as far as media targeted towards pre-teens and teens goes, you could do much worse: its protagonist Katniss Everdeen is a smart, tough young woman who does more saving than being saved and is more concerned with the freedom and humane treatment of the citizens of Panem than being caught between the hearts of two boys. She’s not sexualised or made to be more masculine or some kind of Amazonian superwoman; she is a flawed and well-rounded, complex female character. But anyway, we’re not here to talk about how great Katniss Everdeen is. The second Hunger Games instalment, Catching Fire sees our protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) travelling through the districts of Panem on a victory tour, with the purpose of convincing the people that Everdeen’s actions were not in opposition of the Capitol, by order of President Snow. When that doesn’t go according to Snow’s plan he launches the Third Quarter Quell, a special Hunger Games where the tributes are chosen from a pool of every previous Hunger Games winner. The film covers a lot of bases: politics, power, privilege, love, survival, justice, morals and ethics – all while keeping the audience enthralled with action and drama. Released in Australia on March 21, 2014 — DVD.