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'Mockingjay Part 1' sets up 'Hunger Games' finale nicely

New releases on video and disc include 'Hunger Games,' 'Foxcatcher,' 'The Better Angels' and 'Outlander'

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD

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FOR THE RECORD:

"The Hunger Games": In the New Releases column of the March 1 Calendar section, a review of the home theater release of the film "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" said that both the DVD and Blu-ray included special features. They are on the Blu-ray only. —
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The "Hunger Games" franchise went from "massive worldwide hit" to "critically acclaimed" with its second installment, "Catching Fire," which goes deeper into the human consequences of the series' dystopian class conflict. The third chapter, "Mockingjay Part 1," brings back "Catching Fire" director Francis Lawrence and features one of the last screen performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman, yet it's a disappointment compared to its predecessor. The film is so narratively complex that it's almost all set-up, giving star Jennifer Lawrence little to do. Nevertheless, it's a provocative lead-in to the upcoming "Hunger Games" finale, showing how even when she's fighting with the good guys, Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen is treated as a tool and a symbol. It's those kind of richer themes that have made these movies so successful. The DVD and Blu-ray explores this further via a commentary track, deleted scenes and featurettes.

Foxcatcher

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD Tuesday

Steve Carell has gotten most of the attention in "Foxcatcher" for his uncharacteristically dark, Oscar-nominated performance as an insecure, eccentric American aristocrat who funds an Olympic wrestling program. But Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum are just as strong as champion athletes whose loving rivalry drives this chilling, subtle study of social climbing and status obsession. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman have taken a true-crime story and have stripped it of its more lurid qualities, making a muted character piece that considers the root causes of a tragedy. The DVD and Blu-ray add deleted scenes and a closer look at what really happened at Foxcatcher Farm.

The Better Angels

Anchor Bay, $22.98

First-time writer-director A.J. Edwards' film is a beautiful portrait of Abraham Lincoln as a boy, with a style heavily influenced by producer Terrence Malick, whom Edwards worked closely with on "The Tree of Life" and "To the Wonder." But the film's aims are different that Malick's, leaning away from spiritual/philosophical musings and more toward capturing the hardship and pleasures of life in the woods in the early 19th century. This is a slow-paced but appealingly contemplative movie, treating a great man's formative years as a historical coming-of-age story.

Outlander: Season 1, Vol. 1

Sony, $38.99; Blu-ray, $55.99

The premium cable channel Starz has found a sizable audience for "Outlander," a romantic fantasy series produced by Ronald D. Moore (who previously shepherded the cult favorite "Battlestar Galactica" revamp), based on Diana Gabaldon's bestselling novels. Caitriona Balfe plays a WWII-era British army nurse who slips back in time 200 years and finds herself embroiled in political intrigue in the Scottish Highlands and in the arms of a dashing fighter played by Sam Heughan. Part "Game of Thrones," part "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," "Outlander" succeeds by treating its premise not as camp but with genuine curiosity, exploring what it means to be a smart, skilled woman in a more primitive world. The 16-episode first season resumes April 4. In the meantime, the first eight episodes are on DVD and Blu-ray, accompanied by deleted scenes and featurettes.

Big Hero 6

Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD

Superhero movies are ideally suited to animation, but every time a live-action "Avengers" or "Dark Knight" becomes a billion-dollar-grossing hit, it's harder for the genre to return to its natural home. Perhaps the massive success of Disney's "Big Hero 6" — and an Oscar for best animated film — will change that. Based on an obscure Marvel Comics super-team, "Big Hero 6" follows a directionless teenage genius who assembles a group of tinkerers, scientists and enthusiasts to help him get revenge on the villain who killed his brother. The character designs range from cute to cool — or both, in the case of the squishy, helpful robot Baymax — but the real attraction here is the action, which is kinetic and exaggerated in a way that even CGI-enhanced live-action blockbusters can't match. The DVD and Blu-ray include multiple featurettes about how the filmmakers went about turning a comic book into a cartoon.

Beyond the Lights

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD

One of last year's most pleasant surprises, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood's romantic drama is an unusually sensitive take on modern pop stardom and how it feels to be saddled with other people's expectations. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a young British R&B singer who's been mired in the exploitative record industry since her teens and takes a break to pursue an affair with an L.A. cop (played by Nate Parker), who's been groomed since birth for a career in politics. Prince-Bythewood explores the challenges both lovers face in trying to reinvent themselves and also emphasizes their sensuality and passion. "Beyond the Lights" is a visually beautiful movie about two good people who worry that they're too locked in to their life paths to follow their hearts. The DVD and Blu-ray add a commentary track, deleted scenes, featurettes and a longer cut of the film.

Sons of Anarchy: The Complete Series

20th Century Fox, $169.98; Blu-ray, $299.99

FX's biker drama failed to fulfill its early promise, largely because creator Kurt Sutter chose to indulge in tedious bloodletting down the stretch rather than follow the slow-boil tension of the first five seasons. Nevertheless, the show remains one of the most popular scripted programs in the history of cable television, and now the whole shebang — the good years and the not-as-good — are available in impressive DVD and Blu-ray box sets, containing every episode plus copious behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. It's a fitting package for a mighty, if flawed, television achievement.

In the Land of the Head Hunters

Milestone, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

In 1913 and 1914 — years before the release of Robert Flaherty's "Nanook of the North" — photographer-ethnographer Edward S. Curtis shot some film of the Kwakwaka'wakw people of British Columbia and weaved it into a fictional story about an epic quest for love, released in theaters as "In the Land of the Head Hunters." In the 1970s, the surviving footage from Curtis' picture were recut and re-released as a short documentary, "In the Land of the War Canoes." Now, a restored version of the original movie and the altered 1970s cut are available in a fascinating DVD set from Milestone, with a commentary track and more than two hours of contextual featurettes. It's essential viewing both for cinema scholars and for people who want to see what seal-hunts and arcane tribal ceremonies looked like in the early 20th century.

And…

The Captive

Lionsgate Blu-ray

The Humbling

Millennium, $19.99; Blu-ray, $24.99

The Last of Robin Hood

Lionsgate, $19.98; Blu-ray, $26.98

Web Junkie

Alive Mind, $29.95

Horrible Bosses 2

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD

Watership Down

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Whiplash

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Available on VOD

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