There are only a few titles worth mentioning this week on home video, but the three biggest are fairly notable ones. These include the final chapter of Peter Jackson’s adventures in Middle-earth, an Oscar-nominated Disney musical, and Angelina Jolie’s true story of World War II survival. Read on for details:
And so, Peter Jackson’s time in Middle-earth has come to an end… or so we’re led to believe, at least for the time being. While we ponder whether or not Jackson will choose to adapt more of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels into epic trilogies, we at least have another completed saga to keep us company. Sure, the Hobbit films didn’t pack quite the punch that the Lord of the Rings movies did, but most agreed they were passable entertainment, even if The Battle of the Five Armies ended things in somewhat ho-hum fashion. In any case, you can pick up the final film on DVD or Blu-ray this week to watch as dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) ascends the throne, only to become mad with greed and ignore all signs that an even greater threat looms on the horizon. Can Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the rest of the gang help turn the tide? There’s a lot of action packed into Five Armies, and not everyone found it particularly compelling; still, at 60 percent on the Tomatometer, it satisfied most critics enough as a serviceable conclusion to the trilogy.
Consider these elements: Disney, a Tony-winning Sondheim musical, an irreverent take on fairy tales, and Meryl freakin’ Streep. Toss in Rob Marshall, the director who guided 2002’s Chicago to a Best Picture Oscar, and a cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, and Johnny Depp? You’ve gotta make that movie. It’s a no-brainer. Essentially, the story explores the tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack (of beanstalk fame) as they are connected to an original story about a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Blunt), who have been cursed by a witch (Streep). It’s a little bit twisted, a little bit dark, a little self-aware, but for the most part, critics did enjoy it, and it did earn Streep her 400th Oscar nomination. Lots of people loved the more recent Cinderella precisely because it chose not to rejigger things, but if that’s actually more your speed, then you might get a kick out of Into the Woods.
Though its moderate initial Oscar buzz eventually died down, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken certainly felt like a prestige picture. The plot was the kind of based-on-true-events war story that someone like Eastwood might have directed, with esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the camera, the Coen brothers taking a crack at the script, and up-and-coming powerhouse actor Jack O’Connell in the lead. The film recounts the trials of Olympic distance runner Louie Zamperini (O’Connell), who survived on a raft for 47 days after his WWII bomber was downed in 1943, only to be rescued by the Japanese Navy and held prisoner until the end of the war. Unbroken took a few hits from critics, many of whom felt the narrative was unrelentingly bleak without offering much substance to ground the film emotionally. As a result, despite its beautiful cinematography and committed performances, the film notched just a 51 percent Tomatometer score. It may not deliver the kind of impact it was going for, but it’s put together attractively and sports good intentions, if you’re interested.
Song One (2014) (33 percent), starring Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in a drama about a woman who utilizes her recently deceased brother’s notebook to track down his favorite musicians and falls in love with his idol.
The Thin Blue Line (1988) (100 percent), Errol Morris’ journalistic documentary on the murder case of Randall Dale Adams, who was sent to death row despite evidence of his innocence, gets a new Blu-ray treatment this week from the Criterion Collection.
Gates of Heaven (1980) (94 percent), Errol Morris’ debut, which focuses on a California pet cemetery, is being released in a new Criterion Blu-ray double pack with another of his films, Vernon, Florida (100 percent).