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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Hobbit, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Misérables

Plus, Judd Apatow's latest, a foreign romance, a raunchy comedy, and more.

by | March 19, 2013 | Comments

Three of this week’s new releases on home video were recognized by the Academy with Oscar nominations this year, so that’s already a pretty good start. The other three selections include two comedies that earned mixed reactions and one French import featuring some impressive performances, and those are followed by a number of notable rereleases. See below for the full list!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

64%

After the success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, it was impossible not to approach his interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit with high anticipation. When Jackson announced that The Hobbit — a single volume much shorter than the LOTR saga — would also be stretched into a trilogy, however, some fans expressed a bit of concern, and Jackson’s use of the higher frame rate was also met with mixed reactions. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey chronicles the first portion of the tale of young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept up in a journey alongside thirteen dwarves to recapture their kingdom, which has been usurped by a fearsome dragon named Smaug. With Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen, reprising his role from the Rings series) in tow, their quest leads them into perilous encounters with all sorts of creatures, including Gollum (Andy Serkis), whose fate is intimately tied to Bilbo’s. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was an “event movie,” if ever there was one, and while most critics found it both visually spectacular and evident of Jackson’s earnest affection, some also found that its pace was too deliberate and that it ultimately failed to meet the same standard for majesty and wonder that was set so high in Jackson’s previous trilogy. At 65% on the Tomatometer, this is probably still a trip worth taking.

Zero Dark Thirty

91%

Kathryn Bigelow took home a few Oscars for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, and she’s always had a knack for action flicks (“The FBI’s going to pay me to learn to surf?”), so it’s not entirely surprising that her gritty action/procedural about the search for Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, garnered five Oscar nods (including Best Picture and Best Actress) of its own. The story follows fledgling CIA operative Maya (Jessica Chastain) over the course of her entire career — which is dedicated to the capture of Osama bin Laden — as she collects intelligence, pursues leads, participates in classified interrogations, and ultimately oversees the mission to raid bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. There was some controversy over the kinds of access that Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (who also wrote The Hurt Locker) were allegedly given to classified records, as well as some grumbling over whether or not the film condoned torture, but the vast majority of critics simply saw a gripping, intelligently crafted film with an eye for detail. Certified Fresh at 93%, it was one of last year’s highest rated wide releases, so if you’re looking for a solid thriller, this one comes highly recommended.

Les Misérables

70%

Victor Hugo’s classic novel of redemption has been adapted several times before on both stage and screen, so it’s tempting to ask, “Is this a story worth revisiting again?” Most critics say yes, as did the Academy when it honored the film with eight Oscar nominations (it won three of them). Anyone who’s taken high school English will be familiar with the tale: Ex-convict Frenchman Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison in 1815 at the end of a 19-year sentence, and after benefiting from an act of kindness by a local bishop, he vows to live an honest life. Thus begins a sprawling historical narrative that follows several characters in Valjean’s life and culminates in the June Rebellion of France in 1832. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Les Misérables received some attention for its actors singing live on set (some better than others), and though its story was familiar, its accomplished cast (including Best Supporting Actress winner Anne Hathaway) helped to elevate the film.

This Is 40

51%

Judd Apatow’s been wearing his Producer hat more often lately, but he decided to jump back behind the camera again for This Is 40, the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up,” as its poster so proudly proclaims. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Apatow’s wife) reprise their roles from that previous film as upper-middle-class married couple Pete and Debbie, who both celebrate their 40th birthdays. In the week between Debbie’s actual birthday and Pete’s party, audiences bear witness to the conversations, the arguments, the intimate moments, the public meltdowns, and everything in between that the couple experience with each other and their children (played by Maude and Iris Apatow, they of Judd and Leslie’s loins). Unfortunately, there were a lot of critics who just didn’t find This Is 40 to be a winning effort; while many conceded the film successfully made light of some hard truths, most also felt the story was unfocused and muddled, and that it appealed to too specific an audience.

Rust and Bone

82%

We last heard from French filmmaker Jacques Audiard back in 2010, when his acclaimed film A Prophet was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Though his latest effort, Rust and Bone, failed to make it onto the Oscar list this year, it’s received a number of accolades, particularly for its acting. The film stars Matthias Schoenaerts as unemployed single father and aspiring kickboxer Alain, who moves to Antibes to live with his sister and look for work. After securing a job as a bouncer at a night club, Alain meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a whale trainer at the local marine park who forms a close relationship with Alain when she suffers a tragic accident that results in the amputation of her lower legs. A handful of critics felt Rust and Bone‘s third act could have been a little stronger, but most agreed that both Schoenaerts and Cotillard put in powerful performances here, and that Audiard’s script succeeds in being sensitive without veering into melodrama. Certified Fresh at 81%, it’s an unconventional love story that may move you if you give it a chance.

Bachelorette

57%

Much to the chagrin of its producers, Bachelorette was just about to start shooting when Bridesmaids hit theaters back in 2011, thereby snatching up the “female answer to The Hangover” crown. When it finally opened back in September of last year, however, its makers decided to take a chance and release it on Video On Demand a month ahead of time. The story centers around a group of friends who reunite when one of them (Rebel Wilson) announces she’s getting married. What ensues is a series of mishaps as the bridesmaids (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher) accidentally ruin the wedding dress and attempt to fix the situation, all after having insulted the bride and ingested copious amounts of booze and drugs. Critics were relatively split on Bachelorette; some thought it was funny and well-written by Leslye Headland (who also directed), but others felt the film’s leads were a bit too unlikeable to fully earn the sentimental ending. It might be a risk at 55%, but the cast — which includes Adam Scott, James Marsden, and Ann Dowd — may win you over.

Also available this week:

  • Two choices from the Criterion Collection: Terence Malick’s Badlands (98%) and Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (95%), now both available on DVD and Blu-ray.
  • The HBO original film The Girl, which explores Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with Tippi Hedren.
  • The 1981 cult favorite sex comedy Porky’s (30%) on Blu-ray.

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