This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Desolation of Smaug, Grudge Match ...
This week: A stacked week brings Meryl vs. Julia, Stallone vs. De Niro, and a Hobbit vs. Smaug.
► Tolkien purists will find something to hate, but for everyone else THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is a marked improvement over the first ‘Hobbit’ flick. The pace has more zip, spiders and elves join the fray, and we finally meet Smaug – the majestic, kick-ass dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch guarding the magic stone which will unite the dwarves. The final half-hour is delirious fun as the gang evade Smaug in the Lonely Mountain, ending in a cliffhanger. Surprisingly, the only weak spot is Gandalf (Ian McKellan), who spends most of the movie sniffing out Sauron. That plot really doesn’t matter here – we already know how it ends. As usual with these Middle Earth blu-rays, it’s a fairly bare bones release – expect an expanded version before the final movie, ‘There and Back Again,’ is released in December.
► Do yourself a favor: After the next screwed-up family function you have to endure, pop in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. You’ll feel a whole lot better. Putting the ‘fun’ in dysfunction, Meryl Streep is an old crank dying of oral cancer who calls on her messed-up daughters, led by Julia Roberts, for support after her husband drowns. Fisticuffs at family dinner follow. Roberts’ best stuff in years, and one of Streep’s nastiest characters ever (Oscar nomination #18). Based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer-winning play.
► GRUDGE MATCH was made for one dubious reason: A whole movie of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Raging Bull’ in-jokes. You can practically see Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro nudge each other as they take a whiz on two of their most iconic characters. They play two Pittsburgh fighters who each won a bout against each other 30 years ago. When a crafty promoter (Kevin Hart, doing his damndest to elevate everyone) convinces them to have a rubber match, old wounds resurface, families become strained, blah, blah. Cliché after cliché until their old asses finally get in the ring for a ridiculous fight scene. If you love what these guys used to be, this one’s painful.
► Just when everyone was ready to write off the ‘Paranormal Activity’ series, the spin-off THE MARKED ONES was a surprising return to form. The change of scenery is key here, taking place in a California apartment complex where two friends decide to inspect the apartment of the murdered woman who lives below them, whom everyone believes was a witch. There they find some weird shit, and VHS tapes of the ill-fated Katie and Kristi as kids. Creepy as hell and the ending ties in brilliantly with the first film of the series.
► If Paz de la Huerta was born to play sexy psychos, then NURSE 3D might be her ‘Norma Rae.’ She plays a lady in white who likes to slice up unfaithful men at night. She grows close to a new nurse on staff (Katrina Bowden), but when the friendship goes sour, things get all ‘Single White Female.’ Kathleen Turner and Judd Nelson add to the ‘80s vibe. Sat on a shelf for two years before a brief run in theatres in February.
► Justin Bieber’s BELIEVE is one of those hilariously idiotic ‘musicals’ future generations won’t believe we made, much less put in theatres. The sorta sequel to the already nauseating ‘Never Say Never’ has Biebs acting all Christ-like as he prepares for another tour peddling his shit music on arenas full of squealing girls who’ll be embarrassed to be seen in this soon. A shocking bomb in theatres, which maybe means we’re turning the corner as a society.
► Normally, the release of a new Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer movie on DVD is my cue to proclaim them a cancer on the movie industry. But since I already used all my hate this week on Justin Bieber, let me pass the peace pipe and tell you BEST NIGHT EVER is their first real attempt to make a mainstream comedy movie that doesn’t suck someone else’s balls. It’s the straight forward story of four gals who head to Vegas for a bachelorette party and end up in the city’s dark side. Expect drugs, dildos and lap dances.
► For some folks, Divine is a groundbreaking drag queen who become a counterculture icon with John Waters’ cult classics. To others, he’ll always be that dude who ate dog shit at the end of ‘Pink Flamingos.’ Jeffrey Schwartz’s documentary I AM DIVINE delves deep into the big-wigged enigma from Baltimore, who died in 1988 of a heart attack. Includes interviews with Waters, Ricki Lake and Tab Hunter.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!