This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: The Hobbit, Into the Woods, Unbroken

This Week: Saying buh-bye to The Hobbit, going Into the Woods with a singing Streep, and Angelina Jolie revisits an unbelievable World War II story for Unbroken.

► The backlash against Peter Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ trilogy is perplexing: A story fans dreamed of seeing on the big screen for years, by the same director as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy…and you’d swear it was the Star Wars prequels all over again. Admittedly, by the end of THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, we’re all ready to say goodbye to Middle Earth, but that might be because the story ends on a satisfying note and we’re just ridiculously spoiled by what Peter Jackson gave us with these six movies. This is the leanest one of them all, with a barrage of action scenes which start early and don’t let up until the end. After dealing with the dragon Smaug, our band of dwarves occupy the great lizard’s castle of gold. But everyone else feels entitled to the treasure too, leading to a huge, saga-ending battle royale. Less plot, more battles, it’s at once the least compelling of the series and yet still wholly satisfying. All six movies form something remarkable. Loads of extras including ‘The Last Goodbye,’ but as always, expect a bigger, better Extended Edition blu-ray later this year.

► Meryl Streep got Oscar nomination #280 for INTO THE WOODS, playing the witch who places a curse on a couple (James Corden, Emily Blunt) who stole from her garden. In order to lift the curse, they must retrieve four items for her, which has them bumping into Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and a few more from the Grimm Brothers playbook. Dark Disney musical based on the Broadway fave, directed by ‘Chicago’s Rob Marshall.

► Angelina Jolie swung for the Oscars with her bio flick UNBROKEN, the pretty amazing story of U.S. Olympic athlete Louie Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) whose bomber was downed during World War II. After surviving on a raft for 47 days, was he rescued and brought home a hero? No, the Japanese found him and put him in a P.O.W camp. Directed in an earnest ‘prestige pic’ fashion by Jolie. Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and a deeper look at Zamperini’s life.

► Fans of Jenny Lewis (and you should be, if you aren’t) will appreciate the musical drama SONG ONE, to which she co-writes the soundtrack with Johnathan Rice. Fans of Anne Hathaway? Not so much. In this contrived little love triangle which barely played theatres, she’s the sister of a musician who’s in a coma after a car accident. To help bring him out, she asks his favorite musician (Johnny Flynn) to play for him.

► Rob Reiner’s 1985 follow-up to ‘This is Spinal Tap,’ THE SURE THING has proven to be a wistful classic of its own. In just his fourth movie, John Cusack plays a high schooler lamenting his luck with women as he heads off to college. His buddy (Anthony Edwards) invites him back to California for a date with a ‘sure thing’ (ridiculously hot Nicollette Sheridan, in her movie debut), a trip he makes with the girl he actually likes (Daphne Zuniga). A sweet, smart teen comedy (a rarity in the ‘80s, outside of John Hughes), and a sign of Reiner’s greatness to come with ‘When Harry Met Sally.’

► One of the most influential documentaries ever, Errol Morris’ THE THIN BLUE LINE gets a Criterion Collection boasting a new interview with Morris and high-def digital restoration. The film follows the plight of Randall Dale Adams, wrongly convicted of murdering a police officer in 1976 and sentenced to life in prison. The film came out in 1988, Adams was free in 1989. Despite the film playing a pivotal role in his release, he would sue Morris over the rights to his story.

► Quick, go turn on your TV. Start flipping through the stations. Tell me how long it takes before you find a Fast & Furious movie. It’s getting ridiculous. If that’s not enough, here comes the mandatory repackaging of the entire series just before the next movie comes out. This year’s model of THE FAST & FURIOUS COLLECTION contains movies 1 through 6 (each just a bit worse than the previous one, which doesn’t bode well for Part 7), about 100 minutes of special features you’ve seen before, and cumbersome…er, ‘collectible’ tire packaging. There’s also space allotted for ‘Furious 7’ when it comes out. Or you could just wait for the next set before Part 8.

► Lost among all of Robert Altman’s classics is his 1990 BBC mini-series VINCENT & THEO, which he pared down considerably for a movie. It explores the relationship between Vincent van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his brother (John Rhys), an art dealer. Pretty much the best movie about Van Gogh ever made, as it’s always fascinating to watch one great artist – Altman – examine the life of another.

Also out this week:





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