“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”: Peter Jackson revisits Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s precursor to the epic “Lord of the Rings” saga. While more languorous than any of the “Rings” films, “The Hobbit” has its moments. Martin Freeman is incredibly charming as Bilbo and the film’s computer generated vistas are impressive. But the film all set up and no conclusion which renders it less satisfying than a three-hour movie should be. Though the film was a billion grosser, it was also Jackson’s least acclaimed Tolkien adaptation. One has to wonder if he feels some disappointment in not revolutionizing the mainstream with 48fps filming the way James Cameron did with “Avatar’s” 3D. Luckily he’ll get two more chances and $600 million to try again. Also starring Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, and Hugo Weavig.
Special features: A digital copy of the film, a 3D presentation of the film, sixteen featurettes, and trailers for three different upcoming Hobbit video games.
“Les Misérables”: Tom Hooper tries to make the beloved musical into a timeless motion picture but his reach great exceeds his grasp and he ends up with a poorly photographed, artificial mess. Anne Hathaway earns her Oscar by singing the hell out of “I Dreamed A Dream” but if you want to hear that song as it should be sung, click here and save yourself two and hour painful hours. Also starring Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Samantha Barks. Read my full review here.
Special feature: A digital copy of the film, commentary from Tom Hooper, and seven featurettes.
“Zero Dark Thirty”: Kathryn Bigelow’s enthralling exegesis on the 10 year manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Last year was an uncommonly great year in movies and “Zero Dark Thirty” was easily one of its best films. Though it was ultimately buried by political maneuvering and baffling critical misreads, the film is a stunning piece of complex work worthy of study and consideration. Now that the presidential election has passed, the Congressional investigation has been called off and the American public has lost its interest in federally sanctioned torture, the film will hopefully get its due. Starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Kyle Chandler. Read my full review here.
Special features: A digital copy of the film and four featurettes.
“This is 40”: Judd Apatow’s latest, a film that once again observes that men are immature and that women are shrews who maybe have a point about the whole immaturity thing being kind of a problem. Apatow is a strange director in that he keeps making movies that are comedies that want to be dramas but it’s like he doesn’t trust his own ability to tell a story about relationships falling apart that doesn’t include a bunch of dick jokes. He also seems bizarrely incapable of understanding that women can be just as destructive, selfish and funny as any man. Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Jason Segel.
Special features: Gag reel, deleted scenes, two featurettes, and commentary from Apatow.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com