For those wondering whether purchasing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Rated PG=13, Warner Bros, $14.99 to $44.99 depending on version and format, 3.5-of-5 stars) is worth it, it is one of the most subjective questions anyone could ask about any recent new release.
Yours truly continues to question the wisdom of splitting this J.R.R. Tolkien film into three books, but its box office take of more than $1 billion worldwide proves there was an audience for it.
And although the film does have its share of issues – the primary one being the fact that it plods along for nearly half the film – there is much to recommend.
The movie, which is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 decidedly unique dwarves on a journey to reclaim the dwarves’ kingdom.
Thankfully Freeman (Sherlock) has the lead role because what this first film lacks, he makes up for with his amiable nature and ability to convey befuddlement to near perfection. The other aspect of The Hobbit that makes it worth at least a look: it’s lighter in tone than the Rings Trilogy.
There’s a consistent sense of humor that oozes from the film be it Bilbo’s dealing with the dwarves or his introduction to the man-thing known as Gollum and Baggins’ acquisition of the ring of which legend will be made.
Visually speaking the film is stunning, even in just the DVD format. There’s no doubt that the 48fps film rate has much to do with that, but it’s also incredible to see how much special effects technology has evolved since the original trilogy’s release. Director Peter Jackson’s decision to use the nascent technology gives The Hobbit a hyper realistic feel to it.
Extras: Eventually (the holidays is the rumor), there will be an extended edition with some real extras, but for now fans will have to settle for 10 videos that follow the movie’s production from start to finish. However for the die-hard, the disc does include a code for an online Q&A session with Jackson at 3 p.m. this coming Sunday.
With Easter Sunday coming up The Hobbit is one of recently released movies suitable for popping in a basket, but so is Rise of the Guardians (Rated PG, DreamWorks Animation, $12.99 to $54.99 depending on format and edition, 3.5-of-5 stars).
This piece of whimsy tells the story of Jack Frost (Chris Pine) and other childhood mythical figures – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman and how they helped Frost find his purpose in life, but also saved the innocence of the world’s children as well.
Extras: Several extras are included, but the one that proves most intriguing deals with the movie’s casting. There’s also a game based on the Sandman for children to enjoy.
Quick hit: Under the heading of in case you missed it: for Spielberg fans his masterpiece film Schindler’s List made its way to blu-ray in a beautiful mastered edition. If you own the DVD version, little has changed except a better picture to go with your HD set, but for purists, this is a must-own.