On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 19, 2013

What keeps this film afloat the entire running time are the performances; each of them great. There is no shortage of credible acting or people with clout showing up to add some prestige to an already prestigious film. There is a nice tone throughout created by Martin Freeman that allows the movie to carry that needed lighter tone. The book was such and so the movie should too. Though it does at times skew closer to its companion films than it does the actual source material this can be let to pass as I think it important for there to be a link between this series and The Lord of the Rings rather than this being a completely separate beast. Freeman though, is a breath of fresh air and carries the film quite well. it is truly impossible not to like him. The breakthrough scene for him as well as the film though comes late in the movie. As we are beginning to lose patience with the type of format Jackson has allowed here he throws in the wrench of a scene that is the simple set piece of Bilbo and Gollum. This single scene, absent of special effects and pyrotechnics is as simple as simple could be. It is dialogue-heavy in that it is a game of riddles and the tension and enjoyment the crowd sits up with during it is palpable. The animation of Gollum is flawless and Andy Serkis again delivers a haunting yet humorous performance as the starved creature. When Gollum drops that ring and we see Bilbo take it up and hold it dearly in his pocket we see the glimpse of how profound it is. That it will determine the fate of Middle Earth is something unknown to its new owner but it is the payoff the audience needed and in that one scene the entire film is redeemed and we cannot wait for the next part. It may sound as if I didn't exactly enjoy the film, but it is an impressive experience. I only hope Jackson finds his footing a little better before he desolates Smaug. B

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. So goes the saying and so says Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to her Oscar winning feature The Hurt Locker. You've no doubt heard of Zero Dark Thirty if not for anything else other than it is the Osama bin Laden movie. The film is so much more than this though, you won't see an actor foolishly playing bin Laden or even hear his name muttered all too often. What Zero Dark Thirty truly is is a procedural drama about the ins and outs of what it takes to track down the most elusive man on the planet. Oddly enough, much of this process isn't exactly what you might expect but is instead gathering small strands of information, holding onto what one interrogation or torture session provided and hoping it proves correct against the other interrogation and torture sessions being conducted. It is a sprawling epic that takes over ten years and condenses them down into just under three hours to provide a concise and basic account of what happened, what took place in May 2011 and how much work and how many lives went into making that night a possibility. There is the controversy over the torture scenes depicted early in the film and there are questions of if those actions led to actual intelligence that helped find bin Laden, but I wasn't thinking of that as I watched the film. It didn't take me out of the experience of the movie. Whether torture works for the purposes we need or not is another discussion entirely but what this film does, nearly flawlessly, is put us at the center of the research and inside the "they" that make things such as the death of bin Laden a reality. It is like a two hour ticking time bomb that then explodes into a truly intense final hour. The film isn't the grand masterpiece I expected it to be after hearing all of the hype and I have a few issues with it storytelling, but there is no denying it is one hell of a movie and an experience. A

It feels like forever since I actually saw this film (the original review was posted last September) and even further it is hard to really have an opinion on Bachelorette more than that of a simple meh. It is funny sure, a little surprising with how dark the humor sometimes goes, but in the end does it come off as anything more than a subpar version of 2011's mega-successful Bridesmaids? Not really, it is, in its lowest form attempting to capitalize on the indention left by Kristin Wiig's film. Just because the film follows a similar setup does not allow us to dismiss it as pure junk though. In fact, there is no reason not to like Bachelorette unless you are easily offended by some pretty nasty people. This is what provokes much of the humor here though. The idea that not one of our three lead characters is even remotely likable ups the ante for first time director Leslye Headland, who also concocted these characters, to make her audience want to watch these people. Lucky for us, despite their sometimes vile actions towards who they are supposedly "friends" with this ultimately comes to be a film about redemption and how three very different women on three different paths are brought face to face with their issues when the one from their high school click who had the least aspirations has come out ahead of them all. You can chock it up to a writer/director who wanted to express a more genuine look at women and how they might act in their most desperate forms who simply had the misadventure of taking it through this vein because it is a guaranteed success in how hijink comedies go these days. Lucky for us, the film features some sharp writing and a great cast who turns this into a fun enough time. C+

I have yet to see Jacques Audiard's follow up to Prophet, but I have heard nothing but nearly great things about it. I plan to see it soon as his direction as well as the performances from leads Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts have been universally praised. It looks to be a beautiful film that tells the story of two lost souls brought together under lifes grueling circumstances. Both the DVD & Blu-Ray editions of the film come with a making of featurette as well as full commentary from Audiard and screenwriter Thomas Bidegain. This is a French film and will have subtitles, but by the sounds of its critical praise they shouldn't stop you from picking this one up from the rental shelves.

Available March 22, 2013:

Les Miserables is impressive. There is no doubt of this in anyone's mind who wanders out of the theater awestruck by the onslaught of grandiose that Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has included in his screen adaptation of the extremely popular stage musical which is in itself an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. Personally, I was not familiar with the original Hugo novel on which the story comes from but was lucky enough to have seen the stage play a few years back. I was entranced by the play, not fully knowing what to expect but understanding what was likely going to take place. I was mentally prepared to be bored, to check my watch every now and then or maybe even drown out the noise as people singing sentences rather than speaking them tends more to annoy than to inspire. Yet, all of that changed when the curtain came up and the dynamics of the story were introduced and the audience was made to root for this most genuine of human beings who was dealt a rough hand in life, but overcame. It was stunning to say the least, and I was grateful to have experienced it. For this reason, I was looking forward to the film. It is a great idea, a grand one; to take such an epic piece of work and apply it to the platform of cinema with huge movie stars and a grounded yet sweeping scale to it. The film succeeds in many ways and still it did not leave me completely satisfied. The sets are beautiful as is the cinematography. I am a fan of the way Hooper decided to shoot the film and for the most part enjoyed the performances of the star studded cast. It is a movie to be marveled at but more times than not I found myself admiring more than connecting. B

Maybe it's because I too have a relationship with Lost, that I still hold onto my love for The Office or that I also enjoy the music of Hairspray that allowed me to appreciate This Is 40 all the more, but either way I look at it I can't shake the overall impact the film left me with. It is easy to complain about Judd Apatow movies; whether it be that they are too long, that they try to do too much or are unable to balance themselves between the drama and the comedy. For me, these complaints are not necessarily invalid but they do prove to be somewhat easy to make. They do not take into consideration the skill at hand, the ability with which Apatow more as a writer than a director has likely so painfully made it feel so effortless to capture the real essence of life, the standard complications, the humor in everything. The genuine humor, not the forced false broad jokes that can so easily be relayed in awkward home movies, but the honest and often hilarious conversations we have everyday with one another that are so easily forgotten but just as easily recognizable when someone such as Apatow is able to tap into the truthfulness of life and bring it to a mass audience. I still like The 40 Year Old Virgin more than Knocked Up, but with his last two efforts the writer/director has certainly become more introverted, attempting something few comedians have the balls to do once they find real success. Those two early works afforded him the opportunity to do such a thing and he is not missing his chance. Like Funny People, This Is 40 touches on the bigger questions of what we decide to do in this life and why it matters and why it might not. Unlike that more serious film though Apatow lets his characters create their own story and resolve their own issues without forcing a narrative, a task upon them. A daring move, but one that pays off for the most part. B+

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