This week’s new DVD and Blu-Ray releases include four big films that dominated the screens at the end of last year. If you missed them at the movies, now’s your chance to play catch-up.
To order any of the films reviewed below click on the link beneath the poster.
In the Judd Apatow comedy This Is 40, the writer/director/producer of raunchy twenty-something comedies has attempted to show a little maturity. Given that the subject matter is that of a married couple who are both turning 40 in the same week there would have to be a little growing up in the writing, but, sadly, there’s not enough. The problem with This is 40 – and there are many – is that the married couple are hardly mature. They should be likable – a kind of representation of your average, middle-class white characters fast approaching middle-age – but their bickering, their problems and their general manner all develop into something quite unpleasant. There are moments of fun, but it’s also often painful. While Apatow’s obvious aim is to say something about growing older and taking responsibility for things in a more mature manner, whether you want to face that reality or not, he fails with characters and situations that never ring true.
The title, Zero Dark Thirty, refers to the timing of the raid on bin Laden’s compound; thirty minutes after midnight. There is also a second meaning, as director Kathryn Bigelow has explained, where the title refers to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade long mission. Because of what the CIA operatives are doing around the globe, you’re not always sure of the where and why and how it fits together. It’s like watching the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle trying to fall into to place, but the big picture never forms and there always seems to be huge pieces of the puzzle missing. Yet, once a certain interrogation inadvertently leads to the location of a secret compound, the film hits top gear, and it’s unstoppable. It’s a stunning piece of work that could potentially leave you feeling emotionally drained. You won’t be cheering – the actual killing is realistic, subdued and over before you know it – but it’s satisfying, all the same.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place sixty years earlier, before Lord Of The Rings. Like LOTR, The Hobbit is a technical marvel. The effects are outstanding, plus Jackson directs the action sequences with incredible skill and imagination. All the cast from the LOTR films are back replaying the characters they played before. However, the film is way too long and bloated, but in its favor, the production is more fun than LOTR and the characters more likable, plus casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo is practically perfect. After seeing it on the big screen in 3D and at 48 frames a second I remember thinking that at some point in the future I’d like to see The Hobbit again, only next time I’d like it to be at the regular 24 frames a second and without the 3D. Now, with the release of the DVD and Blu-Ray, that time has come.
Audiences are understandably divided. The division comes from those who have seen and adored the beloved stage production and those who have not. By shunning a widescreen look and shooting the film in a standard-sized frame, the feel of seeing something visually epic is diminished, but it also gives director Tom Hooper the opportunity to move in closer to the characters. Plus, because of his insistence that all actors sing their parts live, the sound of the song comes in second to the way the song is performed. On stage, the voice is of paramount importance. On film, the feeling is a lot more intimate. The songs are not so much sung, they’re acted and in character. This will be embraced by some, but others may find it difficult to accept. Example: Helena Bonham Carter’s voice for a character that is traditionally portrayed as robust with a full-bodied, vulgar thrust with every witty line is here weedy thin. Her voice doesn’t exactly sing, it leaks. Where her theatrical counterpoint is reluctantly amused by her mistakes in life and shows it through belly laughs, Bonham Carter expresses a quiet, sad, and reflexive poignancy. In a film that, for the most part, is quite remarkable and shows that the musical on the big screen is far from dead, her song, Master of the House, a show-stopper on stage, doesn’t work, and the film temporarily suffers because of it.
Look for more new releases next week.