It’s a good week for DVDs because of hobbits, monsters and Mr. Bean.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Grade B-: Forces come together to claim the riches that had been guarded by Smaug.
Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy — noteworthy for the way Jackson has transformed the book into a visual feast and delivers the tentpole moments — ends with uninspired battles and muddled characters.
Jackson’s skill as a storyteller — so well displayed in the “Rings” movies — has been replaced by a mishmash of action with recycled characters. The most annoying example is that Ryan Cage’s role of Lake-town flunky, Alfrid, has been expanded from a meaningless player to a painfully unfunny comic relief.
Appearances by Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Christopher Lee as Saruman feel forced, as if Jackson were more interested in giving loyal fans a treat rather than keeping the story structure on track. Just because this is the end doesn’t mean everyone needs to take a curtain bow.
“Into the Woods,” Grade (B+): Fairytale characters come together in this musical from Stephen Sondheim. Meryl Streep stars.
“Into the Woods” is a musical journey full of strong performances, a beautiful fairytale landscape and a story that is emotionally haunting.
The stories meet and move on but always feel connected by the themes of growing up, parenting and sexual awakening. Generally, these heavy plot lines don’t become too cumbersome, except with Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford ). The song addressed to her by the big, bad Wolf (Johnny Depp), “Hello Little Girl,” takes on a creepy tone as it’s performed here.
It’s the only musical miscue as the cast handles the edgy Sondheim musical score with great ease and passion.
Climb up a beanstalk to see this movie musical.
“Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean,” Grade B+: Rowan Atkinson is a master of physical humor as he can take the most mundane of situations and milk countless laughs without saying a single word.
You can get caught up with his brilliant work through an anniversary collection that includes 14 episodes of the TV series starring Atkinson. The shows were originally produced between 1990-1995.
The set also includes previously missing scenes from the original U.S broadcast and a 40-minute documentary.
ALSO NEW ON DVD
“Unbroken”: Olympic athlete must face the ordeal of being held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II.
“Mystery Science Theatre 3000: XXXII”: Includes “Hercules” and “San Francisco International.”
“Song One”: Family uses journal to understand the world of man in a coma. Anne Hathaway stars.
“Confessions of a Prodigal Son”: Paints a picture of a young man’s ups and downs through relationships, faith, hope and redemption.
“Digging Up the Marrow”: Ghastly images haunting nightmares could be real. Ray Wise stars.
“Marvel Knights: Wolverine Versus Sabretooth”: Epic finale to the duo’s greatest battle.
“LA Apocalypse”: Volcanoes turns Los Angeles into a living nightmare.
“The Sure Thing”: The John Cusack film has been released on Blu-ray to mark the 30th anniversary.
“A Path Appears”: An exploration of gender inequality.
“Best Seller”: The James Woods film is now available on Blu-ray.
“Diamond Heist”: Diamond smuggler (Michael Madsen) gets deadly help from an old friend.
“Lonesome Dove Church”: Tom Berenger stars in this film based on true events surrounding the founding of a church.
“Nova: Sunken Ship Rescue”: Follows the operation to salvage the Costa Concordia cruise ship.
“A MusiCares Tribute to Paul MCCartney”: Superstars perform some of McCartney’s biggest hits.
“1066: The Battle for Middle Earth”: Ian Holm narrates.
Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee