This week’s releases include a lot of special editions and box sets and a few recent releases. Now that Halloween’s over, studios are wanting to get their big wares ready for the Holiday gift-giving explosion that’s about to come. Surely, everyone will want to spend a ton of money on these!
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition
Even if you don’t love Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films as much as you loved his Lord of the Rings trilogy (and really, who could?), you have to agree that the quality of the special features Jackson puts on his extended editions hasn’t dipped at all. These, even if they don’t tend to add too much to the proceedings, are the only way to get Jackson’s commentaries and appendices, of which there are two per film. We’re talking hours and hours of supplemental material for fans of Tolkien and of the process of making films. While I personally did quite enjoy The Desolation of Smaug, despite its overlong runtime, I understand that a lot of people do not. That doesn’t mean, however, if you are a fan of the source material and of movie-making documentary, that you will not enjoy this many-disc set. And hey, you might even like the movie better as a result. Just saying.
There’s been a lot of reimagining/revising classic fairy tales of late and turning them into Lord of the Rings-ish action movies, with that one Snow White movie being inexplicably very popular and making what was once a damsel in distress into a armor-clad heroine. Disney’s Maleficent isn’t quite as dumb as that movie, but it isn’t all that much better either. Maleficent is, if you’ll recall, one of Disney’s most evil and wicked villains when she cackled her way through Sleeping Beauty in the late-50s. In this new take on it, Angelina Jolie stars as the eponymous evil fairy, only they make her entirely justified. That’s not a bad thing, mind, it’s just that her plight (which includes a horrible violation by a man she loved) is so tragic that of course she’d want to enact revenge, but then doesn’t entirely because it’s still a Disney movie and everything needs to work out nicely by the end. There’s also a big battle scene at the beginning between enchanted forest creatures and humans that is completely unnecessary. It’s not a terrible film, but it wasn’t for me. It might be for some others.
Ever since 300, there has been a marked resurgence of sword-and-sandal Greek and Roman epics gracing the silver screen. While Gladiator in 2000 perhaps ushered in the style of spear-throwing action, but it was 300 that took it to the pec-flexing place it is today. Brett Ratner’s Hercules isn’t even the first such film this year to be about the legendary Greek demigod, but it might be the one people were most skeptical of. Who cares if the Kellen Lutz one was no good? This one stars Dwayne Johnson, for Zeus’ sake! It has a decent budget! The name Ratner usually instills a certain degree of caution still stemming from the ill-conceived X-Men: The Last Stand, but things like Tower Heist were at least enjoyable. And Hercules is in 3D, which always bears some cause for concern. But I can say firmly – Hercules is fun.
I know; it’s crazy, right? Everything about it seemed destined for the dumb heap, but it’s actually a pretty solid action movie. It’s got lots of battles, pretty likable characters, and a plot that’s interesting enough without being overly complicated (until the end, of course). I kept expecting it to fall apart the whole time, but it holds together, however tenuously, a lot better than a lot of the other movies of its ilk that have sprung up in the post-300 days. And this much is true: the Rock’s Hercules makes King Leonidas look like Jim Parsons.
Sherlock Limited Edition Gift Set
If you haven’t already purchased the Blu-rays or DVDs of the BBC and PBS’ Sherlock program, this might be the best way to do it, as all three series have been bundled together along with a whole new disc of extras for a gift set. Beyond the Blu-rays and their 14 discs of mystery and Sherlock and Watson bantering, the set also includes limited edition posters of both characters and, because everyone needs this I guess, busts of them to put on your bookshelf. Think of it less as getting 9 episodes of television and more like you’re getting 9 feature films, since that’s what they basically are. Some people found Series 3 less enjoyable, but it was just different and it had more of an arc to it than the rather standalone adventures that comprised the first two series. Still good, I think, especially the wedding episode.
Doctor Who The Matt Smith Years Boxset
Just as it sounds, this is a complete box set of all three and a bit series featuring the Eleventh Doctor as played by Matt Smith. They did a similar thing with the David Tennant years a few years ago, although those were just on DVD because the bulk of it was shot in Standard Def whereas all of Smith’s adventures are in HD Blu-ray goodness. It’s no secret here in this parish that I’m a massive Matt Smith fan and truly adored his tenure as the Doctor. However, this set, unlike the Sherlock one above, doesn’t contain any additional features that haven’t been released elsewhere. Still a great deal for 16 discs of a TV show on Blu-ray, and really excellent if you don’t have any of them already. And it comes in a nice and fancy book which looks nice displayed places.
Planes: Fire and Rescue – The sequel to the spinoff to Pixar’s Cars that wasn’t made by Pixar and was originally meant to go direct-to-video but then didn’t and was somehow popular enough to warrant a sequel.
The Sopranos Complete Series Blu-ray – This already got a DVD release, of course, but now you can watch all the murder and psychiatry inherent in the acclaimed award-winning mafia drama in high-def.
The Newsroom Season Two – The second season of Aaron Sorkin’s alternately brilliant and infuriating hindsight-inherent drama about a cable news channel dealing with stuff that really happened.
A Most Wanted Man – One of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films, this Sundance favorite has him as a German espionage expert attempting to catch a wealthy businessman who is funding terrorism. It’s very good but also very dour. Makes sense coming from a novel by John le Carre. My full review.
The Doctor and the Devils – 1985 horror-drama based on true events has brilliant Victorian surgeon (Timothy Dalton) paying a couple of ragamuffins (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) for fresh dead bodies, which eventually leads them to making the bodies as fresh as possible…killing them themselves. This film was produced by Mel Brooks’ Brooksfilms which put out other non-comedies like The Elephant Man and The Fly.