The big release this week on The Shelf is the arrival of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D. Dwarfs, Goblins, and Gollum in the comfort of your own home!
The first part of The Hobbit trilogy reintroduces audiences to the gorgeous land of Middle-Earth and its many species, including Dwarfs, Elves, Goblins, Orcs, and, of course, Hobbits. The titular member of that race is Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle (distant cousin, really), who we last saw on-screen in the form of Ian Holm, here again to get us into his unexpected journey. Young Bilbo is played by Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman, who gives the character the proper reluctant heroism along with the requisite amount of fusspottery. He is approached to go on an adventure by Gandalf the Grey, again played by Ian McKellen in another brilliant turn. We only saw this iteration of Gandalf for 2/3 of The Fellowship of the Ring, and yet that is the version most people cling to most, so it’s wonderful to see him again. The adventure involves helping a band of Dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), retake the kingdom of Erebor and all its wealth from the horrible dragon, Smaug. To do this, they will need to cross much of Middle-Earth and face horrors the likes of which Bilbo has never seen.
The movie is a lot of fun to watch, especially for fans of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Seeing McKellen, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and Christopher Lee as Saruman again is like visiting old friends, even if some of them are evil. The new cast does a bang-up job and the action is frenetic and exciting. If it has a drawback, it’s that it takes a bit to get going, but when the film ends, you’re ready for the next chapter to begin.
The film is being released in a 5-disc Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy Combo Pack as well as a 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo and a 2-disc Special Edition DVD pack. All three versions contain the same special features, which included all ten production videos that were released via Peter Jackson’s Facebook last year. The Blu-ray looks astounding with very crisp color and resolution. The prologue sequence, wherein old Bilbo writes to Frodo the history of Smaug’s capture of Erebor, is dazzling in the format, as is the domino-like Goblin city chase. The production videos here, like the similar material on the LOTR DVDs, is thorough and engaging. It’s essentially 5 hours of behind-the-scenes stuff. While I would have liked a commentary or two, we can only expect there to be a special edition release in the future. Still, for a supposedly “bare-bones” first go, you’ll have plenty to look at.
As a special bonus for people who buy one of the various combo packs, Peter Jackson is hosting a special LIVE first look at the next Hobbit film: The Desolation of Smaug, on Sunday, March 24th at 3pm Eastern/12pm Pacific at www.hobbit.com/sneak. This can only be viewed by people who get the special Ultraviolet code included in the packs.
Also Out This Week
Les Miserables – The big musical starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. It picked up a couple of Oscars including a Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway. Not Catwoman, but still a good job.
Zero Dark Thirty – Another Oscar contender about the hunt for Osama bin Laden led by an uncompromising, doggedly-driven woman, played by Jessica Chastain.
Porky’s – The classic teen sex comedy from 1982 is the prototype for all similarly-themed movies that came after.
Gorgo – The 1961 British monster movie that attempted to capitalize on the huge lizard craze started by Godzilla.
Bachelorette – Written and directed by Leslye Headland, based on her stage play, Bachelorette tells the story of three bridesmaids getting up to no good on the night before their friend’s wedding. Stars Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, and Rebel Wilson.