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RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and August: Osage County

Also, Grudge Match, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, and more.

by | April 8, 2014 | Comments

This week on home video, we’ve got the latest installment of Peter Jackson’s second epic trilogy, a darkly comedic melodrama that earned a couple of Oscar nods, a boxing comedy, and a horror sequel, plus a bunch of smaller films definitely worth a look. Read on for details:



The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

75%

After its first installment earned somewhat muted praise from critics, Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy hit its stride with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Martin Freeman reprises his role as Bilbo Baggins, who accompanies Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and his rowdy band of warriors to their mountain home of Erebor, where a vicious dragon named Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) stands guard over piles of riches. Despite the film’s length and problems inherent in any trilogy’s second movie, Smaug earned a Certified Fresh 75% on the Tomatometer, thanks largely to thrilling action scenes and much brisker storytelling. After a brief flashback, the movie drops you right back into the story and moves along confidently, setting the story up for an exciting conclusion.



August: Osage County

65%

One of last year’s smaller Academy Awards nominees, August: Osage County earned Oscar nods for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and according to the critics, the acting is where the film shines. Based on the eponymous play by Tracy Letts, the film depicts a rural Oklahoma family who reunites when its patriarch (Sam Shepard) goes missing and his outspoken, quarrelsome wife (Streep) calls her daughters home. Personalities clash, old secrets resurface, and Meryl Streep gets tackled at least once. Critics felt the film’s stagier elements failed to translate particularly well onto the big screen, but conceded that the cast — which included Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, and, again, Benedict Cumberbatch — was so full of talent that it was fun watching them chew the scenery for a couple of hours.



Grudge Match

30%

The pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro in a boxing movie together ranks somewhere right around the idea of a Stallone-Schwarzenegger action movie or a Jackie Chan-Jet Li martial arts flick. As far as Tomatometers go, though, it ranks pretty far below either of those. In Grudge Match, Stallone is Henry “Razor” Sharp and De Niro is Billy “The Kid” McDonnen, rival boxers who win one match apiece against each other before Sharp decides to retire. Years later, when both boxers are asked to provide motion capture performances for a video game, the old rivalry reignites, and they both agree to participate in a rematch. Unfortunately, critics found Grudge Match too reliant on clichés and too light on laughs, despite its novel setup and able cast — which included supporting turns from Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, and Kevin Hart — and saddled the film with a mediocre 30% on the Tomatometer.



Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

38%

The Paranormal Activity franchise began with a simple but effective found footage film, and it’s spent three sequels building its mythology. Earlier this year, the series spun itself off into a companion film, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, focusing on a handful of young friends in Oxnard, California with a connection to Katie and Kristi of the earlier films. When a woman named Anna is murdered in her apartment, recent high school grad Jesse and his friends Hector and Marisol discover that she was involved in witchcraft. After Jesse wakes up one day with a bite mark on his arm and begins to exhibit a dark change in his personality, Hector and Marisol learn that he has been “marked” by a coven for evil purposes. Critics appreciated the new direction The Marked Ones took, but found that a few slick action scenes and some myth-building weren’t quite enough to save the film from mediocrity, awarding it a mere 39% on the Tomatometer.

Also available this week:

  • First, a Blu-ray/DVD reissue from the Criterion Collection: François Truffaut’s classic 1959 film The 400 Blows (100%), featuring audition footage, newsreel footage, interview excerpts, and more.
  • I Am Divine (94%), a documentary about the famous drag queen and John Waters collaborator.
  • Certified Fresh Chinese import A Touch of Sin (92%), Jia Zhangke’s drama touching on four stories of people pushed to their limits.
  • Certified Fresh thriller A Field in England (88%), about a group of deserters in 1648 England who descend into violence as they follow an alchemist on a hunt for buried treasure.
  • Nurse 3-D (63%), starring Paz de la Huerta in a thriller about a nurse who seduces cheating men and brutally murders them.
  • Justin Bieber’s Believe (57%), a documentary focusing on the pop star’s later adolescent years in the spotlight.

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