New in Home Entertainment – March 24, 2015

into the woods

New in Home Entertainment

March 24, 2015

Into the Woods
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This last Christmas, Walt Disney bravely took on Stephen Sondheim’s classic broadway musical that mixes up several fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and many others, while at the same time exploring the blessings and dangers of leaving one’s comfort zone. The impressive cast, including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick and Johnny Depp, all deliver surprisingly exceptional performances. The production itself is also a grand experience with lush visuals and an amazing score. Still, the movie could have been better. I was okay with Disney Disneyfying the movie into a PG version, but it would have been nice if they hadn’t left out my two favorite songs, Agony (Reprise) and No More. B+

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
When I first heard Peter Jackson was creating The Hobbit for the big screen, I was elated. Then came the news that it, like Lord of the Rings, would be in three parts. How? Lord of the Rings made sense – it was three books. The Hobbit is only one short novel. But he did it – and to amazing effect. What only constituted a short portion of the novel grew into this gigantic and rich story and a wonderful conclusion to the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. A

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
Ridley Scott’s epic retelling of the story of Moses was killed by critics and lost money at the box office, but did it deserve this plague? I think hardly. Sure the screenplay was a little too creative in the retelling of the classic story (it’s a stretch to imagine God taking on the image of a child), but the movie is mostly a solid piece of entertainment. Christian Bale is fantastic as Moses and while I would have rather had a more Egyptian Ramses than Joel Edgerton, at least he is a terrific actor. My only qualm with the picture is that it bogs down in parts and could have been better paced. I just hope that the failure of this and the recent Noah at the box office doesn’t mean the temporary end of biblical epics in Hollywood. I think there are many great stories in the Good Book that could use the big budget modern Hollywood touch and I hope that there are still creative executives who still want to make them. B

Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida Double Feature: The Criterion Collection
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
I find it amazing that a great documentary can be made about anything and still capture our attention. Here are two cases to prove my point. Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris showcases two such examples in this double feature from Criterion. In Gates of Heaven, Morris looks at a community of pet owners who actually bury their pets in a real cemetery. Then in Vernon, Florida, Morris points his camera towards the strange and eccentric folks that live in this small Southern town, each one weird and yet endearing. Also included is the short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe where the famed filmmaker encourages Morris to finish Gates of Heaven with the promise that if he does, he will eat his own shoe. A-