Rick Bentley The Fresno Bee
”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
Bilbo Baggins continues his journey with the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves. The film is an exercise in excess. If one long, lingering shot of dwarves and a hobbit making their way across the rolling vistas of Middle Earth is good, 50 is grand. If a battle with a dozen giant spiders is creepy fun entertainment, then a dozen dozen spiders is grandiose. There’s not a single shot, line of dialogue or special effect that doesn’t show signs of director Peter Jackson’s unbridled style of filmmaking.
Jackson stages each of these major encounters with a bold and broad canvas. The forests are a lumbered maze that provides many dark and sinister hiding places for spiders and elves. Then the action moves to the film’s most heart-stopping encounter as the heroes escape from the elves and orc using wooden barrels to travel down a fast-moving river.
”August: Osage County”
An emotionally brutal look at one of the most dysfunctional families on film in years. It is a powerful and engaging story that shows the flaws that make families so interesting.
It features solid direction by John Wells, a tough task considering the kind of collection of stars you normally only see gathered at the Oscars. It starts with A-listers like Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who treat every scene together like a heavyweight fight where both combatants refuse to give an inch.
Sometimes less is more. They both should pay attention to the kind of work Margo Martindale does. She can deliver the same emotional punch without the performance ever looking labored or forced.
Also new on DVD April 8:
“Grudge Match”: The boxing-movie genre gets pounded in this film starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro.
“Holy Ghost People”: Southern Gothic thriller about a teen searching for her sister in the Appalachian Mountains.
“Earthflight”: David Tennant narrates the six-part series that takes viewers over the planet’s most incredible landscapes.
“Justin Bieber’s Believe”: The popular young singer answers questions about his life and music.
“Extreme Bears”: Natural history special that reveals the many sides of this often misunderstood creature.