A quartet of highly entertaining releases offered plenty of variety to renters this week.
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” — The second film in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel hit the shelf hard this week. Whether you stream it, DVD , or BluRay it (in 3D), you are in for giant thrill, as the action gets amped up. From a spirited river chase to a running battle with orcs, this is an exciting middle chapter that sets the bar high for the final film,which is due at Christmas. Martin Freeman proves to be a wonderful Bilbo Baggins, but his dwarven companions steal a lot of moments, too. There is an awesome sequence where the heroes battle a horde of giant spiders, but the best bit comes when they take on the fearsome dragon of the title.
“August: Osage County” — Drama fans will enjoy this well acted version of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts lead and amazing cast in a somber account of a family gathering for a funeral. What a cast — Sam Shepherd, Margo Martindale , Chris Cooper and Juliette Lewis co-star.
“Grudge Match” — “Raging Bull” was the best boxing film of the 1980s and “Rocky” holds that honor for the 1970s. What a coup to get the stars of those films, Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone, to anchor this effort about a hyped match featuring two retired fighters. This is less of a boxing flick than a comedy, but these actors sell it well. Their characters have a lot of history and each performer gets plenty of screen time. Enjoyable, if not in the same weight class as their previous fight flicks.
“Cry Danger” — Another classic flick finally joins the DVD and Blu Ray ranks with the release of this film noir form the late-1940s. Dick Powell stars as a driven ex-con who gets out of stir and relentlessly searches for the man who set him up to take the fall on a robbery. Turns out the robbery netted someone a ton of dough, and Powell aims to gets some revenge and line his pockets with the original take as a form of literal payback. Great stuff in the hardboiled tradition, with a nice turn by William (“Cannon”) Conrad as a determined detective.