Picks of the week
‘Into the Woods’
(PG, 126 minutes, Disney): Some of the Broadway musical’s fans will feel shortchanged by the movie no matter what, but you have to give credit where it’s due. The adaptation is pretty faithful to the original, an intricate fable that thumbed its nose at “happily ever after” and embraced the grimmest of Grimm’s fairy tales. Despite some streamlining, director Rob Marshall’s adaptation is not all kid’s stuff with singing teapots and friendly mice. There are plenty of dark detours.
The sprawling array of characters and plot points from playwrights Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine are still here, the concept is clever, the performances are strong and the music is brilliant.
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Oscar nominee Meryl Streep is marvelous, bringing a degree of poignancy to her conniving witch character. But there’s something conspicuously missing amid all the chaos: a heart.
Contains fantasy action, peril and some suggestive material. Extras: “Deeper Into The Woods: Magic of the Woods” featurette. On Blu-ray: commentary with director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca; Sondheim original song: “She’ll Be Back” performed by Meryl Streep; behind-the-scenes and cast featurettes; a making-of featurette that covers the stage-to-screen adaptation, special effects, design and costumes; access to the musical song segments, with optional sing-along lyrics; and Easter eggs.
(PG-13, 137 minutes, Universal): The most surprising thing about the sturdy, if slightly starchy, storytelling of “Unbroken” is that it comes courtesy of director Angelina Jolie, an artist never known for constraint in front of the camera.
Her film is impeccably acted and handsomely filmed and written, with a lean muscularity, by a quartet of heavyweights including Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravanese and William Nicholson.
Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 bestseller about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who was held prisoner by the Japanese during World War II, the film is stirring when it needs to be. The scenes of aerial combat that open the film and, later, those set at sea, where Louis, a bombardier, spent more than six weeks on a raft after his B-24 crashed, are particularly gripping.
The main body of the tale, which concerns Louis’ torture at the hands of a sadistic prison commander, is even more harrowing. As Louis, the English-Irish actor Jack O’Connell is pretty great, both at evoking the character’s suffering and at rendering Louis’ will to survive.
Contains violence, some coarse language, brief nudity. Extras: behind-the-scenes interviews with the late Zamperini and cast and crew. On Blu-ray: deleted scenes; a three-part making-of; a cast and crew concert featuring Japanese rock star Miyavi (who played the villainous prison guard); “Prison Camp Theater” in which the Omori prisoners perform “Cinderella” and a featurette on Zamperini’s life after the war and his journey from recovery to forgiveness.
‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’
(PG-13, 144 minutes, New Line): Despite the film’s title, Bilbo Baggins, played charmingly by Martin Freeman, is almost entirely absent. Despite two critical plot turns in which he provides invaluable service, the title character is relegated to second- or third-class status, swept away by scenes that alternate between grandiose mayhem and a protracted death match on an icy mountaintop between the dwarf-king Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the orc leader Azog (Manu Bennett).
That last character, who is now the film’s grand villain, was only mentioned by J.R.R. Tolkien in passing. But who’s counting? You may, however, find yourself looking at your watch. At times, it feels as if “The Battle of the Five Armies” was filmed in real time.
Contains action and violence. Extras: the featurettes “Recruiting the Five Armies,” “Completing Middle-earth,” “The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes” and “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 3” and a “Last Goodbye” music video. The release also includes “The Hobbit” trilogy and 3-D versions.
“Lonesome Dove Church”
“Confessions of a Prodigal Son”
“The Thin Blue Line”
“Diamond Heist” (aka “Magic Boys”)
“The Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida”
“Sebastian Bergman: Dark Secrets”
“Digging Up the Marrow”
“Blind Woman’s Curse”
“Gone With the Pope”
“Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean: 25th Anniversary Collection”
“Don Matteo: Sets 9 & 10”
“Bukow and Konig: Sets 1 & 2”