It's a pretty good week for DVDs because of hobbits, monsters, and Mr. Bean.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Grade B-: Forces come together to claim the riches that had been guarded by Smaug.
Filmmakers seem to love outdoing one another when it comes to biblical tales. From Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) to Richard Fleischer (Barabbas) to the team of film giants behind The Greatest Story Ever Told, which included George Stevens and David Lean, the obsession usually is to go big: big stars, big sets, and most definitely huge, special-effects-driven set pieces.
Anyone who cares about their children's future, indeed the planet's future, should see Merchants of Doubt. The problem is, the people who really need to see it - climate-change deniers, politicians with ties to the fossil-fuel industries, the blithely indifferent - aren't likely to.
It's probably not a good date if it ends with your face in a chloroform-soaked rag, your wrists strapped to the arms of a chair, being wheeled into a desolate underpass. But Hugh (Jake Weary) - who seemed like a nice guy, really, he did - has his reasons.
MAN FROM RENO
Sheriff Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna) accidentally runs over a mysterious Japanese man while driving around a small town south of San Francisco. But before the sheriff can figure out who the man is, he disappears. Meanwhile, Japanese mystery author Aki Akah
Now that the serial killer has become a prime-time staple in shows such as Criminal Minds, Hannibal, and The Following, the prospect of yet another movie about a psychopath dehumanizing, torturing, raping, and killing women evokes little more than a yawn.
What were Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence thinking? Seriously?
The two immensely talented actors had already blazed and crazed and ballroom-danced together in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle when off they go to the Smoky Mountains for Serena, a Depression-era drama about timber barons - adapted from the PEN/Faulkner-nominated novel by Ron Rash, with Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier calling the shots.
Seymour Bernstein, the subject of Ethan Hawke's inspiring documentary Seymour: An Introduction, is the polar opposite of the J.K. Simmons character in Whiplash. Where the fictive jazz drumming prof of the Oscar-nominated indie taunted and terrorized his students, Bernstein, a pianist, composer, and teacher, speaks in soft cadences, often taking a seat alongside his pupils, demonstrating not just technique and touch, but how to feel the music.