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DVD reviews: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'The Hobbit' and 'This is 40'

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 8:24 p.m.
This undated publicity film image provided by Columbia Pictures shows elite Navy SEALs raiding Osama Bin Laden's compound in the dark night in Columbia Pictures' gripping new thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow, 'Zero Dark Thirty.'
'Zero Dark Thirty'
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

“Zero Dark Thirty” (2012, R, 157 min., $30.99). Viewers already know the ending, but that shouldn't stop them from seeing “Zero Dark Thirty.” Reuniting filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal — the team behind 2009's “The Hurt Locker” — “Zero Dark Thirty” is an intense ride full of suspenseful twists and turns covering the events leading to the death of Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world. Undoubtedly one of the best pictures of 2012, the feature is part procedural in how it documents the process of finding bin Laden. The procedural aspects of the story are blended with the character development of Maya — played wonderfully by Jessica Chastain — a talented CIA officer tasked with finding terrorists affiliated with 9/11. When Maya sets her sights on bin Laden, she pushes herself to the very limit, and, you know how that ends. Chastain deserves all of the accolades she's received. The actress gets a boost in supporting roles played by Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, Edgar Ramirez and Kyle Chandler. A series of featurettes are available on standard DVD and Blu-ray, including ones on Chastain, settings and general production. Each featurette carries plenty of interviews with members of the cast and crew, along with some behind-the-scenes info. 4 Stars.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012, PG-13, 160 min., $28.98). A decade after the conclusion of Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the filmmaker brings viewers back to the shire for another three-part adventure. This time around, Jackson gets his material from the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien novel “The Hobbit.” The main character is Bilbo (Martin Freeman), a hobbit who enjoys spending time at home. When Bilbo's called into action by Gandalf (Ian McKellen), he's propelled into an adventure with a wild collection of dwarves. The goal is to reclaim the lost Dwarf City of Erebor, a beautiful mountain that's been taken by a deadly dragon. In this first step of the trilogy, the gang finds itself coming up against a remarkable collection of underworld characters that offer only harm. Weighing in at 160 minutes, “An Unexpected Journey” has some problems with pacing, and it doesn't really offer viewers any motivation inside the storyline to tune in to No. 2, due out later this year. There are plenty of positives, too. Visually, Jackson's film is amazing and the action sequences are incredible. The film's special effects are some of the best. Standard DVD and Blu-ray packages offer an extensive making-of journal that brings viewers inside Jackson's filmmaking process. 2.5 Stars.

“This is 40” (2012, R, 134 min., $29.98). Judd Apatow, undoubtedly considered one of the best directors in the comedy genre, returned to the silver screen in 2012 with “This is 40.” Starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in lead roles, this sort-of sequel to the director's 2007 hit “Knocked Up” is a bloated dumping ground of jokes that revolve around getting older. It has an incredibly thin plot and a ridiculously long run time. Rudd and Mann are Pete and Debbie, a married couple approaching 40 with two kids. Together, they're struggling with the usual pitfalls of life, including raising kids, dealing with family members and worrying about finances and health. Yeah, that's basically the plotline for “This is 40.” There are some good laughs, and a terrific cast — Megan Fox, Jason Segel, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow and Melissa McCarthy are in supporting roles — but this is mostly a waste of time. Like Apatow's past productions, there are lots of special features. Unfortunately, most of them are exclusive to Blu-ray versions of the picture. Two of the better featurettes available — “This is Albert Brooks (At Work)” and “Graham Parker & The Rumour: Long Emotional Ride” — explore two of the better subplots of the pic. There are lots of additional featurettes, along with interviews and extra scenes. 1.5 Stars.

“Les Miserables” (2012, PG-13, 158 min., $29.98). Director Tom Hooper's retelling of the musical adapted from Victor Hugo's famous novel of the same name pulled in eight Oscar nominations, establishing itself as one of 2012's best films. Fans of the musical or the book should find plenty to like about Hooper's latest production.

“Rust and Bone” (2012, R, 120 min., $30.99). Filmmaker Jacques Audiard follows up his 2010 hit “A Prophet” with “Rust and Bone,” a drama about a man (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a woman (Marion Cotillard), both experiencing life-changing tragedies in their respective lives, coming together in a gritty relationship that takes many forms.

“Bachelorette” (2012, R, 91 min., $24.98). Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Rebel Wilson have starring roles in this comedy from filmmaker Leslye Headland about a group of girlfriends getting together to throw an epic bachelorette party. The plan goes horribly wrong, though, and it becomes a race to save the wedding.

“The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943, NR, 163 min., $29.95). Legendary filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger worked together to make what some consider the best film to ever come out of Britain. The picture focuses on the life of Major General Wynne-Candy, who takes a look back at his career in the military.

“The Great Magician” (2011, NR, 128 min., $24.98). Veteran Chinese actor Tony Leung stars in director Derek Yee's picture set in the time after the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in China, and established the Republic. As a result, warlords, some of whom use magic to hold down their enemies, run different areas.

“Shadow People” (2012, PG-13, 88 min., $24.99). This found-footage thriller focuses on a radio personality (Dallas Roberts) working together with a CDC agent (Alison Eastwood) to uncover a mysterious cover-up that killed hundreds of people.

“Angus Buchan's Ordinary People” (2012, PG-13, 115 min., $22.99). Three men — a desperate criminal, a struggling mechanic and an alcoholic — try to turn their lives around at the Mighty Men Conference, held by Angus Buchan. The real-life farmer's spiritual transformation was the inspiration for the powerful book “Faith Like Potatoes.”

“Storage 24” (2012, R, 87 min., $26.98). The city of London is thrown into chaos when a military plane crashes, and leaves its highly classified contents all over the place. Unaware of what's going on, four friends head outside, before being trapped in a facility called Storage 24 and hunted by a mysterious predator.


“Jersey Shore: The Uncensored Final Season” (reality series, four discs, 13 episodes, $26.99)

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