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This Week in Home Video: The ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise, ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy and More

This Week in Home Video: The 'Fast & Furious' Franchise, 'The Hobbit' Trilogy and More

Anyone who absolutely needs to marathon all of the “Fast & Furious” movies before April 3 and doesn’t much care that a new box set will be obsolete by the end of the year can catch up with all six installments of the improbably long-running franchise today. It’s bizarre to think that such a relatively modest car-racing movie might spin-off into a series of stunt-and-heist spectaculars, but those curious can see how the films evolved. For devolution, one can turn to “The Hobbit” trilogy, now on Blu-Ray waiting for the inevitable fan-edit that turns three bloated movies into one pretty decent one.

Oscar hopefuls turned Oscar disappointments are the other big new releases, with Angelina Jolie’s inspirational chain-letter on film “Unbroken” making its way to Blu-Ray; stirring in its action sequences (aerial fights, men stranded on the ocean), it becomes lugubrious as soon as it focuses on Louis Zamperini’s torture in concentration camps. Even talented rising star Jack O’Connell can’t manage much with this slog of pain and canned uplift. A better bet: “Into the Woods,” which isn’t so bad if one ignores significant Act II cuts, Rob Marshall’s characteristically clumsy direction and the distracting star turns (Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep’s Oscar-nominated but middling performance as the Witch). It’s still Stephen Sondheim, and it provides another showcase for the perpetually underrated Emily Blunt.

A slew of gems and curiosities hit the classic front this week. Criterion has a trio of Errol Morris classics hitting Blu-Ray: a package including debut “Gates of Heaven” and his short “Vernon, Florida,” and a separate disc for his masterful “The Thin Blue Line,” still the gold-standard for using reenactments in documentaries. Olive Films has a series of forgotten 80s and 90s films like “Chattahoochee,” starring Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper as mental patients under abusive doctors; the James Woods/Brian Dennehy hitman movie “Best Seller;” Wim Wenders’ heavy-handed drama “The End of Violence;” and Robert Altman’s strong, pre-comeback film “Vincent & Theo,” about the relationship between Vincent and Theo van Gogh. Shout! Factory has a release of the Rob Reiner/John Cusack drama “The Sure Thing,” Grindhouse Releasing a new version of Lucio Fulci’s gloriously gory “The Beyond,” and Kino Classics a new release of the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin comedy “At War with the Army.” The latter isn’t one of the better films the pair made, but it does feature a bizarre parody of the Best Picture-winner “Going My Way,” which makes one wonder how ubiquitous that movie was in 1950 and if the pop culture references in Judd Apatow’s films are going to age this badly. Finally, Screen Edge has a release of Michael Almereyda’s “Another Girl, Another Planet” with three other films in Pixelvision.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

“Fast & Furious 6”
Criticwire Average: B-

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Lin and his team do an extraordinary job of staging the ever-escalating action sequences, up to a jaw-on-the-floor finale involving various four-wheel vehicles in and around a cargo plane that’s trying to take off. Read more.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Criticwire Average: B-

Josh Spiegel, Sound on Sight

By itself, “An Unexpected Journey” is an entertaining, if overlong, fantasy film. Compared to “The Lord of the Rings,” it falls somewhat short. Read more.

“Into the Woods”
Criticwire Average: B-

Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

When I heard that Disney was behind the show’s film adaptation, I assumed they were just doing the first act. That’s not what happened — but what they have done is nearly as detrimental, turning over the text’s complexity and darkness to the empty-husk filmmaking of director Rob Marshall, who quite clearly doesn’t get this thing at all. Read more.

Criticwire Average: B-

Keith Uhlich, The A.V. Club

Moral and spiritual triumph lie at the end of this hellish gauntlet, but though Jolie is shooting for Christ-like passion and redemption, she only ends up slathering one man’s very real, very morbid struggles in the usual reductive “greatest generation” sentiment. Read more.

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