Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
For more than a decade Peter Jackson has been down in the darkest depths of Mordor, doing the “Misty Mountain Hop” that began with 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” But even extreme fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books have to admit Jackson’s dive back into Middle-earth was a painstaking voyage with 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” It resulted in a bloated introduction of characters. That’s the risk you run when turning this smaller prequel material into a whole trilogy. But there’s no problem with lag here, and it’s bloated in all the right places. New characters are introduced and reintroduced, but this time, on the fly. Nice subplots are built with fan-favorite Orlando Bloom and newcomer Evangeline Lilly. The entire cast is strong. The action is big and fast and technically savvy and just plain cool. And Smaug, the dragon, may have the worst name in the script, but he is also a wonder of special effects, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice fits beautifully. This is a worthy addition to Middle-earth lore and worth a watch.
Director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell started a relationship of absurdity and unforgettable lines back in 2004 with “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Since then, the duo hasn’t been able to catch the same lightning in a bottle. But they tried every two years – “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006), “Step Brothers” (2008) and “The Other Guys” (2010). Now, they return to assemble the whole news team – Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner and Christina Applegate. They also bring in some new blood with the obvious Kristen Wiig, the OK Meagan Good, the obscenely handsome James Marsden and the oddly odd Harrison Ford. They pack a shitload into this script, sometimes too much, but it’s always absurd, sometimes absurdly hilarious. They took what worked in the first film and milked the shit out of it, but it’s more tone-matching than self-parody. It didn’t catch the same lightning, but there are plenty of bright sparks – worth a watch.
Beefcake Chris Hemsworth took a few weeks off from playing Thor to race some cars in director Ron Howard’s new film about British Formula One in the ‘70s. Howard reteams with writer Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon”) to tell the mostly true story of rival drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Olivia Wilde gives one of her best performances, and German actress Alexandra Maria Lara shows why she’s a leading lady in her homeland. But the real magic is the chemistry between the charismatic Hemsworth and the surly Brühl. Howard captures the freewheeling times, giving the film an authentic look. And the soundtrack is filled with badass rock tunes from the ‘70s. This may one of Howard’s best. Rush to rent/stream it because it’s worth a watch.