Three films, each of which made over $100 million in the domestic market, are due on Tuesday led by the final film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, a solid World War II biopic directed by Angelina Jolie, and a surprisingly popular adaptation of a Stephen Sondheim musical, but there’s more including a marvelous 25th Anniversary Mr. Bean collection, and a nice array of anime titles including the mecha-heavy Bokurano.

Theatrical Movies

Click Image for a Better View
This week’s top release is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Warner Bros., “PG-13,” 144 min., $28.98, BD $44.95), the conclusion to Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, which those who enjoy epic films stuffed with grandeur will enjoy.  Back in the day Hollywood filmmakers like C.B. De Mille would often demonstrate little respect for the literary works they were adapting and basically just shoehorn the material into their personal wheelhouse of familiar themes and visual set pieces.  That is not the problem with Jackson, who clearly revers his subject matter.  While his epic trilogy approach worked to perfection on the Lord of the Rings saga, it is less effective with The Hobbit, which is much more modest in scope than Lord of the Rings.  Perhaps this is the reason that each film in the trilogy made less than its predecessor, though it should be admitted that all three films were phenomenally successful as each earned around a billion dollars worldwide.  Fantasy fans and those who liked Jackson’s LOTR trilogy will find much to like in the epic conclusion to Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, but those who don’t enjoy vast battlefield panoramas filled with CGI-created mayhem, interspersed with not-so-great banter between the heroes as they dispatch hordes of Orcs, should shun this film like the plague.

Now that the trilogy has ended, a box set including all 3 films,
The Hobbit: Motion Picture Blu-Ray Trilogy (Warner Bros., “PG-13,” BD $57.98) is available at a fairly reasonable price, but this brings up another problem I have had with the way in which Warner Bros. has marketed Jackson’s fantasy films, first releasing a “no-frills” version as described above, and then putting out an “extended edition” during the holiday to lure hardcore fans to “double dip.”  Why are fantasy fans and sci-fi devotees (Star Trek) always exploited like this?   It’s a very cynical way to repay the fans’ devotion to the material.

Also due on Tuesday is Unbroken (Universal, “PG-13,” 138 min., $28.98, $34.98), Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of Lauren (Seabiscuit) Hillenbrand’s biography of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian and war hero who was shot down in the Pacific, survived on a raft for 47 days, and then underwent brutal conditions in a Japanese POW camp.  Jolie delivers a powerful film that is both desperately grim and grimly inspiring.

All three of this week’s films did well at the box office, but the most surprising was Into the Woods (Universal, “PG-13,” 138 min., $29.98, BD $34.98), Rob Marshall’s film of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, that features a superb cast including Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, and Emily Blunt and some interesting takes on classic fairy tales.  It has to be a good sign when sophisticated musical like this can earn $200 million worldwide.

This week’s TV releases are all of the vintage persuasion, and for geek viewers, the top choice is most likely
Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean-Remastered 25th Anniversary Collection (Shout Factory, 810 min., $24.97), which collects all 14 episodes of the classic U.K. series that starred Rowan Atkinson as the hapless title character, whose misadventures precipitate loads of physical comedy.  Heavily influenced by the great silent comedians, Atkinson manages to be funny while delivering a minimum of dialogue himself.  This collection includes “missing scenes” from three classic episodes, plus a “Best Bits of Mr. Bean” compilation and a 40-minute documentary “The Story of Mr. Bean.”

Equally fascinating to many geek viewers is Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXII (Shout Factory, 480 min., $59.97) in which the MST3K crew make merciless fun of grade B to grade Z movies.  The cinematic victims in this outing are the sword and sandals spectacular Hercules, the obscure sci fi epic Space Travelers, plus the 1950 stolen uranium saga Radar Secret Service, and the “thriller” San Francisco International.

This week’s only other two releases are also of the vintage variety, the gentle 1950s sitcom The Donna Reed Show: Season 2 (MPI, 700 min., $39.98), and Dakotas: The Complete Series (Warner Bros., 1018 min., $49.99), a DVD-R release of The Dakotas, a short-lived 1963 series that replaced Cheyenne and was cancelled after 19 episodes because of a controversial scene in which two outlaws were killed in a church—something that probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows today, but which got The Dakotas cancelled just one week after it aired and kicked up a firestorm of controversy.

This week’s most interesting release for fans of mecha anime is the Bokurano Complete Collection (Discotek Media, 600 min., $49.95, Subtitles Only), which collects all 24 episodes of the 2007 series from Gonzo about a group of middle school kids who have to pilot a giant mecha (Zearth) in battles with mecha from other planets with the fate of the Earth on the line in every combat.

Also new on disc to North America this week is Student Council’s Discretion (Sentai Filmworks, 300 min., Subtitles Only, $49.98, BD $59.98), which collects the 12-episode first season 2009 anime series based on a series of light novels by Aoi Sekina that also inspired a seinen manga series.  Student Council’s Discretion starts out like a typical harem comedy (one guy on a student council full of beautiful girls), but soon adds a whole “meta” dimension that includes lots of parodies of popular anime and plenty of satire of otaku life.

Sentai is also releasing a Blu-ray edition of Place to Place (Sentai Filmworks, 300 min., BD $59.98, Subtitles Only), a fun slice-of-life romance which the company put out on DVD in April of 2013.

The Pokemon franchise just keeps rolling along.  This week Pokemon-Black & White: Adventures in Unova, Part 2 (Viz Media, 450 min., $26.95), which includes the final 20 episodes of the sixteenth season of the long running Pokemon anime series.

-Tom Flinn

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff of