The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) PICK
Les Misérables (2012) PICK
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) PICK
Two of the best films — and one of the biggest hits — of 2012 are among recent home-video releases.
Les Misérables, Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel is remarkable, among other things, for embracing overtly Catholic elements in Hugo’s novel. From the powerful opening vignette, in which unexpected grace from a generous bishop sets Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) on the path to redemption, to the finale, in which Valjean is welcomed into eternal life, Les Mis is easily the most positive Hollywood treatment of Catholicism in years.
Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s engrossing dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, starring Jessica Chastain as a driven CIA analyst, gets a lot of things right, among them its appropriately messy, ambiguous treatment of CIA torture and the muted climactic set piece depicting the operation in which bin Laden was killed. Clearly the terrorists are the bad guys, and the quest to find bin Laden is just — though, as the search drags on, its practical importance is questioned. Insidiously, a project taken on as a means to an end becomes an end unto itself, justifying any and all means. The realities of torture and degradation are acknowledged, but the movie neither demonizes those perpetrating them nor suggests that they are essential or even effective. Thoughtful, worthwhile viewing.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey mostly succeeds as spectacle and mostly fails as Tolkienesque fairy tale, with an awkward blend of kid-movie whimsy and intense PG-13 action. The production design seamlessly merges with the Rings trilogy, with returning characters; but crowd-pleasing references to the earlier films — along with action sequences aimed at outdoing them — nearly bury the fun. Weakly recommended.
Content Advisory: The Hobbit: Intense fantasy-action violence and battle sequences; scary images and creature menace; some rude humor; several drug references. Teens and up. Les Misérables: Strong sexual content, including bawdy humor and situations; bloody violence; profanity and crude language; a suicide. Mature viewing. Zero Dark Thirty: Disturbing depictions of torture; extreme obscene and crude language and profanity. Mature viewing.