The second “Hobbit” movie, “The Desolation of Smaug,” dominates DVD and Blu-ray releases this week.
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; featurettes, music video). Stretching J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Hobbit” novel to three very long movies has never seemed like a good idea but I must confess that this second episode feels much more vital than the first, and it moves at a better clip. And although the dragon Smaug isn’t encountered until the end, he is one formidable villain (voiced perfectly by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Martin Freeman is still great as the redoubtable Bilbo Baggins, accompanying Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves to reclaim their mountain, and among the dangers they encounter along the way is a particularly creepy clan of giant spiders.
If “Part 3” manages to capture as much magic as “Part 2,” I’ll stop complaining about the story’s interminable length. (Also on DVD, $28.98; 3D/Blu-ray, $44.95; Limited Collector’s Edition 3D/Blu-ray, $105.43)
“Snake & Mongoose” (Anchor Bay, 2013, PG-13, $19.98, featurette). This true story of drag racers Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, who helped legitimize their sport in the 1970s, was overshadowed last year by the big-budget Ron Howard film “Rush,” which was about Formula One rivals during the same era. That film is better than this one, but “Snake & Mongoose” has a scrappy, independent vibe that proves to be an advantage, and it’s certainly more family friendly. Actual drag-racing footage helps but you don’t need to be a fan of the sport to enjoy this one. (Also on Blu-ray, $24.99)
“The Nut Job” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2014, PG, two discs, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, featurettes, storyboards, two short cartoons with characters from the film). Canadian animated feature about a squirrel stealing nuts from a store when he stumbles onto a bank heist. It's an OK cartoon for kids. Voice talent includes Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Jeff Dunham, Liam Neeson, Maya Rudolph and Katherine Heigl. (Also on DVD, $29.98, and 3D/Blu-ray combo, $49.98)
“Lizzie Borden Took an Ax” (Sony, 2014, not rated, $22.99). Competent Lifetime cable movie of the notorious true story of the Sunday School teacher charged with the ax murder of her father and stepmother in 1892, her lawyer claiming a woman could not commit such a crime. Christina Ricci is good as the title character and Clea Du Vall shines as her older sister, but the film is undermined by a very odd choice, an anachronistic rock-music soundtrack.
“Grudge Match” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, two discs, $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted/alternate scenes, featurettes). This tale of two aging, adversarial boxers (Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro) reunited in their dotage for one last match is a comedy with one funny idea and way too many vulgar gags, which likely chased away the obvious older theatrical audience. The great Alan Arkin is here, too, but he’s reduced to foul-mouthed one-liners. Everyone deserves better, including the audience. Also on DVD, $28.98)
“Cavemen” (Well Go/Blu-ray, 2014; R for sex, nudity, language; $29.98). Attractive cast in a by-the-numbers sex comedy about a playboy (Skylar Astin) and his pals living in a downtown Los Angeles loft together. He’s tired of one-night stands, cries on the shoulder of his best friend (Camilla Belle) and can’t see that she’s the one for him. (Also on DVD, $24.98)Comment on this story
“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2013; R for language, violence, sex, nudity, drugs; two discs, $39.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; R-rated and unrated versions; featurette). Ever notice that when sequels reach the fourth or fifth go-round, they drop the number in favor of a subtitle? Yeah, this is No. 5 in the found-footage horror film franchise, this time with a Latino twist as a high school grad tries to clear his friend of the murder of a local “witch.” You can take it from there. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Sheriff of Contention” (Lionsgate, 2014, PG-13, $26.98, trailers). Cheapjack independent thriller has an amateurish look as it tries to blend the Western and horror genres in the tale of a serial killer stalking women alone in an Old West town.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com