New On Blu-Ray: 'The Lord Of The Rings' Trilogy 4K, 'The Hobbit' Trilogy 4K, 'Possessor', 'The Godfather, Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone'

The time has come for another Blu-ray round-up, friends. This week we've got not one but two big 4K box sets taking us back to Peter Jackson's Middle-earth. There's also a body horror masterpiece and an oft-maligned sequel that's getting a second chance.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy 4k

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a monumental achievement in filmmaking. Peter Jackson and his huge cast and crew worked cinematic magic to adapt J. R. R. Tolkien's books into a trilogy of movies bursting with heart, excitement, horror, and imagination. From a world-building perspective, there's not a single wrong note here – every single part of Middle-earth feels like a real place, no matter how fantastical things become. This is Jackson's grandest achievement and it might also be his curse since it's impossible that he'll ever be able to top what he did here.

The story: when an ancient evil awakens, an unlikely group of heroes must try to stop it. Sounds cut and dry, right? It is, in many ways. But by following multiple characters across a long, arduous journey, the Lord of the Rings trilogy pulls us along with it. We want to see its heroes triumph, and we want the forces of evil to fall. And sometimes we won't always get what we want. Yes, in the end, the good guys win (that's not a spoiler at this point, don't even try to pretend it is), but there's monumental loss along the way. And most of all, we feel that loss.

When these films kill off characters, it's often heartbreaking. I'm forever in awe of the raw, unchecked emotion on display when the doubtful, suspicious, but ultimately heroic Boromir (Sean Bean) dies in the arms of  Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). "I would have followed you, my brother," the dying man says. "My captain...My king." How can you not give in and embrace a series with scenes like that? It's a trilogy with one unifying message: no matter how dark things may get, there's some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.

Own or Rent? 

At long last, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is on 4K. This is cause for celebration! On top of that, the 4K remastering process was overseen by Peter Jackson – and it shows. This set contains both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, and both of those cuts have been available on Blu-ray before. But there was a problem: for some reason, the color timing on the extended editions was altered and many scenes had a distracting green tint to them. I'll admit that this never really bothered me – not at least enough to not watch the extended editions, which are my preferred cuts – but I am happy to report the green is gone. The 4K extended editions have been color corrected to their original form.

But here's the catch: there are no other special features included here. And if you're a fan of this franchise you know how strange that is, since Jackson and company created a wealth of behind-the-scenes material. So why isn't it here? Well, sadly, Warner Bros. wants to double-dip. In fact, they want to triple-dip. As a result a 4K UHD "Middle-earth" Ultimate Collectors' Edition featuring the theatrical and extended versions of both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, along with new bonus content, previously released Blu-ray discs of The Hobbit trilogy and remastered Blu-ray discs of The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be released in the summer of 2021. There will also be a release featuring The Lord of the Rings trilogy with remastered Blu-ray discs of the theatrical and extended versions of the 3 films will also be released in the fourth quarter of 2021, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

So, do you wait for these releases in 2021, or do you grab what you can now? If you're a fan of the series, I'd say it's worth picking it up now. For one thing, it'll cost you less than these super, duper deluxe editions still to come. For another, you won't have to wait – you can have the movies right now!

Special Features Include:

  • Theatrical and extended versions of the six films in 4K UHD with HDR.
  • The Hobbit Trilogy 4K

    Okay, so remember all the glowing stuff I said about the Lord of the Rings trilogy above? Yeah, I won't be repeating that here. It's genuinely baffling that Peter Jackson could assemble much of the same behind-the-scenes crew and several of the cast members for the previous trilogy, bring them back to Middle-earth, and then...botch it. But that's exactly what happened. Somehow, Jackson lost the magic.

    To be fair, I revisited the Hobbit trilogy for this write-up, and I will confess they're slightly better movies than I remembered. For one thing, having them all on 4K makes them look a lot better. Jackson infamously used a shooting and projection frame rate of 48 frames per second for the trilogy which resulted in footage that looked downright terrible. That problem doesn't carry over here – things look crisp and clear, and no one moves around like they're on live TV.

    And yet, the spark is gone. The Middle-earth on display here doesn't feel like the fully realized place it was in the original trilogy; it instead feels like a collection of sets and digital nonsense. And despite a game cast – Martin Freeman is quite good as the young Bilbo Baggins – the cast of characters here never endear themselves to us the way the characters in Lord of the Rings did. I cared about every single character in that initial trilogy, even the minor players. I could honestly give two fucks about Bifur and Bofur and most of the other comic relief dwarves. As far as this trilogy goes, the first two films – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – are the most successful, albeit they're both bogged down by wrong-headed choices (I know the characters sing a lot in Tolkien's book but that does not mean we need to hear them singing in the movie). The third entry, The Battle of the Five Armies, is an absolute mess from start to finish – a smorgasbord of CGI fight sequences that bore when they should thrill.

    It doesn't help that Jackson took a relatively small book and expanded it, so much so that there are even extended editions. At one point, The Hobbit was being planned as one movie, and Guillermo del Toro was going to direct. It's hard not to be wistful for that alternate universe where we got that instead of these three bloated disappointments.

    Own or Rent? 

    As I mentioned above, there are no special features here – you'll have to wait for the "Middle-earth" Ultimate Collectors' Edition. And while I was happy to recommend picking up the current 4K release of The Lord of the Rings, I can't do the same for The Hobbit. If you're curious to see these things again in 4K, go with a rental. You'll be much better off.

    Special Features Include:

  • Theatrical and extended versions of the six films in 4K UHD with HDR.
  • Possessor 

    Brandon Cronenberg's Possessor is a movie about shedding humanity. As a result, it's brutal to the extreme. Loaded with horrifyingly realistic gore and heightened body horror, Cronenberg is following in his father's footsteps here, crafting a sci-fi drama that's unapologetically detached and cynical to the extreme. Andrea Riseborough stars as Tasya Vos, an assassin who can literally get inside people's heads. Using unexplained technology, Vos can have her consciousness uploaded into the minds and bodies of targets. She then carries out an assassination, thus framing the target and getting away clean. Well, clean might not be the right word, because Vos' murders have become increasingly hyper-violent and bloody. She's breaking down. And that's bad news because it results in her latest mission going awry. While in uploaded into the body of Colin (Christopher Abbott), Vos loses control, and Colin's own consciousness struggles to come back from the brink. Here is a film not for the squeamish. Possessor doesn't have the kind of stylized violence that we've all grown so numb to on the screen – it's intense and unflinching, and that's the point. The movie wants to break us down, and it succeeds. And then some.

    Own or Rent? Possessor is currently my number one movie of the year, so a part of me wants to shout "BUY THIS, NOW!" But I also recognize that the movie's savagery is going to be too much for some people. With that in mind, I suggest renting the film first. If you can stomach it, and you appreciate it for what it is, you have all the more reason to scoop up a physical copy.

    Special Features Include:

  • Deleted scenes.
  • Behind the scenes featurette.
  • Trailer
  • The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

    The Godfather Part III gets a new cut, and a new title – The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Francis Ford Coppola's third entry in his epic crime saga has always been the black sheep of the family. It's a punchline and a punching bag; everyone loves the first two movies, no one wants to talk about the third. Will this new cut change all that? Well...probably not. Why? Because it's mostly the same exact movie.

    But that's not a bad thing! Hear me out: The Godfather Part III isn't nearly as bad as its reputation suggests. Yes, it has problems – it's plot is all over the place, and many of the casting choices, most notably Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, are all wrong. But the film is also a sprawling, operatic, Shakesperian tragedy full of intrigue, melancholy, and regret. So what of the new cut? How new is it? Coppola changes the opening and closing scenes of the film – the opening sets the main plot in motion now, which helps. He also trims down some scenes, resulting in a film that's 11 minutes shorter. But mostly, The Godfather, Coda is the same movie it always was. But it might be time for people to rediscover it wasn't as bad as they thought it was. More writing on the new cut can be found here.

    Own or Rent? 

    I wish the physical disc came with more special features because that would make me more inclined to push this as a purchase. Hell, it'd be great to get this in 4K, too. I'm sure eventually Paramount will get around to remastering the entire trilogy in 4K, and they'll include this cut as well. For now, though, I'll say that if you're only mildly curious, go with a rental. But if you're a fan, pick this up.

    Special Features Include:

  • New intro with Francis Ford Coppola.