VIEW FROM THE COUCH: Hobbits, paranormal activities and Julia Roberts

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It's Wednesday, so it's time for this week's edition of the "View from the Couch" - a look at some of the interesting highlights making their way to home video & streaming this week.

First this week: the continuation of Peter Jackson's billion-dollar Tolkien series: "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". Is it pretty? Yes. Is it full of great action set-pieces? Yes. Is it loaded with detailed character development?Yes. Is it too long - much like this interrogation-styled review? Yes. It's the middle movie of an ultimately 9-hour saga made from a comparatively skimpy 300 page book – there's going to be some padding involved. But I liked it – after being lukewarm on the first installment, this chapter's scenes pairing Martin Freeman's Bilbo the Hobbit with Benedict Cumberbatch's Smaug the dragon won me over. It's overly long & almost feels like 2 separate movies after a mid-film shift, but the characters make this a worthwhile adventure.

Ok – you want to feel better about your own extended family? Watch Meryl Streep & Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County". Late summer in Oklahoma is the setting for this family drama as a clashing clan comes together after the death of a loved-one. Although certified "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 64% rating, the consensus on this flick is that the sheer amount of acting going on in this movie threatens to overwhelm it, but when the actors involved are as talented as they are, it's really hard to complain.

Next: the comedy "Grudge Match" - yes - it's ok to laugh at Robert De Niro ... especially when he teams up with Sylvester Stallone as they star as two retired boxers that decide to settle a long-standing beef by heading back into the ring. Yes, it's Raging Bull vs. Rocky ... in a sports comedy that also stars Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, & Kim Basinger.

Also out this week: "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" – I gave my review copy to Floor Director Tim to review … his thoughts "I forgot to watch it"; "Justin Bieber: Believe"; & "Knight Rider" Seasons 2,3,4.

We have a whole host of great stuff streaming this week: First up one of my faves "Game of Thrones" on HBOGO – you can watch the entire series to catch up as season 4 premiered this week. Don't have access to the streaming HBO GO app because you don't subscribe to HBO on cable? The CEO of HBO doesn't care – he actually seems to be encouraging folks to share their passwords with their friends & family. So find your favorite Aunt or best friend's mom with an account (or in my case cousin) & ask to pirate – I mean *share* - the joy that is streaming "Game of Thrones".

Also freshly streaming on Netflix this week: Will Smith in "Ali", Mel Gibson's "Braveheart", Steven Speilberg's "Close Encounters"; Richard Burton's Oscar winning "The Robe" – just in time for Easter; The classics ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blonds", "The Odd Couple", "The English Patient" and "Titanic"; the first 5 Rocky movies with Sylvester Stallone; and all 8 season's of Fox's TV show "House"

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