This week is headlined by the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" on iTunes and other streaming providers. So let’s get our Elf ears and Gollum voice ready for another trip to Middle Earth. There’s also the crime drama "Killing Them Softly" starring Brad Pitt as a different kind of hitman, Marion Cotillard giving a powerful performance in "Rust and Bone" as well as Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the indie gem "Smashed," while Sean Penn shows us his weirder side in "This Must Be The Place."
Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth is filled with the usual colorful characters he so perfectly brought to life adapting Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Along with a group of Dwarves on a journey to reclaim what is theirs, Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf as well as Andy Serkis as Gollum.
Why Watch It: Martin Freeman as Bilbo is a perfect choice as his comic timing and sheepish disposition is perfect when playing a Hobbit.
Following their teaming in the masterful "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik try to make lightning strike twice with this slow-burn thriller of a hitman who his hired to clean up the mess two amateurs left after robbing a Mob-protected card game.
Why Watch It: If you’re tired of the usual crime drama, try this one on.
'Rust and Bone'
Marion Cotillard gives an Oscar-worthy performance as an amputee who after losing her legs falls in a deep depression and struggles with day-to-day life, though her casual relationship with a man she met before her accident soon builds into something more and causes her to rethink her life.
Why Watch It: Cotillard proves why she should be considered one of the top talents working today.
'Somebody Up There Likes Me'
This indie comedy follows two friends (Keith Poulson and Nick Offerman) and a woman they both adore (Jess Weixler) as they navigate through unfulfilling relationships and realize that things aren’t getting easier the older they get.
Why Watch It: Offerman give you a different performance that what you’re used to seeing every week on "Parks and Recreation."
Available On: Cable On Demand
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul play a married couple who enjoy the bottle a bit too much. But things change drastically when Kate (Winstead) wants to get sober leading to a disastrous end to their relationship.
Why Watch It: Mixed with hilarious highs and depressing lows, Winstead gives one of the best performances of her career.
'This Must Be The Place'
In won of his more puzzling performances, Sean Penn plays a retired rock star living in Dublin who returns to the States for his father’s funeral which leads to him going on a manhunt for the Nazi responsible for denigrating him during World War II.
Why Watch It: You’ve never seen Penn in such a vulnerable role.
After an Oscar win for her short film in 2003, which made her not just another actor turned director, and two successful feature films, Andrea Arnold now is the latest to take on Emily Brontë’s legendary novel. However, taking inspiration from Brontë’s description of Heathcliff, Arnold cast the first back actor every to portray the role.
Why Watch It: A fresh take on an old classic.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES
One of Michael Mann’s least recognized films from his filmography, before Anthony Hopkins made Hannibal Lecktor a iconic movie character, Brian Cox played the role in this thriller starring William Petersen as Will Graham, an FBI profiler who comes out of retirement to track a serial killer who’s been dubbed the “Tooth Fairy.” Needing help he calls on the psychotic doctor Lecktor for help, whose attack on Graham led to his retirement.
'Back to School'
Rodney Dangerfield brings his brash, Long Islander no respect shtick to college in this ‘80s classic. In the film he plays an extremely rich businessman who decides to enter the college his son attends and teaches him more about partying than hitting the books (and how to do the "Triple Lindy.")
'Hustle & Flow'
Recently added to Netflix, Craig Brewer’s breakout film follows a Memphis pimp (Terrence Howard) who uses his struggles to create a demo in his hopes of becoming the next big Southern rap star. The film also earned Howard an Oscar nomination and the group Three 6 Mafia an Oscar win for their song, "It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp."