Scott Marks 7 a.m., Sept. 18
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Peter Jackson continues his mad quest to transform a ripping children's book into an all-encompassing epic. The result is a road movie with entirely too much baggage, a slog through the mires of exposition and special effects. With all the dwarves, wizards, hobbits, orcs, wargs, elves, spiders, dragons, man-bears, enchanted forests, magic keyholes, prophecies, rings, arrows, gems, political themes, love stories, comic relief, fight scenes, and general spectacle Jackson has managed to cram in, he can hardly be blamed if there's not much room for character or felt life. Getting all the pieces in place, that's the main thing; motive and personality can be adjusted as the occasion warrants, and acting is often optional. But if you look closely, you might notice Martin Freeman doing his best with the titular role. And even if you close your eyes, you won't be able to help noticing Benedict Cumberbatch's booming, growling, rasping take on the dragon Smaug. 2013.