DVD reviews: 'Oz the Great and Powerful,' Hansel & Gretel' and 'Snitch'
“Oz The Great and Powerful” (2013, PG, 130 min., $29.99) Returning to the magical land of Oz can be a difficult task for any director, even if it is Sam Raimi. “Oz the Great and Powerful” serves as a prequel to the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” and it's best not to compare the two films. Victor Fleming's legendary flick has captured the imaginations of millions, and that will continue. Raimi's pic is a lot of fun, and it re-creates a beautiful world filled with bright colors and a great collection of characters. Unfortunately, it lacks some story depth and feels a bit shallow in revisiting a world created by L. Frank Baum in his 1900 novel. Starring an A-list cast — Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff and James Franco — the film basically sets the table for the arrival of Dorothy. It opens up with the Wizard (Franco) working as a magician in a traveling circus in Kansas. When a tornado wipes him away, he wakes up in Oz. It's here where he is told he's fulfilling a prophecy, and he has to defeat a couple of wicked witches (Weisz and Kunis), and deliver Oz back to a time of peace. As far as extras go, nobody does better than Disney, and the package that makes up “Oz the Great and Powerful” is no different. Blu-ray buyers will find enough featurettes to last for a few days of viewing, and every angle of Raimi's film is covered. Those stuck with standard DVDs only get bloopers and a single featurette on Disney's history with Oz. 2.5 Stars.
“Snitch” (2013, PG-13, 112 min., $29.95) Wrestler Dwayne Johnson broke into acting a number of years ago, but with “Snitch,” viewers get a real chance to see how much he's taken to the craft. Indeed, Johnson is the best part of director Ric Roman Waugh's standard dramatic thriller. Even though the plot for “Snitch” is far-fetched, Johnson gives it a layer of believability with a steady performance that has the hulking performer grounded in reality. Johnson assumes the role of John, a father who's forced to help his son (Rafi Gavron) get out of jail. After receiving drugs in the mail from a friend in a misunderstanding, John's son is tossed in jail by the DEA. John volunteers his help to cut his son's jail time. Using his construction company and some help from an employee (Jon Bernthal) with a checkered past, John promises to get the DEA a major player in the drug trade, but soon gets in over his head. Extras on Blu-ray and DVD are the same, and include an excellent making-of documentary. Commentary and deleted scenes also are available. 2.5 Stars.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” (2013, R, 88 min., $29.99) If they were still around, the Brothers Grimm probably wouldn't feel too good about “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” a disappointing adaptation of a story they published in 1812. Directed by Tommy Wirkola, the film kicks off with a telling of the actual fairy tale before going into the meat of the movie. Since their experience with a witch as young children, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have become witch hunters. They travel between villages, exterminating witches. Their latest mission has the team working in a village that's experienced kidnappings. Hansel and Gretel begin to investigate, and soon realize they're facing a witch (Famke Janssen) with extraordinary powers. While the film delivers a few good action sequences and the great services of Renner and Arterton, there's not much else. As far as fairy tale films go, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is one of the worst. The story doesn't offer much depth, and it settles for an unusual amount of gore. There aren't too many extras available, but they're not bad. Three making-of featurettes exclusive to Blu-ray provide a lot of info. Unfortunately, no extras on standard DVD. 1.5 Stars.
“The Law in These Parts” (2011, NR, 100 min., $29.95) A winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries during its run at the Sundance Film Festival, director Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's fascinating picture explores the 44-year-old military legal system held by Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, also known as the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Knife Fight” (2012, R, 100 min., $24.98) A good group of actors — Rob Lowe, Carrie-Anne Moss, Julie Bowen and Jamie Chung — is assembled for this political film about a strategist who specializes in getting his candidates out of trouble and back into public office. When his body of work starts to haunt him, though, he finds a different way in politics.
“Vivan Las Antipodas” (2013, NR, 108 min., $29.95) Documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky provides a visual feast for viewers with this beautiful film that looks at antipodes, two areas located diametrically opposite to each other on the earth's surface. In this case, Kossakovsky explores between Entre Rios in Argentina and China's Shanghai.
“The Taste of Money” (2012, NR, 115 min., $24.98) In this film from South Korea, a wealthy couple battle against each other after the sleazy husband has an affair. This leads the wife to find revenge by seducing her personal secretary. It's a move that shakes things up.
“Betty & Coretta” (2012, NR, 90 min., $19.98) Their husbands got most of the ink, but these wives played important parts in history, as well. In a movie that originally aired on Lifetime, Angela Bassett plays Coretta Scott King and Mary J. Blige, Dr. Betty Shabazz (wife of Malcolm X), in a film that details the unique relationship between these two women.
“Fred Won't Move Out” (2012, NR, 74 min., $24.99) Elliott Gould and Judith Roberts star in this film written and directed by Richard Ledes. The picture details the relationship between elderly parents and their grown children. The children want to move their father into an assisted-living facility, but he's not nearly ready to leave his own home.
“The Philadelphia Experiment” (2012, PG-13, 89 min., $24.99) This remake of the 1984 science fiction film of the same name made its debut on the Syfy Channel. Again, secret government projects, especially the cloaking of warships around the time of 1943, are the centerpiece of the film's plot. Did the government actually pull it off?
“Dead Man's Burden” (2012, NR, 93 min., $26.95) Fitting firmly into the western genre, this picture focuses on a family struggling to make due in rural New Mexico soon after the Civil War. Things become more complicated when a family member from the past, long-thought dead, returns. David Call and Clare Bowen lead the cast.
“The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” (1993, NR, 82 min., $29.95) Filmmaker Jerry Aronson's powerful documentary on writer Allen Ginsberg finds new life on DVD. Aronson's portrait of Ginsberg explores the icon's life through the 200 hours of film he compiled on the literary legend remembered for groundbreaking works such as “Howl.”
“The Monk” (2013, R, 101 min., $29.95) French actor Vincent Cassel takes the lead role of a monk struggling with temptation in this thriller from filmmaker Dominik Moll. The feature was adapted from Matthew Lewis' novel of the same name. Cassel is Ambrosio, a monk that's fallen on hard times with seduction entering his rather quiet life.
“The Last Ride” (2011, PG-13, 114 min., $29.99) Arguably the greatest country music star that ever lived — Hank Williams — is the centerpiece of this film from Harry Thomason. The film takes viewers into Williams' life on stage with a series of concerts throughout West Virginia and Ohio. Fred Dalton Thompson, Henry Thomas and Jesse James star.
TV ON DVD
“The Newsroom: The Complete First Season” (Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston, four discs, 10 episodes, $59.99)
“Perry Mason: The Ninth and Final Season, Volume 1” (Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, four discs, 15 episodes)
“Ring of Fire” (Terry O'Quinn and Michael Vartan, one disc, four-hour miniseries, $19.97)
“Digimon: Digimon Tamers” (animated series, eight discs, 51 episodes, $79.95)