On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 11, 2013



Taking on anything that has occupied such a space in popular culture as massive as The Wizard of Oz is always a risk. When first hearing the news that Sam Raimi (the original Evil Dead and the original Spider-Man trilogy) would be directing a prequel to arguably the most popular film in cinematic history I was both concerned and enchanted by the idea. The possibilities of what it could address seemed endless and the world so large that it might be impossible to capture in a single feature. What Raimi and his gang have ended up concocting though is certainly something of a sprawling epic, but to take a cue from the titular hero it is a good film, not a great one. There is plenty to enjoy here, visuals to entice and characters to laugh and marvel at as references abound to that oh so familiar movie that has an all encompassing track into part of our childhood. Whether it be simple things such as the red smoke and fireballs the wicked witch utilizes or the poppy field that is brought back for good measure in this insightful but sometimes slow, sometimes bland film. I hate to sound as if I didn't like the film because that isn't true. I actually enjoyed the experience very much, made better by the full audience that had their predictable reactions ready and willing to fire at every expected and intended moment. I loved the imagination of Raimi and his team of artists that have rendered a version of OZ the makers of the original could have only imagined, bit for all that gloss and digital effects wizardry (for lack of a better word) there is still something missing about the movie; something that elevates it from simply being an enjoyable experience to a memorable one. I had fun re-visiting OZ and its winding yellow brick road, but odds are this adventure, no matter its title, will never be lumped into the same category as Victor Fleming's picture. C+

Who knew there was any downside to being The Rock? Excuse me, I mean Dwayne Johnson. If the guy didn't seem genuinely nice or completely charming all the time you'd be crazy to assume there was anything wrong with being this bulking, perfectly chiseled statue of a man. Turns out, even the smartest of actors, the nicest of guys can sometimes become confined to what they do best for those exact reasons. Thus is the issue we run into with Snitch and what takes us out of the film rather than complimenting it. While what we usually expect from Johnson is a good old fashioned taking the trash out type story with a different style to elicit diversity among films, what he is trying to do here is restrain those natural instincts, putting himself in an everyman role and it is simply hard to believe this large, bulking guy as someone who would be intimidated so easily. It is absolutely a case of the actors reputation dictating their screen persona even if that actor is trying to break out (at least a little bit) from the standard roles he or she is constantly offered. It is admirable that Johnson would want to branch out and try to take on material more challenging for him, helping him develop his dramatic acting skills, but Snitch still wants to be an action movie and you can feel it. Sometimes it even seems Johnson is waiting on the action to start along with us. Having released three other films since this one in late February (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Pain & Gain, Furious 6) that play more to his strengths it reaffirms that Snitch was the one he did "for him". The film has its fair share of issues but more than anything it suffers from a bad case of miscasting. This isn't Johnson's fault though as he does the best he can and turns in a rather surprisingly satisfying and meaningful performance that doesn't bring down the story as much as he could have. C

Where to even begin with something such as Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? To be honest I was somewhat excited for this film despite the fact knowing going in that it was probably going to be pretty bad. I read the Seth Grahame-Smith novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter last spring in anticipation of the summer film adaptation but was sorely let down by that film (though it has improved to a fun, campy thrill on repeat viewings). It must have really burned the producers of this film to see that action/horror mash-up make it out of the gate first as this film has was complete for a year before that film and did little more than collect dust on Paramount's shelves. I can only think that after the release of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol the producers wanted to wait out 2012 and let Jeremy Renner become even bigger star with The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy which might guarantee them a bigger draw when they dropped it on unsuspecting movie-goers in late January (I guess this worked as thanks to international box office returns we will be getting a sequel). The actual film proves that with a ridiculous, even outrageous premise one might still find an audience in those looking to see their favorite childhood fairy tales adapted for the big screen with a dark twist to them. The film is about as brainless as you might expect, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have a pretty great time watching. It flew by at a rip roaring pace and delivered grand entertainment value on a limited scale. I know it's dumb, I realize it will be completely forgotten about in a few months time, but I also know I became immersed in their world and didn't mind spending the hour and a half they required tagging along and killing some witches.  D+

For Past DVD & Blu-Ray Releases Click Here.