This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Oz the Great and Powerful, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Snitch ...
► Of all the things I never thought I’d see after ‘The Evil Dead’ 30 years ago, Sam Raimi making a Disney movie would be right up there. But here he is, trying to satisfy both fans of the original movie and Frank L. Baum books with OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. Set 20 years before the events in the 1939 movie, James Franco plays a small-time circus magician whose hot air balloon gets sucked into a tornado and dumped in the land of munchkins and flying monkeys. There, he tries helping the townsfolk figure out the good witches from the wicked. Hint: Even as a green witch, Rachel Weisz is pretty hot.
► ‘Dead Snow’ director Tommy Wirkola’s HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is some slick-looking junk food. In fact, with its cartoonish beheadings, disembowelings and all-around splatter, it feels like the sequel to ‘Army of Darkness’ we’ve waited 20 years for. It could use Sam Raimi’s aloof touch, however. It’s fun in short doses, with Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the fairy tale kids all grown up, bounty hunting witches across the land. Famke Janssen plays their wicked nemesis with campy gusto. Unlike some ‘extended cuts,’ this one delivers the gore.
► The movie that made an entire generation of kids Bruce Lee fanatics in the ‘70s, ENTER THE DRAGON is like two very different movies. One is a cheesy, horribly-acted thriller with a plot soon to be recycled in a thousand video games. The other has some of the most brilliantly-choreographed, intense martial arts scenes which still hold up fabulous today. You simply can’t watch this movie without wondering what Lee would do next. Uh, besides fight Kareem Abdul Jabbar. 40th Anniversary Blu-ray features all new stuff, including a new documentary and intro by Lee’s wife Linda.
► This year isn’t even past the six-month mark, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has already released five movies. He also did a few months on Raw and headlined Wrestlemania 29. Check your kitchen, The Rock is probably making dinner. In-between his bigger flicks this year, SNITCH may be the best of the bunch with Johnson as a construction worker who goes undercover to nail a drug cartel in order to spare his son from a prison sentence.
► You'll know whether THE NEWSROOM is for you five minutes into its already classic opening scene. Aaron Sorkin's 'state of the union' address, as rendered by fed-up news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), sets the tone for everything that follows. Blustery and long-winded, sure, but it's one of the rare shows that has its own stubborn agenda and a need to say something profound every week. Each episode, a real-life news crisis (the show is set a few years back) allows Sorkin to vent about 'what it all means' while commenting with the convenience of hindsight. It gets a bit preachy and forced at times, but there's some spectacular writing here and a genuine sense of anger at the state we're in. The show's soap opera tangents are meant as a reprieve from Sorkin's ponderous dialogue, but they feel awkwardly tacked on. 'The Newsroom' works best when it's at full rant.
► Director Quentin Dupieux ('Rubber') gets his weird on for WRONG, about the one thing every man fears most: Losing his dog. For Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnik), the search for his missing pooch leads to a quest where nothing is really as it seems. Jaded, surreal, but with a slight 'Being John Malkovich' vibe. Won't take long before you realize it isn't about the dog, but one dude's rejection of everything he hates in life.
► Before serving up a whole season of ‘Arrested Development,’ Netflix tested the waters with HOUSE OF CARDS, A U.S. version of a BBC miniseries about a Democrat from South Carolina (Kevin Spacey) who gets screwed over for Secretary of State, and serves up payback for everyone who betrayed him. First two episodes were directed by David Fincher.
► Playing TV’s first big lawyer, Raymond Burr starts wrapping shit up in the ninth and final season of PERRY MASON. By now the show was out of the Top 30 and viewers had moved on to Batman and Star Trek and such, but Burr was fantastic right to the end … which comes in August when the second half of the season is released (grrr). This wasn’t the end for Burr in the role, however. Not even close. He went on to make 26 made-for-TV Perry Mason movies until his death in 1993.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!