In this week’s new Blu-rays, Disney cashes in on one of the most beloved family films of all time with a gaudy 3D prequel, fairy tales get reimagined in ways no one ever wanted, and The Rock delivers the first of seemingly dozens of movies he’ll star in this year.
Blatantly patterned after Tim Burton’s 3D ‘Alice in Wonderland‘, Disney hoped for another billion-dollar blockbuster with ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful‘, the long-in-development CGI-fest prequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz‘. That the film only pulled in about $500 million was no doubt seen as a disappointment, even though it’s currently the second highest-grossing movie of the year so far. Based on the trailers, I’m amazed that it did that well. But I thought the same about ‘Alice in Wonderland’, so what do I know? Sam Raimi seems like entirely the wrong director for a family flick like this, and it was evident even from the TV ads how poor a casting choice James Franco would be. Nevertheless, the movie is shiny and colorful, and has 3D crap poking out of the screen, and that seems to be all it takes to entertain children these days.
For the Blu-ray, Disney made a controversial decision to segregate the 2D and 3D editions to separate releases. (Most 3D releases, especially for family movies like this, come bundled with a standard 2D disc for backwards compatibility or the ability to watch in a different room.) Already facing a backlash over that, the studio has hastily shoved coupons into the packaging that will allow you to purchase the 2D disc for an additional $5.99. Gee, thanks. If you’d rather bypass that hassle, consider importing the UK edition (street date July 1st) that will include both copies right in the case. Or just don’t buy it at all, which is my plan.
Jeremy Renner may not have yet reached the vaunted leagues of A-List superstars like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, but I still feel like he doesn’t need to be slumming in crap like ‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters‘. If the title alone didn’t put you off, the trailers certainly did. The movie was a big flop, and I have a hard time believing that surprised anyone. I mean, it has a grown-up Hansel and Gretel hunting witches – in 3D. Why? How did this get made? Who greenlit this?
In the first of many movies and TV projects he has on the docket this year, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hops on a broomstick and kicks ass as the world’s greatest Fantasy Quidditch champion… Wait, that’s not the plot of ‘Snitch‘? Too bad. The movie would be so much more interesting if it were. I guess we’ll have to settle for The Rock suplexing drug dealers, or whatever he does in this one. I like The Rock, but this looks like generic direct-to-video fodder.
Disney animation fell into a significant lull through much of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Lately, the studio has taken to churning second-tier titles from that period (regardless of possible artistic merit or even if they returned a modest profit) out onto Blu-ray force-bundled with their crappy DTV sequels. This week brings us the flawed-but-underrated ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire‘, the charming ‘Lilo & Stitch‘, and the misbegotten comedy ‘The Emperor’s New Groove‘. I’m a fan of at least the first two of these, especially the genuinely wonderful ‘Lilo’. Although its meta-upon-meta-upon-meta humor has developed a cult following, I’ve never warmed to ‘Groove’. While I don’t necessarily dislike it, I find the story behind its making (the film was originally intended to be a serious epic until Disney execs shifted gears and decided to turn it into a parody at the last minute) more interesting than the movie itself.
Warner is reissuing Bruce Lee’s breakthrough hit ‘Enter the Dragon‘. The film was previously released on Blu-ray in the early days of the format in a compromised disc with a flawed transfer and only lossy Dolby Digital audio. The new 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition will correct those issues, plus add new bonus features and collectible art cards. I think that this will be a good excuse for me to finally retire my HD DVD copy.
The Criterion Collection upgrades Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece ‘Wild Strawberries‘ to high definition. In other highbrow developments of equal cultural import, Synapse Films unleashes the 1987 cult horror comedy ‘Street Trash‘. (Here’s an interesting article about the trouble that Synapse went through to get a decent transfer for the movie.)
Indie distributor Twilight Time offers a limited edition of Walter Hill’s 1975 ‘Hard Times‘, starring Charles Bronson as a Depression-era street boxer. At one point, Twilight Time had also announced a simultaneous release of Hill’s 1978 action flick ‘The Driver’, but that one appears to have been postponed without explanation.
For those, like me, who don’t subscribe to Netflix, this week’s Blu-ray release will make a good opportunity to catch up with Kevin Spacey’s political drama ‘House of Cards‘. I hope this bodes well for the new season of ‘Arrested Development’ as well.
If you read any of my recaps last summer, you may remember that I wasn’t much impressed with Aaron Sorkin’s latest drama, ‘The Newsroom‘. As is evident in his Blu-ray review, Shannon was a much bigger fan of the show. I’ve asked him to take over recapping duties when the series returns this summer. I don’t know how much more of it I can take.
Finally, Image breaks out the third season of the classic ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show‘, but the complete series box set remains a better value at current prices.
I’m in for ‘Lilo’, ‘Atlantis’ and ‘Wild Strawberries’ – but I wish that I wasn’t forced to buy the crummy Disney sequels to get those first two. I’ll also try to upgrade ‘Enter the Dragon’ at some point, though I’ll probably wait for a smaller package without the unnecessary swag. Will you buy anything this week?