This week we’re off to see the wizard:
Sam Raimi directs and James Franco stars in this colorful, entertaining film based on the books of L. Frank Baum. It wisely never pretends to be a remake of the revered The Wizard of Oz, but instead passes for a prequel of sorts.
Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay picks up Oscar Diggs (Franco) in rural Kansas passing as a sideshow magician. Before long, a tornado hits, and he moves from a narrow-screen, black-and-white world into the wide-screen, glistening magical land of Oz.
Unfortunately for Oscar, however, he lands in the middle of a squabble between good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) and the evil witch sisters Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Theodora (Mila Kunis). Oscar becomes Oz, the prophesied wizard who will save the kingdom, while also proving himself worthy.
The film sports many familiar Oz touchstones, such as a yellow brick road, Munchkins and flying monkeys. Nothing can match the 1939 Wizard of Oz, but this one proves worthy, with exceptional special effects complementing the bright costumes and imaginative settings.
The DVD, in all formats, offers five minutes of bloopers, a 22-minute personal reminiscence from and directed by Franco, a seven-minute featurette on Danny Elfman’s music, 11 minutes on Robert Stromberg’s production designs, eight minutes on Howard Berger’s makeup for Kunis, five minutes on creating the China Girl character, and a 10-minute look at Walt Disney’s interest in and fondness for Baum’s Oz books. The DVD also includes Disney’s interactive four-part “Second Screen Experience” for download and additional materials.
Snitch -- Dwayne Johnson stars in this action-thriller as a father bent on finding justice for his son, whom he believes has been set up on a busted drug deal.
Dad strikes a deal with a federal prosecutor (Susan Sarandon) and then goes undercover, infiltrating a Mexican drug cartel with the reluctant help of one of his employees (Jon Bernthal). Director Ric Roman Waugh saves most of his action-fireworks until the third act, when he delivers some exciting chases and gun fights.
Rated PG-13, 112 minutes. The DVD, in all formats and various combo packs, includes director and editor commentary, four deleted scenes, and four separate “making of” featurettes, totaling around 50 minutes.
A Guy Named Joe -- The Warner Archive Collection only now releases this manufactured-on-demand disc of a film that was overwhelmingly popular when released in 1943.
A Guy Named Joe caught on in the middle of World War II by celebrating the exploits of the brave pilots fighting in the war. Plus, it touched several themes close to American audiences, such as the loss of a loved one, an afterlife for those taken in war, loyalty, unnecessary risk-taking and, most painfully, the need to know when to let go.
Screen favorite Spencer Tracy plays the intrepid Pete, a risk-taking pilot who pushes his luck, even when knowing, according to his fiancee Dorinda (Irene Dunn), that his “number is up.”
When he does meet his fate, he discovers himself in heaven, with an accompanying angel (Barry Nelson). There, the Boss (Lionel Barrymore) assigns him to help earthly pilots, a task he grudgingly undertakes. He sits in behind rookie flier Ted (Van Johnson), who eventually wins Pete’s approval, even when Ted and Dorinda inevitably fall in love.
Victor Fleming (Gone With the Wind) directed from a screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, who later became one of the blacklisted “Hollywood 10” and won two screenwriting Oscars under pseudonyms. A Guy Named Joe was remade by Steven Spielberg as Always (1989). Not rated, 121 minutes.
The Philadelphia Experiment -- In this Syfy channel remake of the 1984 science-fiction thriller of the same name, Nicholas Lea stars as one of the people more than confused when the U.S.S. Eldridge, a 1943 battleship, turns up sitting on top of a runway at a local airfield. Seems the ship was once part of a secret government experiment to make things invisible.
But instead of matching Harry Potter’s cloak, the long-dead scientists unleashed a weapon that keeps turning up at different places. Michael Paré, who appeared in the original, takes a supporting role here as a bad guy out to cover up the government’s evil-doings.
With Ryan Robbins, Gina Holden, Emilie Ullerup and Malcolm McDowell. Rated PG-13, 89 minutes.
And, finally, our week’s TV arrivals:
Major Crimes: The Complete First Season Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) left The Closer, but the Los Angeles Major Crimes division fights on with most of the returning regulars in this still-entertaining police procedural. Prickly Capt. Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) takes over the department, causing resentment from Lt. Louie Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and Lt. Andy Flynn (Tony Denison).
The season again solves some grisly homicides, many taken from real-life cases. Capt. Raydor finds additional upheaval in her personal life when she volunteers to bring home and then foster teen crime witness Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin).
With Raymond Cruz, Michael Paul Chan, Kearron Giovanni and Phillip P. Keene. Not rated, about 7 hours.
The season’s 10 episodes come on three discs. Included are 11-minute and 18-minute “making of” featurettes, as well as a six-minute interview with Martin and four minutes with new cast member Giovanni. Plus: A four-minute gag reel, and more.
Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Third Season Wise-cracking Boston police homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) begin this third season as “frenemies” before they reconcile and pick up their more natural bickering ways.
This season sees the aftermath of the shooting of Isles’ mobster father (John Doman), as well as the return of Rizzoli’s prodigal father (Chazz Palminteri). He returns just long enough to have clan mother Angela Rizzoli (Lorraine Bracco) sign divorce papers. Also, both Rizzoli and Isles find obstacles in what they initially believe might be budding relationships with promising mates.
Not rated, about 10 1/2 hours. The 15 episodes come on three discs. The set also includes a nine-minute “making of” featurette, seven interview-profiles on seven of the main characters, four minutes of bloopers, and four separate featurettes running around four minutes each on various series topics.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, House of Cards: The Complete First Season, Newsroom: The Complete First Season.