Oz the Great and Powerful
Someday, film historians will debate which expensively produced "reimagining" of a classic children's novel from a director better known for his macabre production design in earlier movies was the less necessary and/or less welcome and/or less enjoyable: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland or Sam Raimi's Oz The Great And Powerful.
In the title role of Oz, James Franco is so somnambulant that you may find yourself wondering if Raimi used only takes from rehearsals; he's about as believable as a carnival showman as he was as an Oscar host. He's joined by three very famous ladies — Mila Kunis, Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz — as the Oz witches. I assume the latter two took their roles so that their kids could see them on film in an age-appropriate (if boring and sexist) context; Kunis has no such excuse (and the most thankless part).
But perhaps I'm being too harsh on OTGAP: If your favorite character in The Wizard of Oz was the eventually unmasked charlatan with no magical powers whatsoever, this is most assuredly the movie for you.
New and Notable
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Notably humorless Jeremy Renner might have been a bad choice to co-headline this campy, violent retelling of the fairy tale.
Remember when Judi Dench starred with Vin Diesel in The Chronicles of Riddick? No? Well, this movie costarring Susan Sarandon and The Rock is probably better anyway.
The story of Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of Czech and Slovak children during WWII, is told through reenactments in this documentary.
Finally, a horror film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola that brings together Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning!
I Want My Name Back
Seminal hip-hop artists The Sugarhill Gang tell their story in this documentary.
Everybody Has a Plan
What's hotter than Viggo Mortensen speaking Russian in Eastern Promises? … Actually, nothing. But Viggo Mortensen speaking Spanish in Everybody Has a Plan looks pretty good too.
DeSean Jackson: The Making of a Father's Dream
A documentary 18 years in the making, about how a little boy became an NFL star.
A martial arts instructor turned bodyguard has pretty much the worst first day possible when his clients are kidnapped.
It's Romeo and Juliet, in Jamaica, starring a young Idris Elba. (REALLY young: The movie's 10 years old.)
If you missed this adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's book when it was on NatGeo and/or want to compare Daniel Day-Lewis's Lincoln to Billy Campbell's, here's this.
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
As Cool as I Am
What happens when teen parents have a kid and then that kid gets to be the age they were when they had her and notices that they're self-involved jerks? That's what this movie — starring Claire Danes and James Marsden as the parents and In America’s Sarah Bolger as the kid — is about.
Opportunistic Backlist Revival Theme of the Week: "Kids' Monsters"
In advance of Monsters University next week, help prepare your children for monsters that are funny, not scary, with this collection, including titles like ParaNorman, Coraline, Happily N'Ever After 2: Snow White, the two live-action Scooby-Doo movies, a few of the Shreks, and a few that are good but maybe not right for really little kids, like Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Gremlins, and Beetlejuice — which you should watch again after the kids go to sleep. It holds up!
Weird Indie of the Week
A Rubberband Is an Unlikely Instrument
An obscure musician apparently tries to resist the realities of adult life in this documentary.
A shocking number of Oscar winners decided it would be funny to torch their reputations by appearing in this super-gross-out anthology. From what I hear, it was not.