Relativity Media//Rated PG//Fantasy//106 minutes
Julia Roberts portrays an aging queen determined to hang onto her beauty as a means to power. To keep both her rivals and "crinkles" at bay, her highness orders stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins), to remain locked away in her room. The queen's beauty treatments employ parakeet poop and bee stings, but fearing these measures are not enough, she resorts to black magic. Cheeky and narcissistic, the queen is a combustible mix with the woman in her mirror, a reflection with an evil sense of humor responsible for conjuring her beauty magic. While the queen is a more interesting version of "The Housewives of New York," Snow White suffers from her lackluster characterization and Collins inexperience. Nathan Lane, appearing as the queen's errand boy Brighton, is a study in witty line delivery and physical comedy. His cowardice compels him to do her bidding, but he flounders, allowing Snow White to escape when the queen orders Brighton to feed her to the beast. The girl is subsequently sheltered by seven tiny thieves played by actual dwarfs. For their stealing sprees, the dwarfs hilariously don special black suits transforming them into tall, acrobatic beings that might have sprung from an impressionist's painting of a circus act. Meanwhile, the young and wealthy Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) is twice attacked and stripped to his skivvys by the dwarfs. The queen's mirror-ego makes him magically fall in puppy love with the money-hungry queen, an inspired form of ardor that involves much licking and fetching. The film's displaced Bollywood coda aside, Roberts and Lane gamely vie for our affections and win it by the hair of their chinny chin chins. DVD Features: Looking through the mirror, Prince and puppies, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles. Blu-ray Features same plus: Deleted scenes, I believe I can dance, Mirror Mirror storybook.
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed by Daniel Nettheim
Starring Willem Dafoe, Frances O'Connor, Sam Neill, Morgana Davies, Finn Woodlock, Jacek Koman
Magnolia//Rated R//Drama//102 minutes
Available on: DVD
"The Hunter," briefly released in L.A. and NYC, is that rare sleeper that challenges viewers to reconsider our definition of a good man. Martin (Willem Dafoe) is hired by military biotech company Red Leaf to recover biological samples from the last remaining Tasmanian tiger in Australia. Martin's home base is to be the remote cabin-home of an eco-activist and his family, but soon after arriving Martin learns the activist has been missing for months. Unable to deal with the loss, the activist's wife Lucy (Frances O'Connor), remains in a bedridden stupor. Their children, Sass (Morgana Davies) and her younger brother, Bike (Finn Woodlock), do as they like, but are desperately worried about their parent. Martin initially avoids the grieving family, leaving for 12-day, high-tech hunting quests, returning only to resupply and rest. Over the course of his stays, Martin begins to connect with the kids, and repairs the family's broken generator -- its source of power. The family's one friend is Jack (Sam Neill), a neighbor who regularly appears bearing food along with the pills and booze that paralyze Lucy until Martin sobers her up. For a time, Martin, Lucy and the kids compromise happy until Red Leaf applies pressure to his search and local loggers become evermore hostile towards Martin's claimed wildlife study. Equal parts drama and thriller, Martin can't foresee the consequences of his actions, but this well-written script takes the action to credible and uncomfortable places that prompt the viewer to wonder what we might have done in his place. DVD Features: Commentary with Director Daniel Nettheim and Producer Vincent Sheehan, Making of The Hunter: The Story, The Characters, Tasmania, The Tiger, Deleted Scenes with Commentary, Theatrical Trailer, English language tracks, Spanish subtitles.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS
* *1/2 (B-)
Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
Lionsgate//Rated R//Comedy//110 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, On Demand, Digital Download