‘Into the Woods’ leaps from musical theater to movie theaters

Into the Woods

Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Available on VOD on Tuesday

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s work is one of the great achievements of American musical theater: a mash-up of classic fairy tales that’s funny, tuneful and refreshingly honest about the impossibility of “happily ever after.” “Chicago” director Rob Marshall’s big-screen version isn’t the best possible that could’ve been made — it lacks humor and trims the second act until all the big emotional moments come in quick, numbing succession — but the songs and story still work, and the cast is top-notch. Meryl Streep gets most of the attention as the wicked witch who kickstarts the plot, but Emily Blunt is likably down-to-Earth as a peasant, Anna Kendrick is outstanding as Cinderella, and Chris Pine makes for a hilarious Prince Charming. The DVD and Blu-ray are musts for Sondheim fans, not just because of the wealth of behind-the-scenes material but also because they contain a new song, cut from the film.

The Thin Blue Line

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

The Criterion Collection’s association with documentarian Errol Morris continues with his two most essential films: 1988’s “The Thin Blue Line,” a true crime story that helped get an innocent man out of prison, and 1978’s “Gates of Heaven,” a poignant and tragicomic movie about pet cemeteries. (The latter is being paired on DVD and Blu-ray with 1981’s “Vernon, Florida,” a shorter doc about the eccentric residents of a small Southern town.) Criterion’s discs add new Morris interviews and archival material, but more important, they offer sparkling digital restorations of two documentaries that helped redefine the form into something more cinematic.



Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD on Tuesday

On paper, Angelina Jolie’s latest directorial effort looked like can’t-miss awards-bait: a stirring true story about an Olympian who was a prisoner of war during in World War II, told by a creative team that includes cinematographer Roger Deakins and screenwriters Richard LaGravenese and Joel and Ethan Coen. But while a lot of the wartime footage is spectacular — including a sequence where Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) is surrounded by sharks after crashing into the Pacific — the needlessly jumbled timeline and prison-camp clichés render much of the movie inert. It’s glossy and stodgy, almost as though Jolie were self-consciously trying to make a prestige picture rather than something personal and passionate. The DVD and Blu-ray look more at the real Zamperini via a generous set of featurettes.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $44.95

Available on VOD on Tuesday

The final chapter of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy in 2003 was a major event (and an Oscar magnet), but while the last part of “The Hobbit” hasn’t draw anywhere near the same attention, it’s made just as much money, banking nearly a billion dollars worldwide. “The Lord of the Rings” movies will stand the test of time as classics of the genre. “The Hobbit” films are more run-of-the-mill, made for people who prefer spectacle to story. By the end, Peter Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations had become noisy, exotic fantasy worlds — fun to visit for three-hour stretches but easy to leave behind when the journey’s done. “The Battle of the Five Armies” DVD and Blu-ray add Jackson’s usual wealth of extras.


John Ford: Dreaming the Quiet Man

Olive, $24.95; Blu-ray, $29.95

Song One

Cinedigm, $14.93; Blu-ray, $19.97

The Sure Thing: 30th Anniversary Edition

Shout! Factory Blu-ray, $24.97