New movies this week
Oz the Great and Powerful
The gist: A prequel to the cultural touchstone, about James Franco becoming the wizard everyone keeps seeking out. Although we have to wonder, did no one learn anything from The Phantom Menace? Or Return to Oz, for that matter? PG
The cast: Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff and Joey King.
The buzz: It's kind of a split-decision with critics, but the biggest question is why did Sam Raimi make this? "It's not bad. Some bits are enjoyable. But ultimately, other than some genuinely impressive visuals, it never makes a compelling enough case to justify its existence," the Arizona Republic says.
Dead Man Down
The gist: A WWE Films production using the director from the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the guy from the Total Recall and Fright Night remakes tied up in some messy mobster business. It's a long way from No Holds Barred. Or is it? R
The cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howards, Dominic Cooper and Armand Assante.
The buzz: Precisely no reviews, which can mean one of two things: It's so shockingly good they don't want to spoil the surprise, or it's so shockingly bad it could end careers. Or be on WWE Monday Night Raw. You can imagine which one we're guessing.
The gist: A recounting of what happened in Japan during post-war occupation by the Americans, who are undecided about whether to execute Emperor Hirohito or not. Spoiler: They didn't. PG-13
The cast: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Toshiyuki Nishida and Masayoshi Haneda.
The buzz: Uneven and often uninteresting, which is surprising, given the movie's historical subject matter. "Satisfied to serve popcorn in place of red meat, this potboiler about love and war is merely fair," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says.
Greedy Lying Bastards
The gist: Ever wonder why, despite killer hurricanes, endless drought, ever-present flooding and increasingly frequent blizzards brought on by scientifically proven human causation, there is little being done to curb global warming? Because rich people who own a lot more than you do and have convinced you to call it climate change want to make more billions, that's why.
The cast: Talking heads, rich people, normal folks suffering from disasters and a sense that you're leaving your children a desolate hellscape without taking any responsibility for it.
The buzz: The few places that have seen this documentary (it's playing at the Veterans 24 and nowhere else) have liked it an awful lot, if only because they have the gall to not see a downside to helping create a more enviro-friendly society. "(It) shines a harsh light on the lengths the energy industry continues to go to in order to head off climate-related legislation — and assure the public there's nothing wrong with continuing to rely on fossil fuels," the Village Voice says.
— Joshua Gillin firstname.lastname@example.org