This week’s Cinema and TV home video releases are anchored by Snow White and the Huntsman

This week’s Cinema and TV home video releases are anchored by an ensemble comedy about the joys of parenthood and an update of the beloved Snow White fairy tale.

Snow White and the Huntsman

3 stars (out of four)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality

Universal

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Hollywood has been fixated with the Snow White saga lately, as the character is not only a mainstay on the TV show “Once Upon a Time,” she showed up earlier this year in director Tarsem Singh’s “Mirror Mirror.” Fortunately for viewers, each take on the fairy tale princess has been different, and “Snow White and the Huntsman” offers the darkest vision of all.

The movie introduces Snow (Kristen Stewart) as the daughter of King Magnus (Noah Huntley), a benevolent leader who falls into depression when his wife dies. Sensing an opportunity, the evil sorceress Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tricks the king into marrying her, then murders him in his bed. This leaves young Snow parentless, and Ravenna imprisons her. Eventually, after Snow has grown to womanhood, she escapes, prompting Ravenna to send a skilled hunter (Chris Hemsworth) to recapture her.

Most viewers are familiar with Disney’s version of Snow White, but this film – although it possesses plot similarities – has a significantly different tone. More “Lord of the Rings” than Disney, a sense of foreboding hangs over most scenes, and Snow isn’t the naïve, free-spirited youth depicted in so many versions of her story. Stewart makes her a strong-willed and confident woman who, frankly, is a better female role model. As an actress, Stewart is often wooden, and she doesn’t break out of her shell here. Fortunately, the role doesn’t require great emotional swings, so she is adequate throughout.

More inspiring is Hemsworth, a talented young actor who is best known for playing the Marvel comic book hero Thor. The heavily muscled star is completely believable as an action hero, but his performances also have a pleasant, nuanced theatricality.

As evil queens go, it’s hard to imagine a better choice than Theron. She paints Ravenna as a stunningly beautiful woman who is so selfish and vain that the lives of others mean nothing to her, and this is an ideal reading.

Director Rupert Sanders – who has received more press for his affair with Stewart than his work on the film – did a fine job with the look of the feature, crafting a number of stunning visual sequences. The only knock on his work is that the pacing drags periodically, but this problem isn’t severe. It merely slows an otherwise outstanding reinvention of a classic storybook tale.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include an extended version of the film, a making-of feature and an audio commentary featuring Sanders and several members of his crew.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

2 stars

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.

Lionsgate

Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Readers of the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book may wonder how the self-help guide could possibly be adapted to a film, and this is a reasonable question. Although the book has helped countless couples navigate their way through pregnancy, it has no characters or plot. Nevertheless, Shauna Cross and Heather Hach credit the well-known tome as inspiration for their screenplay about couples preparing for parenthood.

The main theme of the film seems to be that parenting is a frightening-but-rewarding process that affects everyone differently, and director Kirk Jones delivers this message in a predictable and workmanlike fashion. Although influences of the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book can be difficult to spot, there’s no doubt that Cross, Hach and Jones have watched plenty of Hollywood romantic comedies. The film plays like an amalgam of previously released efforts, including director Garry Marshall’s two most recent projects: “New Year’s Eve” and “Valentine’s Day.”

The movie starts by introducing viewers to the main players, all of whom are related in one way or another. There’s Jules (Cameron Diaz), a fitness guru who’s having a baby with her partner (Matthew Morrison) from a celebrity dance show. There’s Holly (Jennifer Lopez), a photographer who is planning an adoption with her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). There’s Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), an author who writes about the joys of breastfeeding while preparing for a child with her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone). There’s Gary’s dad (Dennis Quaid), a former racecar driver who is preparing for another child with his much-younger wife. And, to make sure that the younger set is included, the movie features Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), two twentysomething hotties who hookup after work.

Jones follows each couple through varying stages of parenthood preparation, and a lot is made of the apprehension every first-time father and mother feel. In fact, a fair portion of the movie is dedicated to the exploits of a “guy’s group,” which is described as similar to Fight Club, only without the fighting and with babies. Members of the group meet to bond and talk about guy stuff while pushing their little ones in strollers. Scenes involving the group were heavily promoted in trailers for obvious reasons. The guys – including characters played by Chris Rock and Thomas Lennon – are funny and they provide the most original and humorous moments in the movie. Unfortunately, their appearances are always cut short by a return to the more traditional relationship dramedy that makes up the rest of the feature.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a well-meaning film, and in many ways it’s sweet. Unfortunately, it’s too plain and saccharine to have real impact on the way people think about parenting. Folks looking for a movie that does that should consider “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” a superior picture that’s in theaters now.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and two making-of features.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Titanic” on Blu-ray 3D and 2D: Director James Cameron’s drama about the sinking of the RMS Titanic was the motion picture event of 1997. The movie – starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet – won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. This release marks the movie’s Blu-ray debut, making it the definitive home video version. What’s more, Paramount is giving consumers both 2D and 3D options. Fans can buy a four-disc Blu-ray 2D combo pack that includes standard versions of the movie on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. Those with more high-tech systems, can opt for a set that has Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray 2D and digital copies of the feature. Both releases have an entire Blu-ray disc devoted to extras.

“Up All Night” – Season One: First 24 episodes of the NBC comedy about new parents (Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) adjusting to life with an infant. Maya Rudolph also stars.

“The Big Bang Theory” – The Complete Fifth Season: This sitcom, centered on two nerdy physicists living next to a blonde bombshell, is among CBS’s most popular shows. Not surprisingly, it has been renewed for a sixth season, which will begin Sept. 27. That gives fans a little more than two weeks to go through the 24 episodes included in this set.

“Castle” – The Complete Fourth Season: This ABC dramedy has continued to gain fans since its introduction in March 2009, and the fourth season was the most popular yet. The focus is on a mystery novelist (Nathan Fillion) who works with a New York detective (Stana Katic) in an effort to solve crimes.

“Vampire Diaries” – The Complete Third Season: Anyone who thought the vampire craze had run its course is clearly wrong. Movies, books and TV shows about the undead are still hot, and this show is proof. Centered on vampire brothers (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder) with an interest in the same human girl (Nina Dobrev), the program is a hit for the CW.

“Private Practice” – The Complete Fifth Season: It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since this medical drama was spun off from “Grey’s Anatomy,” but the calendar doesn’t lie. While “Grey’s” is set in a Seattle hospital, “Private Practice” moves the medical action to an office complex in Los Angeles. Kate Walsh, Tim Daly, Benjamin Bratt and Taye Diggs star.

“Blue Bloods” – The Complete Second Season: This CBS police drama centers on a family of New Yorkers who have devoted their lives to law enforcement. Tom Selleck, Donnie Whalberg, Bridget Moynahan and Will Estes star.

“30 Rock – Season 6”: Season seven will be the last for this long-running NBC comedy about behind-the-scenes happenings at a TV show. That means the 22 episodes presented here will be all the more important to fans. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski star.

“Lewis Black – In God We Rust”: A recording of Black’s “In God We Rust” stand-up comedy tour presented in Minneapolis’ State Theatre.

“The Loved Ones”: Australian horror film about a teen who takes deadly revenge when a boy rejects her invitation to prom. Xavier Samuel and Robin McLeavy star. Written and directed by Sean Byrne.

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications.

For more of his work visit www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com.

By Forrest Hartman
Forrest@ForrestHartman.com

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