The Croods (2013) PASS

Iron Man 3 (2013) PASS

The Little Mermaid (1989) PICK

The Wizard of Oz (1939) PICK


Out with the new, in with the old.  

That’s your best bet with the latest crop of home-video releases, from a pair of beloved family films — both with optional new 3-D editions — to a pair of skippable new films that originally screened in 3-D.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary,The Wizard of Oz is back, on Blu-ray, DVD, digital, UltraViolet and even a 3-D conversion that played in IMAX theaters in September.

As for the film itself, what is there to say? Per the Library of Congress, it’s the most-watched film in history. It’s been ranked No. 1 on lists of fantasy films by the American Film Institute and The Guardian, and the 1995 Vatican film list included it in its 15 outstanding films in the "Art" category.

Then there’s The Little Mermaid, now available in a Disney "Diamond Edition," with Blu-ray, DVD, digital copy and 3-D Blu-ray. Not quite a classic, The Little Mermaid came as a breath of fresh air in 1989, ending Disney’s long post-Walt doldrums (The Black Cauldron, ugh) and kicking off the 1990s Disney renaissance that produced Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.

The film’s secret weapon: unprecedented, colorful, show-stopping Broadway-style production numbers. And I’d rate Sea Witch one of Disney’s top-five villains. On the down side, the ending’s anticlimactic. And Ariel’s teenaged rebellion, though it gets her into trouble, is ultimately vindicated — a case of "Junior Knows Best" storytelling.

Both of those caveats apply tenfold, and then some, to The Croods, the latest animated family hit from DreamWorks. Nicolas Cage plays an overprotective, clueless Neanderthal father whose daughter falls for a hunky, visionary Cro-Magnon dude named Guy. The film’s recurring message: Rules keep us in the dark. And "following the light" ultimately means not listening to Dad.

A last-act fig leaf of redemption is too little, too late to make up for the wretched montage of Dad humiliating himself over and over trying to have an idea, like Guy. What a disappointment from co-director Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch).

I’m less bearish on Iron Man 3 — not enough to actually recommend it, but enough not to actively discourage it. Robert Downey Jr. is still great fun, and there are some slick set pieces. New director Shane Black keeps it light while raising the stakes.

But Ben Kingsley’s villain is botched. The violence is too rough (a side effect of super-powered baddies who can’t be stopped unless you kill them — and who have a disconcerting tendency to explode). And Gwyeth Paltrow’s Pepper, the heart of the franchise, is woefully misused. A disappointment.


Caveat Spectator: Both The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz have some scary and menacing scenes that could be too much for sensitive youngsters.