<>"Dead Man Down" — Danish director Niels Arden Oplev makes his Hollywood debut, re-teaming with his "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" star Noomi Rapace in this lifeless thriller about two lost souls bent on vengeance. Colin Farrell plays a brooding gangster, Victor, who's infiltrated the brutal gang of Alphonse (a typically velvety Terrence Howard) to avenge the deaths of his wife and daughter. He's joined in revenge by Rapace's Beatrice, who spies him from across a neighboring high-rise and blackmails him into killing the drunk driver that crashed into her. Her left eye is surrounded by scars from the accident, and though her beauty is hardly marred, children throw rocks and shout "Monster!" at her. The film either can't stomach having its star actress appear actually maimed, or it's simply too lazy to make Beatrice's motivations plausible. But such things are common in the preposterous dialogue and haphazard plotting in the screenplay by J.H. Wyman ("Fringe"). There's some solid noir atmosphere, courtesy of cinematographer Paul Cameron, but the tension finally bursts as inelegantly as it was manufactured. With, oddly, Isabelle Huppert as Beatrice's ditzy mom. R for violence, language throughout and a scene of sexuality. 118 minutes. One star out of four.
— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
"Oz the Great and Powerful" — This prequel aims for nostalgia in older viewers who grew up on "The Wizard of Oz" and still hold the classic dear while simultaneously enchanting a newer, younger audience. It never really accomplishes either successfully. An origin story to the groundbreaking 1939 picture, "Oz" can be very pretty but also overlong and repetitive, with a plot that's more plodding than dazzling. Director Sam Raimi also is trying to find his own balance here between creating a big-budget, 3-D blockbuster and placing his signature stamp of kitschy, darkly humorous horror. He's done the lavish CGI thing before, with diminishing results, in the "Spider-Man" trilogy, but here he has the daunting task of doing so while mining an even more treasured pop culture phenomenon. The results are understandably inconsistent. "Oz" features a couple of fun performances, a handful of witty lines, some clever details and spectacular costumes. And it's all punctuated by a Danny Elfman score that serves as a reminder of how similar this effects-laden extravaganza is to the latter-day (and mediocre) work of Elfman's frequent collaborator, Tim Burton — specifically, 2010's "Alice in Wonderland," also from Disney. At its center is a miscast James Franco, co-star of Raimi's "Spider-Man" movies, as the circus huckster who becomes the reluctant Wizard of Oz. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams play the three witches he meets. PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language. 130 minutes. Two stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic