DVDs & Blu-rays: Snow White and the Huntsman, Elles and Mariachi High

Snow White and the Huntsman

stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin; Rupert Sanders directs.

Let's just get it out of the way: Yes, actress Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders, both already in relationships, had an affair during the filming of Snow White and the Huntsman. The affair was exposed and the pair issued public apologies to their respective partners (Robert Pattinson and Liberty Ross), but it was too late. The film was all but tanked by the scandal. Snow White went on to earn a decent amount at the box office, but any artistic merit was overshadowed by the who-was-caught-kissing-whom gossip. Thankfully, the film's DVD/Blu-ray release gives fans another chance to reconsider the film, without all the hoopla surrounding Robert Pattinson's supposedly broken heart.

The story is best described as a mash-up between the fairy tale and a big battle epic. Snow White (a sullen Kristen Stewart) is a beautiful young woman being mistreated by her horrible, but oh so beautiful stepmother, the evil queen (a lovely and outrageously camp Charlize Theron). That's the fairy tale part; the big battle epic starts when Snow White decides to fight back against the wicked queen.

The Blu-ray/DVD/Ultra-violet/digital copy combo pack we got our hands on has plenty of extras. It starts off with both the theatrical and extended version of the film (the extended version has only four extra minutes, and nothing earth-shattering is revealed in the addition, but it does feel more complete). There's also commentary by Sanders, four featurettes, and special screening modes.

The film suffers from a dark palate (way too many blacks and greys on screen for us), and Kristen Stewart's wooden acting mucks up even the best action scenes but fantasy fans (and Charlize Theron lovers) will be happy overall.

Elles

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stars Juliette Binoche, Anais Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing; Malgoska Szumowska directs.

Juliette Bionche is captivating as Anne, a Parisian journalist working on a story about French co-eds who moonlight as prostitutes to pay their way through college in Elles. While it would be easy to look down on the students (Anais Demoustier and Joanna Kulig), director Malgoska Szumowska is much smarter than that. In some ways, the girls are on more secure footing with their customers than Anne is with her prudish husband (he expects her to host a chic dinner party for his boss, even though she's on deadline, and he warns her not to make any offensive feminist remarks). Sexual escapades become metaphors for personal freedom in Elles, a thoughtful and well-done film.

Ilana Trachtman

directs

Mariachi High

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Mariachi High is a bitter-sweet documentary about a group of students in the dusty town of Zapata, Texas. With the Mexican border - and all the violence and danger that entails - within view, the band teacher manages to keep the kids on the straight and narrow by keeping them focused on mariachi music. The band has won important competitions in the past, but forces conspire against them in this year's rounds and their continued success is not at all certain.


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