Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire
Genre: Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Running Time: 130 minutes

Oz the Great and Powerful begins with a wonderful black-and-white prologue. In 1905, a hack magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) performs a small-time circus act in between trying to shag the local women. He flirts with the wrong girl, however, and ends up running for his life. Diggs (also known by his stage name, Oz) escapes in a hot air balloon, only to get sucked into a nearby tornado. Somehow this tornado takes him to the Land of Oz, and it is here that the film pans out to full technicolor, bringing this magical new world to life.

Oscar, confused but grateful to no longer be in danger, wanders around his new surroundings before meeting the witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis). She believes that Oscar is actually the wizard that has been prophesied to return and overthrow the Wicked Witch, and she brings him to meet her sister, fellow witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz). They send him to the Dark Forest to destroy the Wicked Witch’s wand, but he discovers that this witch is not so wicked after all — she’s actually Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams). Now Oscar finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between the two sides, all while being forced to masquerade as the powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

As a film, Oz the Great and Powerful is likely exactly as you might expect it to be. It works well as a kid’s film — Oscar meets some crowd-pleasing fantasy characters on his way, including a china doll and a flying monkey — though its 2+ hour running time might be a burden for some little ones. The Land of Oz is colorful and vibrant, and the Munchkin inhabitants of Emerald City are sure to be a hit (despite having a very small role). In this regard, the film succeeds.

However, it’s hard not to expect more in the hands of director Sam Raimi. The characters are hardly interesting. James Franco makes Oz come across as a total sleazeball, and it’s hard to buy in to the fact that he has any ‘good’ values underneath. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz do well with their material, but Mila Kunis is completely out of her element as Theodora. Kunis isn’t given much to work with, but her performance is devoid of any real emotion.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

I also noticed some issues with the CGI — there were multiple occasions where the actors’ interactions with the artificial characters were completely off (i.e. Franco trying to shake the china girl’s hand but there being a noticable gap in between). For a film with a budget north of $200 million, these quirks are inexcusable.

And so goes Oz the Great and Powerful, a superficially pretty film without any real depth. Judging from my audience’s reaction, the kids seem to be digging it, so the film has that going for it. It’s just a shame that it isn’t as magical as it could have been.

6/10

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Poll Results: Best Sam Raimi Film

This one came down to the last day, but we ended up with another tie:

Army of DarknessArmy of Darkness

THE RESULTS:
– Army of Darkness: 8 votes
– Spider-Man 2: 8 votes
– The Evil Dead: 7 votes
– Evil Dead II: 6 votes
– Spider-Man: 5 votes
– A Simple Plan: 2 votes
– Drag Me to Hell: 2 votes
– Oz the Great and Powerful: 2 votes
– The Quick and the Dead: 1 vote
– Crimewave: 0 votes
– Darkman: 0 votes
– For Love of the Game: 0 votes
– Spider-Man 3: 0 votes
– The Gift: 0 votes

I must say I am a little surprised to see Army of Darkness at the top. I know it has a large cult following, but I didn’t fall in love with it like I did Evil Dead 1&2. Also interesting to note that Oz the Great and Powerful is already receiving votes — guess I should check that one out, eh?

This Week’s Poll: Now here’s a question I am surprised I didn’t ask before. It’s another pick two: What is Alfred Hitchcock’s best film? I could have easily went with a pick three or four here due to the size of the man’s filmography, but we’ll stick to the usual. What will you be voting for? The newly-christened “greatest film of all time”, Vertigo? The timeless horror classic, Psycho? How about often-overlooked classics like Notorious or Rope? Let’s hear your thoughts!

Have a great week everyone!

Poll Results: Favorite Stanley Kubrick Film

Despite a wide variety of votes, the winner was never really in question:

The Shining

THE RESULTS:
– The Shining: 10 votes
– Dr. Strangelove: 8 votes
– 2001: A Space Odyssey: 5 votes
– A Clockwork Orange: 5 votes
– Full Metal Jacket: 4 votes
– Fear and Desire: 2 votes
– Barry Lyndon: 1 vote
– Killer’s Kiss: 1 vote
– Paths of Glory: 1 vote
– Spartacus: 1 vote
– Eyes Wide Shut: 0 votes
– Lolita: 0 votes
– The Killing: 0 votes

No real surprise on the winner, but I did find it interesting that the lesser-known Fear and Desire managed to snag two votes. I take it that it’s worth tracking down? How about that great showing by Dr. Strangelove? Nice to see that finish second. No love for Eyes Wide Shut or The Killing though?

This Week’s Poll: With Oz the Great and Powerful opening over the weekend, now seems as good of time as any to have a poll based on its director, Sam Raimi. What two films do you rank as Raimi’s best work? Are you an Evil Dead fan? Love the Spider-Man series? How about Drag Me to Hell? Let’s hear what you think!

Have a great week everyone!

Movie Project #47 and #48: Tokyo Story [1953] and Army of Darkness [1992]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Tokyo Story [1953]
Tokyo Story [1953, Yasujirō Ozu]
Starring Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama and Sô Yamamura.

My first Ozu film is a sad one. This highly-regarded classic follows the lives of a Japanese family in the country’s post-war recovery period. An elderly couple take the all-day train trip to Tokyo to visit their children and spend some time with them. The children, however, are all busy and have little time to be with their parents. Their eldest son, Koichi (Yamamura), is a doctor who is always on the go, and their eldest daughter, Shige (Haruko Sugimara) is a busy hair salon owner. That leaves the couple’s widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara) as the only person who is able (or willing) to sacrifice work to be with them. Everyone means well, they just can’t help always being occupied.

The movie takes a depressing turn in the second half, as the mother grows ill on the return trip home. The children make immediate trips to be with her, but nothing changes. They spend little time with their parents and ultimately leave earlier than expected. In this regard, the film is bleak and depressing, yet it is also realistic. Everyone has their own lives, and sometimes it is hard to break away from them even to spend time with their loved ones. Ozu paints this in a very straightforward manner, and we are merely seeing what is a common occurrence. The movie is remarkably well-made, but it crawls along at such a slow pace that extreme patience is needed for most of it. Tokyo Story demands attention, and while I appreciate its value, I found it to be one of the more challenging films in my project. 7.5/10

Army of Darkness [1992, Sam Raimi]
Army of Darkness [1992, Sam Raimi]
Starring Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz and Marcus Gilbert.

To prepare myself for Army of Darkness, I re-watched The Evil Dead (it had been several years) and also checked out Evil Dead II for the first time. Both were a lot of fun, though I think I prefer the original due to its stronger horror emphasis. Evil Dead II sent things in a more comedic direction, and Army of Darkness took this idea and ran with it. With only a slight reliance on horror, the trilogy’s conclusion opts for a greater slapstick influence. While I was entertained for the most part, I can’t say I was a big fan of some of the humor presented. There were a handful of scenes that annoyed me more than anything, such as when Ash (Campbell) is fighting several miniature versions of himself.

Still, I loved the movie’s cheesy one-liners, several of which were later unashamedly ripped off by Duke Nukem. The epic battle between the medievil soldiers and the army of dead was great fun, and the special effects were aesthetically pleasing. I can see why this has a cult following, and I enjoyed the movie for the most part, but I would rather watch the first two in the trilogy if given the choice. 7/10