Thursday, July 11, 2013

Let's Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Welcome back to the Geekdom, I’ll be your Guide. I have a bit of a problem. I’m a talker during movies. I simply have way too many opinions about what is being shown on screen and as such I have a tendency to talk the ear off of the person next to me. There are 2 films especially you should never watch with me if you want to have some peace during your viewing process. The first film is Star Wars, which is my favorite movie of all time, but the second one is The Wizard of Oz. I cannot for the life of me stay silent during this film. I am a big fan of the Land of Oz so I was more than a little excited to see this film. Did it end up disappointing me? Let’s review Oz the Great and Powerful.

The Negative

The Wicked Witch was a little disappointing. I’m not saying the acting was poor, Mila Kunis was top notch in the role; the problem was actually the make-up that was caked on her. The Wicked Witch is one of the most iconic looking villains in cinema and I believe that the make-up had a great deal to do with that. It was unfortunate to see that the make-up for the Wicked Witch in this movie just looked so fake. It appeared as if massive pieces of green plastic had been glued to her face.

During the latter half of the film, when everyone is preparing for the final confrontation, is when the film really started to lag for me. The film had a very steady pace up until that point and returned to said steady pace during the final confrontation but it’s at this point that the film just dies. All we get is scene after scene of them just sitting around in conference rooms plotting their next move or montage scenes of them building something.  It was the most boring section I had to get through in a normally well paced film.

The Positive

When I first went to go see a film in 3D, this was the experience I was expecting. The first film I ever saw in 3D was Despicable Me, which for the most part only had the main characters’ nose poke out of the screen. The effect the 3D brought to the film was amazing. Every single moment of the film the 3D was doing something, be it just some light snowflakes coming through or the wicked witch’s fireball bursting toward the audience. The opening credits sequence was a marvel in their own right, the whole sequence being filled with optical illusions.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints directed towards James Franco for giving a very stiff performance, but I personally enjoyed him in this movie. I thought Franco really pulled off the swindling scumbag that is Oscar Diggs as well as his slow but steady transformation into the mighty wizard of Oz. Oz makes a lot of mistakes over the course of the film, his biggest problem being living up to the great standards that he boasted about and consequently what people expect of him. Franco turns out a magnificent performance of a man who believes himself to be lower than dirt and then spends the rest of the film trying to redeem his own actions.

The pacing in the film was amazing. I mentioned before how the film dies out a little just before the final confrontation, but that is the only part that slows down at all. The plot is constantly moving forward, sometimes at breakneck speeds.  Sam Raimi is well known for inventive camera shots that are constantly moving. Sam Raimi brings this style to full use by having almost the entire film feel like one big roller coaster ride, combined with the 3D effects were simply amazing.  This film truly made me feel like I was taking a journey through the Land of Oz.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed this film, for the most part. Despite a few technique hiccups, this was a very enjoyable return to the Land of Oz. I haven’t actually read the Oz books, but I feel like this film recaptured some of the magic and fantasy of the 1939 film. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Sam Raimi’s take on Oz, because this film just has me wanting more. 4 out of 5.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Let's Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

Welcome back to the Geekdom, I’ll be your Guide. Now I have to ask, what is with the recent trend of taking old fairy tales and turning them into darker action flicks? This trend hasn’t really worked well for any of them, I mean sure I’ve liked a few of them but most of them are fairly cheesy with really hammy acting. I honestly wasn’t going into this film expecting a lot, given the current history of these darker action fairy tales. Was I proven wrong? Let’s review Jack the Giant Slayer.

The Negative

Two of the major villains simply had no substance to them. These two characters, Lord Roderick and Wicke, were hiding nothing; they flaunted how evil they were to everyone. I honestly hate characters like these in films. This is like the Saturday morning cartoon super villain; being the advisor, being evil, and nobody seems to notice that he is evil. Really guys? No one else sees him plotting in the corner with his minion? Speaking of his minion, Wicke was an impossibly stupid character. I honestly couldn’t stand to see him on the screen; he just annoyed the crap out of me.

I'm not an expert on medieval garb, but Jack looks like he is wearing modern clothes throughout the entire film. Jack appears to be wearing a dusty brown jacket with a hood and jean colored shorts. That’s something I would expect to see out on the streets today. I found myself looking to see if he was also wearing a pair of Nike sneakers. The costumes weren’t exactly great for everyone else either, but they at least looked like they belonged in that era, Jack just looked like he was lost in time.

Bryan Singer promoted the crap out of the fact that some of the giants would have multiple heads. There was only one giant that had 2 heads and the second head was mentally challenged with a speech impediment. This head was used for comic relief. Do I really need to go into grand detail as to why this was a horrendous move on their part and should never have been a part of the film in the first place? I thought not, moving on.

Some of the acting was extensively hammed up. These people are facing incredibly life threatening events, and they are acting as if this is a whimsical day at the park. I’m all for being lighthearted but this is borderline ridiculousness. It didn’t help that the make-up and costumes made everybody looked poofed up for the ball.

The Positive

There were multiple moments when I didn't know which direction the film was going to go in. Many of the main characters are very suddenly and violently killed off throughout the film. I had expected some of these characters to survive to the end of the film, but they just kept killing them off. This killing spree leads to a really neat level of shock and suspense for the film. I honestly couldn’t tell you which characters were going to survive to the end of the film and so I actually felt a sense of worry for the characters I was watching.

The giants were fantastically well done. I have found that overly large CGI characters have a tendency to appear under-detailed or do not mesh well with the world they are placed in, but I was really surprised to find these character models fully rendered and fleshed out. The giants held a very looming presence on the screen the entire film. I kind of wish we had gotten to see more of them become main characters, only a few of them had big parts with the majority of them just taking up the background.

In Conclusion

This wasn’t a particularly bad re-telling of the old fairy tale, but it wasn’t particularly good either. The lighthearted nature of the film felt really uneven with the horrific events that were occurring onscreen. I kind of wish they had taken themselves more seriously instead of making a mediocre comedy action flick. 3 out of 5.