Michelle Williams

March 16, 2013

Oz The Great And Powerful

PROPER

Little self involvement time.  I haven’t written a review in a while mainly because I’ve been busy preparing content for our monthly podcast here at Simplistic Reviews. (SELF PROMOTION DURING SELF PROMOTION…SO AWESOME)  Anyway, when the days between reviews started piling up, I became cautious picking the PROPER comeback movie to review next.  (I was this close to reviewing Parker there for a minute, so count your blessings.)  This week, however, I happened to go against my previous judgement and against many preconceived assumptions by the masses and watch a film that made me anxious to talk about.  The film is Oz The Great And Powerful.  A movie that I have heard maligned even before it came out.   A movie that certainly does not deserve it.

Oz The Great And Powerful is a….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to the 1939 cinematic classic The Wizard Of Oz.  And for those who have been hiding under a rock in a cave in Timbuktu, The Wizard of Oz is about a Kansas girl named Dorothy who is whisked away by a tornado and sent to a magical world where wicked witches are the norm, munchkins are a plenty, and lions are cowardly.  Dorothy journeys to find a supposed wizard who can send her back home.  That wizard…74 YEAR SPOILER ALERT…turns out to be just a man behind a curtain named Oz.  Oz The Great And Powerful fills in all the blanks on how he got there and why certain witchly characters got their wickedness.

Now maybe because I’ve had to rewatch Star Wars episodes 1 through 3 for my 9 to 5 job, I’m standing on a hyperbole soapbox here.  However, I don’t regret saying that Oz The Great And Powerful is one of the greatest….DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!….prequels ever made.  My favorite, by the way is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.  When the familiar pieces of The Wizard Of Oz began to neatly fall into place in Oz The Great And Powerful, I got the same feeling I had when Blondie picks up that iconic poncho.  The same feeling I didn’t get when Lucas clumsily dropped his pieces on the ground, brushed off and forced onto me at the last minute.  The Good The Bad And The Ugly sets up a world that, frankly, is pretty easy to set up.  The Wizard Of Oz is anything but.  It has enough oddly shaped moving parts to make an Ikea salesman blush. (Rimshot.  Nailed it.)  One day I’ll have a discussion about how the land of Oz is just an imaginary place where one subconsciously goes to work out their inner issues.  A theme this film duplicates and also nails by the way.  However, for the sake of avoiding an even bigger monicker as an overly-analytical, auteur theory douche, I’ll stick with the simple things that make this film work.

I was very surprised that Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland disappointed me.  I thought that his famously quirky style would be perfect for the material.  It is why I was worried that director Sam Raimi might stumble into the same pitfalls with Oz The Great And Powerful.  Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard Of Oz are two worlds that are terrific at hiding morose, gruesome, and inappropriate subtext under colorful, shiny, childish window dressing.  Burton brought more of the morose subtext to the light, thus dragging down Alice In Wonderland away from what it was intended.  Whereas, Raimi keeps the balance and tone of his film’s predecessor.  I believe Raimi knew it was suicide to mess with a formula as delicate as The Wizard Of Oz.  Burton made subtext the focal point when he should have remembered it is the wonder the makes the world.  Raimi thrives here and never takes his eye off the ball.

Despite being an actor I very well should hate, I can’t help but like James Franco.  Perhaps it is his ‘in on the joke’ personality and the fact he never takes himself too seriously that disarms me.  His talent, when he’s trying, is undeniable.  This isn’t Franco’s finest work but I believe he’s perfectly cast as Oz.  Oz is a failed showman.  A man with the potential for great things, but seems to never be 100% genuine.  A man you want to expose as a fraud not laud as a talent.  Franco seems to fit the bill.  Since Spider-Man Raimi has seemed to know how to use Franco’s more unpopular tendencies.  His mugging for the camera never feels out of place in a Raimi film.  And his tender moments, ones that would be cheesy in any other film, seem right at home here.  Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams stand tall, where other actors would sleepwalk.  That includes Weisz’s great nod to, coincidentally Return Of The Jedi, and having a sorcery battle with Williams that rivals even that of Gandalf and Saruman.  But the stand out here is Mila Kunis.  She has been proving since That 70s Show that shes not just a pretty…pretty…pretty…damn she’s pretty…face.  It is probably known to all her role in the film.  However, I won’t spoil it other than to say she completely humanized and made me empathize with a character I thought would be impossible to.  

Oz The Great And Powerful isn’t the greatest film you’ll see this year by a longshot.  But it knows what it wants to be, it knows what it has to be, and accomplishes these things nearly perfectly.  Don’t believe me?  Close your eyes and imagine for a moment what you deem a PROPER…DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!…prequel to one of the most classic, iconic, and ‘out there’ films in almost the last hundred years.  Click your heals three times, open your eyes, watch Oz The Great And Powerful…then tell me I’m wrong. 

October 27, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Silent Hill: Revelation

Silent Hill: Revelation –Lifeless

Video games have had a rough history in cinema.  Aside from maybe “Tron,” video games and movies are like oil and waterThe problem is that studios try to pander to the people that play the games as opposed to an entire film audience.  I liken it to an inside joke where the people that get the joke love it and everyone else is left scratching their heads.  That’s how “Silent Hill: Revelation” is, in addition to being a lifeless sequel that probably came five years too late.

I’ll preface with what I’m about to unleash on “Revelation” with this; I like the “Silent Hill” franchise.  When the first game came out on PlayStation it was atmospheric, creepy, and the plot was relatively coherent.  That continued into the first sequel with more back-story given to the city of Silent Hill, but the game started to fizzle after that.  The first “Silent Hill” film had some good ideas and a decent writing and directing combo, Roger Avary of “Pulp Fiction” and “The Rules of Attraction” fame and Christophe Gans, who directed the underrated “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” respectively.  Neither have anything to do with “Revelation” and it shows, you can tell that the studio is simply out to make money and pander to hardcore “Silent Hill” fans that still think the franchise is relevant.

The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around Heather Mason, aka, Sharon Da Silva from the first film.  Heather, and her father Harry Mason, played by Sean Bean, are on the run from a mysterious evil looking for Heather.  At some point Harry is kidnapped and taken to Silent Hill and Heather, along with Vincent, Kit Harington from “Game of Thrones,” venture into the darkness.  What plays out is pretty much what you would expect;  there are freaky monsters, including the iconic “Pyramid Head,” a moment where all hope seems lost, and finally our heroes riding off into the sunset, escaping Silent Hill.  I’ll tell you what; go find “Silent Hill 3” in the bargain bin for your PlayStation 2 (or even Xbox 360 at this point), play it, and I assure that you’ll have a better time.

“Revelation” tries to build on the mythology of the first film, but it comes off as a slow burn with music and jump scares that come off dated.  Its not a bad film, but it certainly isn’t a good film either.  However, I will say that Adelaide Clemens (who has to be the love child of both Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams) is the splitting image of her video game counterpart, but some of the other characters……ugh.  Bean is mailing it in despite his limited screen time, and the once great Malcolm McDowell is at his hammiest, even outdoing his performances in the Rob Zombie Halloween remakes.

Will there be another addition to the “Silent Hill” film franchise?  I hope not.  I will admit that I was excited to see “Revelation,” but it ended up being just like the scary nurses….lifeless.  Oh I nearly forgot, I didn’t bother to see this in 3D either, there is no reason for 3D in modern cinema.  It was cool in the 1950s when giant insects were attacking us, but it’s time to grow up and take off those silly glasses.  You look like this guy, and that’s scarier than “Silent Hill: Revelation.”

Fun Fact:  The high school Heather attends is All Hallows High.  Halloween is also called All Hallows Eve.  Freaky. 

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