Sign in using your account with
Oz the Great and Powerful: Magical Prequel to the Wizard of Oz
Thanks to him, Oz the Great and Powerful – the prequel to the 1939 Judy Garland classic, The Wizard of Oz – is enchanting and visually stunning; and although the Yellow Brick Road has a few potholes, the overall effect is more than gratifying.
The fairytale's lively opening sequence, filmed in black and white, is set in Kansas and has been moved back to 1905, long before Dorothy and her little dog Toto began their adventure.
We meet Oscar Diggs, aka 'Oz' (Franco); a Casanova-type swindler and carnival magician who, along with his unappreciated assistant Frank (Braff), spends more time seducing innocent young girls than he does perfecting his ambiguous tricks. After reluctantly breaking things off with his part-time girlfriend Annie (Williams), he hops into a hot-air balloon, skilfully escaping the clasp of a strongman who Oz has managed to get pretty mad.
After just barely taking off, Oz is swept up by a storm and comes to eventually land in the magical land of 'Oz'. Thanking the heavens for surviving and for being given a second chance to do good, Oz soon stumbles upon the witch, Theodora (Kunis); a beautiful girl who, along with her sister-witch, Evanora (Weisz), has been guarding the Emerald City from the firm grasp of the wicked witch Glinda (Williams). Theodora informs him of an ancient prophecy that predicts a great wizard, with immense power, would fall from the sky and save their land from evil. Attracted by the prospect of being the 'one', Oz takes on the challenge, without knowing the truth that lies behind the three witches of Oz and their beloved land.
Considering the story has already seen numerous spin-offs and renderings since its first debut in 1900, this is a job well done. The screenplay, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, is fresh and straightforward. Oz is filled with many whimsical characters, including flying monkeys, vicious baboons and talking china-doll, along with heaps of wit.
The plot's momentum starts off pretty strong and although it comes almost to a grinding halt midway through the film, it picks itself up quickly and finishes off strong.
Nonetheless, its major success lies in the dazzling visuals. Taking full advantage of 3D technology, the enchanting land of Oz is transformed into one big sugary treat. From the mesmerising opening sepia-toned swirly sequence, to the luxuriant colours of the gardens of Oz; the effects are spectacular and at times breathtaking.
Looking extremely uncomfortable in his own skin, Franco's turnout wasn't so grand. With a permanent grin plastered on his face, this eccentric role doesn't feel like a good fit. Luckily for him, the witches pick up the slack. Topping the list is Weisz, who is ravishing in her role of the ferocious Evanora, and as the 'wicked witch' Glinda, Williams shines. Kunis, unfortunately, fails to tap into the witch inside of her all that well.
Oz the Great and Powerful's charms are aplenty and although not as grand or as magical as the 1939 classic, it still manages to stand on its own.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.