June 11th, 2013

I had not seen a film over the weekend that was fresh and new for me.   I did re-watch Before Sunset which got me re-acquainted with Jessie and Celine as I prepare to spend some more time with them in a week or so.  We have a movie here in Before Midnight that has been universally praised and called one of the best films of the year, by The Star, Suntimes, and others yet is playing at only ONE cinema in all of Toronto (Varsity).  It will be playing in Waterloo at the Princess theatre (like the Kingsway) in about 10 days.   That is where I will see it.  But I digress.
Yesterday I saw Oz the Great and Powerful.   This is the prequel to the classic Judy Garland film that everyone (I had wrongfully thought) had seen and knew well.  Girlfriend informs me that she had never seen the original film.  I was aghast.   Roll the film anyway after a short tutorial on what happened to Dorothy Gale.   Here we have the same structure of  the previous film, with the opening sequence in black and white and a feel for the 1905 date indicated.  Our Oz is a shyster and a scoundrel (all self-professed) and works in a travelling circus.   He is introduced as a lady’s man and looking for obedient hired hands and assistants.   Then the inevitable tornado and trip to Oz where we are transformed into the full technicolour world.   We are also given numerous and gratuitous 3-D effects that were unnecessary and distracted from the story.   He meets various characters, and a LOT of CGI.  A distracting amount that was not all that realistic.  The talking monkey being one of them.  The whole look and feel of Oz itself is kind of this way too, in a Willy Wonka kind of way.  Too colourful.  Too pretty.  Too outrageous.   It loses a sense of realism, and looks more like a video game (like when characters jump over crumbling cliffs and mountains, just in time!)  James Franco plays Oz, and I am still not sure whether I like him.  He plays phony really well I suppose and it comes through in spades.  He can be honest with himself on what he truly is, and recognizes that this (at times) can be beneficial.  There is some ingenuity here in working this story to prepare it for the next (Dorothy’s arrival) but it is nowhere near as satisfying nor charming.   It isn’t as scary either – well, except for the poor CGI job done on the Wicked Witch of the West.   That IS scary.  And she loses her humanity.   This was a long two hours and felt it.   Never a good thing for a movie.  There are parallels to the much loved and much better classic.  It does an adequate job to bring us up-to-date but I have to admit that I like the idea of going further back and using the storyline in Wicked (the musical anyway).
There are some interesting interpretations of the story here and how the characters got to where they were, but in the end it was not as satisfying as hoped.   Some trailers I see, and think to myself “Man I hope that they don’t screw this up” because there is always so much potential!!   Our own minds can fill in gaps and think as to how you would fill in the prequel story.  I can say that I wouldn’t do it like this here.  Certainly the sidekicks are not as memorable nor as important.   I have to admit a certain fascination with the china doll and her look and feel of her hair.
There is not one memorable musical number in this prequel.  The first one had many memorable songs like classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Off to see the Wizard” “Lollipop Guild” and “Follow the Yellowbrick Road”.   As a kid, at Grandpa’s cottage he had a record of Oz songs and we would listen to them alone.   Music did not play a significant role in this prequel.   Sadly enough.
One can only hope that Man of Steel can be as successful and interesting a reboot as Batman Begins.  Sadly I don’t think that the main character is as interesting nor as dark as the caped crusader.   But in the hands of same director, Christopher Nolan it has potential.

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