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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Not enough CHARM or WONDER. Dark OZ gone video game route. Suffers from poor Elfman score
I wanted to like this film, I really did, but alas the overall feel is very disappointing and a bit of a downer. CGI visuals are not enough to give a film charm and this film is lacking in what should have been a basically wonderful and charming story. When did OZ become this violent? Grant it, there are some lovely special effects and the movie is ambitious, but the overall execution is so loud, overbearing and uncomfortable to watch that all the "wonder" that should be in this story gets squashed out. Why must these "re-imagined" versions of classic tales play like violent video games? The second half of this film is one long jealous bitch fest with a JOHNNY GUITAR showdown between the women. Some criticism has been directed to James Franco as the Wizard, but his casting is actually one of the refreshing aspects. The actor has enough charm to carry a picture like this while Michelle Williams grasps her role nicely. Too bad the two best parts in the picture are mediocre. Mila Kunis as Theodora is the films biggest disappointment. Her witch looks and acts like a demon possessed, relying too heavily on the make-up for performance. Her character also begs logic. The Wizard danced with her once, yet this moment is what turns her heart to vengeance and ever lasting demonic rage. Rachel Weisz is pretty if not standard, but who could ever find that grotesque CGI monkey lovable? He was hard to look at. On the good side there a wonderful title sequence at the beginning and a lovely CGI porcelain doll that practically steals the picture. Definitely the sweetest aspect of a story that should have been filled with sweet moments rather than violent and dark ones. This is The Wizard of Oz, not OLIVER TWIST. Action sequences will remind you of the humor in Raimi's EVIL DEAD. Finally what the film really suffers from is a lackluster Danny Elfman score. Nothing new in his music. Your mind flushes it out as soon as it hears it. So much of it doesn't fit the scene it's arranged for.
Dark Shadows (2012)
DULL with little bite. Depp is playing dress up
Oh the possibilities that were missed here. Except for the character names and a similar architecture in the house this film bares very little resemblance to DARK SHADOWS. The movie starts out beautifully and then goes off in so many awkward directions that it never finds what kind of movie it's trying to be. A few scattered laughs here and there do not compensate for a poorly conceived story that meanders itself to the point of being dull and confusing. What can you say about a movie that only comes to life in it's montages set to a pop songs from the early 1970's? Depp doesn't even attempt to capture any of the guilt ridden angst of Barnabas Collins. His Barnabas is a trick or treat Pirates of the Caribbean, very much like a kid playing dress up on Halloween and with two emotions, upset and more upset. Film has some nice set pieces but Burton doesn't bring any true Gothic feeling or sense of dread to the surroundings. The script has that throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks feel to it. Burtons direction comes off in a conveyor belt "okay, let's shoot this one" tone with interest only in visuals, which are striking. He's really more of a visual artist than he is a film director. Indeed, one gets the feeling that this film would never have been made if not for Johnny Depp and his love for the original series which is evident here. It's unfortunate that he relies too heavily on make up to carry his performance. Helean Bonham Carter has no interest in being in the film and it shows, doing it only as a favor to her husband. Eva Green is the type of actress Tim Burton is attracted to and loves to cast in his films, but she possesses little of Angelique's spellbinding jealousy. The only one in the cast that has a hint of what these surroundings should be played like is Michelle Pfeiffer. She is the Grande dame of Dark Shadows capturing both the Gothic feel of the original story and the magnificence of the character.
The BEST movie ever made on this subject
This film is so beautifully crafted that it deserves to be recognized as one of the most inspiring and uplifting films ever made. You cannot watch The Other Side of the Mountain and possibly feel sorry for yourself. The film demands the viewer to find his or her own strength within no matter what his circumstances are. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN was a surprise hit for Universal back in 1975. With no advanced publicity, the studio hurried it into movie theaters after a private screening at Universal that left all it's top executives in tears. I remember it as "the film that would not go away". Word of mouth spread about how effective and moving it was keeping The Other Side of the Mountain playing in various movie houses off and on for years. This new DVD transfer under the VAULT SERIES collection is GORGEOUS. The sound crisp and the widescreen colors intact. I think the film holds up better today than it did in 1975. It may not be a critics picture but The Other Side of the Mountain works in the way THE SOUND OF MUSIC works or TITANIC or even Douglas Sirk's IMITATION OF LIFE. Yes, it's glossy, but the story touches on all the elements that a person going through this experience would face in reality. Only the hardest of heart will not be moved. Without giving too much of the plot away, the main character is forced to deal with an accident that leaves her paralyzed from the shoulders down. There's the ineffective parents who can only give her love and little else. The best friend that reminds her of how bad everything is. The boyfriend who dumps her because he cannot come to terms with her handicap and then the man who re-enters her life to reconnect her with the spirit she thought she had lost. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN is a movie about the individual, a loner on her own path and the struggles she must endure and overcome in order to find her true spirit. This film contains Beau Bridges best performance. The entire film rests on the shoulders of Marilyn Hassett who holds the film together triumphantly. It's a stirring performance that inspires hope, not pity. A lot of top notch supporting work her also, Dabney Coleman, Nan Martin, Belinda Montgomery and the wonderfully funny Dori Brenner. The effervescent score by Charles Fox is one of his best and enhances the beauty of David Walsh's stunning cinematography and the emotion of Larry Peerce's sensitive direction. This film should be in the library of every veterans hospital in this country, that's how important it is. Definitely deserves to be reevaluated. I recently showed this film to a friend from Lebanon and even though he figured out the ending before the film was over, he still ended up crying like a baby. And just for the record, NOBODY makes crying look more beautiful than Marilyn Hassett.
The movie was so bad. I don't even know where to begin. First I would never have watched it with that horrible title, but unfortunately I did since I was dragged by friends. It is a wannabe Jason Bourne with nothing close to the Bourne trilogy even if the movie takes place in Berlin. It was so slow and I lost interest 20 minutes in, all I was enjoying was my popcorn. Bad script, terribly directed. Most people gave it a shot including me expecting a "Taken" however it is nothing like "Taken". UNKNOWN is literarily unknown because the movie has no identity, stupid plot, old school kinda hints which made the suspense so dull and amateur. Diane Kruger fake accent was so bad, and poor January Jones- What happened to her? Random cast with no cohesiveness whatsoever. The ending was horrendous. I wouldn't watch it even if it was for free. Actually, the opportunity cost of this movie is too high, because you would've been doing something way more interesting in those 2 hours, not to mention that you already spent 20 bucks on a terribly done movie. Hope Liam Neeson will make it up to his fans in Taken 2.
True Grit (2010)
The WORST remake ever made !!
I got screwed tonight seeing the remake of TRUE GRIT. A truly AWFUL film. No remake is as bad as this one. The color was overly manipulated by computer. 99% of films today use that color manipulation to excess. You know it didn't look anything like that when they were filming. Bridges is and always has been an overrated actor. His performance is turgid, cartoonish and terribly affected. It's as if he mastered the redneck accent that sounded somewhat authentic for a line or two and then delivered it the same way for EVERY line on that very SAME note. His ENTIRE performance, like everyone's was done in monotone. The southern accents all on one note, no variations. Nobody TALKS like that. Certainly not in the late 1800's. It was if the actors were READING it ? The performance by Hailee Steinfeld sounds overly memorized and rehearsed. Very few, if any pauses within or between the dialogue. All the acting was ACTING. Nobody made their characters real or connected within themselves to bring them to life. It's as if they were repeating the same line over and over again. Then to make matters worse, they cast a handsome movie star in the role of villain Tom Chaney ?? I almost broke out laughing at the site of Brolin's ridiculous attempt at being a homeless outlaw. Another BIG fault of the script is it's failure to introduce Chaney at the beginning of the story, so when Mattie encounters the man who murdered her father later on down the road it's a shock to the audience. Introducing Chaney at the end of the movie has NO IMPACT or feeling of dread. Rather than authentic, the costumes were chic, designed to become trendy or to be photographed for a section in Vanity Fair or win an award at the fashion institute. Too much detail and expensive tailoring for these surroundings. The computer generated snakes may look believable to young children, but fail to look authentic to any trained eye.
One redeeming element about the film is that they allowed the character of LaBoeuf to live. Otherwise, no charm, no excitement, no sense of suspense and worse, no humor. Just a blatant remake rip off of a classic from start to finish.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Loud violence, nice imagery, but where's the WONDER?
This film was high on being a theme ride. Okay, it made a lot of money and in business, that is the bottom line, but the truth remains, it was too scared to go into "mood" in fear of losing it's audience. Too afraid to be wonderous and quiet for too long. Instead, it caved more on the Indiana Jones theme park ride format. ALICE AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM rather than Alice in Wonderland. The acting is top notch by everyone. The make up for Johnny Depp made him more scary than sympathetic and yet his character is suppose to evoke the same kind of sympathy that Ray Bolger did in The Wizard of Oz? It didn't happen. If the film wasn't so mean loud and violent, I would say his interpretation would have had a better chance. Not since Anna Quayle as the child hating baroness in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG was there as good a queen as Helena Bonham Carter. Her queen in mesmerizing. You can't keep your eyes off her. One gets the sense that Tim Burton can't get past his dark childhood or whatever it was back there that makes his movies depressing. His wonderland is expensive and full of Transformer type atmosphere at ear splitting levels. Some beautiful imagery, but not enough imagination to make it the wondrous magical adventure it should have been.
Grey Gardens (2009)
Deeply Moving, The film QUIVERS with FEELING
I remember vividly walking through the living room one day in the late 90's when my roommate was chuckling at the documentary GREY GARDENS on the Sundance channel. My eye immediately caught the images of Big and Little Edie in the yellow room and I became involved watching it too. Something about this little documentary just drew me into it. Yes, it was funny, but the humor was also mixed with feelings of horror and pity. I remember feeling a bit uneasy watching these women. One confined to an uncomfortable bed and the other confined to her shattered dreams of unrealized stardom. Both seemingly stuck in a dilapidated house in bad need of repair. What I find beautiful about the documentary is how it questions ones own perception on what "wealth" is. The documentary has that "never judge a book by it's cover" / "things are never quite what they seem" aspect to it. The greatness of the documentary is the message that "real" wealth in life comes in different forms, not just perceived material possessions. The outside doesn't necessarily reflect what's going on beneath the surface. After several viewings of the documentary, it's impossible to have pity for big and little Edie. They had wealth where it counted, in humor, intelligence, feeling, character and for each other.
GREY GARDENS with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange is a beautiful and deeply moving tribute to a couple of women whose lives might have been forgotten if it weren't for a couple of documentary filmmakers. Handsomely directed and paced by Michael Sucsy, the film resonates so many feelings that only the hardened will not be moved.
At times it is difficult not to compare and judge the performances of Lange and Barrymore with the real Big and Little Edie Beale, especially for those of us overly familiar with the documentary. Oddly enough some of the best scenes in the film are in the early years. If in moments Lange and Barrymore fail to completely live up to an exact interpretation of the Beales, they immediately redeem themselves with the conviction, understanding and love they have for the women and the material. The performances by Lange, Barrymore and Jeanne Tripplehorn will move and surprise you. The film honors, respects and celebrates it's subjects and like the documentary, it touches something deep down.
It reminds all of us that wealth comes in different forms and that true wealth is the loyalty two people can have for each other.
Lost Horizon (1973)
A very unique kind of musical. Film evokes the giddy happiness Hilton wrote about in his novel
The 1973 musical version of LOST HORIZON is a most wonderful endearing and campy musical. The 1973 musical remake of the James Hilton novel about mythical SHANGRI-LA! is a real special gem. Music by BURT BACHARACH and lyrics by HAL David. A strange mixture of straight drama, adventure and musical sequences. It has the distinction of being the only anti war musical fantasy ever filmed.
This film was a critical and financial disappointment in the United States, but made a lot of money overseas. Only in America did it fail. Highly different and unique in it's approach as a film musical, it deserves far better credit than it's given. As a story, LOST HORIZON is an incredible adventure and both the 1937 Frank Capra film and this 1973 musical are faithful adaptations of the James Hilton novel. What I like about the 1973 version is the freedom in which the musical numbers are presented. The film has a prestigious cast and a gifted director and cinematographer. This is a BURT BACHARACH Shangri-La and it's a wonderful place. Songs like THE WORLD IS A CIRCLE, SHARE THE JOY and LIVING TOGETHER, GROWING TOGETHER evoke a happiness that Hilton wrote about in his novel. Why shouldn't Shangri-La be a slightly goofy place? The two love songs, I MIGHT FRIGHTEN HER AWAY and the deleted I COME TO YOU are the sensitive spots in the picture. There's a peacefulness and soft spoken quality in both these songs that is very much keeping with the philosophy of the story. Moreover, THE THINGS I WILL NOT MISS is a good duet with a strong melody. It's a nice exchange of different types of perspective and who can fault with Olivia Hussey and Sally Kellerman stomping, singing and dancing on tables? They're a wonderful team and the number is well staged.
I always found it interesting in this story how the High Lama kidnaps someone from the outside world to take his place in Shangri-La. The character of the High Lama is a gentle soul but somewhat radical in his view of mankind as a whole. He has no hope for the world outside of Shangri-La. If this film were to be remade today, it would be interesting to see more emphasis put on the leading character, RICHARD ONWAY'S conflict with what he left behind in the outside world as opposed to what he's found in Shangri-La.
Of course, for the film to be believable, the character of RICHARD CONWAY must be presented as suffering amnesia at the end, like he was in the book. Neither film versions of LOST HORIZON were faithful to the novel in that regard. Did Conway find Shangri-La or was it imagined? Did they all die in the plane crash? Every man has his own idea of what his Shangri-La would be. The conflict with Conway wanting to believe in Shangri-La and returning to his old life in the outside world is powerful. I like the melancholy on the faces of Kellerman, Kennedy and Van as they watch their friends leave the mystical valley. Interesting how Conway doesn't want to leave paradise, but is being pressured out by his brother. Both versions of LOST HORIZON work in different ways, but both are successful in probing James Hiltons ideas of a hidden valley where money has no value and moderation is the rule. So in a sense it's anti capitalism in it's theme where as money and materialism is not the motivation. Human kindness, decency, compassion, courtesy, etiquette and living harmoniously with each other is the rule.
LOST HORIZON has a much stronger story than most musicals. It attempts to answer the basic fundamental questions of life and one can hardly fault it for not succeeding. One has to remember that LOST HORIZON in 1973 was post CABARET. It was no longer fashionable for characters to break out in song in a musical, much less to be dubbed by other singers. LOST HORIZON was an easy target for jaded critics. The expectations for it were high, almost unreasonable. There were two targets to be hit, the producer, ROSS HUNTER and BURT BACHARACH and the critics were out to get both of them. Ross Hunter had enjoyed decades of financial success as a producer and LOST HORIZON was his follow up film to his 1970 blockbuster AIRPORT That film was Universals biggest moneymaker up to that time and the success of that picture triggered a decade of disaster films. For years AIRPORT was the most watched film ever to be shown on television. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture. At the time, Burt Bacharach and Hal David were the most successful songwriters in the country. The unabashed sentimentality of LOST HORIZON hardly had a chance in the wake of the breakdown of censorship in films like EASY RIDER, MIDNIGHT COWBOY and THE GODFATHER. Sex and violence was a new frontier in the late 60's and early 70's Audiences were flocking to films with content that they were not use to seeing on the screen. Lavish musicals were no longer well received no matter how well they were made. Today LOST HORIZON can be enjoyed and appreciated on several levels. It's the ultimate escapist film with a strong story, wonderful music, an expensive budget and some quirky humor. It's unconventional in the sense that the music is not introduced until 45 minutes into the film. It changes course mid way when the mystical valley is introduced and why not? LOST HORIZON '73 is a heavenly film that deserves rediscovering. A lost and legendary treasure deserving far better than it's reputation.
My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Where's the PADDLE BALL man when you need him??
First, allow me to get this out of the way, I wanted to like this film. I did. I had prepared myself for gore and fun cheesy "comin' at ya" 3D effects and bad acting with unbelievable subplots and dialogue, but who could have anticipated the bland non existent story line or the 3D effects that went to the SIDE rather than straight at you? NOBODY and I mean not ONE person in the audience jumped at any of the 3D scare tricks. That should tell you something about this colossal bore of a movie. It's a career killer for an actor to be in a film like this. Yeah okay, Johnny Depp was in one in the beginning of his career, but can you name another actor who went on to have a career after doing a film like this? The naked girl under the bed in this movie? That's her film. Her career, finished. Same with the other actors in this lame brain rip off of a movie.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE doesn't even attempt to establish character, let alone plot. The guy comes back to reclaim his old girlfriend and sell the mine. That's it. End of plot. After everything we've learned about these type of slasher films why can't some new ingredients be added to them? An homage to Friday the 13th? Why? Another horror film with faces that your mind flushes away as soon as you see them. Characters that no one cares about. So what if they're murdered horribly, we can't even remember what they look like because they were barely in the movie 4 minutes before getting bumped off. An excuse just to ax another character to death gets so boring after the umpteenth time and all within the first 20 minutes. And of COURSE, the SUPER human serial killer that never gets seen by witnesses in a rather large town where every street is empty when a crisis occurs. Characters that walk toward the serial killers sounds rather than use a telephone instead. Never mind just turning your back and running in the opposite direction. A mind numbingly bad score that floods the soundtrack and prepares you for the scares long before they happen, so when the jumps do happen it's no surprise to anyone. A serial killer that is a rip off of all the bad slasher movie sequels you've ever sat through, but less want to remember.
We know what this is all for. To make a fast buck and hopefully trigger a chain of sequels. I doubt there will be a return to MY BLOODY VALENTINE. There's nothing original here to spawn a slew of sequels. The film introduces it's best 3D effect early on with an eye ball trick and then it's all "to the side" from there. The 3D effects go to the side, not right at you as they should and how they did in the classic and still the best 3D horror film ever made, HOUSE OF WAX with Vincent Price. That film had the intelligence to tease the audiences senses with 3D and demonstrating that 3D can give off chills and be fun at the same time. My Bloody Valentine does neither. A waste of money and a waste of an afternoon at the movies.
The Women (2008)
The BEST version of this story ever filmed
Like a lot of people familiar with some of the reviews, I had prepared myself for a flat remake full of catty women priding themselves on being put down artists. I didn't plan to see this movie. It was almost by default that I did. In fact, if it hadn't been playing around the corner at a second run movie theater (and at discount prices) I wouldn't have seen it. After all, I'm not a particular fan of anyone in the cast. Like a lot of people I thought, what are all these rich actresses doing remaking this dated story? I'm not a big fan of the original 1939 Cukor version either. Yeah, the comedy plays well on screen but in reality, no friendship could survive the way those women treated each another. The June Allison musical remake of the 50's is as gaudy and depressing as any movie ever made, so going in I already had a bias against this type of thing. LET IT BE KNOWN, no matter what you've heard about THE WOMEN 2008, it is DEFINITELY the best version of this story ever film.
I think the people disappointed in this new version are the ones hoping to see these characters as they were portrayed in the original. Women backstabbing, cat fighting and sabotaging each other while exchanging quick catty put down lines. Director Diane English has not remade THE WOMEN of 1939, she has re-imagined the material into a film that actually MEANS something. A transformation of the old material that is full of new characters that, for the most part, are every bit as memorable as the ones in the 1939 version. The only similarity they have with the original are the names. This movie surprised me.
If any story needed to be "re-imagined" for a present day audience, it's this one. I've never been a fan of Meg Ryan and I'm not a charitable audience in any movie, but Ryan completely won me over by the end of this film. These actresses know they're contending with a 1939 classic, but under the direction of English, they follow their own instincts and in doing so have redefined the characters and made them memorable and touching on their own. It's refreshing to see women on the screen presented this way. Grappling with decisions that will affect their lives, their families, their careers, their friendships and most importantly, their consciousness. Also refreshing is how English doesn't pander down to her audience. She gives us material that we have to rise up to. The characters are given decisions that we as an audience wonder what we would do in that situation. As a director, her pacing and edits are quick and assured. She knows the material and knows how she wants to present it.
What elevates this film above the 1939 and 1956 versions are the ideas presented in it. The nasty cattiness between the women has been replaced with more thought provoking ideas. Only the manicurist, played by Debi Mazar stays true to the 1939 character. The rest of the cast are basically new characters with the same names. Eva Mendes is a knock out and not as hateful as the Joan Crawford characterization.
Without question, the real surprise of this film is Annette Bening. English gives everyone a chance to shine in this film, but it is Annette Bening's character that gives the film it's center. If you're looking for a Rosaline Russell interpretation you're going to be disappointed. This is a new character and Bening makes her every bit as interesting and memorable as Russell made hers, only in a different way. I liked the way her character comes clean with Meg Ryan at the table about selling her out. I also liked the scene between Bening and her best friends daughter on the park bench. Equally as wonderful are the scenes of Bening pushing her ideas for the magazine on her reluctant associates and eventually selling her ideas out in order to save her job. I also thought it was smart on the part of English not to have a physical cat fight between these ladies. English winks at her audience by having Bening toss a banana at Meg Ryan and hitting her on the head, but only as a way of getting her attention. I also disagree the the criticisms of the way Bening looks in this film. She is nothing short of beautiful. Also wonderful is the casting of Candice Bergen as Meg Ryan's mother. The chemistry they display here seems an interesting extension of the mother and daughter roles they played in 1981's RICH AND FAMOUS. Jada Pinkett Smith is very likable and Carrie Fisher is memorable in her one scene. I could have done without the final baby sequence at the end of the picture and I had problems with the casting of Bette Midler. In all fairness, the audience in the screening I saw this movie in loved that baby delivery sequence, but I'm a guy and it kind of grossed me out. Bette Midler has become one of those actresses that thinks she can do no wrong in a movie, but whether it's the part as written or her acting, I was uncomfortable watching her. Her delivery of the "lamour, l'amour" line lands with a thud if you're familiar with the '39 original.
OK, so this film did not fair well at the box office, but look for it to strike a cord and become popular on television. The message of this movie being that one does not need to be in a relationship to feel complete. You can be complete on your own, whether you're a man or a woman.