Cinepub


Review – Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) by Jamie

It seems as though I’m stuck in a world of watching adaptations of books I haven’t read at the moment. First of it was the surprisingly entertaining The Hunger Games, then Disney’s alright but somewhat lacklustre John Carter and now we’re back with another Disney attempt with Oz the Great and Powerful. It serves as a prequel of sorts to the 1939 original movie and takes elements from L. Frank Baum’s novels as well as bits from Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ as near as I can tell.

It basically tells the story of Oscar Diggs, stage name Oz, a magician/con-man with a travelling fair who is accidentally transported to the Land of Oz when he and his hot air balloon are caught in a tornado in Kansas. He finds out that there is a prophecy foretelling the arrival of a great and powerful wizard bearing the same name as the land itself. Oz decides to take advantage of this fortuitous coincidence when he discovers that the prophecy states that the Wizard will be named King and get mountains and mountains of treasure. He soon finds himself caught up in a war between three witches and has to decide whether he is going to try and get home or become the man he’d like to be and he has fooled others into believing he is.

My, it almost sounds like a fantasy version of John Carter when I write it out like that…

Anyway that’ll do for a synopsis since the film’s currently out at the cinema and that. The question is, is it worth you plonking your hard earned cash monies down on a cinema counter in order to go see it?

Well up front I’ll say I saw it in 2D because in a 3D film your eyes spend ten minutes adjusting to it and then you forget that it’s even in 3D in the first place so what’s the point in wasting that extra couple of quid? Still there were scenes that definitely seemed to be built for the medium so who knows, it might add something to it. Of course the film is also very, very colourful, something that tends to get lost in the 3D films I have seen so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

The film itself was surprisingly entertaining. I guess the surprise shouldn’t have been so great because it is Sam Raimi directing and, generally speaking, the man does good work. Franco is also generally entertaining as the titular Oz, in fact all of the actors are pretty good though for the first half of the film Mila Kunis seems bizarrely wooden like she’s trying to pull of naïve but isn’t quite getting it and comes of instead as someone who may have suffered a very, very slight brain injury. I mean, she’s still good but something seems a little off.

Still this film could have been a lot worse. Hollywood’s track record with prequels hasn’t exactly been great. The Hobbit left me wondering why the hell it couldn’t have just been one film, perhaps two at the most. Prometheus should have been a lot less stupid. And then there’s Star Wars. Oz manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that these other films fall in to and I think the reason possibly is that there really isn’t that much to the original Wizard of Oz film itself (I mean with regards to plot. Of course there‘s all kinds of deeper meanings that can be read into it). It’s a fairly straight forward story about a girl on a journey of discover through a weird and marvellous world. You get the sense that there is a back story, from the brief scene when the Good and Wicked Witches are in the scene together in Munchkin Land and of course with the Wizard himself, but none of it is really explored within the film itself. There’s a lot to explore there and you can do it without really stepping on the originals toes too much.

The film does have its problems. Perhaps most distracting was, whilst it was referencing the original film just fine, how it almost seemed as though it was trying to be every other movie. One character is deceived by someone they trust, becomes disfigured and turns to the dark side. At one point Oz says something like “I may not be the Wizard you were expecting but maybe I can be the Wizard you need.” Also he spends a lot of time acting opposite a digital monkey. I know that these may rather be more a problem with my film obsessed brain rather than the movie itself but it all just seemed a bit, well, obvious. I think the broader point that I’m trying to make here is that this film suffers from a similar problem to John Carter. It’s all very pretty, and I mean very, very pretty, but once more it never feels as though it’s anything we haven’t seen before. Oz get’s away with it a bit better though since it has a) a more likeable lead and b) it doesn’t seem to be taking itself to seriously like Carter did at points. It’s all just a bit of a fun romp through a weird fantasy land with a con-man.

Speaking of Oz’s character, there’s something about him that puts me in mind a little of a more family friendly version of Ash from the Evil Dead series. In fact, since this is a Raimi film, I wouldn’t be surprised if the character was thought of with how he might have a young Bruce Campbell, who of course gets a cameo, play it in mind.

Despite it’s flaws, like the makeup of the Wicked Witch of the West looking like a cross between the Mask and the Green Goblin, Oz the Great and Powerful is a pretty enjoyable return to Oz. Speaking of which, would it have killed you to have some references to that film in here Raimi? Maybe Tick-Tock or, God forbid, some Wheelers? Anyway, it’s certainly more enjoyable than John Carter or the film it has been most compared to, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Three out of five. Laterz. Oh, and if Zach Braff’s character Frank from the Baum Brothers Circus at the beginning of the film is shown in a sequel writing a book based on his friend’s adventures, I will probably go insane.

Oz

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Five Terrifying Monsters From My Childhood by Jamie

Childhood is generally a magical time filled with wonder and amazement but it is also a horrific nightmare filled with monsters. Many of these evil creatures come from watching film and they leave a lasting impression that lingers with us for the rest of our lives, lurking at all times in the back of our mind. This then is a list of some of those things which still haunt my brain to this very day. Warning: Here Be Spoilers

5. Greys (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The X-Files, countless other things)

Whether you believe that they actually exist or not, and personally I don’t, there is something undeniably creepy about the alien species generally referred to as the Greys. There’s something about their huge black eyes and largely feature-less face that causes some kind of primal fear. I think it’s something to do with the fact that they seem completely emotionless and you can’t tell what they are thinking. There’s also the way that they are often depicted as moving in films.

Take the way that the ‘leader’ from Close Encounters moves. It‘s got a disturbing weirdness to it‘s movement, probably something to do with the limitations of the special effects but still. In other media they aren’t portrayed as anything less than terrifying, generally performing some kind of medical procedure, never saying a word just carrying out their tasks in an almost deliberate, robotic fashion.

Then there’s a film called Alien Abduction: The McPherson Tape. It’s a hand-held, Blair Witch style film that tells the tale of a family practically held hostage within their own home by some Greys that they‘ve managed to piss off. It’s cheesy as fuck but when I was younger it used to terrify me, particularly the last scene which was just creepy as fuck. Oh, and there’s also an interview with a British musician who is an alleged abductee (Actually just an actor portraying the role to try and keep up the premise that the video is real found footage) who uses the phrase ‘Big Headed Wankers’ which used to amuse me and my brothers to no end. It’s actually on YouTube, part one can be found here.

4. The Wheelers (Return To Oz)

The Wheelers are like a monstrous amalgamation of people, bicycles and hyenas. They hunt their prey on the wheels that they have in place of hands and feet, laughing like maniacs as they do so. Of course the question which is immediately raised in your mind is ‘But Jamie, if they don’t have hands, how can they possibly catch that which they are chasing?’ And whilst it’s not actually raised in the film, I have my theory.

Surely, since their hands are fucking wheels, they only have one possible method for catching their quarry and that must be their mouths. Yes, I put it to you that the Wheeler’s capture and then eat their prey. That is fucking horrible. And guess what else they do. They wear helmets which, when their head is turned down towards the ground, has a second, creepier face on it!

I will say this though, they be some stylin’ motherfuckers. They got these long sleeved, clown-esque jackets which they often accessorise with multi-coloured pipes. Above that they wear those things which I can’t remember the name of. Not sure If I ever knew the name of them actually. They often appear in cartoons involving conductors or opera singers and a character will generally grab it and roll it up like a window blind. You know the thing I’m talking about. They also wear colourful bowties. Nice.

3. The Skeksis (The Dark Crystal)

Who doesn’t love The Dark Crystal? It’s a classic in the puppet/fantasy genre and it features the innocent Gelflings, the wise urRu and the… Holy Fucking Shit! What is that hideous vulture dinosaur thing?!?! Oh dear God, keep it away! Keep it away!

Yes, the Skeksis, the evil side of the once benevolent UrSkeks race which, as we all know, was splintered into two separate races, along with the urRu, when the Dark Crystal was fractured. The Skeksis have ruled their world for over a thousand years going so far as to commit genocide against the Gelfling due to a prophecy that a Gelfling would bring an end to their rule. Not only are they evil monsters but they are evil monsters who take superstition and myth seriously. Sure the prophecy turned out to be true but it was probably quite self-fulfilling.

So terrified was I by the Skeksis when I was younger that even to this day, whenever The Dark Crystal is brought up in conversation my mother helpfully informs everyone of just how much they used to frighten me. Seriously though who could blame me? I mean just look at them, they are the very embodiment of a child’s third worst nightmare. Thankyou Jim Henson for improving my life by inventing The Muppets, Sesame Street, The Fraggles and Dinosaurs and for scarring me for life by creating The Dark Crystal and making me want to stab/shit myself in terror whenever I see a vulture. I’ve had some pretty awkward moments being ejected from zoos, I can tell you.

2. The Child Catcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

The country of Vulgaria seems like quite a nice place to visit despite the awful name it suffers from. With it’s Bavarian architecture and cobbled streets it seems like the kind of place that would make really good chocolate and beer. But after staying there for a while you’d notice a disturbing lack of children and disturbing number of depressed toy-makers played by Benny Hill. You see the problem is that the Baron of Vulgaria is a child-hating, toy-loving lunatic (which I admit makes it sound like he and I would get on quite well) who has hired one of the most terrifying characters ever capture on celluloid to hunt down and capture children.

This horrible, mincing freak with his top hat and elongated nose has haunted the dreams of many a child. There’s just something so… paedophiley about him. He’d stalk the streaks of Vulgaria with his cage disguised as a free treats cart offering sweets and ice-cream to any child who happened to cross his path making us all afraid to trust those perfectly nice strangers who would offer us sweets in the park. Bastard.

To top it all off he could actually smell children! How the fuck do you escape a villain with that kind of power? You can’t hide from him because his powerful nostrils would flare and he’d soon find you. One offer of a free sweet later and BAM! You’re locked up in some dungeon type place, never to see your parents again. There is one question I do have though: When the children grow up, were they freed from their subterranean prison? I can’t imagine that the population of Vulgaria would grow if they didn’t and I’m sure it would affect morale within the country if you citizens had spent the formative years of their lives locked in a fucking dungeon by their leader.

1. The Father (Mac and Me)

This is it. The big one and I’m sure I’ll be mostly alone on it. Mac and Me was a film which tried to capitalise on the success of E.T. by being released six years later and having a shittier but similar story. I’ve kind of reviewed it before and so I shan’t go into all the plot details again. I’ll just say that there are a few things that this film is famous for a number of things. One is the scene involving the main kid in the wheelchair flying over a cliff which used to played on Conan O’Brien when Paul Rudd would come on to promote a film. The second is that the film was really nothing more than a shameless plug for McDonalds, Skittles and Coca-Cola. There is an impromptu dance number in the middle of a McDonalds, Ronald and everything. It’s pretty fucked up.

Anyway the reason that this film sticks in my mind is because of Mac’s father, an unnamed alien who used to scare the shit out of me as a kid. There was something about his gaunt expressionless face that terrified me. It never changed no matter whether he was lying dying in a cave or whether he was wielding a gun in a supermarket. Yes. That actually happened and I’m sure it did nothing to reassure me that the creature wasn’t the most horrific thing a human had ever thought up.

This was literally the best picture I could find of Mac’s dad. When the internet refuses to have a picture of something, you know it’s horrific.

The way he moved scared me as well. His awkward, drunken gait as he stumbled around, his lanky arms occasionally flailing around to randomly smack at something. Oh god, just the thought of him now terrifies me. Seriously, the image of that bastard has been so seared into my mind as the worst thing imaginable that I literally have trouble seeing that film today. Every time he appears on screen a small shiver of fear judders up my mind and hits something deep and primal within my brain.

Well, that’s that. I’m sure I’ve forgotten more than one thing that also scared me when I was a kid or perhaps I’ve just blocked it from my mind as some kind of safety mechanism to keep myself sane. Until I can regress myself and remember what those things were, we’ll just leave it here. Laterz.



Halloweek: Little Shop Of Horrors by Jamie

Yes, it’s the week leading up to Halloween so let us look at films with slight links to that holiday! First up it’s ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’. I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly the best review I’ve ever done. I was having camera problems and I had just woken up so meh. Still,enjoy!




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