GI JOE: RETALIATION

Do You Have What It Takes?

Director
Jon M. Chu

Starring
Dwayne Johnson
Adrianne Palicki
D.J. Cotrona
Jonathan Pryce
Bruce Willis
Byung-hun Lee
Elodie Yung
Bruce Willis



After the events of the first film, the Joes have been out in the field fighting hidden battles, winning unseen victories. Which, in the current political climate means two very obvious targets, one of which being North Korea (I’ve defined the other in my highlighted character section). I’ve gotta say, I found this a little odd. One of the aspects that I liked about this movie’s predecessor was the global aspect. Granted, it was a token gesture but the fact that the team was comprised of various nationalities working as a world military was interesting. This time it’s just an American team, American military, American targets. The main strike force is led by Duke [Channing Tatum] and his loyal buddy Roadblock [Johnson] but after securing a Pakistani nuclear weapon, the Joes are betrayed by the US President, leaving only Roadblock, Lady Jaye [Palicki] and Flint [Cotrona] alive. Meanwhile, the only other living Joe, Snake Eyes, is out recruiting his nemesis’ cousin Jinx [Yung].. it’s never explained why and there’s absolutely no conflict here, so it could be anyone. And finally the bad guys are re-introduced. Storm Shadow [Lee] breaks Cobra Commander out of prison and they all meet up with the infiltrator Zartan, who has been posing as the President to discuss global domination! Muaha ha ha ha, etc. In order to stop them, the Joes enlist the help of retired General Joe Colton [Willis] and a plan to expose Zartan forms.

What’s most surprising is that Retaliation does everything that was asked of a sequel after Rise Of Cobra was released; it takes the subject matter more seriously, tries to add more scope and scale, reigns in the gadgets and campy elements and gives the whole film a more militaristic flavour. Yet, somehow, this actually works in a detrimental fashion. One of the reasons I half enjoyed the first film was its stupidity. The idiotic submarines, planes and mech suits added to the light hearted nature but by making the Joes straight killers out for vengeance and retribution, Retaliation is a little cold. If I had to draw an analogy, I would say the two films are like two different drunks at a party. Both are equally stupid and annoying but the first is a little cheery and balancing something on his head. He’s a bit of a douche and a waste of time but completely harmless. Then there’s the second guy, the deadly serious drunk. Equally stupid, equally annoying but this one is firmly grasping your shoulders, staring you in the eye and chanting over and over that he’s one hundred per cent sober. You know he won’t actually get in a car and attempt to drive but his insistence is starting to wear thin. If, for some reason, there’s a third G.I. Joe release, we can expect to see that really horny, angry drunk who you know is going to break something sooner or later and really needs to leave.. right now.

The plot is reasonably engaging but still the same paint-by-numbers take over the world and get to x-location by y-hour to deal with z-threat to avert it. Without a simple driving force and a script that feels like it’s been penned by a large number of different individuals, Retaliation is just a long string of pointless (albeit well directed) action sequences. And to be honest, what else would you expect from the director of a few Step Up sequels and a Justin Bieber documentary? When the characters aren’t running around, shooting and blowing things up, they fulfil their campy acting quota. The villains are especially villainous but in that wonderfully kid friendly way: lots of threatening and muscle flexing without any actual maliciousness. And the good guys are so disgustingly cliché that they become almost entertaining. Roadblock expands on his upbringing in a rundown neighbourhood but the really amusing backstory is that of Lady Jaye. Lady Jaye explains that she’s fourth generation military with a father who never accepted her gender as solider material, so she set out to prove him wrong. Nothing wrong with that, perfectly acceptable. Problem is, every time a building needs to be infiltrated or information gathered, she’s used as the sexy lady distraction. “Oh, these bags are so heavy considering I’m only wearing hot pants and a bra! Won’t someone help me?” Swing and a miss.

But it’s not all negative. As stated, the action sequences don’t gel together with any neatness or precision but they’re extremely well executed. Same goes for the acting, largely ridiculous posturing but the chemistry between Johnson and Tatum is not only good it’s convincingly brilliant. Then there’s the CGI and costume design which are wholly acceptable, if a little stupid. And finally, Henry Jackman’s is perfectly fitting, neither challenging nor memorable but complimentary to the on-screen action. The biggest problem with this film is that it’s blatantly style over substance but taking away some of the style doesn’t automatically enhance the substance, you just end up with a weak release.


Release Date:
29th March 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Let’s go with the shoehorned Storm Shadow/Zartan backstory, which is one of the most hackneyed and badly delivered scenes I’ve seen in a long time. In Rise Of Cobra we learn that Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes were trained in the same dojo and developed a fierce rivalry. Out of jealousy, the young Storm Shadow kills their master and Snake Eyes takes a vow of silence.. or something. It’s addressed a few times but there’s no real payoff. So when Retaliation comes out, the feud continues. Only this time, Storm Shadow is taken before the dojo master to face judgement. Here Storm Shadow explains that it was not his sword that killed their master. Together they deduce that the real culprit was in fact Zartan.. with no evidence whatsoever! It’s almost as if the studio called in a group of writers and said, “How can we get the other ninja working with the good guys? ‘Cause then we can sell twice the toys.” And the best they could come up with is “Change his origin?” What amuses me most is that somebody must have spoken up and said, “The guy’s like 40 years old. Wouldn’t he have pieced this together sooner and without the aid of someone else simply saying ‘OMG Zartan killed your master and tricked you! Curse that pesky Zartan’?” At which point, that astute individual was no doubt fired for forgetting the primary function of this film is not to tell a story but to sell toys. Thank you, Lucas, your legacy is intact.

Notable Characters:
Jonathan Pryce as The President. I love that. They didn’t even give him a name, just a title of office. Pryce is sort of like Ben Kingsley in that he’s a terrific actor but sometimes he ends up in some of the worst films, making an utter fool of himself. While his character is painfully dumb, the script manages to target that second aforementioned contemporary target (in addition to North Korea) and that’s your own country’s politicians. People have no love or trust when it comes to their governments and poking fun at them is an easy win for script writers, especially when you have a good actor having fun in a silly role.

Highlighted Quote:
“How can you be so good at real combat and so terrible at this?”

In A Few Words:
“Fun, flawed, harmless nonsense but if we’re lucky, this will be the last G.I. Joe adaptation we’ll have to endure”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #93

[24 March 2013]


Winning Team:
Willyenium Phallicon

Genre – Erotic smuggling western

Runners Up:
In Space, No One Can Hear Your Team Name
Genre – Silent Film
Robot Anne Frank
Genre – Hasta la vista, Nazis!
Tango In Space
Genre – Unclassifiable
Space Amazeballs
Genre – Teen-slasher space film


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the 1984 Tom Hanks comedy about a young man’s bachelor party?
BACHELOR PARTY
2. What type of animal is the title character in the movie Babe?
PIG
3. Which two actors play the lead roles in the movie Bad Boys? (one point per correct answer)
WILL SMITH / MARTIN LAWRENCE
4. Hill Valley is the fictional setting for which film series? [bonus point for naming the US state it’s in]
BACK TO THE FUTURE [California]
5. How many movies based on the character Mr. Bean have been released to date?
TWO (Bean / Mr. Bean’s Holiday)
6. Who received top billing on the 1989 poster for Batman, Michael Keaton or Jack Nicholson?
JACK NICHOLSON
7. Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and Rinko Kikuchi all appeared in which film?
BABEL
8. Which film starred Harvey Keitel in the 1992 original and Nicolas Cage in the 2009 sequel?
BAD LIEUTENANT
9. Which Stanley Kubrick film featured the characters Redmond Barry, Lady Lyndon and Captain Potzdorf?
BARRY LYNDON
10. 1968’s Barbarella was a co-production between which two European countries? (one point per correct answer)
FRANCE / ITALY

ROUND II: Filming [Films set on a spaceship Special]
1. What do the crew of the Palomino encounter in 1979’s Black Hole? Alien life? An abandoned colony? A black hole?
A BLACK HOLE
2. Who voiced the lead role of Cale Tucker in the animated film, Titan AE? Jeremy Renner? Matt Damon? Ben Affleck?
MATT DAMON
3. In Galaxy Quest, Tim Allen plays television actor Jason Nesmith. What is the name of his character on the fictional show? Peter Taggart? Alexander Dane? Tommy Webber?
PETER TAGGART
4. How many crew members are aboard the Nostromo, in Alien? Seven? Nine? Eleven?
SEVEN
5. Who directed 2007’s Sunshine? Shane Meadows? Danny Boyle? Michael Winterbottom?
DANNY BOYLE
6. Of the following three actors, which plays the Apollo 13 character who does not get to go into space? Kevin Bacon? Bill Paxton? Gary Sinise?
GARY SINISE
7. The Star Trek villain Nero is a member of which fictional race? Vulcans? Klingons? Romulans?
ROMULAN
8. How many of the original crew do not make it to the end of the film in Serenity? One? Two? Three?
TWO
9. According to DJ’s translation in Event Horizon, what does ‘Liberate tutame ex infernis’ mean? Save yourself from hell? Save me from damnation? Save us from burning? [bonus point for naming the actor who portrayed DJ]
SAVE YOURSELF FROM HELL [Jason Isaacs]
10. Excluding the model shots, 2001: A Space Odyssey was shot in five days. True or False?
FALSE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks was released in what year?
1971
2. What are the three aliases of the lead character in Kill Bill (excluding Mum and Jane Doe)? (one point per correct answer)
THE BRIDE / BLACK MAMBA / BEATRIX KIDDO
3. Martin Brest, Tony Scott and John Landis were the respective directors of which trilogy?
BEVERLY HILLS COP
4. How many Disney animated classics were released during World War II (1939-1945)? [bonus points for naming the films]
THREE [Pinocchio / Dumbo / Bambi]
5. How many times has Brewster’s Millions been made?
FIVE (1914 / 1921 / 1935 / 1945 / 1985)
6. Steve Buscemi’s character in Big Daddy continually shows up demanding food from which fast food outlet?
MCDONALDS
7. What was Jamie Bell’s feature debut?
BILLY ELLIOT
8. What did Ridley Scott direct after Alien?
BLADE RUNNER
9. What is Lebowski’s first name in The Big Lebowski?
JEFF
10. The criminal, the athlete, the brain, the princess and the basket case are five aliases for the lead characters in which film?
THE BREAKFAST CLUB

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the title of the last film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi? The Body Snatcher? The Raven? Black Friday?
THE BODY SNATCHER
2. What is the serial killer’s signature trait in The Bone Collector? He kills people with bones? A single shard of bone is removed? He brands his victim’s bones?
A SINGLE SHARD OF BONE IS REMOVED
3. Of the five appliances in The Brave Little Toaster, only one of them has a name that isn’t simply a play on what they are (ie. Lampy the lamp, Blanky the blanket). What is the hoover’s name? Thurman? Walter? Kirby?
KIRBY (named after the Kirby Dual Sanitronic 80)
4. How do Alec and Laura meet in Brief Encounter? He removes grit from her eye? He stops her from falling onto train tracks? They accidentally pick up each other’s luggage?
HE REMOVES GRIT FROM HER EYE
5. What are Elvis’ last words in Bubba Ho-Tep? Elvis is leaving the building? Thank you, thank you very much? Oh my?
THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH
6. Black Hawk Down is set in which year? 1988? 1993? 2000?
1993
7. What is the nickname given to Bruce after he reports on events he is in fact causing, in Bruce Almighty? Mr. Scoop? Mr. Headline? Mr. Exclusive?
MR. EXCLUSIVE
8. What is the name of the Union Pacific Railroad employee encountered multiple times by Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid in the film of the same name? Woodcock? Garris? Logan?
WOODCOCK
9. Which of the following is not a poster tagline for Ben Hur? The entertainment experience of a lifetime? The greatest story ever told? A tale of the Christ?
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
10. In 1972 the marketing department at American International Pictures insisted on including references to slavery on the posters for Blacula, to “ensure African American audiences would be interested.” True or False?
TRUE (it went on to become one of the highest earners of 1972)

BOUND IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Gangs Of New York / Green Lantern / Gladiator
Poster: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Actor: George Takei

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

If You Think You Know The Story, You Don’t Know Jack

Director
Bryan Singer

Starring
Nicholas Hoult
Eleanor Tomlinson
Ewan McGregor
Stanley Tucci
Bill Nighy



If Bill Willingham’s comic, Fables, has taught us anything, it’s that all classic fairy tales, folklore and legends can be reworked into something brilliant and challenging for contemporary audiences. Unfortunately, the cinematic adaptations of these tales tend to lean toward crappy, underwhelming cash-ins. Jack The Giant Slayer is no exception.

The film opens with a young farm boy, Jack, being read a story about the giants that live in the clouds. The same story is simultaneously read by the princess of the land, Isabelle. The legend tells of a group of monks who forged magic beans, to grow a mighty stalk so that they might meet God. What they found, however, was a race of giants that descended the beanstalks and pillaged the land. Finally King Erik produced a magic crown that caused the giants to return to their realm and the beanstalk was cut down. Ten years later, Jack [Hoult] is an easily distracted young man who dreams of adventure and the princess [Tomlinson] longs for a life outside the castle walls. With their funds running low, Jack is sent into the town to sell the family’s horse and cart, only to exchange them for magic beans handed to him by a desperate monk. That night, Isabelle sneaks out of the castle but gets lost in the rain, ending up at Jack’s house. Long story short, the beanstalk grows, takes both Isabelle and the house, leaving Jack lying unconscious at the foot of the towering vegetation. The beanstalk naturally draws the attention of the King’s guard and a rescue party is formed – consisting of Jack, Lord Roderick [Tucci] the King’s devious advisor, Elmont [McGregor] the leader of the king’s guard and a handful of men whose sole purpose is to be killed off dramatically. Having scaled the beanstalk, the adventurers are introduced to the realm of the giants and a bunch of nonsense ensues.

The first thing to point out is that this film is horribly ugly. The CGI is terribly disappointing and while there are a few moments of plausibility, the majority is thoroughly unengaging. The giants themselves are uninspired and have the quality of a film produced ten years ago, the backdrops, settings and beanstalk itself are middle-of-the-road and all too often we’re treated to that ever so popular ‘actors walking through an empty green screen set surrounded by dull imagery’. I don’t know why we have to put up with this so much but big budget releases seem to replicate a particular low-angle shot of an actor stumbling about and the lighting never fits, the imagery is ropey at best and the whole effect fails miserably. Yet for some reason, it keeps cropping up in films. Another horrid aspect is the costume work. While Snow White And The Huntsman was a flawed release, at least they had Colleen Atwood on their payroll. The armour is stale, the peasants are over-dressed and I swear Nicholas Hoult was outfitted in a leather hoodie. A LEATHER HOODIE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! To make things worse, this is Joanna Johnston we’re talking about.. or to use her full title, Academy Award Nominee Joanna Johnston. I could happily go on but I’ll simply round it off by saying from almost every technical aspect, this film is a mess.

Even technical nightmares can be salvaged with a decent story and good acting. Unsurprisingly, this film as neither. The acting is shamefully ropey largely due to a bland and unadventurous script. The actors try and push their way through the trite dialogue and terrible narrative developments but this simply comes off as energetic ham. Then there’s the giants, who have little-to-no characterisation outside of being oafish louts with Northern Irish brogues. On top of that, Bill Nighy’s character (General Fallon) has a second head that hasn’t developed fully so speaks in a series of grunts, gurgles and slurs. This slight to anyone with a mental deficiency is played by John Kassir.. presumably because making guttural noises was beneath Nighy. The problem is, the story doesn’t step away from the simple legend enough and in trying to ground it in some sort of reality, only adds to the boring premise.

**Spoiler happy paragraph here. Skip on ahead if you wish**
I’ve chosen to expand on the opening in my highlighted scene below but I wanted to quickly touch on how the film ends – the contents of which may only make sense if you’ve seen the film. Jack and Isabelle are facing the evil General Fallon alone and when certain doom seems near, Jack drops a magic bean into Fallon’s mouth and the mighty plant rips through his body – quite clever actually. So with Fallon in pieces and the other giants storming the castle gates, the crown appears and subdues the attackers. But it’s on Jack’s head. Here’s my problem. If this film perpetrates that anachronistic 90’s female action heroism, at least have the decency to stick to it. Having a female character who craves adventure and independence to simply need rescuing and then relinquish a symbol of great power to a man is a bit counterproductive. On top of that, she somehow manages to marry the commoner and he becomes the king, ruler of all, including her. Dumb! On top of everything, that would be acceptable if this was some sort of mystical kingdom (think The Princess Bride) but as the film closes we learn it’s in fact England and the magical crown has been moulded into the base for St. Edward’s Crown in the Tower of fucking London! The camera then whips up through the clouds, revealing the mystical land of the giants high above blighty… I assume Heathrow has no problem with that.

Had this production been a low-budget indie film with a nobody cast, I might have been impressed, amazed even, by what had been accomplished. But with so many seasoned professionals and a generous, expansive budget, Jack The Giant Slayer is horrifically dismal. Best avoid.


Release Date:
22nd March 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
To explain the backstory of the giants and the magical crown, an opening sequence has been devised. For want of the originality and subtle beauty of Hellboy 2 the best this film can muster is a nasty CGI animated segment that could easily have been a rushed pre-vis sequence. Then there’s the content.. Erik The Great commanded the fealty of the giants, before sending them back into the sky, with the power of the magic crown… made of a giant’s heart… somehow.. at some other point.. by someone. It’s this kind of wishy-washy plot hole that really screw this film. Erik manages to craft a crown out of a giant’s heart; ok, well if I were to believe that I don’t see how it would magically command the giants to do things. And don’t give me that “it’s only a kid’s film, stop overthinking it” crap because children are smarter than that and it’s unchallenging shit like this that keeps them away from the cinema. Kids can follow The Lord Of The Rings for crying out loud, give them a bit of credit.

Notable Characters:
Of all the lost performances, I actually found myself enjoying Ewan McGregor’s character. A little campy, a little panto but for the most part, strangely amusing and engaging. That’s literally all I can say about that. The rest is a dire slew of rancid ramblings, tired mumbling and phoned in dithering.

Highlighted Quote:
“I may not be the hero of this story but at least I’ll get to see the end of it”

In A Few Words:
“Cliched, formulaic and surprisingly ugly, Jack The Giant Slayer is a huge disappointment. What the hell happened, Singer?”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #92

[10 March 2013]


Winning Team:
Le Grand Blu-Ray

Genre – Drama

Runners Up:
High Definition Impossible
Genre – Blurry action
Tango & Cash Unchained
Genre – Cop buddy western
Cockblockbuster
Genre – Video store where no one gets laid but there’s a lot of nudity


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Coen Brother’s Fargo is set in which US town?
FARGO
2. Which two actors play the lead roles in Face/Off? (one point per correct answer)
JOHN TRAVOLTA / NICOLAS CAGE
3. How many Father Of The Bride films (starring Steve Martin) were made?
TWO
4. In The Full Monty, Gerald Cooper (played by Tom Wilkinson) has a collection of what in his front garden?
GNOMES
5. What is the title of the first Rambo film?
FIRST BLOOD
6. Correctly spell Bueller (of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
BUELLER
7. Korben Dallas, Leeloo, Zorg and Ruby Rhod are characters in which Luc Besson film?
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
8. Which Disney film featured animated interpretations of Rite Of Spring, Night On Bald Mountain and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
FANTASIA
9. Which actor appeared in both Reservoir Dogs and Free Willy?
MICHAEL MADSEN
10. Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly was made in 1986, when was the original made?
1958

ROUND II: Filming [Films released on DVD but not blu-ray Special]
1. What is the name of the lead character in Disney’s Aladdin? Aladdin? Jafar? Mulan?
ALADDIN
2. What was the title of Steven Spielberg’s WWII holocaust film? Munich? Schindler’s List? 1941?
SCHINDLER’S LIST
3. Which actor played private investigator Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Robin Williams? Christopher Lloyd? Bob Hoskins?
BOB HOSKINS
4. Seven Samurai was released in which year? 1949? 1952? 1954?
1954
5. The source material for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was written by which French author? Alexandre Dumas? Victor Hugo? Emile Zola?
VICTOR HUGO
6. What did Ron Howard direct in 1988? Willow? Cocoon? Backdraft?
WILLOW
7. Which actor does Ben Affleck’s character work for, in Jersey Girl? Kevin Costner? Will Smith? Jeff Goldblum?
WILL SMITH
8. What colour is The Blob in the 1958 film of the same name? Green? Red? Black?
RED
9. Who directed the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Christine? John Landis? Brian De Palma? John Carpenter?
JOHN CARPENTER
10. Zulu Dawn (1979) is a prequel to Zulu (1964). True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What was the title of the 1978 musical adaptation of The Wizard Of Oz, starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor?
THE WIZ
2. The following quotes are from which film, “Squadron 40, DIVE!” “Who wants to live forever? DIVE!” and “Gordon’s alive!?”?
FLASH GORDON
3. John Cleese was nominated for a best writing Oscar for which film?
A FISH CALLED WANDA
4. Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were slated to play the role of Ren McCormack before Kevin Bacon was cast in which movie?
FOOTLOOSE
5. What was the title of the 1968 William Wyler film starring Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif?
FUNNY GIRL
6. What rank does Gump hold while fighting the Vietnam war in Forrest Gump?
PRIVATE
7. Who played the title character in The Fugitive – the 1947 John Ford version?
HENRY FONDA
8. What was the highest numbered Part before the series changed from Friday The 13th to ‘Jason‘?
EIGHT
9. In which two films does Yul Brynner play a robot cowboy? (one point per correct answer)
WESTWORLD / FUTUREWORLD
10. Antonio Bay is the setting for which John Carpenter film?
THE FOG

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which 1964 film starred Sophia Loren, Christopher Plummer, Alec Guinness and James Mason? How The West Was Won? The Fall Of The Roman Empire? The Greatest Story Ever Told?
THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
2. What was the name of Dr. Morbius’ ship in 1956’s Forbidden Planet? Bellerophon? Chimera? Pegasus?
BELLEROPHON
3. What is the name of Jonathan Preest’s home in Gerald McMorrow’s Franklyn? Neverwhere City? Elsewhere City? Meanwhile City? [bonus point for naming the real city it’s based around]
MEANWHILE CITY [London]
4. How many films did James Cagney appear in, in 1933? 5? 6? 7?
FIVE (Lady Killer, Footlight Parade, The Mayor Of Hell, Picture Snatcher, Hard To Handle)
5. What is the name of Jo Stockton’s (Hepburn) bookshop in Funny Face? Embryo Concepts? Ethereal Carvings? Existential Corner?
EMBRYO CONCEPTS
6. What is the name of Alexandra Owens’ dog in Flashdance? Boxer? Dingle? Grunt?
GRUNT
7. Despite critical acclaim and commercial success, Fatal Attraction was the second highest grossing film of 1987. What was the highest? The Untouchables? Lethal Weapon? Three Men And A Baby?
THREE MEN AND A BABY
8. What does the title Full Metal Jacket refer to? A type of bullet? Flak armour? A flame-thrower?
A TYPE OF BULLET
9. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Doyle is bad news but a good cop”? The French Connection? French Connection II? The Seven-Ups?
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
10. Final Destination started as a script for an X-Files episode but was reworked into a standalone film. True or False?
TRUE

BOUND IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Judge Dredd / Johnny English / Jurassic Park III
Poster: Kelly’s Heroes
Actor: James Coburn

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

The Land You Know, The Story You Don’t

Director
Sam Raimi

Starring
James Franco
Mila Kunis
Rachel Weisz
Zach Braff
Michelle Williams



The story opens with an introduction to magician, con-man and lothario, Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs [Franco], who is performing with a travelling circus in Kansas. After a particularly tempestuous act, Oscar tries to make a quick getaway in a hot air balloon, only to find himself in the path of a raging tornado. The tornado somehow transports him to the mystical land of Oz, wherein he meets the shy, innocent witch Theodora [Kunis]. Upon learning that Oscar is a magician, she believes him to be the wizard who has been prophesised to rid Oz’s inhabitants of the wicked witch. On the way to the Emerald City, Oscar saves a talking, flying monkey (named Finley [Braff]) from a ferocious lion, earning him a life debt. As the life debt binds Finley to Oscar, he decides to confide in his new companion that he is, in fact, not a real wizard. Upon arrival in the Emerald City, Oscar is shown the throne room and the riches of Oz by Theodora’s sister, Evanora [Weisz]. Taken in by greed, Oscar sets off to somehow destroy the witch.. but all is not as it seems and people aren’t who they claim to be and stuff happens and whoooo, etc.

You’d think now that Disney are producing Marvel films, the attached Disney logo would be financial only, leaving the creative side to the cast and crew. Unfortunately, this film displays a constant battle between the ideals of Disney and Raimi – specifically, placating the masses with saccharine simplicity and intense energy scaring the crap out of people. The continual Raimi-ism directorial trademarks remind you that he may not be the most suitable lead for the project. The light, upbeat elements feel hammy while the scary elements contain much more venom than one would expect (Evanora’s transition being a good example). Then there’s the acting, which ranges from gentle and intriguing to flat-out incompetent. Each character is feeble, free of actorial challenge and wholly two dimensional; their goals are simplistic, their drives are plain and their developments are minimal. Of all the actors, I think Franco is the most miscast. At times he offers a glimpse at a potentially riveting character then flitters it all away with lacklustre energy and charm. This conjurer should be complex, layered, sinister but also altruistic. Franco has no problem being a dismissive wanker, seducing and dismissing ladies left, right and centre but when the time comes for us to witness the heart of the character, Franco flounders and fails. There’s only one scene he manages to successfully project this intended effect but I’ll expand on that later. With his inability to sell good and evil (or misguided, whatever), Franco never made me believe in Oz. He walks through the green-screen sets, marvelling at whatever the hell will be added in post production but there’s no wonder in his face, no reflection of the spectacle around him and so the audience mirrors his attitude.

Outside of the acting and direction, the technical side also feels curiously phoned-in. After falling out on Spider-Man 2, Danny Elfman is reunited with Raimi and the score is… depressingly typical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the few individuals who often enjoys a typically Elfman score but sometimes his signature notes and tempo do not fit the on-screen action and you can’t help but mutter “bloody Elfman” – he’s kinda like Randy Newman in that regard. Then there’s the CGI which populates every scene and revels in its over-the-top scope and scale. Unfortunately, there’s a 50/50 split between completely plausible beautiful wonders and actors traipsing in front of an obviously digitised creation. Maybe it was the inclusion of Elfman but the whole thing was very reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, which I found to be a drab, tedious and misguided retreading of familiar ground.

There are so few prequels that actually work. One could argue that The Godfather: Part II is a prequel but as the flashback sequences are elements of the original book that were cut, I don’t think it counts. The biggest problem with the prequel format is that your audience either knows the outcome and therefore they are simply awaiting the transformation moment (when a lead character becomes the character we recognise) or the film ruins the story for those who haven’t seen the original. In other words, using Star Wars as an example, you either watch the original trilogy and then the prequels, which you could care less about. Or you start with the prequels and then the impact of Vader’s revelation to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back means nothing. On top of that, you have the creative problem, in this case, everyone involved in the original is long dead and the connection seems weak. Legally Warner Bros. own all things Wizard Of Oz, which is most of the changes made from the book but also the elements people are most familiar with. For example, the emerald city wasn’t green, the ruby slippers were silver, Glinda doesn’t travel in bubbles, the wicked witch of the west was one-eyed and the witches weren’t related. Having said that, a few nods to the book are made, specifically, Glinda being the witch of the south (not the north), the inclusion of the winkies, quadlings and dainty china country people. But this is the problem with this entire film, it’s a sort of pseudo-prequel to both the book and the 1939 film, and the meshing of ideas mostly works but leaves a few minor questions. The biggest being that the land of Oz is implied to be a subconscious hallucination of Dorothy, hence she’s already met the wizard in a different form. This film creates a fixed timeline and physical embodiment of Oz (somewhere you reach via tornado apparently) so how does she meet the wizard in his Kansas form? Dumb technicalities and knit-picking, I know but whereas something like Wicked is a direct tie-in to the film, Oz The Great And Powerful feels like a bit of a reboot, an unnecessary prequel with an inevitable outcome. Who am I kidding, this is Disney, chances are we’ll be given a pointless sequel before too long.


Release Date:
8th March 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
As stated earlier one of the standout scenes, which draws on Disney’s typically heart-wrenching flare, Sam Raimi’s use of energy and fear, decent CGI and rather impressive performances is Oz’s foray into the China village. Effectively, it’s a journey through a genocidal wasteland, in which an unscrupulous selfish man is forced to feel compassion and care for a survivor. Thankfully the various components gel together well and create something tender without battering you with the “cry now” stick.

Notable Characters:
I like Mila Kunis, she’s not exactly pushing boundaries with her acting but she’s a very reliable and capable actress. Problem is, she keeps finding herself in mediocre fare. While this is an opportunity for her to play a dual role, something feels lost. Theodora is a little too reserved and naïve, while the wicked witch is just a bit too mental. Think Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man: a little too off kilter to work but you sort of accept it while watching the film. It’s only when you go back that you realise how odd the transition is.

Highlighted Quote:
“No mercy!”

In A Few Words:
“Like all prequels, Oz The Great And Powerful is flashy but completely hollow and without worth, merit or interest. We all know where the story is going and caring about it proves difficult”

Total Score:

2/5