Oz, the Great and Powerful is a good family film…

Unfortunately, that is my highest compliment.  Although Oz, the Great and Powerful succeeds in pleasing their demographic–I was left wanting.  With that said, I am sure many will love this film and kids (especially) will enjoy the story and beautiful imagery.

First of all, I should state that I like The Wizard of Oz, but I am not a fanatic about it.  The new Oz follows its lead in being a wholesome family film, but it does not even get close to its classic status.  While some felt that Disney was taking a gamble in trying to reboot a beloved classic, it seems to have paid off for them (sequel is already in the works).  Hey, they have to make the $$$.

So, why wanting?  For me, it was a bit one dimensional.  Everything looked great and paid homage to the original (more based on novel, than the 1939  film because of property rights)–but it was just…flat.  I did not care for any character on-screen.  I was never invested.  It’s just pretty.

The cast okay.  Again, no stand outs.  James Franco was fine–but could’ve have been more con-artist-y or shady, that way his arch was more believable.  Rachel Weisz was good–but it felt like she was limited.  Mila Kunis was wasted–that character had SO much potential, yet it was all too fast–too rushed.  Michelle Williams had more screen time and yet, her character too is so shallow and simple.  The CG sidekicks–Zach Braff as Finley (the monkey) and Joey King as China Doll were, again, okay.  See, not much to get excited about it.

Well, there were the cool special effects–the opening sequence was pretty sweet.  I appreciated the black and white tribute and then the use of introduced characters in the Oz world (a salute to the original).  Ummmm… I’m thinking…I’m thinking…I liked the land of Oz–the poppy fields–the different citizens–the flying baboons (much more scary than plain monkeys).  Yeah.  I think that is it.

Everything my daughter and I thought of that could have made this film better, would have changed the safe PG rating and possibly alienated some.  But hey, in defense of a PG rating–Pixar and Disney have been extremely successful in providing clean, safe entertainment that also has substance and is able to keep an adult’s interest.  So, then it just boils down to a lackluster script and unfortunately, director Sam Raimi‘s choices.  What a shame.  I am a true Raimi fan and was looking forward to this, just because of him.  Deep sigh.

Bottom line?  It’s not bad.  It’s not awesome.  It’s okay and kids will like it.  That’s it.

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man almost wins me over completely…

Spider-Man, fatally wounded, swings through New York City. Text at the bottom of the reveals the title, release date, release formats, official site of the film, rating and studio credits.

Almost. It was so close. I did like it and although there are many positive points, The Amazing Spider-Man also has a few negative aspects that doesn’t allow it to reach “amazing” status. So close and it could have been the little reboot that could.

First of all, I should start with the fact that I was one of the many that did not understand the need to reboot this franchise. (It really boils down to Marvel rights and money, but…) I loved Raimi‘s vision of Spider-Man (minus 3 which we all know failed miserably–I was brokenhearted 😦 ).  And I was a fan of Tobey Maguire‘s Peter Parker.  Right before I watched the new version, I was still skeptical. If not for the lure of the cast and director Marc Webb (love-love 500 Days of Summer) I would have stayed away.

Then surprisingly I did not hate it! I enjoyed most of it, but overall it failed to totally impress me. The best way, for me, to break this down is comparing them side by side (like the picture below :)).  It may seem unfair, but I can not help comparing the two.  Here are my 10 items of interest.

TASM                                      SM1

1. The origin story is more organic in TASM.  Andrew Garfield‘s Peter Parker is more awkward (kind of Asperger-like), than Maguire’s nerd-dorky version.  And because of that, there is more of a stark contrast between Peter and his alter ego in TASM. Starting as a kid and incorporating his parents’ mysterious death is also a good move.

2. Uncle Ben and Aunt May get an upgrade in TASM.  Sorry, Robertson and Harris, but Martin Sheen and Sally Field are awesome.

3. TASM has given Parker more realistic motivations to pursue super skills. SM1 Parker just wanted a sports car to impress Mary Jane, while in TASM he is pursuing justice/revenge that he eventually never achieves (nice touch). I also like that TASM returns to the comic book version of created mechanical web spinners–it adds more obstacles for our web-slinger.

4. SM1 had unrequited love with popular girl, Mary Jane–who then falls for Spider-Man first.  TASM has a real, mutual attraction between two kind of geeky kids and Gwen Stacy notices and falls for Peter Parker first. **One of my favorite things about reboot!**  It helps that my female crush, Emma Stone, is wonderful and the chemistry between her and Garfield is electric.  (No wonder they’re a real couple now.)

5. Director Webb succeeds in creating an intimate, character based narrative that is richer than Raimi’s version.  But where Webb falters, in action and scope, Raimi out shines him.

6. SM1 does not forget that New York City is an integral part of the Spider-Man lore.  NYC is a character in Raimi’s version, as it should be.  I never felt like NYC was a part of TASM–it all felt too generic.  There was only one part that showed New Yorker’s love for Spidey, but it was too little of a gesture.  (Shout out to Denis Leary for bringing some authentic NY to the screen.)

7. When it come to action sequences, Raimi wins–hands down.  Webb is able to create some realistic fight scenes, with some creative moves, but overall it feels small (again, intimate).  Raimi was able to reach grand heights–bold, incredible sequences. Sorry, but in a superhero movie that is essential.  You want to be impressed!  Unfortunately, TASM never reaches that level.

8. The villain.  A villain can make or break a film.  An awesome villain can save a mediocre film and a weak villain can destroy a strong film.  For TASM, the Lizard fails to add the needed awesomeness.  I like Rhys Ifans and his performance is okay–but not great.  But, the real problem is the plausibility of his character’s arch.  I have major issues with how and mostly, why, his story takes the path it does. It must also be mentioned that the CGI effects on the Lizard were a bit cheesy. **Sigh.**  At least in SM1, the Green Goblin’s evolution feels real and Willem Dafoe is amazing.

9.  What is up with the backpack?  Sorry, just had to ask because it was a bit distracting. 🙂 And other major plot holes–what happen to the evil Oscorp dude? Left on the bridge? And WTF with the after credit scene? Pointless.

(PS I did like the new look of the Spidey suit.)

10. Sequels.  Well, let us be honest.  SM2 is one of the best superhero movies ever–with one of the best villains ever.  Whether TASM 2 can top SM2 is yet to be seen. But maybe…with all the positive aspects it does have and… if they can score a director with a wider scope for action and…they introduce a strong villain–maybe…just maybe they can truly impress me–completely.  And this time I will be looking forward to it.

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