There has been a steady diet of fairytale films with a modern twist lately. Whether the main characters are hunting vampires or playing with the tropes of the genre, it seems writers and directors have been keen to tackle this material from a cynical perspective. It comes as a nice relief that Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful leans toward a more classical approach, while still maintaining freshness for a modern audience. No one is winking at the camera or performing in a tongue-in-cheek style. What happens to these people and how they react is quite earnest. It’s needed here, especially with how the film is set up to be a direct prequel to one of the greatest films of all time, The Wizard of Oz (1939). Those are some mighty big ruby slippers to fill—pardon the pun.
I’m continually surprised at how underappreciated it feels like Bryan Singer is. Despite having directed one of the best thrillers (and my favorite movie) in The Usual Suspects, and helping to resurrect the comic book movie with his work on X-Men, he is generally overlooked when people discuss the best directors. Heck, I’m not even sure most people would know of him by name. This isn’t even factoring in his underappreciated film work (Apt Pupil) or his impressive body of TV work (producer on shows such as House—including directing the pilot). So it is amazing to me the general disinterest there seems to be towards his newest project, Jack the Giant Slayer. Now, I will concede that I wish Bryan Singer spent more time working on more unconventional projects, but any time he produces something, it is an event movie for me.
Due to the trend of trailers sharing too much of their films’ plots, and thinking of the untapped tween market now that the Twilight franchise has wrapped, I decided to do an experiment with my review for Beautiful Creatures. I am writing half of my review before seeing the movie, to see how accurately my pre-conceived notions will actually align with the end product. Whether it is a pleasant surprise or the same old schlock, I want to find out if expectations match reality.
Do you like your action/adventure movies filled with a wall-to-wall knock-off Danny Elfman score and unconvincing CGI blood? Do you like pedantic, uninspired dialogue? Do you like your period stories filled with modern day aphorisms, F-bombs, and one-dimensional characters? Then Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters may be for you.
I have a love/hate relationship with Jean-Luc Godard. Some of his films are undeniable masterpieces; others I find almost unwatchable. Sometimes, it feels as though he is more concerned with the craft of filmmaking rather than telling an engaging story. He is a person of big ideas, and often I feel as though I am playing catch-up with what he is trying to say. It also doesn’t help that his work has become more incomprehensible as his career has gone on. Weekend (1967) falls somewhere between what I love and hate about his method. With a new Blu-ray release from Criterion (spine #635), I had a chance to revisit the director that has given me profound moments of inspiration, while confounding me with elements perhaps only he can understand.
On face value, it seems like Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away would be a film perfectly suited to 3D. Cirque du Soleil has long been lauded for their mix of circus acrobatics and street entertainment, winning numerous awards and garnering audiences worldwide. I’ve seen a few of their shows in Las Vegas and am always amazed at the complexity of their productions; they are truly meant to be a spectacle. In this regard, the film really captures the magic of their shows—but it is also a powerful reminder that focusing on one dimension of a movie (pardon the pun) can be a major mistake.
Besides Batman, I know there are few things you’d be more excited to see a live-action version of than The Hobbit. Good news: the man who was responsible for creating the great live-action versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson—the guy who directed Meets the Feebles, believe it or not—has come back again to tackle this return to Middle Earth. Despite enjoying the animated version of the movie and having listened to multiple versions of the book on tape, nothing so far has really, fully captured the feel of The Hobbit you always imagined. This is a good first step in that direction.
It’s been a good year in animated film. The trend continues with Rise of the Guardians. DreamWorks has really stepped up their game in the last few years, following the successes of How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and the Kung Fu Panda series. Once again, they have given us a solid outing, with an adaptation of the children’s book by William Joyce. Written for the screen by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Peter Ramsey, this is a fantastical adventure that encompasses many magical realms and provides fresh perspectives to age-old legends and myths. As a movie geared for the entire family, this fires on all cylinders, from the exquisitely detailed animation to the thought-out character development. This one will entertain people of all ages; if given the chance, it will come as a pleasant surprise.
After much adulation and hatred, we are finally reaching the end of the road for Bella, Edward and Jacob. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (henceforth called just Breaking Dawn – Part 2) concludes one of the most divisive major franchises I’ve ever seen. Love it or hate it, Twilight has been a cultural phenomenon, and in the world of films, this series is pretty much critic-proof. Despite being reviled by critics, the films have found massive audiences and made tons of money… and Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will continue that tradition.
Every day is a chance to learn something new. Today I learned about the “Disney Fairies” franchise. When J.M. Barrie created the world of Peter Pan and Never Land, he gave limited information about the Fairies. In an attempt to build upon and expand the mythos of these creatures, Disney green-lit a number of children’s books and several animated movies. Ok, so maybe what I learned isn’t exactly life-altering, but bear with me. Since 2009, five films have been released or are in current production. When Disney has an idea, they go all out, and with the quickness. The movie we’ll be discussing is Secret of the Wings (2012), the fourth of the five. I took reviewing this as a challenge: could I see it through the eyes of a child and not through the cynical filter of an adult? What do you think?