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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) Review

Few films have enjoyed as much recognition and popularity throughout history as The Wizard of Oz.  Even with a notable group of naysayers, the 1939 release is still regarded as a classic and mandatory viewing for anybody.  Needless to say, any sort of follow-up would pretty much be set up for disappointment, and in 1985 the Return to Oz didn’t leave too much of an impact.  At least, not in the long run.  It’s probably even of less surprise then, that a prequel of sorts released this year will suffer the same fate.

Things start well enough with the eye-catching opening credits and a classic, black-and-white look as we’re introduced to James Franco’s Oz.  While it isn’t entirely clear at first, his Oz is actually a tough character to get behind.  We know from the trailers that he’s an everyday magician and essentially becomes a conman when he arrives in Oz.  The problem isn’t that he’s a liar, but that he oftentimes basks in his own ego, exudes a sort of snobbiness and a general lack of concern.  This isn’t just a concern in the opening act, it stretches throughout the entire film.  He almost comes off like an anti-hero, but this isn’t in-line with how his character is necessarily supposed to come off.  There’s just a lack of sympathy due to his general lack of sympathy (with a couple exceptions).

Another problem arises literally right when Oz lands in, well, Oz: Oz itself.  If you want to know the final word on how Oz looks and feels, it’s colorful but artificial.  If nothing else, Oz should be a bit of a visual spectacle, but it’s a little tough to feel brought in when so much is clearly CGI.  There are actual sets and everything isn’t as abused as, say, the Star Wars prequels, but throughout the movie I was saying “this is to The Wizard of Oz what the prequels are to Star Wars.”

Now, I’m not one who decries every little aspects of the Star Wars prequels.  Likewise, I wouldn’t say Oz the Great and Powerful is devoid of good points.  The first 20 minutes are a solid way to start the film; it’s nostalgic, a good touch base with the characters and again, we get nice opening credits.  One of the characters, a porcelain doll, is a clear highlight of the film and probably the closest it comes to actual emotion.  I mentioned above how Oz’s character left me with a cold shoulder save for a few parts; his interactions with the doll comprised most of those.

But even when talking about what worked well, it’s so easy to get back to what doesn’t work.  Both Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz feel like they were written off for silliness and, if not that, then the costume design, make up and effects accomplish just that.  There are also some sharp plot holes when taking The Wizard of Oz into account, ranging from details such as why the characters are written the way they are, to the actual existence of the story itself.  There’s potential to explain this in a sequel, but that’ll be a tough bridge to connect.

Oz the Great and Powerful has a few neat ideas in place, but ultimately stumbles with inconsistencies as abundant as its own color spectrum.  Even the potentially invigorating moments merely instill a sense of superficiality.  Oz has a small assortment of tricks up his sleeve, but only a couple of them are actually pulled off.

 
 

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A Look Back: 2012 in Film (Part I)

I’ve been contemplating just how and when to provide my thoughts on the films of 2012.  This is the year I saw more new releases than any other, with the current count topping 30.  I thought about doing the usual Top 10 list with a few honorable mentions, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this has been a very comprehensive year for me.  And with pondering came the idea to make this an equally comprehensive look back.  This is why I’ll be going through 2012’s releases over the course of a three part blog.  The first part will feature the first half of the movies I saw, according to release.  The second part will cover the remaining half and the third will provide my ranking of every film, along with the movies I wanted to see but missed out on for whatever reason.  With that, let us begin my look back at the movies of 2012.

Haywire

First up on the calendar is Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, one of the few films I actually held off on until it hit home video.  Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t pay a penny to see this shoddy mess.  If you look up “haywire” in the dictionary, you’ll find it means “erratic” or “out of control,” which is exactly what this felt like.  Except it’s erratic in a disjointed, juvenile and amateurishly handled way, as opposed to being genuinely gripping.  The plot is cluttered, the characters aren’t worth investing in, the acting borders on atrocious and the low budget production style lends nothing to a film that, in turn, lends nothing to us.

Wanderlust

Next we have Wanderlust, a film that seemed to divide audiences with both its content and humor.  I’m open to most any style of film so long as its done right, something Wanderlust doesn’t grasp.  Like Haywire, I caught Wanderlust after its home video release, and it was a weary reminder as to why I like to trust my sagging gut.  This movie commits a huge crime that so many comedies are guilty of: lacking laughs.  Hell, forget laughs, entertainment is an even more criminal absence.  Were it not for the fact this was one of the few films of 2012 I disliked, Wanderlust would likely remain in my forgotten bin.  So bravo, Wanderlust, you achieved memorability for being that much closer to sheer atrocity.

Project X

I enjoy a good time as much as the next person, with or without drinking.  Parties can be a fun break from reality, though they seldom are.  Project X looked about as promising as that gigantic end of the semester party littered with everyone you hate from middle school.  I just knew that if I got the chance to see it, I’d utter nothing but the most disparaging remarks.  Then the film itself caught my interest and before long, my attention was sustained.  Much of the key events in Project X are genuinely eye catching which, combined with its proper amount of exposure, makes for a far more engaging watch than I ever conceived.  Now, I can’t take things out of proportion and say this was a good movie, but it was surprisingly enjoyable.  What makes it even more so is that this came out when so few films could even achieve any form of entertainment.  As such, it was the perfect break from a long, lethargic slumber.

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street is yet another film I didn’t catch in theaters, primarily thanks to the unappealing trailers.  My gut impressions weren’t far from those for 2010’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which appeared dead, pointless and unconvincing.  But as you probably know, Rise was a very good film, remaining one of the greatest surprises I can recount.  In some ways, 21 Jump Street was also a pleasant surprise.  It’s definitely not on the same level as Rise, but what amazed me was that the film worked at all.  Laughs aren’t necessarily a constant, but entertainment was in sufficient supply, allowing my attention to actually go somewhere.  The film is very self-aware of its silliness, which is used to its advantage.  Is it a favorite?  Absolutely not.  Is it a good time regardless?  Very much so.

The Hunger Games

Not counting re-releases, The Hunger Games was my first theatrical viewing for 2012.  I went into this film almost completely blind, knowing only that it was similar in premise to Battle Royale.  Ultimately, it proved to be a fulfilling watch, remaining a memorable piece despite losing some of its edge after subsequent viewings.  The marketing was surprisingly well done, since very little of the actual Hunger Games were shown.  Lawrence puts on another solid performance alongside Woody Harrelson and, to my surprise, Lenny Kravitz.  We get a lot of brief looks into the depicted world, which is visionary without being self-indulgent.  This helps avoid overexposure, but I can’t help but want more, even with a nearly 2 1/2 hour runtime.  I’m actually about halfway through the first book, and have to say what I’ve read is adapted rather faithfully.  Both the book and film are solid works; neither are the top players of their respective styles, but there isn’t too much I can complain about.

Lockout

The title of this movie is Lockout.  I’d call it Guy Pearce’s One Liners.  Beforehand, I figured this would at least be a fair sci-fi romp.  Not long into the movie, I was ready to call it a night.  There’s a distinct lack of personality here, aside from how ineffective everything is.  The premise?  Tired and occasionally sporadic.  Main character?  Schwarzenegger would be proud.  Our villain?  A poorly handled maniac.  Investment?  Minimal to the very degree.  Lockout did little beyond slowly tiring and annoying me, only to become a film I’m happy to push out of memory.

The Avengers

Now we have The Avengers, the big money-maker of 2012.  There’s really no hiding the fact few films even touch The Avengers for sheer entertainment value.  The nerd and geek spectacle here is Category 7.  If nothing else, the final act warrants the price of admission alone.  Comical and awe-inducing moments run a constant, with just enough drama to remind us this isn’t merely a playful simulation.  Most will probably agree when I say this is a film you watch simply for fun at its most pristine level.  Anyone who actually doesn’t want that should stay away.  Those same people should also get their priorities straightened out.

The Dictator

Hopes for fun times ran high after The Avengers, something The Dictator couldn’t deliver enough of.  Crudely offensive and gratuitous material is what Sacha Baron Cohen is all about.  While it worked in a movie like Borat to wonderful degrees, here the comedic effects began to feel increasingly forced, leading to less and less fulfilling moments.  I can recall a considerable number of scenes from Borat, having seen it only a couple times.  The Dictator?  I’d be lucky to recollect half a dozen.  To say The Dictator was completely lacking is a harsh exaggeration, but I wouldn’t enthusiastically sit through it again.  It’s a load of heavy-handed offense, sprinkled with sparingly (but crassly) enjoyable moments.

Men in Black 3

Once again, we have a film I skipped out on seeing in theaters.  Almost nothing in Men in Black 3’s previews grabbed me, and despite not feeling so negative about the second film, I couldn’t justify spending primetime money on a stale-looking threequel.  Skip ahead one at-a-friend’s home viewing later and I’ll say it’s actually worthwhile in some regards.  The emotional arc, though debatably inconsistent, does make for a good way to help things come full circle.  Laughs are far from frequent, the villain is beyond weak and entertainment is in the so-so to relaxing range.  But our characters are colorful, usually fleshed out and when all is said and done, we could’ve certainly had a worse conclusion.

Moonrise Kingdom

The journey to Moonrise Kingdom was one ripe of frustration for yours truly.  I say this since no theater around me showed it, which mixes horribly with high anticipation.  Thankfully, by the time I did see this strange, unorthodox product, I had little to complain about.  Moonrise Kingdom definitely gets a nod for most unique feature of the year, as well as the most quirkily charming.  The ensemble cast is in terrific form, with the younger actors proving to be among the best in my entire memory.  These aren’t easy characters to play, especially considering their age, but they fit the roles wonderfully.  Even when deadpan and alarmingly stoic, you can’t help but be brought in.  Moonrise Kingdom is just like opening an odd yet colorful children’s book, one that withstands repeat readings through adolescence and into adulthood.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I have a sneaky suspicion that Snow White and the Huntsman’s relationship with me isn’t far from how everybody’s first special someone turns out.  The more I saw leading up to it, the more interested and hopeful I grew.  Then the film came out and I was left feeling…stumped.  A number of things definitely worked, namely the look and atmosphere.  Charlize Theron generally made for an effective villain, but she wasn’t as fully realized as I longed for.  Something that truly crippled the film was Snow White herself, who hardly says or does anything.  Aside from “you should know, you’re the one hunting me,” I can’t remember a single line she spoke.  Kristen Stewart isn’t a bad actress, but she isn’t up to par for silent emoting, which is an improper direction to take with Snow White’s character.  There’s a great movie here, but it’s buried underneath a slumbering mud pile which we endure for too much of the runtime.

Prometheus

Even with the likes of Bully and Zero Dark Thirty, I don’t think any film has or will top the controversy of Prometheus for some time.  Outrage has followed and literally ravaged this film from every angle.  I suppose I can consider my shield null and void when I reaffirm my praise for the film.  I’ve always been fascinated by the universe and lore of the Alien franchise from a conceptual standpoint.  The ideas and glimpses we’re afforded are always enjoyable and, if nothing else, visually interesting.  Call it a tease, bait and switch or complete and utter ploy if you must, Prometheus at least maintained my attention.  Do tired cliches of its genre(s) make their way into the current cut?  Yes.  Does the idea of waiting even longer for more answers frustrate me?  To a degree, but that’s part of the point.  A few questions are answered while more are posed, and just because we have questions doesn’t mean each will (or should) be resolved.  This is something the film poses at its very core during at least one scene, which rings true with the very beginning of the Alien plotline, as well as our own impulses as human beings.  It’s the kind of film that gets you thinking more and more the deeper you dig down, which in itself is something I personally admire.  An arbitrary compliment, perhaps, but someone or something has to ignite further discussions for us.

Rock of Ages

I once described Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as an excellent case for the legalization of select substances.  Subsequently, Rock of Ages is a film that I urge adults (of age) to see with drinks lined up for sips and shots aplenty.  Oh, and they might want to have 9-1-1 on standby.  Here we have a movie cheesy enough to make cholesterol levels spike to terminal levels.  Let’s just say it’s a miracle people weren’t diagnosed upon leaving their theater.

Brave

Two things kept me from watching Brave in theaters: audience and reception.  Disney and Pixar cater to kids, which oftentimes translate to some of the worst possible moviegoing experiences.  That and despite a generally positive recommendation, some people really picked the film apart.  It wasn’t until the end of my recent Pixar wrap-up that I decided to sit down and watch the film.  The first and most obvious part to address is that Brave looks incredible.  Several scenes and shots are convincingly life-like.  People make arguments that animation still has a ways to go before it can make a convincing case for reality.  To them I say watch Brave on Blu-ray.  For me, Brave was what you could call a tease.  The set up and setting promise something big, bold and interesting.  In a way that’s what we get, if by big we mean big to a child, bold referring to the sheer concept of the film’s catalyst, and interesting in regards to what’s suggested throughout.  The film seems to promise more than it delivers, and when there’s so much at the studio’s disposal, it comes off as underwhelming.  Now if we take the film for what it is, at face value, it’s not bad at all.  It is rather silly, I’ll admit, but if you go along with it the story can maintain your interest, providing a good dynamic between two of the characters.  To say it’s better than Cars 2 is a given, but the same can’t be said for it returning Pixar to their former glory.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

It seems to have become a pattern for the worst movies I experienced this year to be utterly forgettable.  If not that, then they fail to make much of an impression for much of the runtime.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sadly fits the latter category, since this is a film I really wanted to enjoy.  It simply never managed to grab me.  Much of what we need is in place: an impending scenario, decent character types, motivation to keep at least one of them going, moments aiming for comedic and dramatic effect, etc.  Yet none of it ever pulled me in.  Much of the movie falls on its characters who, in some ways, are different from what we typically get.  This would be great if I had a care in the soon-to-end world for them, which I didn’t.  And a film that fails to make me care fails to get more than a shrugged mention.

The Amazing Spider-Man

I’ve already mentioned that a couple films took me by surprise in 2012.  But if I had to pick one which completely exceeded my expectations and became a true favorite, it’d be The Amazing Spider-Man.  Not every promise made from the previews and trailers was kept, but at the very least we got a more grounded and realistic origin story.  Granted, this means a lot of familiar ground is covered, but the film shows it’s less the content and more the execution that matters.  The characters, especially Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, respectively, are tough to not get behind.  Their interactions and dynamics, among others, are why I felt so gripped and transported.  Not many films get me hoping for them to go on for double their runtime (or more), but The Amazing Spider-Man achieved just this.  I don’t care if we’re seeing much of the same stuff or if our villain is less than remarkable, there’s so much more that I managed to cling to and joyously savor.  For that, it effortlessly holds up as one of my favorite movies from 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises

Now the big guns are coming out.  As of my initial viewing(s), The Dark Knight Rises stormed onto the top of my favorite movies of the year, looking down at the competition with disdain.  Here we had a re-envisioned character coming full circle in a tour de force, featuring another great villain, visual/audio marvels and strong emotional payoff throughout.  By the time I saw the film a third or fourth time, however, things began to look gloomy for what is, in itself, a gloomy movie.  The Dark Knight Rises is a tough film to get into on that level without exposing certain details, the least of which is its ending.  What I’ll leave this brief recap at is that the film remains enthralling, if inconsistent.  Scenes with a scene-commanding Bane and scene-stealing Catwoman are among the film’s best moments, while parts getting into the nitty-gritty plot are, much like The Dark Knight, less engaging.  Subsequent viewings have only made its cracks all the more apparent, which might not cripple it the way they do Bruce Wayne, but they’re not doing it any favors either.

 
 

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The Pixar Retrospective: Toy Story (1995)

To discuss Pixar around this time of the year is rather odd; not just because films from said studio tend to come out during the summer, but because Doug Walker’s Disneycember has returned.  So yes, I am guilty of copying Mr. Walker’s idea and format with a Pixar retrospective.  But I feel these films are deserving of such attention that another person might venture their opinion over the internet.  They’re always a joy to discuss, regardless of quality or the common verdict.  Films by Pixar bring people together like few others, which makes them all the more fitting for another person to discuss.

Toy Story

It’s tough to find a movie trilogy as unanimously recommended as Toy Story.  Pixar’s first full-length feature took the film industry by storm, literally invigorating animated works at the exact time Disney started slipping with audiences.  Toy Story seemed to be that rare film which easily lent itself to marketing while simultaneously proving itself a terrific standalone piece of art.  So yes, you could say this film held a certain place in the heart and mind of one silly five-year-old.

A story of toys coming to life when humans aren’t looking is certainly going to ignite interest from less tidy viewers.  In fact, I’m almost amazed a similar attempt hasn’t been shoved out, featuring keys, cell phones and wallets in the place of dominantly action figure-esque toys.  But I digress.

Quite a number of things make Toy Story work as well as it does.  Despite beginning to show age, the world is very believe simply from a design standpoint.  The human characters and environmental glimpse we’re offered rings true to our world, taking pointers sans comedic jabbing.  Making such a comment is admittedly odd, as this is a film about children’s toys.  But said establishments help us believe this story so much more.  To a child who’s naturally out of tune with the over-complications of life, this is plausible reality.

There’s just enough surrealism at work to both suspend and compliment our beliefs and knowledge.  The fact we have characters this colorful yet honest certainly isn’t of harm to the film, either.  Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have one of the best, most realistic and memorable relationships ever put on screen.  They’re really at opposite ends of a spectrum while retaining similar fundamentals.  Woody and Buzz walk a road of rivalry-to-friendship that goes from initially implausible to completely believable.

To my (recent) surprise, the film is rather short on laughs.  Most of these come from the at-times riotous supporting characters, namely Mr. Potatohead, Ham and Rex.  Otherwise, this actually feels like a serious drama to a more adult viewer.  And this is where I feel Toy Story completely succeeds as a film for all ages.  Children get a world that looks fun and feels real, adults get a collection of completely memorable characters fronted by a bonding many of us still need to learn from.  I’d be a dead-faced liar in court if I said this is one of Pixar’s more entertaining features, but I’d be just as guilty if I said it isn’t one of their most effective.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Movies That Need To Come Out on Blu-ray

Blu-ray seems to be finally, though slowly, making its way up as the definitive at-home film-watching format.  While its technology wasn’t initially impressive (further worsened by alarming price points), it’s since become a go-to for most film enthusiasts.  Truth be told, many films have never looked better until hitting Blu-ray.  It’s been a bit of a long haul that, though still incomplete, continues to bring apparent upgrades.

This is why I’m here to vouch for films that have yet to receive the attention to detail which (good) Blu-ray releases have received.  By this, I’m referring to movies that don’t even have an announced release date.  Having a general idea of when a film comes out is far more comforting than not knowing if it will be bestowed on us at all.  So film studios, if you want to generate a little bit more revenue, get these treasures out on the big blue already!

The Abyss (Director’s Cut)

James Cameron continually establishes himself as the definition of a cinematic director.  Even the original, low-budget Terminator has plenty of vision to offer in its dark, dismal scenes of the future.  So it’s a bit surprising then that even one of his lesser known releases doesn’t so much as have an announced Blu-ray release.  The film wasn’t a huge hit in theaters, not even gaining back its budget domestically and going on to make less than $100 million worldwide.  Since then, however, it seems to have grown in popularity, especially with the superb Special Edition.  This is where I must emphasize the fact that, when The Abyss does come out on Blu-ray, it has to be the Special Edition, not the comparatively sloppy theatrical cut.  Taking that version into account, it’s a bit understandable why the film didn’t make that big of a splash (pun totally intended).  But thanks to the Special Edition, we were able to get the true version of a film that has since worked its way into many people’s favorite lists, including my own.

SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the movie!

Various Disney Movies (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tarzan, Mulan, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book)

Oh Disney, how you continue to toy with us like the little kids we still are.  When you’re not pointlessly locking up movies in the “Disney Vault” you’re leaving us hungry for movies that should’ve already received top priority for a Blu-ray release.  Of course most of the big names have gotten their (overpriced) release, such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.  However, we still don’t have so much as a release date for The Little Mermaid.  That film really brought the visual overhaul Disney lost back to base, and we’re probably left waiting until well after the scheduled 3D re-release.  In other words: this time next year.  But until that release date is officially announced, its mentioning isn’t going anywhere.  Other movies that deserve the HD treatment include Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Even if they weren’t as big a hit with critics or the box office, they still brought the dough, and I can assure Disney they’ll have my pre-order when the latter is officiallyannounced.

Live Free or Die Hard (Unrated)

This one’s a bit trickier to ask for since the film is technically available on Blu-ray.  However, the superior, unrated version is nowhere to be found, which leaves me clinging to the DVD version until its true successor arises.  What’s sad is that we’re probably going to see A Good Day to Die Hard hit Blu-ray before the true version of this film does.  If so then even a lifetime supply of yippee-ki-yay’s won’t bring justice nor condolence.

Schindler’s List

I feel a bit odd wishing for a movie like this to be released on Blu-ray since it’s essentially 3 hours of Holocaust footage.  Trust me, I’m not a sadist, I’m just constantly hungry for more!  But in all honesty, Schindler’s List is a movie that just begs true, complete treatment, and putting it on Blu-ray only seems fitting.  Besides, it’d take flipping over my DVD to the other side a lot easier, since no one likes having to get up to resume their movie, even for a precious, golden ring.

Hayao Miyazaki Collection (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle)

Seriously, how have NONE OF THESE FILMS made it to Blu-ray yet?  If I was in charge of the first wave of Blu-rays, a Miyazaki collection would be among my very first picks.  Because of their sheer absence, I feel we deserve a box set or collection, and we deserve it ASAP.  That is, assuming the transfers are good and not like, say,The Fugitive.  But they’re beautiful animated movies, how can a studio not make a good transfer?  If nothing else then at least give us Spirited Away, since that’s the one most people will jump at.  Then you’ll have people clamoring for the other mentioned films and we’re likely to be stuck playing the Disney game all over again.  I guess there’s something to this twisted waiting game I just don’t get.  Most of us will buy the movies regardless, it’s not like releasing it earlier makes me less likely to break down and buy something.  But I digress.

Star Wars (The Original Cuts)

Yes, this is an old, tiring one to ask for, but many people like to have their favorite movies as they originally were; especially when the changes have gotten to the point that you might as well add gravy to your ice cream.  Now I’ll admit some of the changes and improvements made to the original trilogy were good and even welcoming.  But after the late 90’s, things just got out of hand.  Jabba looks even worse now than he did in the original cuts, and not in a way that’s consistent with his character’s ugly design.  How bad would I describe it?  I’d say the original Jabba looked like a doll while the current Jabba looks like a blurry, distorted, cell-shaded pile of mud.  Or something else.  Something worse.

The Iron Giant

What is with all the great animated movies not getting so much as a Blu-ray announcement?  The Iron Giant has become a bit of a cult classic in that its popularity has slowly grown with time but still isn’t at that truly famous level.  It’s a shame too, because there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance to see it on Blu-ray.  A great film with terrific animation and one of those perfect, retro, nostalgic vibes for many of us, The Iron Giant deserves a Blu-ray as big as his body and his heart.

The Prince of Egypt

I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen The Prince of Egypt from start to finish.  But Ken, how can you request a movie you haven’t truly seen?  Well, just watch the trailers or any montage clip you can find online.  The film definitely has its share of fans which, again, is only growing.  Not only that, but even in standard definition the movie looks incredible.  This is reference and demo quality material for your HDTV/home theater set-up.  Plus, if I’m going to watch a great-looking movie for the first time then I want it to be as beautiful as possible.  That’s how I enjoyed Earth by Disney and let’s just say there were a couple stretches where my jaw dropped so hard I had to seriously consider house insurance.

Munich

Munich seems to be a bit of an unsung release for Spielberg.  I don’t even remember hearing about it during the initial release and only know a few people who are aware of its existence.  Like Schindler’s List, this is a more serious and less conventional piece of Spielberg’s filmography.  But like most unorthodox releases, this one is well worth watching and deserving of a high-def transfer.  Watching it on DVD, there were a few parts I thought to myself “imagine that given a proper transfer on Blu-ray.”  It’s really that simple: when a movie leaves you hungry for a prettier version of itself, you know something has to be done.  I don’t anticipate Munich getting a Blu-ray release any time soon, but the longer it takes, the longer this list will persist.  Internal rhyming aside, I believe it’s a (somewhat) decent argument.

So there’s my current/first(?) list of movies that need a Blu-ray already or, if not soon-to-be-released, then at least some sort of official announcement.  How about you?  Are there any movies I left out–any classics, showcases for audio and/or video?  If there are, leave it below in the comments section, I’d like to know what I myself am looking over.

UPDATE: It’s recently been announced that The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan (and Who Framed Roger Rabbit) will be released on Blu-ray in March.  Now Disney have made waiting for the Spring even tougher.  Still, I’m a man of my word and have already pre-ordered my copy of Hunchback on Amazon.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Blog, Film, Movies

 

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Quote Review: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

“Royalty, nobility, the gentry, and……oh, how quaint – even the rabble.”

Far from an evenly paced or even consistently put together movie, Sleeping Beauty offers a good share of the best and worst aspects Disney are known for.  But like the tale itself, what’s good outweighs the bad (or lesser, in this case).

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Quote Review: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

“I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad.”

If Scott Pilgrim and Toy Story (somehow) had a child, Wreck-It Ralph would be its not-too-distant cousin.  Even those who’ve been completely sheltered from videogames will have a tough time resisting this plethora of puns and play-on-words.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Weekly Stumblings (10/5)

A short list to top off your Monday.  But with daylight savings giving us an extra hour, it’s all good.

Simple Resume Designs: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2VovXh/www.ispsd.com/12/resume-design-ideas/

Awesome Minimalist Disney Posters: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1x5Bga/totallyloveit.com/minimalist-posters-of-disney-films/

Drug Reference Manual: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1jFwcB/www.madatoms.com/site/blog/popular-drugs-reference-manual/

Nothing Else Matters Stretched to 800% (now I know what I want played at my funeral): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8YH3vq/soundcloud.com/inaudiblewhisper/metallica-nothing-else-matters-stretched-to-800/

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Blog

 

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Finding Nemo 3D

I always encounter a bit of a problem when movies are re-released these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for an older film coming back to theaters so that it can be experienced to its highest degree.  But the fact is we’re still in the middle of the 3D cash-grab phase that’s seldom utilized well.  Case in point was the re-release of Beauty and the Beast last year.  It’s a fantastic movie and looks absolutely great, but even the dancing sequence hardly justified a 3D-fication.

Then we have Finding Nemo, which has received the re-release treatment despite being less than a decade old.  And we all know Disney love to jump at the opportunity to tease us with a Blu-ray release a couple months down the line.  It borders on sadistic tendencies.

But being a sucker for certain movies, my friends and I succumbed to shelling out $14 a piece for this re-release.  Finding Nemo isn’t a movie that necessarily benefits from big screen viewing, but the potential for 3D was definitely present.  It’s a very colorful and detailed movie, but one less grand in scope.  To that degree the 3D isn’t too bad.  Like most 3D post-conversions, this one doesn’t really pop off the screen, but that’s not such a bad thing.  That is, until you realize you paid enough to see two movies just for some subtle detail.  For the few 3D nuts out there, I’d put Finding Nemo’s 3D re-release somewhere between Titanic and Toy Story for how good it was.  The Toy Story double-featured 3D re-release (there’s a mouthful for ya) was fairly negligible while Titanic had probably the best post-conversion to 3D I’ve seen thus far.

Really the best, most positive-thinking way to go about viewing this re-release is as something for parents to show their kids if they haven’t seen Finding Nemo already.  A theatrical viewing is far from necessary but I guess it’s nice to have a movie you know for a fact will be good.  And let’s be honest, anyone reading this probably doesn’t need to know whether or not Finding Nemo is a good movie, because it is.  It’s one of Pixar’s best, it tugs the heart and laughter strings perfectly and, just like a proper Disney release, offers some great references which adults will enjoy and pick up on.  The movie has the look and heart of a child with the details and understandings of an adult, which makes it the perfect family film.

 
 

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Double Feature: Fantasia & Fantasia 2000

Anyone who’s followed Doug Walker knows his favorite Disney animated film is the original Fantasia.  He’s touched on this at least two times between his Top 20 favorite films and last year’s Disneycember.  As a kid, Fantasia was almost this silent horse figure to me.  I’d watch it repeatedly–much like the original Star Wars films, but it never really crept up in discussion with others.  But hey, not all dark secrets need to remain locked away, just like my virginity.  Disney have protected me well.

One of the few Disney films I haven’t seen (or hadn’t, as of this post) is Fantasia 2000, which came out around that sour transitioning period from elementary to middle school for me.  Since then my interest in the movie catapulted, especially when I saw bits and pieces of the grander parts.  And since I was in the middle of a walk to my nearby BlockBuster (yes, we still have one here) I decided to treat myself to a double feature of both Fantasia films.

Heading in, I feel like the proper way to tackle these films is to talk about each segment individually since that’s essentially what these films are.  Admittedly they’re both achieving similar results by attempting to create an experience of sound and visual, but when you look back on these movies, you think of them in bits and chunks.  I’ll simply have to make them slightly more interesting than your generic track-by-track review off of Amazon.

So first up we have the original Fantasia which, believe it or not, is over 70 years old now.  And the film still looks great to this day, outdoing several contemporary releases from more than just artistic and visual standpoints.  It was supposed to mark a new direction for Disney, but fell short of being a monumental enough hit; kind of the same way The Dark Knight Rises’ box office isn’t big enough since it was outdone by The Avengers.  Because as we all know, the inferior crap earns the most money.  But I digress.

Fantasia opens with the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, gradually transitioning from the choir to colors, shapes, patterns and the like meant to compliment the music.  This is just a wonderful and vibrant combination of sound and visual with the music being passionately represented by what are often abstractions.  It’s a piece that sticks with you well after even one viewing.  I’d also say it’s one of the film’s most memorable selections, simply because it embodies what I think the film is really about: Music and visuals expressing and complimenting each other.

The opening of the Nutcracker Suite has become synonymous with Christmas, so it’s only fitting that the collection of pieces included depict the changing seasons.  This is where hints of a story come into play, but it’s less about a story and more this barely cohesive guideline.  It works for telling something but never gets in the way of the overall experience.  Like the weather and seasons, you’re picked up and swept away as the music sways through the peaceful and upbeat sections.  Besides, how can your attention not be caught after seeing mushrooms and flowers moving around just a notch shy of salsa dancing?

By now The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has become THE piece most would synonymize (yes, I made that up) with Fantasia.  I mean, you’ve got the titular character of said piece on the cover of the film’s box art, what else is there to say?  This is also where the film finally tells a definite story, one that, upon recent viewing, I’ve elected to refer to as “Moses after officially taking up sorcery.”  Maybe Mickey was somehow born from Moses, maybe he was just adopted.  Either way, this remains an enjoyable, charismatic scene that, like the previous two segments, sticks with you.  Whether that’s because it’s most frequently used when referencing the film or the fact it’s a good piece I leave for you to decide.

The longest individual segment from the film, Rite of Spring, has always stood out to me.  A key part of it was definitely the dinosaurs, something I was obsessed with as a kid.  Seeing it now I have to say the music used is quite dark, which the visuals have a tendency to compliment, especially during the opening half with smoke coming up to indicate lapses in time.  There are other parts like the T-Rex, the drought, volcanoes erupting and terrain shifting which build to make an enthralling 15 minutes.  In some ways I’d argue this as my favorite part from the film because it’s always the one that draws me in the most.  And go figure with the dark engagement, since it’s followed up by…

The intermission, also where we “meet the soundtrack,” which provides a brief demonstration of a few instruments in a bit of a visualizer style.  It’s entertaining and gives us a nice idea of what some of the individual selections of instruments are like, but is strictly what it’s labeled as: an intermission.

Afterwards we move to a far more colorful and upbeat piece with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, something I’d prefer to call “a more fulfilling film than Hercules could ever muster to.”  Much of what we get here can be disputed as silly and certainly romantic, but my guess is that’s in keeping with Greek tales (please don’t hurt me, hardcore scholars).  I think it’s a good piece overall, especially with the centaurs and cupids, but I’d be lying if I said it was very engaging.

Then we get Dance of the Hours, which is supposed to provide stretches that apparently represent the times of the day, but I probably wouldn’t draw that reference were it not pointed out.  Of all the pieces between both Fantasia movies, this one is probably my least favorite, since hippos and elephants dancing is less fascinating and more…odd.  I’m all for ballet style too, it’s a key reason Black Swan worked–not as good as it should’ve, but that’s another debate–it’s just this isn’t a piece to really grab you and, even with a reasonable runtime, it simply drags.

Thankfully, the film’s closing is far more rewarding with a return to the darker and more engrossing Night on Bald Mountain, followed by the wonderfully calming Ave Maria.  Apparently the two were picked because they’re so different from one another, but I always found the transition from one to the other to be very seamless.  Rampaging and viscous darkness succeeded by an almost brooding calm that builds to something faintly triumphant is such a wonderful combination which only does one thing for the entire film: Complete it.

This brings us to Fantasia 2000, a surprisingly shorter but expectedly interesting sequel that, in most respects, lives up to the standards set by its predecessor.  One area I’ll admit that the film loses points is with the cameos from celebrities, which make my attempts at wit and satire look about as successful as a George Carlin stand-up performance.  Set that aside and we have a real treat of a film that consistently delivers what it should, especially given the fact it’s a more modern film.

So what better way to kick things off than with Beethoven’s renowned Symphony No. 5, which does a fantastic job assuring us the visuals will be terrific and do well to accompany the music.  There are points here and in the other pieces that don’t seem to take advantage of a few sways in the music, but they’re minor distractions at worst.  Admittedly, however, the intent for this opening to simply depict abstractions is quickly disproved since we’re given some sort of a narrative, even thematically.  But this remains a solid opening and serves to foreshadow the inevitability that I’d never reach anything remotely close to this film’s artistic prowess.

Pines of Rome has become a favorite for many people, which is very easy to see and understand.  I’ll admit the eyes on the whales are a bit distracting, but otherwise it’s a great segment which builds to one fantastic climax sure to get your jaw stuck on the floor.  This is definitely a segment to watch and feast on Blu-ray.

Rhapsody in Blue is in the running for my favorite piece from the film since it rings with today’s troubled times while paying homage to the 30’s and 40’s.  The art style here is phenomenal and a rare treat when most animation nowadays is either the standard 2D style that Disney became synonymous with or the highly detailed 3D courtesy of Pixar.  It’s a bit on the long side, but the connections made between characters pulls you and grips you surprisingly well, especially for an almost comedic piece.  From the get go with the outline of the buildings I knew this was going to be a great segment and it did not disappoint in the least bit.

As is Disney tradition, their adaptation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier alters things in a way that gives audiences young and old the most accurate depiction: That all obstacles have a totally happy ending.  Like the Pines of Rome, there’s a 3D-esque look to this piece that almost makes it seem transcendental for Disney, especially for the time.  The plotline is a bit out of touch, but the core story is easy to get behind.  As a bit of a side note, since I only just saw the film recently, this piece immediately reminded me of Hugo with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character.  Thankfully, that was one of my favorite parts of that film, so it helped to strike a chord with me.  Definitely not the strongest part of the movie or the most memorable, but it’s not totally forgettable, unlike Dance of Hours (fortunately).

Easily the most infamous musical part of Fantasia 2000 is The Carnival of the Animals, sparked by the question “what would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingoes?”  I think the real question to ask was given courtesy of James Earl Jones (“who wrote this?”).  Despite its reputation, I don’t mind the piece at all.  In fact, I rather enjoy it since A, it’s fun and upbeat and 2, it’s short and harmless.  Is it the worst piece of the entire film (outside of the cameos)?  Probably, but that’s like saying Peanut Butter M&M’s aren’t as good as Reese Pieces.

Cue a retread of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and we move on to Pomp and Circumstance, which might as well be called “Noah’s Graduation Ceremony.”  A tired joke perhaps, but it is easy to think about some sort of graduation when the animals board the ark.  Given that our key player here is Donald Duck, you can tell it’s going to be a less serious film.  Also, did anyone else see the piece as a big throwback to An American Tail with Donald narrowly missing his love over and over?  If there’s any piece that I’d argue the animation as being less than impressive, I’d probably point to this one.  That said, there’s some fun slapstick humor to be had and it did get a few decent laughs out of me, which is something we can all use more of.

And we wrap things up with the Firebird Suite, which I hotly anticipated (pun not intend) after each piece ended.  As viewers of the film know, this is some of Disney’s best animation, easily holding up over a decade later.  The story and use of color here is top notch, surpassed only in scope by Pines of Rome and rivaled in emotion only by Rhapsody in Blue.  I actually took a Nature Writing course (no, I’m not a hippie) in college and one article I read was that controlled forest fires are actually necessary and beneficial for tree and plant life since it essentially rejuvenates them in the long run.  This might not necessarily be the message of the piece, but it’s some good food for thought; especially so when you take the message of becoming bigger, better and stronger after things have hit their worst.  It’s a terrific tale of recovery and a definite contender for the Top 5 pieces between both Fantasia films.  And most importantly, we get another solid conclusion to a very worthwhile release.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Epic Movie Scenes: Stampede from The Lion King (SPOILER)

Here we have the first of many posts that I’ve decided to simply call “Epic Movie Scenes.”  Is this original or creative?  Not in the least bit.  But this is less about what I’m pointing to and more about what these sequences offer.  These are often the scenes that you almost have to see in theaters to truly experience.  But even if the scene doesn’t necessarily mandate that, they’re guaranteed to catch and keep your attention.  And given the post I made teasing this new feature, I figured why not start with one of the most iconic scenes from many of our childhoods?

Unfortunately, the poster of this video has disabled video embedding, but here’s the link to the video on YouTube itself.  And if you actually haven’t seen The Lion King yet, I beg you to just rent or buy the movie and watch it all yourself before seeing this specific clip (or reading ahead):

Why is it so epic?

Now rather than just touting and posting videos, I also want to set some space aside to talk about just what makes the scenes I post so great, spectacular and memorable.

Right from the first part of this clip we’re given an idea of just how big the scene will be with a shot of the steep gorge.  Then we have a nice, slow panning shot out of the gorge and showing the amount of wildebeest that will soon flock and dominate the scene.  And for one last touch of build up (and convenience to work in Scar’s favor), we hear Simba’s roar echo off the walls, immediately followed by the trembling stampede and easily one of the best “oh, ****” reactions on film.

So much is packed into this scene that it really makes for a better high point than the film’s (intended) climax at Pride Rock.  We see the villain’s plan come into play as the scene literally heads toward and ultimately around us.  There’s a perfect mix of tension and suspense as Simba clings to the weak tree which ultimately snaps as Mufasa heads into the quaking gorge.  And of course we have the gasp-inducing betrayal at the end by Scar, topped off with Jeremy Irons’ perfect, demonic delivery of the line “long live the king.”  It’s one thing to get a fast-paced action or chase scene, but to get one that legitimately brings emotion and investment in like this is something else entirely.

Another part that definitely helps sell this scene is Hans Zimmer’s composition, which was nicely handled and mostly untouched in the sound mixing.  I’m always of the belief that something as simple as a film score can make an ordinary scene come off as epic.  In this case we have an epic scene matched with epic music, and the results are staggering.

And if we needed any more reason to prove how monumental this scene remains, it apparently took 2-3 years just for the three minutes of footage.  Now THAT is dedication!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Film, Movies

 

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