The story of how one man can make a film mediocre – Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Oz the Great and Powerful – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Mitchell Kapner (screenplay and screen story), David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay), and Frank L. Baum (“Oz” works).
Stars: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff and Mila Kunis.

The Wizard of Oz has been, and will always be, one of my all-time favourite films. Judy Garland was my hero when I was young and the film inspired me to become obsessed with movie making. The transition from black and white to colour is astounding and wonderful in the original film and the songs and story are classic. This new addition to the Oz franchise of  takes some of the wonderful elements of Frank L. Baum’s world and brings them to life. The colours, the landscape, the creatures, the nature; all of the visual elements of this film soar to great heights and lift the story out of the books and onto the screen.

The story would be good too if only they hadn’t given the role of Oz to James Franco. It’s hard for one actor to ruin an entire film but Franco manages to make this film mediocre rather than magnificent. However the women in this film balance out the overplaying of Franco. Rachel Weisz is stunning as the guardian of the throne in Oz. Mila Kunis’ transformation in character is flawless. And Michelle Williams couldn’t have done a better job of holding this film together as the fierce witch of the south. These three female leads, plus Zach Braff’s performance as the monkey Finley, really work hard to hold this film together. It’s not that Franco is awful or anything, it’s just that he is creepy and over acts in moments but fails to convey any truth of character on screen. I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Franco since he played James Dean in the TV movie, but he has failed to impress as Oz.

I went in with low expectations for this film and if the ending hadn’t been as great as it was then I probably would have hated it but the cinematic elements of the film are what make it worth the watch.

2.5/5

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Immersive and all consuming – Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas (2013)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski »
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen by), Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by), and Andy Wachowski (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant

The thing that makes this 3 hour extravaganza captivating and able to hold one’s imagination and attention for such a lengthy period of time is the perfect balancing of story peaks and troughs. Through each scene there is a sense of intrigue, mystery, and interconnectedness that helps you piece each story together. Not knowing how each will end but wanting to know how each life affects the others is part of the journey of this film.

I haven’t read the novel but I intend to. Mainly because I’m fascinated to see how the tension is built in written form because it works so perfectly in the film. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have taken Mitchell’s story and transported it onto screen so that it stands alone as a fascinating visual journey. Through editing, careful scripting and the soundtrack scoring, the peaks are powerful and come at the perfect moments in each sequence. The audience isn’t treated as unintelligent and being pushed and prodded through the complexities of the story. This film seeks to challenge our thinking. It is the reason why I think people won’t like Cloud Atlas, but I hope my pessimism is proved wrong because the challenge is worth the work.

There have been few moments in my life when I have been so captivated by a story in film that my entire body reacts to what is happening on screen. I can watch a film and do twenty other things at the same time and be able to tell you what it was about. But this film, oh my, this film transported me. It immersed me so fully and completely in its world that my mind, body, and spirit was involved in this film to the extent that I was left at the end of the film with an emptiness I can hardly describe. I wanted to watch it again immediately. I wanted to explore the world more fully, I wanted to know the characters more completely, and I wanted to escape again into the world of Cloud Atlas.

I could talk about the actors, the great prosthetics, the fantastic special effects, the comedy of the old people, the language of the tribal people, but I would be here all day. Instead I would like to leave you with the desire to see this film because of the experience I had in it. I know that everyone’s experience with this film will be different. It’s like the first time you hear that song that transfixes you and you replay it over and over because you’ve fallen in love with it, but you’ll never reclaim that first imagining, that first experience. Cloud Atlas is an immersive and all consuming cinematic experience that you should experience for yourself. Be captivated.

4/5