Mar 7, 2013 / 4:00 pm
Greetings movie lovers, it's time to take a peek at what the cinema has in store for us this weekend.
Oz the Great and Powerful
Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he's hit the jackpot - fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity - and even a bit of wizardry - Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.
Walt Disney Pictures finally gets to present to the world a film that is virtually 75 years in the making. You see, back in 1938, after the huge success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney had every intention of producing an animated film based on L. Frank Baum's original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately for Disney, however, Baum's estate had sold the film rights to the book to Samuel Goldwyn and the project was developed by MGM and ended up becoming the classic 1939 musical starring Judy Garland that we all know and love dearly.
Eventually Disney was able to acquire the rights to the remaining thirteen Oz books and they even made a sequel in 1985 called Return to Oz, which failed miserably at the box office. Oz projects were put on the back-burner at this point, until a few years ago when an idea for a prequel telling the origin story of the Wizard was pitched.
Enter the creative mind and vision of director Sam Raimi, who I've been an enormous fan of ever since he grossed us all out and made us laugh with his cult classic Evil Dead Trilogy. He's also responsible for the Spider-Man Trilogy and quite frankly he has yet to make a film that I've totally hated (even if I was a bit disappointed with Spider-Man 3).
The Wizard of Oz is sacred ground to me. I grew up watching this film at least once a year for many years during my childhood so it is completely ingrained in my consciousness. It's a magical wonder of a film that should never be touched as far as remakes are concerned. Thankfully, this is not a remake but instead an original story that tells us the origins of the Wizard and I'm totally cool with that. It should be fascinating to return to this magical land with the use of today's technology since special effects have come a long way since 1939. I just hope that Raimi didn't become too reliant on spectacular visuals at the expense of good storytelling.
With a strong director and solid cast, I am hopeful that Oz the Great and Powerful will be a fun, magical time at the movies for all members of the family. Perhaps it will inspire the post Harry Potter generation of kids to want to seek out the classic 1939 film, which is never a bad thing.
For those who are interested in checking out this film a little early there will be two advance screenings tonight. One at Orchard Plaza 5 at 9:15 and one at Landmark 8 on the Westside at 9:45.
This should be a real visual feast.
Dead Man Down
Victor (Colin Farrell), a rising gangland player, has infiltrated the crime empire run by ruthless kingpin Alphonse (Terrence Howard), with the single purpose of making Alphonse pay for destroying his once happy life. As he meticulously orchestrates his vengeance from his high-rise home, Victor watches and is watched by Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a mysterious young woman who lives in the apartment across from his. On the surface a fragile woman-child, Beatrice seethes with rage of her own. When she uncovers Victor's dark secrets, she threatens to expose him unless he helps her carry out her own campaign of retribution. Each fixated on avenging the past, they devise a violent and cathartic plan that could change their worlds forever.
Despite its relatively strong cast, the only thing that seemingly sets this film apart from being just another typical revenge action thriller is the fact that it is the American debut of Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev, who made the fabulous Swedish thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
I just have to wonder if his more artistic European style of filmmaking will translate well to audiences here that demand constant visceral stimulation rather than slowly built character development. I have no idea how this film is going to turn out but the previews definitely make it look like an intriguing film noir.
In addition to Farrell, Rapace and Howard, the cast also includes Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, Armand Assante and F. Murray Abraham, so there is some talent and pedigree on display here.
If you are in the mood for an action tinged noirish thriller then you might want to check out Dead Man Down playing at the Grand 10.
Also opening Friday is the drama A Late Quartet about members of a world-renowned string quartet who struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust. Inspired by and structured around Beethoven's Opus 131 String Quartet in C-sharp minor, it pays homage to chamber music and the cultural world of New York. The cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Poots. If you are a classical music aficionado then you can check out A Late Quartet at the Paramount Theatre.
Also opening at the Paramount is the new Canadian thriller, Ferocious starring Amanda Crew and Kim Coates. It's about a likeable, small-town girl who has become a famous actress and must take increasingly drastic steps to protect her fame. Ferocious was shot in Saskatoon by Calgary based filmmaker Robert Cuffley (Walk All Over Me).
Have a great weekend everyone and see you at the movies!
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