Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)


I Don’t Want to be a Good Man … I Want to be a Great One.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)It’s Tuesday (as I’m writing this, not as you are reading this), which means it was $5 movies at my local theater. Most of the times I get to go to the theaters on Tuesdays, I try to make it a double feature. And, if possible, I try to make the movies I pick be one for me and one for you, my audience. Today was only different in that I accidentally created a theme with the two movies I saw, tied together by the director of today’s movie. But the movie I wanted to see for myself was the other movie. Today’s movie was the one that was requested on Facebook, and it’s also a movie I probably never would’ve seen on my own. The first thing that drew me to the movie was my roommate Richurd telling me about how awful it was. That always makes me want to see something. But I do like the director, so let’s see how Sam Raimi did with Oz the Great and Powerful, based on a series of novels by L. Frank Baum, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, and starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Tim Holmes, Stephen R. Hart, Bruce Campbell, and Ted Raimi.

We are in Kansas once more. Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a magician at a travelling circus who is down on his luck. He is forced to make a hasty retreat when the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) attacks Oz for flirting with his wife. Oz is thoroughly satisfied with himself for escaping in a hot air balloon … until he realizes it’s being drawn into a tornado. He crashes and, when he reawakens, he is in color and in the Land of Oz. He meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good witch who believes him to be the wizard prophesized to overthrow the Wicked Witch that terrorizes the Land of Oz, and she quickly develops romantic, and unrequited interest in Oz. On the way to the Emerald City, they rescue a flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) from a lion of questionable bravery. When they reach the Emerald City, Oz meets Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who tells Oz that the Wicked Witch poisoned the previous King of Oz, and to defeat her he would need to destroy her wand. But all may be only slightly different than it appears…

I was not a fan of this movie. It wasn’t horrible as my roommate suggested, but there wasn’t much in the movie that was able to win me over. I have a lot of experience with the original Wizard of Oz movie since it was one of my mom’s favorite movies, which meant that I would be forced to watch it several dozen times in my youth. This movie captures a lot of what they accomplished in the original movie, but neither one of them were particularly strong on story. The original movie was all about a girl making friends on her road to meet the Wizard of Oz. This one is Oz making friends on his road to defeat the Wicked Witch. They have a couple of twists in the plot that were admittedly ruined for me by my knowledge of the previous movie. But, though you know where it’s going to end up since it’s a prequel to the original movie, it’s still a little interesting to see how they get there. But it felt like it should’ve been much more interesting. I understand Theodora’s motivation for becoming the Wicked Witch, but I don’t understand the love at first sight thing she had going on. She just dives right into being all the way devoted to this guy and why? Because he’s going to be king? Because he’s a wizard? Because you realize that you’re a witch, right? You can throw fireballs out of your hands but you’re going to be really impressed that he can pull fake flowers out of his sleeve and throw a smoke bomb on the floor? But then she gets pissed enough to commit her life to evil because the relationship she committed to too quickly turns sour. I suppose that’s a thing that women do, but my problem with that situation is that I didn’t see any reason that Evanora should’ve even bothered to conceal her wickedness. When she unveiled it, the soldiers of the Emerald City were still on her side. I also didn’t understand why Glinda was the only one that had the wand as her weak point and crutch? Neither of the other witches even used wands, let alone would die if theirs was broken. Also, “China Town” being a city made out of fine porcelain? Come on…

The look of this movie is by far its most appealing aspect. Once we get to Oz, the movie is beautiful, colorful, and visually striking. As much as seeing the original film in Technicolor must’ve delighted audiences in 1939, I was delighted by the look of this movie. But with the relative lack of story, I started feeling like I was watching a demo video for some new Nvidia graphics card. There were still a couple of issues I took with the look in this movie though. The first I noted was that Finley was not nearly cute enough to be tolerable. The people in the movie acted like he was supposed to be cute, but I found that role was occupied by the tiny China Girl, who was unforgivably and relentlessly adorable. The second was the look of Theodora after she turns evil. I understand what they were trying to do by making her look like a younger version of the same character in the original movie, but I just thought it looked goofy. She had Mexican chola eyebrows for crying out loud! I would’ve felt better about it if they had just Hulked Kunis up with some green paint and let her do the rest with her performance. I would just assume that her appearance changed over the years.

Mila Kunis Oz the Great and PowerfulA lot of the performances worked for me, but sadly the main character mostly did not. I’ve liked James Franco in things before, but he was a little too wacky for my tastes in this movie. One could say that he was chewing the fantastic scenery, as they say. I was fine with Mila Kunis in the movie right up until she turned green, and then she kind of lost me. It was possibly the makeup, but also the over the top wicked witch laugh. I don’t know how much you can knock her for it since it was obviously an homage to the original movie, but judging this movie on its own, that was just pretty goofy. It may also have been the fact that she wasn’t wearing those tight pants that made her butt look so good anymore. Rachel Weisz did a good job throughout the movie, and I felt like she was giving a better performance to this movie than it had earned. Had I been in the movie, I would’ve seen Kunis and Franco goin’ nuts and decided to take it easy. On the other hand, she didn’t do a very good job of concealing her wickedness. I kind of had an idea of it from the first time we met her. Michelle Williams brought it to the movie as well, and I found her extremely charming as Glinda. I was trying to figure out what it was I liked so much about her. She had something similar to naiveté, but she was smarter than being considered naïve. Perhaps it’s just extreme optimism. I did feel like Kunis and Weisz should’ve had a Kansas counterpart like Braff and Williams did, though. That’s kind of a staple for the Oz movies. Or at least the one I remember.

Oz the Great and Powerful didn’t really work for me as a movie, but it still has some very watchable parts. They took a cue from the Wizard of Oz in having a super simplistic story, and at least half of the performances were off-putting in how over the top they were, but Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams gave more to the movie than it had really earned. The movie was inarguably beautiful, though the combination of the visual spectacle and lack of story made it feel too much like a demo for a new graphics card. I like watching the video demos when I get a new graphics card, but I won’t recommend that you pay $10 to see it in theaters. Check it out at a RedBox eventually. Oz the Great and Powerful gets “I don’t want to die yet! I haven’t accomplished anything!” out of “You’re capable of more than you know…”

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Ted (2012)


I Hear the Fat Kid Running.  I Bet It’s Hilarious.

Though I wasn’t able to get the triple feature I was hoping to when I went to see Spider-Man, a double feature was within my abilities.  It required that I first wait outside in the scorching Las Vegas summer temperatures for an hour, but it had the potential to be worth it.  If nothing else, it would make for a review.  And a request, as this movie was requested by my cousin Jeremy.  This movie caused many strange feelings for me, mainly because I didn’t feel like I wanted to see it.  This was strange because I love the guy that wrote and directed it and I’ve been a fan of his TV show for quite some time.  Yet, when he brought out a movie, I looked at the trailer and turned my nose up at it.  When it came out, I had been told by numerous people that it was worth seeing, but I could not be swayed.  Apparently, they all forgot that I review movies and take requests, and that requesting it might actually make me go see it.  Well my cousin didn’t forget as stupidity does not run in our bloodline … at least not on the male side.  And so I bring my review of Ted, written, directed by, and starring Seth MacFarlane, and also starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Aedin Mincks, Patrick Stewart, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Patrick Warburton, Ralph Garman, Alex Borstein, Jessica Barth, Norah Jones, Sam J. Jones, Ryan Reynolds, and Tom Skerritt.

Young John Bennett has no friends.  For Christmas, he gets a large teddy bear that he cleverly names Ted.  But its limited vocabulary is not enough for John, so he wishes that Ted would learn how to talk.  Miraculously, his wish comes true and Ted comes to life.  After his parents (Alex Borstein and Ralph Garman) get over their initial shock, they take part in making Ted a brief celebrity.  In 2012, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) has lost his celebrity and now lives with John (Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend of four years, Lori (Mila Kunis).  Over their anniversary dinner, John comes to realize that Lori was hoping he would propose, but doesn’t want to marry a 35-year-old who hangs out and smokes weed with his teddy bear.  Lori doesn’t want to lay down a him-or-me ultimatum, but it may come to that anyway.  Also in the mix is Lori’s boss, Rex (Joel McHale), who really wants to bang her and a crazed stalker named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) and his son Robert (Aedin Mincks) who want to kidnap Ted.

I still can’t really put into words why I didn’t find myself interested in this movie, but I’m very happy that I finally relented to seeing it.  It’s not the greatest comedy ever (but it does reference the greatest comedy ever, in my opinion), but it’s a solid movie with lots of laughs throughout.  I don’t know why I didn’t expect it, being such a fan of the Family Guy and American Dad as I am, but it’s always nice to be surprised.  A lot of the humor is not far removed from what you’d see in a typical episode of Family Guy or American Dad, but they never do any of the flashback or cutaway jokes that people have complained about in Family Guy.  It’s just straight up funniness.  And a lot of it is nerdy jokes, which I always appreciate.  They recreate the dance scene from Airplane! for crying out loud!  Any movie that does that is alright in my book.  I got confused by one nerdy joke in the movie though, when it was revealed that Lori’s ringtone on John’s phone was the Imperial Death March.  What’s wrong with that?  That’s the ringtone I use for my mom on my phone.  (That is not a joke).  There’s also a scene where Ted and John do coke at a party, and that scene is all the way hilarious.  How does that count as a nerdy joke?  ‘Cause fuckin’ Flash Gordon (the real one!) is in that whole scene.  There may have been jokes that were lost on me in this scene as I have never seen Flash Gordon, but I think I got the gist of it.  I didn’t understand how this party was the straw that broke the camels back for Lori in their relationship though.  How are you going to get mad at your guy for going to that party?  Does he often get to hang out with his childhood heroes?  I understand you were reaching the end of your rope with the guy, but you have to let that one go.  There were some pretty sweet fights in the movie as well.  There was one near the end of the movie that reminded me of the fight from the third Bourne movie, but slightly different because one half of it was a teddy bear and not a big black guy.  There’s also a point where a kid gets punched in the face, and that’s just delicious.

The performances in this movie are all alright by me.  I’ve never really been too big of a fan of Mark Wahlberg, but I liked him in this movie.  He was funny in the movie, and there were even parts where he was downright cute, like when he was cowering in the kitchen yelling at Lori as she tried to clean up hooker poop.  Mila Kunis was very cute in the movie, and you felt for her very frequently in the movie.  But she’s always cute.  She probably can’t help it.  And at least she wasn’t Meg, am I right?  Seth MacFarlane brought a great deal of the comedy to the movie as Ted, and he brought even more to it as the writer of the movie.  You could expect that when looking at the trailers for the movie, but MacFarlane does share the funny pretty evenly with the rest of the cast.  I had gotten myself all smug and self-satisfied to say that Ted’s voice occasionally goes into Peter Griffin territory, but then they made the joke and made me look like a real dick-hole.  One of my favorite parts for Ted was a smaller moment in the movie, but it was when he was interviewing for his job, or pretty much all of his interactions with his boss.  Giovanni Ribisi was also in this movie, and he was as creepy as he was funny.  Norah Jones is also in the movie, but all I can say about her is that a Norah Jones concert looks like a boring time.  Not because of the music, but because the audience just seems to stand there and sway back and forth.  Where’s the mosh pit?  I had also heard that Ryan Reynolds was in this movie in a small part, but even that feels like an understatement.  He might as well have just wondered by in the background and waved.

I had inexplicably low expectations for Ted going in, but it blew them out of the water.  Turns out Seth MacFarlane can make funny in various different scenarios.  The movie is often laugh out loud funny, amusing the rest of the time, and even manages a good deal of emotional scenes.  Though I’d say the ending was not unexpected, it was the enjoyable way to end the movie.  The performances all help the movie along to their inevitable goal of being a fun and enjoyable movie.  This movie is definitely worth a watch in the theaters, so go do it.  Ted gets “Look what Jesus did!” out of “Somewhere out there are four terrible fathers I wish I could thank for this great night.”

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Friends with Benefits (2011)


Let’s Play Tennis

Today ended up being a pretty rough day for me when it comes to reviews. Not because I didn’t have time to review anything but had to force one in, but because I watched 3 movies and want to do all 3 reviews back to back. These three movies are all comedies, but much different types of comedies that you will be presented with over the next 3 days. First on my list is the 3rd part to the epic and unrelated friends who fuck each other but won’t get into a relationship series. I saw No Strings Attached before I started doing reviews, so I assume I will need to back track to it eventually to write the review for it. Love and Other Drugs I saw and reviewed already. That leaves only one: Friends with Benefits, written by Harley Peyton, Keith Merryman, and David A. Newman, directed by Will Gluck, and starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, and Woody Harrelson, with notable cameos by Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Shaun White, and Masi Oka.

Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) get dumped by their respective significant others, Emma Stone and Andy Samberg, at the very beginning of the movie, and that makes them gunshy about any future relationships. Dylan, an art director for a small internet company, goes to New York City to take a meeting with GQ about a job offer and Jamie is sent to try to convince him it’s a good idea. The two hit it off and Jamie really sells him on NYC, so he takes the job. They become pretty good friends pretty quickly. One day, while mocking a romantic comedy, Dylan proposes the idea that the two of them should bump uglies – or in their case, bump ridiculously hot and handsomes – and just be friends. This goes really awesome for them for a long time. Jamie starts dating a guy named Parker, who ditches out on her after they have sex. Dylan proposes that she accompany him back to LA to visit his family, sister Annie (Jenna Elfman) and father (Richard Jenkins). On this trip, their feelings start to interfere with their awesome fuck-buddyship. It’s a rom-com, so you can expect a good bit of happily ever after.

Having seen all three sex buddy rom-coms, I can say this one is by far the best. Love and Other Drugs was too much drama and way not enough funny, and, though Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are a pretty pair, you can give us TOO much nudity. No Strings Attached was funnier than Love and Other Drugs by a lot, and the drama wasn’t as heavy, and Portman is a great actress, but she was dragged down a lot by the not very likeable Kutch. Friends with Benefits manages to hit a nice sweet spot in all categories. Timberlake and Kunis are both good looking enough to appeal to any human with normal sexuality, and we don’t see everything so we don’t get bored with looking at them naked. There is a good deal of comedy to the movie and a fair amount of drama, but nowhere near enough to call this melodrama like Love and Other Drugs. It was light drama, so we don’t get depressed in the middle of our comedy. The pair in this movie have a lot of good dialogue written for them. The first act of the movie is filled with great back and forth between the two stars, and most of it is pretty funny. Their banter suffers a little once the fucking begins, but that might be in part that I was desperately searching for a little more nudity from Kunis. And the search is what I want. Once you give it to me, I’m satisfied. When you beat me over the head with it, I’m bored. Their banter gets back to form getting towards the end of the movie. I especially liked when Kunis was making fun of Timberlake for the fact that he used to like Kris Kross, and Timberlake busts a rap from “Jump”. One problem I had with the movie was that they sat around mocking a rom-com for using manipulative music and all the typical things from rom-coms, but they use most of these staples in their own movie. I’m sure it was done to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but it more served to just point out those things and make us notice them in their own movie. One such cliche is them sitting on the Hollywood sign, although that did end in some good funny. One thing they did that I don’t recall ever seeing is that they had Annie’s son (the aspiring magician) have his arm catch on fire, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid catch fire in a movie. Also, if a movie wants to stand out so much, they should make the girl go after the guy for a change. Do we have to do ALL the heavy lifting just because of our greater upper body strength, ladies?

I had refused to allow myself to say this for a long time, but I like Justin Timberlake. *NSYNC was awful enough to make me hate him for a long time, but his appearances on SNL and Jimmy Fallon made me think he may be able to do some decent comedy. Friends with Benefit only supports that. He’s both charming and funny in this movie, and good-looking and naked enough that ladies and gays would be all over it. For the mens and other gays, Mila Kunis is hot. Real hot. And pretty damned funny to boot. She’s also charming and funny, and both actors put on a pretty good performance during the short-lived drama parts. The things they said to each other in the inevitable part where they get angry at each other would sting pretty badly in a real fight as well. Richard Jenkins doesn’t add much comedy as Timberlake’s father, but he adds some heart to his parts because of his advancing Alzheimer’s. On the exact opposite side, Patricia Clarkson doesn’t bring much drama, but brings plenty of humor as Kunis’ hippie mom. She’s almost as funny here as she was in Easy A. It’s not too much of a surprise that Jenna Elfman does some good funny in her short time in the movie. One of my favorite things she did seemed improvised, when they were having dinner and Timberlake and Jenkins were talking about sports, and Elfman was sitting to the side mumbling to herself “We get it, you guys like sports.” blah blah blah. Also not in the movie very long, but very enjoyable and original in his performance, was Woody Harrelson. He played a very masculine sports columnist, but he was also very, VERY gay. He talked with Timberlake in a way that most guys talk to each other in movies, but instead of pussy, he was all about the wang. The cameo performances are nice, but don’t really add much to the movie.

I can thoroughly recommend this movie to you guys. I got it from RedBox, so it didn’t cost me very much money to watch this, and I don’t really feel the need to go out and buy it immediately, but I will probably add it to my collection eventually. I think you’d do well to put it on your Netflix queue or your RedBox reserve. Guys have Kunis, Girls have Timberlake, and both get a good amount of funny and an interesting enough story, with pretty good performances throughout. If you’re only going to see one of the plethora of “friend fucking movies”, I recommend this one. Friends with Benefits gets “Your breasts. They intrigue me” out of “I can work with that”.

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