Tuesday, March 26, 2013

IGN March Comics Madness: It's All Over!

Thanks to fellow IGN Comics Review Crew member Poet Mase for creating and running the extremely fun IGN March Comics Madness tournament-bracket-filling-out-thingy. I was 100% sure Jesse was going to win since he's a certifiable comics genius, so imagine my surprise when I took first place and earned ego-inflating title of 2013 IGN Comics Cagematch People's Champion!

And here's my bracket, which I filled out with a mix of my favorite titles, what sells best, and what the IGN community seems to dig. It was the IGN community who did the voting, so this just proves they have good taste!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful aims high yet hits well short of its goal. In a world of glossy and often times garish 3D CGI-fest remakes, Oz makes a good companion to Alice in Wonderland in 3D and Jack the Giant Slayer in 3D, but unfortunately their club isn't an illustrious one.

The movie centers around James Franco's Oz, who plays the Wizard with enough ham for a Christmas feast. He goes from painfully over the top to somewhat over the top and back again at regular intervals. He is so obviously pulling a fast one on the women characters that his performance is devoid of any real charm, making you wonder what not one, not two, but three ladies see in the guy.

Oz the Mean and Pitiful.
Michelle Williams is capable of delivering some knockout performances with her ability to show off her sultry flair while masking an unspoken troubledness in movies such as My Week with Marilyn and Brokeback Mountain. Yet her Glinda is unengaging, mistaking calmness for strength. She plays the part with such frigidity that you might think she's Narnia's icy White Witch instead of the Good Witch of the South.

Mila Kunis plays Theodora, who starts out as a vulnerable doe-eyed young woman wearing her heart on her sleeve, only to have that heart broken as easily as a piece of straw after being wooed by the unsexy Oz. It's a discredit to Kunis that her Theodora is so easily heart-broken by what amounts to a middle school crush. After seeing her play the sexually unafraid Lily in Black Swan, it's clear she can deliver a more engrossing performance than what we see here. This movie is for kids, yes, but that doesn't mean it can't make us feel something.

It's not a stretch to believe that Kunis's upbeat energy and instant charm would have made her the better Glinda, while the ability for Williams to channel a deeply troubled young woman would have made her the better Theodora. 

"You shall not cast... me in the right role."

[Beware of spoilers below!]

In a blink-and-you-missed-it downfall into "darkness," Theodora is tricked into becoming the iconic green skinned, pointy-hat-wearing villain. This is the downfall of the movie. Kunis as the Wicked Witch of the West is the worst casting choice since Topher Grace as crybaby Venom in Spider-Man 3. Heath Ledger surprised us with his take on the Joker and that unsettling laugh. Kunis' signature cackle is dubbed over with some computer generated sound effect. They give her piercing yellow eyes, frighteningly arced eyebrows, and a long hooked nose, making her look more like a super model gone wrong than an ugly witch.

If you wanted to make Kunis come off any worse on screen, then you would put her next to the ever-impressive Rachel Weisz, who plays her role as sister Evanora with devilishly smooth conviction. Each of her lines drip with sweet venom, diffusing them of their cheesiness and empowering them with a serious-yet-fun tone that the rest of the movie lacks. She's the best witch, and without an ounce of makeup.

Weisz looking more Witchy-Bitchy than the girl in all the makeup.
The supporting cast consists of an annoying monkey played by Zach Braff, a one note Munchkin, and a surprisingly funny porcelain doll named China Girl. China Girl's best moments are ones where she drops her cutesy demeanor to kick Oz in the shins or pull out a tiny doll-sized knife. She is the most engaging character of the movie along with Evanora, which is saying something.

The plot is full of faux-twists and big moments that don't feel earned. It follows a path we've seen time and time again, to the point where you'll be able to predict the outcome beat for beat by the half-way point. Director Sam Raimi is known for camp, horror, and camp, and unfortunately he doesn't deliver near enough of either here. His mishandling of the female cast members reminds you that he's never given cinema any notable woman characters, while his safe approach that emphasized 3D landscapes over an engaging story reminds you that the big studio that funded this picture probably called most of the shots.