Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: March 8, 2013
Director: Sam Raimi

Oz (James Franco), a small-time traveling circus magician, finds himself on the run due to his philandering. He escapes the clutches of a slighted circus strongman with the aid of a hot air balloon and is hit by a tornado which transports him to the land of Oz. With his newfound companions, he must defeat the Wicked Witch and restore Oz to its former glory and also redeem himself.

Before seeing this film, I’d had lots of trepidation about it. We have all (hopefully) seen the original Wizard of Oz and it’s one of those untouchable films that has withstood the test of time, and will seemingly always be a classic in our hearts. So, when I heard that Sam Raimi was doing an Oz prequel with James Franco and Mila Kunis…yikes. I was pretty scared.

However, my fears turned out to be unfounded.

The film starts out true to 1930’s/40’s film fashion and Raimi does a great job with the transition from black and white to full color. You can definitely see his influence in the film with the way some of the scenes are shot and especially with how one of the witches looks. (She looks like a Deadite from his Evil Dead series) This may or may not be a good thing, given the nature of the flavor Oz movies have.

The best part of the film, to me, was Mila Kunis as Theodora. We finally see how she became the evil witch we all love to hate, and despite the crazy makeup she still somehow exudes sexy. There were a couple of weird nods to her hotness, with a butt-shot and a bodice-ripping scene…but it didn’t jar me for too long. She looked amazing as The Wicked Witch.

All of the companions are creepy but somehow entertaining. (Doll with a knife?! Helloooooo?!) There were nods to other characters like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow that we know we’ll eventually see. The visuals were great and the music was nice by Danny Elfman (despite the random pop song during the credits…WTF?)

All in all, I think it was a fun movie. It had some plot holes and dull moments, so it’s not perfect, but it’s nice to revisit Frank L. Baum’s universe again and see how Oz, The Great and Powerful got his start.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Oz The Great And Powerful

Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983)

Original Theatrical Release: February 1984
Director: James Sbardellati (As John Watson)

The warrior known as Deathstalker (Richard Hill) is tasked by an old witch to gather three powerful items; a sword, an amulet and a chalice, before the evil magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard) collects them first and becomes unstoppable. After getting his hands on the sword and angering Munkar, Deathstalker enters The Big Tournament where he hopes to wrestle the kidnapped princess from Munkar’s control, while Munkar has plans of his own to kill Deathstalker.

First off, this movie is from 1983. I was only two years old, then. The special effects are TERRIBLE and are pretty consistent with the visual effects limits of the time, utilizing even puppetry to supplement the fantastical needs of the film. That being said, the puppetry is part of what made this movie so laughably bad.

Bernard Erhard is pretty much the only actor who can actually act in this film, but his performance is so over the top that it’s awkward to watch next to the wooden and stoic Richard Hill and his portrayal of Deathstalker.

As far as Deathstalker movies are concerned, I actually thought Deathstalker II was the best out of the bunch. (Even though Deathstalker II rips a scene right off the reel from this movie and just re-uses it, no questions asked)

Most lovers of fantasy have to give a nod to cheesy, 80’s Fantasy films like this, filled with topless barbarian women, oiled and dumbed-down Conan the Barbarian clones and ridiculous makeup, and this is no exception. It’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood to laugh at a terribad film, or for nostalgic reasons…that’s it.

This is definitely not Lord of the Rings caliber material.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Deathstalker

TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Director: Kevin Munroe

The movie takes place after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and is the fourth and final movie in the series, (at least for now) though this entry disembarks from the live-action method of the previous three films and goes to CGI. The plot revolves around ancient creatures coming to wipe out mankind, starting with New York City, and the TMNT must fix their differences if they don’t want to end up as turtle soup.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty hard to mess up.

Initially, I was dubious about the CGI. My worries were unfounded, however, as the CGI was one of the best things about the entire movie. As much as the animatronics and rubber suits get me all nostalgic, the TMNT were brought so much more to life and we could actually get a better picture of their ninja skills.

Almost all of the best scenes in the movie were fight scenes, and I felt like there was a lot of wasted opportunity with the story. Sure, it’s nice to see the Turtles in action but the majority of the attention focused on Leonardo and Raphael. Not that those two aren’t cool, but I always hated how the wooden-weapon-wielders, Donatello and Michaelangelo, (say that five times fast) are never shown kicking shells as much as Leo or Raph.

Some of the voice talent was awesome like Sarah Michelle Gellar (April O’Neil), Chris Evans (Casey Jones), Patrick Stewart (Winters) and Laurence Fishburne (Narrator) but again, lots of it wasted on no story. I did like Leo and Raph’s standoff but it took too long to come to a head and the other characters seemed largely ignored. Kevin Munroe, the writer/director, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to do but it doesn’t seem like it was enough to satisfy.

Overall, it’s fun (and is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) and your kids will love it because it’s very much a cartoon in guise of a full-length feature film. It’s worth watching if you love the TMNT but in the end, you’ll be wanting to just go back and watch the older stuff.

Also, check out my review of the Nintendo Wii game tie-in (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up) that smacks of this movie’s artistic style, HERE

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For TMNT

Chrono Trigger (2011 – Wii)

Chrono Trigger (1995)

Original Release Date: May 16, 2011
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

Chrono Trigger is a video game masterpiece.

As the main character, Crono, you begin your tale in Guardia in 1000 A.D. being woken up by your mother. You rise, go to the Millennial Fair which isn’t too far from your house, and accidentally bump into Marle, your soulmate. Moving around the fair with her, you eventually lead her to your friend Lucca’s science experiment that she’s showcasing for everyone. It’s a teleportation device. Trying it out to impress the new lady, you are transported from one platform to the other and come out fine on the other end. Marle decides to try and disappears, accidentally transported back in time to the middle ages. You jump in after her and are taken on an epic journey through time that culminates in a battle for the fate of the world with a giant, planet-destroying parasite named Lavos.

I originally played this on the SNES back when it first came out. (I rented it from Blockbuster) Back then, I was simply blown out of the water with the quality of the game. I’d stay up nights playing it, telling all my friends about it (who were all busy with the Playstation 1 that had just come out) and I was emotionally invested in the game which hadn’t happened for a long time, if ever.

First off, the creative team behind the game was earth-shattering.

  • HIRONOBU SAKAGUCHI: The creator of the Final Fantasy series
  • YUJI HORII: The creator of the Dragon Quest series
  • AKIRA TORIYAMA: The man behind the artwork in Dragon Quest/Dragon Ball Z
  • YASUNORI MITSUDA and NOBUO UEMATSU: Behind the music of Xenogears and Final Fantasy, respectively

Wow. That’s some amazing talent all bundled up for one game.

At the time of its release, Chrono Trigger was revolutionary and had multiple endings, graphics that were pushing the limits of the SNES’ capabilities, an amazing storyline which advanced character development and an amazing battle system. For the Wii, everything holds up still today and I’d rather play the Wii port of Chrono Trigger than most of the games available for the Wii, even the newer ones. (And one of my friends reminded me today that the Nintendo DS has the best version, with a new dungeon and everything)

If you like RPG’s at all, do yourself a favor and sit down with this amazing game. Of course, you might not like it but I guarantee most of you will.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Game Trailer For Chrono Trigger (Wii)