Tag Archives: family film

Oz The Great and Powerful

OzIn this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, circus magician Oscar Diggs is magically transported to the Land of Oz, where he deals with three witches and uses his illusionist skills and resourcefulness to become the wizard the residents have been expecting through prophecy.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This movie doesn’t hold the same innocent charm of the original film, but it doesn’t want to be. And that’s what makes it so successful. .

Oz is the story of a sheister, a talented but troubled carnival magician who womanizes, lies, disrespects and hussles his way through life. That is, until that famous hot air balloon sweeps him away to a magical world.

And this is where the story really takes off. Oz goes on a wonderful journey, both internally and externally, as he grows into a reluctant hero and leads a group of unlikely characters – not so different from the original. But the greatest similarity to the original masterpiece is what the lion was granted – heart. I really found myself swept away alongside Oz, played well by James Franco and supported with an outstanding cast – most notably Michelle Williams as Glinda. I was really pleasantly surprised by Oz The Great And Powerful. Sam Raimi drove a film rich in stunning visuals, wonderful comedy, sharp performances and – GASP – no music!

Brian’s Review – “War Horse”

Brian – 6 out of 10

There are three positive things I will say right off the bat while watching War Horse:

  1. There has never been a director who sat behind a camera in the history of film making that can hold a candle to Spielberg when it comes to shooting war battles. He is the master.
  2. Spielberg breaks the 2 major movie rules: Don’t work with kids and don’t work with animals and he does both successfully.
  3. Spielberg loves John Ford and tries to emulate his shots on several occasions and does that successfully as well.

Those three items are what rated this film a 6. So, what pulls it back from greatness? Well, the usual sappy Spielberg melodrama for starters. Why is it that every time something major happens between the main characters there’s an audience of starry eyed observers? Is there not enough of a dramatic undercurrent and paint by numbers storytelling that we really need a group of people to show us how we’re supposed to feel? That really annoyed me. Also, I get that the whole story is based on the idea that this young man loves his horse so much that he’s willing to join a war and put his life in danger to find him, but, why? Did the horse save his life? No. Did the horse do something that somehow changed the course of his life? Nope. Right from the first shot we’re led to believe that he’s infatuated with the horse. Once his father comes home with the steed, he stares at the animal with a lover’s eyes. It actually comes across as kinda creepy. He’s put in charge of training Joey (the horse’s name) and constantly presses his face to his and stares lovingly in the horse’s eyes while saying shit like, “Oh, c’mon Joey, you can do it. I believe in you.” Who the hell talks to an animal like that? It made me wonder whether he slept in the house or the barn.

Thank God the movie shifted tone about a third of the way through as the horse goes to war. When that happens, the film shifts main characters from the young man who trained him to a British officer, to a young boy and his brother going AWOL, to a young french girl and her Grandpa, and so on. I enjoyed that storytelling approach because we’re seeing the world from very different perspectives and the feeling has less of a Disney film. Where does it rank in the Spielberg filmography? Somewhere in the middle and that’s still better than most filmmakers who take a stab at such emotional material.


Unemployed slacker Fred (James Marsden) suddenly finds himself uncharacteristically busy after he runs over the Easter Bunny and has to not only nurse the gimpy rabbit back to health but also take over his duties so that the holiday can continue. Burdened with a cranky, cotton-tailed houseguest and a bout of intensive egg-delivery training, Fred finally begins to grow up in this hilarious and touching blend of live action and animation.

Rating: 6 out of 10

“Hop” is cute. It does a great job of creating Easter folklore for the Easter Bunny like so many Christmas movies have done for Santa. But some of the charm of the great Christmas movies was just missing. I’m not exactly sure why.

Easter Island is as detailed as the North Pole. The chicks (baby chickens) working in the candy shop are maybe even cuter than elves, and everything is fun and colorful. Maybe an Easter movie can never be like a Christmas movie because Christmas has a special feeling or because I heard stories about Santa my whole life and those movies just brought it to life rather than trying to create something new. Or maybe “Hop” just wasn’t a great movie.

The movie starts out good as it introduces the Easter Bunny and his son, E.B., who is supposed to become the Easter Bunny on his next birthday. E.B. isn’t interested in dedicating his life to hiding eggs and wants to become a famous drummer. So he sets off for Hollywood and the home of the Bunny’s – the Playboy Mansion. After getting turned away by Hef he hooks up with a freeloader, Fred. There’s the whole part about Fred thinking he’s crazy and E.B. discovering how much fun it is and then how dangerous it is to be among the humans.

The end is where “Hop” really falls apart, though. It crams what should have taken half the movie into about 10 minutes and doesn’t really put an end to everything. And without ruining the ending, some humans seem to accept things a little too easily.


Focused on achieving the impossible — defeating the Soviet Union’s unbeaten hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics — brash U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) unites a motley group of college athletes and turns them into a force to be reckoned with. Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich and Eddie Cahill co-star in this inspirational drama based on an improbable true story that shocked the world.

Rating: 7 out of 10

I was highly skeptical of Disney making this movie because the story itself is truly inspiring, dramatic and climactic, and doesn’t need any over-the-top sticky, gooey love on top.

Shockingly to me, Disney handled this film well. It was dramatic without hitting the audience over the head with sentimentality. Director Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory) developed his characters intelligently by focusing on Coach Brooks, played very well by Kurt Russell, and spending enough time with the players so we know and care about them, but don’t get all of their unnecessary back stories. If O’Connor had spread out his time trying to develop even three of the 20 players plus the coach, we would have ended up with thin characters we didn’t care about and a slow moving story.

Russell brought great tension to the role. He had a fierce edge with a bit of bitterness. This was one of his better performances of late — I also loved him as Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” You have to set aside the fact that we know the ending, we know the feel-good, we know we conquered the commies. But what most of us didn’t know was the difficult back story these men faced. This movie portrays that drama in compelling fashion.

Shrek Forever After

Shrek is feeling over-domesticated in the fourth installment. He has lost his roar. It used to send villagers running away in terror. Now they run to him and ask him to sign their pitchforks and torches. To regain his ogre mojo, he strikes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin. The pact goes awry and Shrek must confront what life would be like in Far Far Away if he had never existed. That translates into Donkey being forced into cart-pulling duty, fat and lazy Puss in Boots trading his sword for a pink bow and the underhanded Rumpelstiltskin ruling the kingdom.

Rating: 8 out of 10

With most movies, I walk into them with some anxiety because I really don’t know if they are going to be any good despite even the best reviews. Quite frankly, I often disagree with the critics who I feel watch a film from a professional, detached artsy-fartsy perspective or on the other side of the coin, act as shills for the studios and give positive reviews to mediocre films in an blatant attempt to build more hype about a film than is deserved (see: “Avatar”).  Critics tend to ignore the perspective of the average semi-intelligent movie-goer who’s looking for, if nothing else, a good entertainment value for their $10 (in my case $13.75 for the IMAX 3D… ugh.).  That being said, I never have any anxiety when I walk into a Shrek film.  It’s not even that I particularly think Shrek films are that great, it’s that I know what to expect from the series.  Even the worst Shrek film (which was arguably Shrek the Third) is better than most family films out there because the characters are loveable and relatable, the humor hits for both adults and kids alike without a need for parents to squirm or have to worry about what their kids are exposed to (and I don’t care what anyone says, fart jokes are universally funny no matter what the age).

Needless to say, I knew “Shrek Forever After” would be enjoyable, but I was more than pleasantly surprised at how much it exceeded even my expectations.  It’s kind of like Shrek is Jimmy Stewart from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but unlike George Bailey, Shrek’s motivations are totally selfish because they revolve exclusively around his own mid-life crisis.  Part of the reason this film is so effective is because that is exactly the reason why an X – Gen’er would want to wish they had never been born; not for Mary, not for Uncle Billy and the Savings and Loan, not even for Zu-Zu’s flippin’ petals.  They’d do it so they could do whatever they want just like they could before they got married and had a family and get away with it (yes, we are that selfish).  The other reason this film works is because it’s based around an alternate reality concept which by its nature takes us all the way back to what we enjoyed in the beginning of the series where none of these characters knew each other yet hilariously develop their relationships all over again. Basically, “Shrek Forever After” takes the best-loved aspects of the franchise and puts a wonderful new spin on them and yes, I need to declare this now: I like fat Puss even more than I like skinny Puss, and you will too.  That’s right, I said it.  You can quote me (I might use that as my Facebook status).

As far as the technical aspects of the 3D IMAX is concerned, I’m really indifferent to 3D because the more films I see in 3D, the quicker my eyes adjust and I don’t even notice it any more.  It’s gotten so bad with me that my eyes adjusted during the trailers preceding the film so I really had a tough time appreciating the 3D effects during the film itself, however, the cinematography and visuals were so well done that I honestly believe that it would be just as enjoyable in 2D at home on Blu Ray.  It really is a beautifully done film that is funny, incredibly heartwarming and in my opinion the best of the franchise .

— Read Shawn’s TV-tastic blog at tvtastic.wordpress.com