3-D reviews: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Oz the Great and Powerful, Escape from Planet Earth, Little Rascals.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
This R rated fantasy film is based upon the German Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. The concept of having Hansel and Gretel grown up and becoming witch hunters was created by upcoming Norwegian director, Tommy Wirkola. He says that he was influenced by directors Sam Raimi and John Carpenter. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gave the film a $50 million dollar budget and the film was a box office hit bringing in $225 million. Much of the success came from Russia, Mexico, and Germany. It was not a blockbuster in the USA but did receive genre support from fans of vampire films. For any R rated genre film the $225 million is considered to be an excellent return.
For those who enjoyed Conan, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and Resident Evil: Afterllife, they would love this. The Sam Raimi influence upon Tommy Wirkola is clearly evident as the entire film has a feeling that compares somewhat to Army of Darkness without the comedic touches.
In that I knew about the tiny $50 million dollar budget before viewing it, I really was not anticipating a first rate production. Earlier this year, the $40 million dollar Dredd film was a disappointment and I anticipated a similar experience—and I was incorrect. Everything about the film was impressive and one could not see that any budget-cutting. It easily compared to Conan and the other above mentioned films with higher budgets. The settings were beautiful crafted and the acting was topnotch. I already look forward to a possible follow-up sequel with the same director and talented cast featuring the stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton.
The 2-D Blu-Ray has three impressive documentaries that are among the best ever. It is apparent that Tommy Wirkola is an upcoming director who knows how to get talented people behind him and working diligently on a project. Everyone involved was dedicated to making this film a work of art and they succeeded on a grand scale. Edward the Nome, a nine foot giant was an undertaking of magnitude that involved the skills of dozens of technicians to pull it off. Don't miss the documentary on Edward.
The story was impressive and had many twists and turns for the Witch Hunters to overcome the nests of witches that were always lurking in the woods. The 3-D did have me ducking all the explosions that had debris hurling toward the camera. 3 1/2 stars for this spell-binding well-crafted work of art.
3-D films hit the video shelves in June
Oz the Great and Powerful
This Walt Disney fantasy film is based upon the literary works of L. Frank Baun. Sam Rami, considered to be one of the great directors has James Franco and Mila Kunis in the leading roles. Danny Elfman wrote the score in six weeks with twenty-seven musical scores that run over an hour. The lavish budget of $215 million dollars helps to make this a gorgeous production in everyway. The box-office brought in $490 million making it the third highest grossing film so far this year. Legal constraints forced Raimi to come up with a totally new visual world that would not be in conflict with the 1939 Wizard of Oz.
Best Buy Turmoil
The Best Buy Company where I make purchases did not carry the 3-D version at all and has thrown the 3-D collectors into a tizzy. In that few local retailers handle 3-D at all has forced all of us to run to eBay and make our purchases. This must be a bonanza for eBay dealers as I really think this is the first time ever that this has occurred. I have yet to view the film and will have a review here at the end of the week. I do anticipate that this is an outstanding film in every respect.
In that it took ten days for the eBay seller to send my copy I can only guess that they were swamped with orders.
It was worth the wait.
This a spectacular film with scenery that rivals Avatar. They have recreated the Land of Oz so beautifully, everyone will want to view this many times. Like the original 1939 classic, this one will entertain any family audience from the very beginning to the final curtain.
The Emerald City is magical. For those of you who have marveled at the new version of Alice and Wonderland directed by Tim Burton, place this one on your list of "must-see" films as this incorporates the same magical feeling. Raimi gave homage to the original Oz film by photographing the opening scenes in Kansas in black and white.
This story is all about the Wizard of Oz and how he was transformed from a cynical carnival magician into a caring person held in high esteem by all those who knew him. The story is timeless and everyone will be cheering for the Oz to rid of the evil witches in the final scenes. It really can't get much better than this. Four Stars.
There is something here for Everyone
Escape from Planet Earth
This Animated Family Film is a Modest Hit
This animated film got off to a bad start during production when the writer, Tom Leech and director Brian Inerfeld sued the Weinstein Company by claiming they were entitled to outrageous royalties. Seventeen rewrites resulted in a very respectable script and the film is very enjoyable for many viewers. The story is similar to Avatar with the earthlings ending up being the bad guys.
Rotten Tomatoes and other critiquing organizations gave it less than 50% ratings and generally didn't like it much. While there are no figures on the budget, the box office revenues of a paltry $69 million make it a good bet that the Weinstein Company lost a lot of money.
Like virtually every animated the film the 3D is top notch and the settings are colorful similar to Candy Land in Wreck it Ralph.
The voices of big stars like Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, and William Shatner don't seem to add much character to the aliens that pretty much look all alike. I imagine that most audiences would find this to be enjoyable entertainment for the family although the film did not have the touches that gave it the “Wow” factor. Most every recent animated feature I have viewed always had a few scenes that were spectacular. This one did not have a single outstanding setting.
There could easily have been many scenes—heck how much effort is it to get the artists motivated to come up with something really great? “Brave” had and entire DVD with a thousand or so sketches, water colors, and oils devoted to the art work generated by the artists and all of it was something you would want to place over the mantle in your living room.
So what do we have here?
We have a competent, well done, animated feature that simply does not compete with Pixar and Disney. For me, I saw the film lacking in characters that one could care about. As the story unfolds, the viewer simply finds it interesting enough, however is never drawn that much into it. With Finding Nemo, Brave, and Wreck it Ralph, the audience quickly identifies with the characters and begins rooting for them to overcome the obstacles and win the day. Not so here, and that is very likely why the film did poorly at the box office. We should care, because the story is there, the characters are there. Many talented people worked hard to get this right and we should be rooting for the good guys here. Maybe it is lost somewhere in that seventeen rewrites where a tiny scene here and there could have gotten the audience involved in the outcome. I am going to recommend the film because it is enjoyable, just not competitive with the recent standards that we have come to anticipate. I hoped for a great ending that would bring it all together and was rewarded with universal values like brotherly love and a message that brains and brawn can work well in unison. Two Stars is earned for this enjoyable family film.
Nostalgic Films are Now Avaliable
March of the Wooden Soldiers and The Best of the Little Rascals
3D offerings the first half of the year were nearly non-existent. The big summer blockbusters will be available to DVD home enthusiast later in the year. Meanwhile 3-D Classics has offered a trio of offerings that include March of the Wooden Soldiers, The Best of the Little Rascals and The Best of the Three Stooges. Laurel and Hardy star in the 1934 Babes in Toyland renamed March of the Wooden Soldiers. This is spectacularly presented in color and the 3-D is everything one could hope for. Of all of the Laurel and Hardy films, this is the one to present in the new format. The Toyland set is a dazzling gem in color. In that this is a Christmas film for the entire family, it strikes me a brilliant marketing decision that will do well for those who invested their money in this. To say that there is nothing quite like this is an understatement.
This is a 1934 fantasy without dazzling special effects that our generation has been so accustomed. This is an opportunity to view a nostalgic film enhanced with color and 3D. The real stars of this wonderfully staged musical production is the actor and actress who play Bo Peep and Tom Thumb. Together they provide the romantic storyline and the wonderful operatic vocals. The songs are impressive as is the staging of the songs in which the entire ensemble joins in. Delightful Two Star entertainment.
The Our Gang Little Rascals video contains five two-reelers that seem to be what one would anticipate. In the event a viewer is not familiar with the Little Rascals, one can say it is pretty much little children being their cute little selves. In that the stories are in Color and 3-D make it that much more appealing and it is a trip back in time when innocence prevailed in simpler times. In Fly My Kite, for example, Grandma is told she is being booted out of her home and being sent to the poor house. Of course, Our Gang reeks havoc upon the villain, much to the delight of the viewer.
There are hundreds of feedbacks at Amazon where these are sold, so one can determine if their $9.95 is at risk. I thought it was a bargain, but did make a pass on the Three Stooges who have never had that much appeal for me. I imagine the true Three Stooges fans will pick this up and enjoy it without reservation. These three DVD's help fill the void for this time of the year. I anticipate next year will be the same and can only hope that 3D Classics will come up with more of these gems. Nostalgic Two Star Entertainment.