Friday, March 22, 2013

Quick Takes on Five Recent Theater and DVD Releases

Oz the Great and Powerful (in theaters this month): I enjoyed it, but not as much as I enjoyed Jack the Giant Slayer, which was unfortunately released the week prior to Oz and lacked the same historical and classical background. I liked Jack for its straightforwardness. Oz is a bit too convoluted and busy and has very surface character development. The visuals, however, are beautiful. Three stars.

Wreck-It Ralph (animated feature on DVD this month): I watched this with my husband who, being familiar with similar old-school games, was quite a bit more taken with it than I was. It's pretty clever, but only a certain audience can truly appreciate it. I was, however, invested in the conflict, which centers on the main character's identity struggles. Three stars.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (rated PG-13, adapted from a novel, on DVD February 2013): Though the movie has some heavy thematic material and characters with loose morals, it surprised and impressed me (I have not read the book, so I can't compare.). The quality acting (by Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller, among others) is poignant and soulful, coaxing the viewer deep into a twisted story of pain and friendship. I was happy that the story didn't end on a completely depressing note, and while I wouldn't recommend this to just anyone, I'm glad to have seen it. Three stars.

The Master (rated R, on DVD February 2013): Skip it. This story, which is led by a handful of well-known and mostly respected actors and takes place in a cult shortly after World War II, is pointless and vile, containing an emphasis on sexual addiction and prolonged scenes of full female frontal nudity. I thought the cult aspect of it would be intriguing, and it was. But the immorality outweighed everything else for me. One star.

Anna Karenina (rated R, on DVD February 2013): I have not read the Russian Tolstoy novel, but my husband, who has and who watched this with me, was able to clarify any details I didn't get. It's a rather depressing story about adultery and its sad effects on the main character. The redeeming value of the movie is the genius of its filming, as though it takes place on an elaborate stage, and the transitions between scenes, which are fluid with the ever-evolving set. The style takes a bit to get into at first but leaves the viewer somewhat spellbound and awestruck. Also, hurray for Levin and the simple life. Three stars.

(Note: The three-star rating spans such a wide range of movies for me. Though I've rated most of these three stars and cannot easily rank them due to the huge difference in genre and target audience, I can categorize them according to morals, widespread appeal, and pure artistic beauty. Anna and Perks have troublesome morality issues and sex scenes, but surprisingly nothing is too graphic, even in Anna. Both of those are for specialized, mature audiences. Oz and Wreck-It have a much larger audience appeal and are family-friendly, but in my opinion, they are less artistic.)

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