James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis | PG |
Oscar "Oz" Diggs (Franco) is a carnival magician, and a decent one as those go. It's not his fault that his audience turns murderous when a paralyzed kid asks him to make her walk. What a bunch of rubes. What do they expect for the price of a ticket, real magic? Well, yes.
Oz is mostly smoke and mirrors too. Don't get me wrong; the 3-D visuals in this prequel to The Wizard of Oz are sumptuous. A tornado drops Diggs, in a hot-air balloon, among giant blossoms and sprite-like creatures in a scene that echoes Dorothy blowing out of Kansas and landing in Technicolor. But the script, not as willing to defy gravity as the set designers are, rolls out a wan plot about Diggs pretending to be a wizard fulfilling a prophecy to save Oz. First, though, he has to tangle with witches: high-strung Theodora (the usually terrific Kunis, who's muted and boring, even at her vampiest), wily Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and sweet-but-knowing Glinda (Williams), who dares Diggs to be not just great but good.
Then it's back to that Yellow Brick Road we've been down before, with Oz settling for palatable nostalgia instead of something wilder and weirder. (Though kids may find the flying baboons plenty scary enough.) Mostly fine performances and brilliant sets notwithstanding, there's no escaping the fact that, for all Oz's considerable tricks, there's no real magic.
Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox PG-13 |
When Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Jones) went to Japan in 1945, his mission was to win the peace-especially tricky since he wasn't done prosecuting war criminals. Fox stars as Bonner Fellers, a MacArthur subordinate who must decide whether to enrage Japan by charging Emperor Hirohito with war crimes or nettle Washington by letting him go. There's also the matter of Fellers trying to find his girlfriend Aya (Eriko Hatsune), lost in the ruins of the bombed-out nation. Fox's stilted intensity gives the search urgency but lacks emotional warmth. (The Japanese cultural history we learn in the process is fascinating.) Worse is that Emperor casts the lively Jones as a relatively minor character. The heavy film needs more of his caustic humor.
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>A Place at the Table
Jeff Bridges, Tom Colicchio | PG |
If the stats don't get you-one in six U.S. families is "food insecure"-the kids will. A Place at the Table spotlights hunger's smallest victims, kids like fifth grader Rosie, who's so famished she can't focus in class. Colicchio and Bridges lend star power to the searing film, the latter stating, "If another country was doing this to our kids, we'd be at war." Frankly, if our kids have to fight for food, then we already are at war.
Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey
Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon |Unrated|
Pineda got famous the new-fashioned way: YouTube. Journey guitarist Schon found the Filipino singer online, belting out the band's hits in a voice so similar to former lead singer Steve Perry's that Schon knew he'd found a new frontman. At nearly two hours, Don't Stop is so long you'll want to rename the band Odyssey, particularly since the film never delves deeply into the group's dynamics. But you can't deny the joy of Pineda's good fortune—or his music.
YOU PLAYED A ZOMBIE IN WARM BODIES AND NOW YOU'RE STARRING IN JACK THE GIANT SLAYER.
I like to mix it up! That's the way you learn-and avoid getting trapped doing the same thing. I'm fortunate.
YOU WERE 11 WHEN YOU MADE ABOUT A BOY. HOW DID YOU GET INTO ACTING?
Both of my sisters and my brother did it. I didn't really play sports growing up-a perk of this job is being able to travel, but it makes committing to sports teams difficult-so it was my thing.
DO YOU STILL TRAVEL A LOT?
I'm in England, but I'm shooting in South Africa and then coming back to L.A. I'm running out of passport pages! It's a lot of flying, but my dad was a pilot, so I'm pretty good on planes.
HOW DO YOU KICK BACK?
Read stuff on the Internet. The last thing I looked up was how to pick a lock because it's a good thing to know. But I don't read [gossip], and I try to be private. Otherwise when people watch you onscreen, they think about what they know about you.
YOU'RE REPRISING YOUR ROLE AS BEAST IN THE UPCOMING X-MEN SEQUEL. EAGER TO PUT THE BLUE FUR BACK ON?
I'm really excited. I had a lot of fun making the first film and Bryan Singer is directing again. It's going to be great.