Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Tag Archives: Magic

ANCC: Doctor Strange

By the wondrous winds of watoomb!  In our epic 75th episode, Nick and the Gorehound are joined by Cousin Charles to discuss the 2016 film, Doctor Strange, starring Bennybutton Cumbersnitch! Check out the episode to see what they thought!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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Oz: The Great and Powerful

After I watched Burt Wonderstone this past weekend, I didn’t really want to go home yet.  As such, I snuck into a showing of Oz: The Great and Powerful I have been excited about this movie for a while.  I am a big Wizard of Oz fan (both the classic 1939 film and the original novel), so the idea of a prequel of how the Wizard came to Oz really appealed to me.  Add to that a creative team I have the upmost respect for, and you have sold me on it.  So, did the movie live up to my own personal hype?

oz

It largely did.  The visuals are amazing.  I happened to also see this in 3D, and, while that would not have been my original viewing choice, I have absolutely zero regrets about doing so.  The film stunning and director Sam Raimi utilizes the 3D to its full potential.  Plus, Oz was not a case of post-conversion.  It was filmed for 3D in 3D, and you all know how much I appreciate that.

That said, the film is a little long.  Granted, the running time is only a hair over two hours, but there are parts that somewhat drag and you want the film to move along.  Part of the problem, I feel, is that Raimi really wanted to show off the visuals.  I cannot blame him.  In a Wizard of Oz movie, you need impressive visuals to demonstrate how colorful the Land of Oz is.  However, he dwelled on it a bit too much causing it to lose some of its effectiveness.

Though Raimi loved his visuals, he did not sacrifice story or characterization for it.  The story is very simple, but for a movie like this, it is needed.  In essence, a con-man/small-time magician named Oz (James Franco) gets swept away to the Land of Oz where he is believed to be a prophesized wizard who will save the magical land.  He decides to play along so he can become wealthy as the new leader, but learns he has to destroy the Wicked Witch in order to do so.  As such, he starts a familiar journey down the Yellow Brick Road gaining friends and allies along the way.

The film has enough nods to the 1939 classic to make it familiar, but bring in some new, fresh elements straight from books by L. Frank Baum to make the production fresh and original.  Much like Raimi did with his Spider-Man series, he plants several easter eggs in the film that the average filmgoer will completely miss, but Oz aficionados will immediately pick up on.

Though I enjoyed the story, I really felt the threat-level that the wicked wiches presented was not really there until it was too far into the film.  In short, we learn that they have taken control of Oz in an almost dictatorship state, and that the people of Oz hate their rule.  This is never quite made clear enough, and when it is revealed, it comes off a bit forced.  However, in the end, it is a small detail and did not ruin my enjoyment.

Oz: The Great and Powerful has, arguably, been the first big hit of 2013, and I think that is largely deserved.  Despite its faults, the film is still pretty fun and it seems obvious that the cast is having a ton of fun in their respective roles.  I would highly recommend people checking out this movie in theaters only because the visual spectacle deserves to be seen on the big screen.  Go see it.

And, yes, I fully realize that a prequel to The Wizard of Oz has been done with Wicked.  Well, I got news for you: Wicked could only hope to be as entertaining as Oz: The Great and Powerful.  Yep, that’s right: I didn’t care for Wicked.  Deal with it.

~N

The Magic of ‘Burt Wonderstone’

This past weekend, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was released and largely underperformed at the box office.  Apparently, this is one of the lowest openings for stars Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey.  I was able to catch a showing of it and, not surprisingly, the theater was not even half-full.  I do not know why this was the case (I will let Zack speculate on that), but I guess the question remains on whether or not this movie deserved to underperform.

Incredible Burt Wonderstone

If I had to sum up my reaction to Burt Wonderstone, it would be that it is a fun and silly movie if a bit formulaic and predictable.  I enjoyed watching it, and I do not regret it.  However, after I left the theater, I largely forgot about it.  It is easily digestible entertainment and nothing more.

In the film, Carrell and Steve Buscemi play professional magicians with a successful Las Vegas act.  They are pretty much in the vein of David Copperfield (with a little bit of Siegfried & Roy thrown in).  Their act (and subsequently their friendship) begins to crumble when a new “magician” (perfectly played by Carrey) in the style of Criss Angel begins to grow in popularity.  You can pretty much infer what happens from that point on: Carrell hits rock-bottom from his egotistical heights, rediscovers his love of magic, reunites with Buscemi, and gets his magic act back.  Oh, and there is a love interest who assists Carrell on his journey played by an earnest Olivia Wilde.  Honestly, this is a movie that pretty much writes itself.

A problem with the film, beyond the formulaic nature of it, is that the tone is a little inconsistent.  There are moments of just pure insanity and surrealism when it comes to our lead’s attitudes towards each other and magic in general.  Then, almost turning on a dime, we get something akin to a heartwarming melodrama.  It jumps around a bit too much for my liking, and it does not do the film any favors for doing so.

Though the film is not revolutionary by any means, what saves it are some of the performances.  The aforementioned Jim Carrey is really terrific in this.  His character, Steve Gray, is just so zany and insane.  Carrey is able to go over-the-top with this character, but does so in a way that does not make it too ridiculous for its own good.  One problem I have noticed with Carrey’s previous goofy roles is that it goes so far that it is hard for a viewer to continue to buy into the goofiness.  Not so with this character.  He is able to ground it enough that it never veers into stupidity (I suppose it also helps that they use Carrey’s character just enough to where he is not over-exposed).

So, would I recommend The Incredible Burt Wonderstone to people?  I guess I would.  There is really nothing inherently bad about it.  It is a perfectly serviceable comedy that is sure to be enjoyed by audiences looking for a quick laugh.  Do not expect a lasting impression, however.  So, with that, I would say to wait for the DVD.  There is really no reason to rush to see it.

~N

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