Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Save a Clubhouse (If You Can't Breakdance)

Much to the confusion of some of you who are wondering why these haven't been on Thursdays like they used to be (...oh, come on, I'm sure one of you's noticed!,) it's time for another visit to the Third Row.
You know, this year's been off to...kind of an interesting start.  Up until sometime earlier this month, this year's theatrical releases were...kind of a mixed bag.  By that, I mean, for a while there, of the films I'd seen in theaters, two of my top three weren't even actually made for release this year.

This, as you might guess from a comment like this, is in review of one of those above mentioned two of three - more specifically, Studio Ghibli's 2011 film From Up on Poppy Hill, that only recently got a wide release here in the US.

I'd like to take a moment to say, yeah, the captions on this one won't be quite the usual zingers here...cause man, riffing on a Ghibli film feels strangely wrong.  Like hitting a cat wrong.

I have to say, I went into this film with some degree of reservation.  On the one hand, yes, it's Studio Ghibli, which is almost always a sure bet for quality.  On the other, this was the follow-up directorial effort of still up-and-coming Goro Miyazaki, whose previous debut was the rather lackluster Tales of Earthsea.  Now I have not read the books there yet (though the movie did make me curious to look into them,) but from what I heard from those who have, this wasn't even a case of fault in the material - the movie was just weak all around.  It had interesting ideas, but a rather listless story and no real sense of a directorial voice behind it.

Why am I starting this review by unloading on Tales of Earthsea that much?  Because after seeing his follow-up feature, I am honestly starting to come around on Goro as a director.  This isn't to say I'm looking the other way on ToE's faults. However, the more I look at it, the more it reads as a case of an inexperienced director in over his head.  From Up on Poppy Hill, meanwhile, shows Goro in a bit of a stronger light.  It's still a bit rough around the edges, but with this, he's starting to show signs of improvement and thankfully, a strong voice.

The movie's story is adapted from the 1980s shoujo manga of the same name by Tetsuro Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi.  Its focus is on protagonist Umi Matsuzaka, voiced by Masami Nagasawa and Sarah Bolger.  As the elder sister in her family, she's been minding the house while her mother has been away, her father having died during the Korean War.  Every day, she raises signal flags in memorial to his father, which she later finds out someone has been responding to.  Alongside her life at home, she becomes involved in a movement at her school to save an aging club house that is in danger of being demolished (Editor's note- AW SHIT. Does this turn into Breakin' 2?).  As a result of this, she gets involved with the president of one of the clubs, the popular Shun Kazama (Junichi Okada/Anton Yelchin.)  This is also mixed with a storyline involving school love and a question of lost family connections, which I won't elaborate too much on, one part because they try to build it up to a reveal, and one part so we can get to talking about the movie itself.

While the screencap is kind of small for it, one other thing I have to hand to this movie - the backgrounds are quite nicely done.  Especially in the clubhouse before it gets cleaned up.  They do a great job with making the place look lived in and cluttered.  I kind of wanted to just keep poking around that building.

The story itself is, as you might guess from that synopsis, a bit busy at points.  In order to keep things moving at a decent pace, some stories are given precedence (the romance/mystery around Shun and Umi is the primary plot with the club house taking second.)  This is something of a mixed blessing, in a way - the stories that get the focus are handled fairly well, but the secondary plot strands do somewhat peter out with the diminished attention.  Much of Umi's home life, for example mainly just winds up feeding back around into the main romance storyline and doesn't really stand otherwise on its own.  This somewhat hurts characterization for the boarders in their home, who mainly just seem to serve to help nudge the plot forward.

Of course, like the story, on the other side of the coin, the characters that do get the more direct plot focus do far much better.  Umi and Shun are fairly fleshed out, and while not as fully carried out, many of the locals at the school's club house are still quite entertaining, even if a couple of them are one note characters.  Part of what helps in this latter case is some of the dialogue in the script (written by Keiko Niwa and Hayao Miyazaki.)  Several great bits that make the various clubs memorable are little moments in passing (an exchange between two club members: "How can we make archaeology cool again?" "We can't.") help make up some for the fact the cast are really too large for everyone to really get a chance in the limelight.

In some ways, it does feel a bit odd looking at this movie compared to many of Studio Ghibli's other films.  Compared to many of their greats, I will admit, it does come up a little light.  But at the same time, I don't find myself minding that.  Partially because I still see this as an improvement for its director.  It's still rough around the edges, but this film shows some promise for where the younger Miyazaki could go as a director.  While it still shows a couple of the flaws that he had in ToE, he also has a better sense of focus on this movie.  More importantly, this film has more of a distinct voice to it.  A voice that, thankfully, isn't that of his father's.  Put down the pitchforks, that was NOT a slam on Hayao.  He's a great director (one of his films is actually on my favorite movies list,) and I would not challenge that.  What I mean is, I'm actually pleased to see that his son is trying to strike out a path on his own and with his own voice as a director, instead of just trying (and potentially failing) to emulate his father's style.  With this film, Goro shows some potential to be able to handle character-centered pieces well, if he can just narrow his scope from here.  I can't say at this point if he has the potential to be as good as his old man, but at the same time, I do at least see in this movie the signs he could still stand on his own quite well.

All in all, if you're a fan of Ghibli's work, I'd say it's worth a watch.  It's admittedly not on the scale of some of their peak offerings, but given the nature of its storyline, that's not necessarily a problem.  It's a very down to earth story and its narrative and direction reflect that fairly well.  For all its rough edges, it still has the heart that has really helped allow Ghibli to become such an established name in the states over the past 20 years or so.

Just remember - if you fumble with Ghibli, it's lucky if you can get a second chance.  The injury featured here is strike one.  Let's just say no one's seen strike three...at least, as far as the authorities are concerned, anyway.

Goro, you're almost in the clear.  Just keep at it, cause I'd hate to feel like I was wrong in saying you could still go places.

Join us next time when I...OK, next entry isn't actually a review (STOP CHEERING, DAMMIT!) but still, hopefully will see you guys then!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Mustachioed Bit of Levity

[NOTE: This entry was initially lined up to go up much sooner...but as you can imagine, last week was one of those weeks for...just about everyone, really.  For what it's worth, to those still effected by last week's happenings, my best wishes and hope things fare well.]
Well, let no one say we here at The Third Row don't keep our word (...most of the time.)

Last entry, I promised you guys Italian Spiderman, and I haven't been this happy to oblige in a long time.

...I'm gonna be honest.  Captioning may be tricky with this one.  I mean, riffing a movie that's already a parody feels kind of redundant, no?

Right about now, some of you are already thinking "Oh God...", while others are likely wondering "What the Hell is Italian Spiderman?"  So, let's get started with some of the background -

Italian Spiderman is a two-fold sendup film conceived of by a team of Australian filmmakers.  It serves as both a send-up of Italian action movies of the 60s and 70s (presented as a 'lost' film of fictional Italian orange magnates, Alrugo Entertainment,) as well as a good natured send-up of the custom of foreign 'repurposes' of popular titles (things like Turkish Star Wars, etc.)  The result is a low-budget, dubbed over, and downright hysterical piece of insanity.

In fact, before I go any further on describing this movie, I'd argue now would be a good time for you to look up the trailer.

It's OK, I'll wait.

For those of you who didn't want to look up the trailer, I'll try and keep the description short and sweet.  For those who did...well...bear with me for this description.  Again, I'll keep it short.  For starters, this isn't the Spiderman you know from comics and films.  Naturally, this is part of the joke.  Rather than being the endearingly gawky nerd who gained superpowers from being bitten by a radioactive spider that now allows him to leap from building to building in a skintight red-and-blue costume, this movie's vision of Spiderman is...different.
Picture a stocky man with an appearance like a cleaner Ron Jeremy, a domino mask, and a red turtleneck with a giant spider on it.

For as many weird things as Marvel has done with the character, I feel kind of saddened this was never one of them.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

Also, he's not about nimble acrobatics and quick quips.  This is established in the first scene, where, in the midst of a tense poker game with a classically one-eyed villain, he produces a shotgun from nowhere and starts the shells firing.  It's a sequence that has no real purpose for the rest of the film, but it's still a great way of both introducing our hero and establishing the flavor of the movie.  Low-budget effects, including a man turning into a rubber snake to escape a beating and goofy as Hell fight choreography, including seeing Italian Spiderman cold-cock several women, all set the stage for what's to come wonderfully.

From here, we establish the movie's actual story, loose as it is.  Italian Spiderman, who simply is...that's just his full identity, job, and any other aspects, is the friend of scientist Professor Bernardi.  Bernardi has been researching an asteroid that fell to Earth (first presented into a sequence that introduces us to a young student who's shocked expressions turn into a brilliant running gag.) 

I'd like to believe somewhere there's an entire reel of alternate reactions this guy gave for every scene he had to look shocked in.

Unfortunately, his research has also caught the eye of the villainous Captain Maximum - a cackling villain whose dress sense involves a sharp grey business suit and a Mexican luchadore mask.  These three, as well as Jessica, Bernardi's niece and Spiderman's love interest, make up the four main players in this loose story that plays as a whirlwind of action, espionage, and some over the top insanity that's hard not to love.

Likewise, kind of saddened that such a villain doesn't appear to be part of the classic Marvel rogue's gallery.  If someone knows otherwise, feel free to correct me.

I will admit here, it feels a bit odd to try and seriously review a movie that, by its very design, is meant to be a parody of incredibly goofy, low budget films.  Mostly because it's not the kind of film that is necessarily quantifiably good, but it is VERY entertaining.

In particular, that entertainment comes down to two elements more than anything else (not to diminish the rest, but these have earned the praise.)  The first is the performance by 'Franco Franchetti' (David Ashby) as the film's hero.  Half of what makes Italian Spiderman such a fun movie and character is the fact Ashby plays the role with such zeal.  Whether it's dispensing morals to people he's just punched out, or demanding information from a rubber snake, Ashby plays the character with just the right level of over the top energy.  He's fun without feeling like overkill.  A trick that, in a parody, is a pretty delicate balancing act to get right.  The other standout here is the film's director, Dario Russo.  Russo, as director and producer, does a lot for helping give this film its wild feeling.  Between the faux-60s setting and the over-the-top low budget action (one of the highlights being a scene where Italian Spiderman makes a man's head explode using only his mustache.)  Like Ashby's performance, Russo has a sense of how much is just right here and hits the mark almost all across the board.

Proof of the above-mentioned interrogation and head explosion.

Really, this is one of those movie that feels almost impossible to hate.  It's a parody that understands its subject well enough, and approaches it with the right levels of good humor and, oddly enough, love to make the film still feel enjoyable while also feeling relatively faithful to what it's riffing on.  I realize I'm coming back to that element of balance a lot in this entry, but it's because it really is a big element of what can make or break a parody movie.  It's also what causes this movie to succeed with such flying colors.

Seriously, they pull no punches.

Like I said, given the film's big failings are in there by intent, I can't rightly find much to fault this movie for.  The only complaint I could really feel with this movie is the fact that, as an independent project, it's only 40 minutes in length.  Though at the same time, I almost can see how that could be an asset.  I mean, I walked away from this movie wanting more (and not just because of its cliffhanger ending,) but I can also acknowledge maybe it's best we only got what we did rather than risk the idea of the joke overstaying its welcome.

With an ending like this, the knowledge a sequel will never come haunts me.

Though I must admit, I certainly wouldn't say no if the team ever decided to reform Alrugo and revisit this mustachioed hero one more time.

The movie is actually available on the web, legitimately, and free of charge (with English subtitles) for all to see.  Suffice it to say, if you haven't watched this yet, and if this article has raised even the slightest interest, then by all means - Go! Go! Make yourself a Machiatto, pull up a chair, and watch Italian Spiderman!  It may not be necessarily artistically fulfilling, but it's still a VERY enjoyable 40 minutes to just unwind and have fun.

OK, so this entry was a little bit more freeform than I was expecting.  Though given the nature of the movie in question, that actually fits, in a way.  If it helps any, the next review is already in the works and will be a bit more structured, if somewhat less insane, sadly.  Ah well, can't have 'em all that way, or I'd get sick of it.   Such a prospect terrifies me.

Until next time...
See ya!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

...and now, for something actually kind of serious. (Yep. It's Ebert.)

It's a lot sooner than I was expecting to get back to you guys here at the Third Row, but life does have its way of surprising us like that.

This isn't going to be a review piece.  I have Italian Spiderman lined up in the queue for you guys to dread when the time comes, but for now, we're here to talk about a much better subject and a much better person.

As you likely already know by now (unless you're in a self-instated media blackout...in which case, why the Hell are you reading this? ... Wait!  Don't leave!) today saw the death of beloved film critic Roger Ebert.  The man was 70 years old, and this came one day after his announcing his intention to step down from professional review due to cancer.

Despite this heads-up, his death still felt sudden, and I find myself even now trying to sum up just what to say. This was a man who inspired a love of film in millions of people (no, I'm not sure that's an exaggeration.)  Many have also sounded off on the man's passing already.

As a result, I've spent the last hour or so trying to sort out just what I can say for the man and his legacy that hasn't already been said...so here goes.

I wish I could tell you all how this man was a direct influence on my decision to go into review, but that would be disingenuous, as the thanks for that goes to many people (he is on the list though.) At the same time, however, he did manage to impart an important lesson on me that properly helped shape how I decided to look at reviewing to this day.

One of the things that I always found interesting with reading Siskel and Ebert's reviews is, even when I didn't agree with them, I could see their case.  This being at a time where, for a while, I was regularly at odds with the local reviewer (and while I will concede some of my issues there were biased, there were a few things where it did honestly feel like the guy just wasn't paying full attention.)  Regardless of how Siskel and Ebert, and later Ebert on his own felt about a movie, I could count on knowing that, yes, they watched it and absorbed it, and they knew what they were talking about in their discussion.

Here is where I will again stress the fact that Ebert and I didn't always see eye to eye.  For proof of that, compare our views of Zarchi's I Spit on Your Grave.  At the same time, damned if I wouldn't still respect the man his view for the fact he didn't simply write it off without giving it its proverbial day in court.

I guess what I'm getting at here is, to me, Ebert was essentially the model of proper reviewer conduct, embodying many of the key virtues that I feel all reviewers should take to heart, and sadly don't always:
-Never write off a work simply because of your prior impressions of the medium.  Give it a chance (for an example of this, look up his review of Grave of the Fireflies.)
-Not everyone will agree with you.  That's perfectly acceptable.  If everyone had the same opinions, this would be a boring enterprise
-To this end, don't be afraid to be in the minority vote on something if you like it.  Stick with your guns. But always...
-Make sure your case is solid.  If your stance is worth defending, then be ready to defend it.  Make sure it holds water and be ready to stand behind it.

I realize this sounds odd, but looking back, this really is the biggest impression Ebert made on me.  The man was a good writer, passionate about films, and when he completely unloaded on a bad movie, it was arguably more entertaining than the movie in question would be.  But for me, his strongest point will always be those points listed above: he was the man that helped prove to the world at large that film review could be a legitimate field (despite the number of people who will try to argue otherwise) and helped provide, for lack of a better term, a gold standard to hold review up to.

Alongside that, I also have to hand it to the man - his was a life spent sharing his love of film with others, and, in doing so, helping people discover their own love of film.  In a world filled with critics, few have had quite the impact he had.

God speed, good sir...
...hey, I can't be making these things jokes all the time.

I'll be having a drink to your memory tonight, good sir.  Thanks for the films, the memories, and the inspiration.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fear and Loathing in the Land of Oz

(Yeah, yeah, this is twice I've titled something inspired by the Hunter S. Thompson work.  I held out on a LOT of obvious James Franco stoner jokes on this one, so humor me.)
Well, the Holy Week/Easter chunk of time is over, and it's back to work here at the Third Row.

It also gave me a chance to get out to the theaters for another current review...and like last time, I find myself really trying to work out how to sum up my thoughts here.  Albeit in this case, it's got less of a nice sound to it.

Several weeks after the rest of the viewing public, I finally got around to seeing Sam Raimi's first big post-Spider-man bid for the blockbuster crowd with Oz: The Great and Powerful (much as I enjoyed it, I never really got the sense Drag Me to Hell was meant to be a blockbuster film so much as a fun horror title.)

This was a film that, admittedly, I was uncertain of from the off-set.  On the one hand, I have to admit, the idea of seeing a fresh take on the land of Oz in film had a lot of potential, and doubly so from a director like Raimi.  However seeing the teasers, I found myself feeling somewhat underwhelmed.  "Still," I thought "Now that it's out, why not give it a watch?"

Unfortunately, the uncertainty is still there.  To start with, I just want to say I didn't hate this movie.  It actually does have some nice visual flares, the callbacks to both versions of Oz (the 1939 movie and Baum's novels) are nice without feeling overly "SEE WHAT WE JUST DID?."

The story is, as the promotions show, pretty obvious - James Franco plays the titular character, Oscar Diggs (Oz for short,) a traveling Carnival magician in turn of the century US, which, in keeping with the homages, is filmed in black and white.  He's also, as is often the case in these stories, an absolute jerk.  He's a womanizer, he belittles his assistant (Zach Braff), and constantly focuses on the idea of becoming more than he really is.  It's the kind of personality we all know is due to get changed as the story goes on, and one that, to his credit, Franco plays well.  Anyway, after bombing on stage, and then crossing the carnival's strong man the wrong way, Oz is high-tailing it out of Dodge.  He's confident that he's gotten away with his antics once again with no consequences...until he realizes the hot air balloon he took to get out of the carnival is heading right into a tornado.

"THIS is what it's like in a tornado?  I should have gone into one of these years ago!"

One guess where said tornado leads him.  To his credit, they do avoid just making the tornado sequence a retread of the famous semi-hallucination scene in the 1939 movie.  Rather, this results in a crisis of conscience as Oz pleads with the powers that be for one more chance to prove himself.  This scene also has one drawback I'll be coming back to later, as it's a drawback that haunts a lot of the movie.

Anyway, Oz touches down in the brightly colored land of...do I even need to say it?  It's a pretty far cry from the world people only familiar with the movie will remember - rather than being put down in a village of munchkins through an act of residential manslaughter, Oz is plopped down in the middle of the wilderness of the land that bears his namesake.  Here, he's found by one of the local witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis, in a fairly well acted, if somewhat directionless turn.)  She informs him of the situation - Oz's old king (a creation unique to this movie, as Baum didn't have a patriarchy in his books) died, and a prophecy declared a wizard bearing the land's name would arrive.
Oh, and of course there's the whole little pesky element of the fact he has to find and kill a wicked witch to get the throne. You know, easy stuff.

"Remember the pie scene in 'Spider-man 3'? 'So good?' THAT'S our new king.  Still think this is a good idea?"

All in all, this film is something of a mixed bag.  While the story is basic, it certainly doesn't damn the film on its own nature, as basic stories can make up for their simple set-up in their execution.  Unfortunately, this is probably one of Oz's biggest stumbling blocks.  Many otherwise simple elements feel ultimately muddled - Oz's 'jerk who develops a conscience' arc feels somewhat understated, as he really doesn't seem to properly reap any consequences of his carelessness.  He feels bad for not being up to snuff, but when the film reveals the biggest mistake from his actions (which I won't go too much into as a courtesy), he doesn't seem to feel all that bad about it.  There's no regret and, at the end, only a fleeting attempt to make amends for what he's done.  It's not even like anyone else beyond the wronged party takes him to task either.  Even the movie doesn't seem that interested in taking him to task, since it then eclipses his misdeed by having it amplified by the movie's wicked witch.  Simultaneously rendering him slightly less to blame and also considerably less effective within his own story.  Everyone just keeps expecting him to step up and become the great and powerful wizard of prophecy.  Never mind the fact the situation has now become more dangerous because of him.

"Told ya.  No consequences.  It's pretty sweet being Franco."

Which leads into the next strength and weakness of the film overall - to be honest, while Franco makes the most of the role, Oz just isn't a very interesting or likable character.  Which is strange, since it's not like you can't make a jerk likable (just ask Robert Downey Jr, the man who made Tony Stark so beloved was at one point in talks for the title role here.)  He simply doesn't have a whole lot of personality beyond his desire to be a great person.  Even after he changes, there's not much to him.  By comparison, the witches of Oz are all a bit more fleshed out and interesting characters.  Alongside Kunis giving a sort of doomed optimism as she falls for the film's chosen one, Rachel Weisz plays her sister with a understated, but still malevolent edge that, unfortunately, feels somewhat underused here.  Rounding out the trifecta, Michelle Williams makes the most of what she has to work with for Glinda, and still manages to make her character stand out as someone willing to use what tools she has on-hand to make the most of the situation.  Unfortunately, said tools in this case often means putting her trust in a man she doesn't even think is the prophecied one.  On the one hand, it's a case where I can see the criticisms that she comes across as lesser to Oz, but in this case, I'll still give some points for the fact that the only reason Oz actually gets anywhere is because she gives him a swift kick in the rear to do it. 

While I'm discussing the criticisms of the gender dynamic, I have to say, it does further hurt the relative lack of personality to Oz that these three women all seem to orbit around him when they all have more character by comparison and two become romantic interests to this ultimately pretty forgettable cad.

The rest of the cast produces mixed results as well.  In keeping with an element of the 1939 version, several of the cast (including the above-mentioned Williams) are mirrors of characters encountered by Oz in our world.  Braff's assistant is regenerated as a talking flying monkey in a bellhop suit named Finley (to differentiate between him and other monkeys, Finley is a smaller, cuter monkey while the villainous "monkeys" are more like winged baboons that fight like they're on bath salts.)  This mirroring is also supposed to help give us a bit more to show Oz becoming a better person when a young crippled girl (Joey King) is mirrored in China Girl, a porcelain doll whom Oz helps after her village is destroyed (I just have to say here, while I realize they wanted to create a sense of shock with the destroyed China Town, it's hard to look at a civilization made of china and not think "...well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.")  Like the cast above, these two are played fairly well, but the problem is...there's just not much to them.  I mean, they definitely exist to try and play to Oz's dormant conscience, especially Finley who sees himself as Oz's friend, but mostly, like everyone else, they just seem stuck waiting for him to do something.  Even China Girl's one big moment is largely just about helping set up someone else's victory.  The other main players here (including Tony Cox and Bill Cobb, both making some commendable effort to make their characters a bit more than the writing leaves them) are unfortunately in much the same camp.  There's only so many ways I can say 'well acted, but the script does them no favors' before it gets old.

"What do you mean 'natural selection?'"

But since I'm already going over the script pretty roughly here, I do want to go back to the witches one more time for one point that irks me.  The sisters Theodora (Kunis) and Evanora (Weisz) feel like a half formed idea that they meant to go back to but never really did.  They have a fairly full story arc as this movie goes, don't get me wrong, but so much of it feels only roughly set out.  What is supposed to feel like a major turning moment and the film's designated tragic twist instead comes up rather short, lacking the emotional impact the actresses seem like they want the scene to have.  It simply happens and we move on.

Unfortunately, that feeling pervades a lot of this movie.  This is especially surprising coming from Raimi.  For a director with as unique a style has he has had over the years, there were times this movie felt rather lacking in his personal touches.  Even his bigger budget work on Spider-man (well, the first two, anyway) had his style survive the blockbuster system.  Here, it only crops up on occasional scenes, as well as in the now traditional cameos by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi.

The visuals...here I get the feeling I may have made a mistake in how I watched the movie.  It's no secret this film was made with 3D in mind, and it doesn't mind pointing that out to us many times (such as in the above mentioned tornado scene, where Oz has debris and luggage floating and whipping around him.)  Unfortunately, many of these scenes seem to lose some of their edge in 2D, the motion appearing overly blurry and out of place with the live action sequences.  This particularly bugged me with regards to scenes where China Girl was involved.  On her own, she actually looked like some very well done CG, actually believably appearing to be made of china.  Unfortunately, her interactions with the flesh and blood actors don't look anywhere near as impressive, as they don't appear to be actually holding her, or at least, having no actual acknowledgment of her having any weight.  I'm debating seeing if some of these effects look any better in 3D and I just made the mistake of going with the alternate viewing, but as it was, the film does lose something without the spectacle element for it.

I hate to feel like I'm just ripping on this film, because it did have some good things going for it.  Unfortunately, those good things were often countered by some drawbacks.  The end result is a rather mixed affair.  It should feel magical, but ultimately achieves more of a sense of 'just OK.'  The cast do the best they can with what they have to work with under the circumstances, which does help improve the film some, but the fact is, they're still bound by a script that feels like it could have stood some more revision.  If you have any interest, I'd still say it's worth giving a watch at least once, but if you're not really sold on the movie already, I don't imagine this will convert you any time soon.

Apparently the movie has still managed to perform well enough that they've greenlit a sequel.  Based on where the movie ends, I do wonder how they propose to continue from here.  I'd like to believe they could hopefully use that as a chance to build on some of the elements that needed work this time around, but for now, one can only speculate.

Wow.  I got this far without making a single James Franco stoner joke.  I feel strangely proud and ashamed of myself.

So let me just close by saying this:
Between his casually antagonizing everyone in the film, and making his way through a world loaded with bright colors and things coming alive and trying to hurt him (apparently the land of Oz is a death trap off the yellow brick road), this movie strikes me as a pretty good representation of what was going through Franco's mind when he was co-hosting the Oscars two years ago (Editor's note: Or any day of his life. In fact, I think Franco is playing himself in this.

In rebuttal:

(...I have to hand it to him.  Most other actors, I'd Photoshop the troll grin on.  He's one of the few who can just do it naturally.)

OK...now we're done.

Till next time, folks!