Friday, 15 March 2013

AT THE MOVIES: Two new films play fast and loose with fantasy and reality

SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE: Crammed-full of the sort of visual wonder that we readily associate with Tim Burton pictures, Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful transports viewers to the where-it-all-began of the classic we've come to know as The Wizard of Oz. And what a heady action-adventure ride it is, complete with flying baboons and no shortage of sorcery and fierce magical realism. James Franco stars as Oscar, a magician with dubious ethics who gets transported via twister to the fantastical realm of Oz, where he encounters witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda The Good (Michelle Williams) and host of curious denizens like a talking monkey and a sweet little girl made out of china. But he must decide, before it's too late, who he can really trust as he embarks on a quest to save Oz from utter destruction. As directed by Raimi (The Spider Man trilogy), the movie is inconsistenly entertaining as an origin tale but it does boast enough stunning visual effects and a solid ending that compensates for a whole lot. Tyrone's Verdict: B- 

MIND OVER MATTER: "Depression is the inability to construct a future," is one of the most telling lines in Side Effects, a superbly twisty psychological thriller from Steven Soderbergh. Part psychosexual drama, part riveting character study, it takes on the world of pharmaceuticals and mental health in spinning the incredible story of Emily (Rooney Mara), a severely depressed young woman whose condition only seems to worsen when her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum) comes out of prison after four years for insider trading. After literally driving herself into a wall, Emily ends up in the care of a thoughtful psychologist (Jude Law), who puts her on a drug that appears to make matters worst. Catherine Zeta-Jones rounds out the main cast as a brainy shrink from Emily's past. In a nutshell, it's an absorbing, strongly acted film that brings into sharp focus the whole issue of prescribed treatment and their sometimes fatal "side effects." Rigorously engaging with the concepts of action and consequences and the dark side of human nature, Side Effects vividly shows that Soderbergh hasn't lost his deft touch when it comes to telling stories that pose difficult questions while challenging our notion of that thing we know as sanity. Tyrone's Verdict: A-

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