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California Literary Review » movie fantasy California Literary Review

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

by
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Matthew
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Newlin

March 8th, 2013

But, where the 1939 movie was an unbelievably forward-thinking work of art that inspired filmmakers for decades, the movie we get in 2013 does nothing to advance the medium and only capitalizes on the technology of its predecessors. Director Sam Raimi takes no risks and his lack of inventiveness ruins what could have been a very entertaining prequel.

Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

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Brett Harrison
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Davinger

March 1st, 2013

Magic beans are magic beans — not some genetically altered strain developed by an evil alchemist. Good is good and evil is evil. This is the movie’s most positive quality. For so many years, it has felt as if we’ve watched movies play dress up, putting on costumes of somberness, 21st century cynicism, and faux-complexity…

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Dan
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Fields

February 15th, 2013

Scripted and paced with impressive skill and thoughtfulness, this movie manages to be witty, racy, and thoroughly weird without getting crass.

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Brett Harrison
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Davinger

December 15th, 2012

Seeking to reclaim their home and treasure from the dragon Smaug, the group heads to their former home Erebor and encounter orcs, giant spiders, shapeshifting men, and, of course, Gollum (the scene-stealing Andy Serkis, reprising his role).

Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians

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Matthew
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Newlin

November 21st, 2012

In Rise of the Guardians, we discover that not only are Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny real, they also comprise an ancient league chosen to protect mankind’s children. The Guardians, as they are called, are made up of some of the most beloved characters from our childhood who, as we grow older, become less and less real.

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

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Julia
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Rhodes

November 17th, 2012

Here’s where the movie diverges from the book. In Meyer’s version, there is no battle. There are “warring” factions of vampires standing in a snowy field giving each other the side-eye, and then it’s over. What kind of end to your “saga” is that? Condon and writer Melissa Rosenberg devised a brilliant scheme; a gruesome vampire/wolf melee has most of the series’ important characters dying horrible deaths.

Early Review: John Dies At The End Starring Paul Giamatti

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Brett Harrison
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Davinger

November 6th, 2012

The lead two actors have good chemistry, Clancy Brown is always a welcome sight, and the script is funny. Even when the plot falters, the movie maintains its sense of humor and commitment to the premise of showing how two painfully average 20-somethings would fare when given the task of saving the Earth.

Movie Review: Holy Motors

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Brett Harrison
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Davinger

October 22nd, 2012

More a collection of vignettes than one single story, Holy Motors features each of Oscar’s “characters” as the star of their own short, often bizarre, film. This format allows Carax to experiment with many different styles, and one feels the pleasure he has in staging a crime drama, a melodrama, and a musical intermission.

Movie Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Abby
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Rosenthal

August 16th, 2012

Along with energy of place, comes a specific manifestation of that energy in the person of young Quevenzhané Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy, the film’s narrator and heroine. Wallis, a schoolgirl from Houma, Louisiana, confronts the camera untutored, dead-on, and fearless. She can juice it up and she can flatten it out, as required, but her Hushpuppy is always skinny, strong, disheveled, intense, thoughtful and thoroughly believable.

Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

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Brett Harrison
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Davinger

July 4th, 2012

When I first left the theater, I was ambivalent about this movie but hopeful about the sequel. The franchise has good leads in Garfield and Stone, and now that the origin is out of the way, the filmmakers may be more willing to take this Spider-Man in their own direction. Nevertheless, there’s something disheartening about a movie whose primary reason for existing seems to be as a placeholder for a sequel.

Movie Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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Julia
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Rhodes

June 23rd, 2012

The director’s signature speedy, frenetic zooms punctuate a film that’s smoothly paced and winkingly earnest. The characters perform impossible deeds in stylized slow motion so that we’re too enamored of how cool it looks to care that it’s impossible.

Movie Review: Brave

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Dan
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Fields

June 23rd, 2012

This is not your typical Disney princess rendition of romance. In fact, it has no essential connection to losing one’s heart to a prince. Adventure is Merida’s first love, and above all she longs for the freedom to determine her own fate. Her high spirits make her the apple of her father’s eye, but also bring her into constant clashes with her mother, whose sole aim is to cultivate some courtly bearing in the fiery young lass.

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

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Julia
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Rhodes

June 2nd, 2012

After a kiss reawakens Snow White (though it may not be the kiss you’re expecting, which is slightly obnoxious), she rallies her men with a speech – and I do like Stewart, but this scene is horrible – and rides off to war with them. While previous Snow Whites have been pretty little princesses, this one wears leather pants beneath her skirts and looks “fetching in maille.” It’s one of the movie’s redeeming factors. And who should be the one to defeat the dark queen, but the princess herself? For Stewart, who’s been stuck playing weak, pathetic, husk Bella for years now, the role must’ve seemed a brilliant departure.

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

by
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Julia
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Rhodes

May 12th, 2012

As Ichabod Crane, as Willy Wonka, Ed Wood, the Mad Hatter, or Sweeney Todd, Depp’s persona is quirky and stiff, wide-eyed and full of suspicion/mischief/barely hidden insanity. The characters into whose skins he slips under Burton’s direction are all beginning to feel suspiciously familiar – and Barnabas Collins isn’t an exception.

Movie Review: Mirror Mirror

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Matthew
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Newlin

March 31st, 2012

With Mirror Mirror, Singh makes a drastic departure from the dark, brooding territory covered in his previous films and instead sets his talents to work on a family-friendly, PG-rated adaptation of the classic Snow White fairytale. While it is admirable (and refreshing) to see an auteur like Singh challenge himself by choosing material markedly different from what he is used to, in the end Mirror Mirror fails to cohere into a satisfying experience, despite wonderful acting performances and Singh’s signature visual richness.

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