Movie Revue: Prisoners, Wizard of Oz IMAX

Movie Revue: Prisoners, Wizard of Oz IMAX

Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.

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PRISONERS.  This is the kind of movie that was made for Fall viewing.  It's a dark, adult drama about child kidnapping and the emotional toll that takes on the parents, the cops, and the suspects.  The film runs well over 2.5 hours with previews, and though a bit long and rambling, it hooks the viewer instantly with its relatable premise and maintains that interest throughout.  Though going in, all the buzz seemed to surround Hugh Jackman's performance as the "Dad Who Takes Matters Into His Own Hands," I was more impressed with Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead cop assigned to the case.  Sporting collared shirts that are buttoned up all the way to the top, a neck tattoo, and a nervous blinking tic, Gyllenhaal is utterly captivating in the role.  He commands the screen in a way I've never seen him do before.  Jackman, on the other hand, certainly gives an intense performance, but he's so dialed up to 11 the entire movie that it becomes numbing.  Every line out of his mouth is shouted in a loud, angry voice.  Most of the other performers are underutilized (especially Viola Davis), and fail to make any impression, good or bad.  Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) directs with a sure hand, and stages some creepily effective scenes, particularly one involving some snakes in locked storage boxes.  Some of the plot mechanics grow jumbled and nonsensical as the film speeds toward its conclusion, but the final moment in the film is a keeper.  ***1/2 out of 5 stars.

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 THE WIZARD OF OZ in IMAX 3D.  I'm a big fan of these one-week exclusive IMAX runs of classic films.  It gives me the opportunity to take my kids to see some of the best movies of all time on the big screen.  Last September, we hit up Raiders of the Lost Ark, and this year - the 1939 musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.  I hadn't seen the movie in well over a decade, but most of it is seared into my memory from so many repeat viewings at a young age.  Oz is a certified classic, and with good reason.  The filmmaking is way beyond its time.  The special effects are truly special and hold up better today than most CGI from the '80s and '90s.  The decision to shoot the first 1/4 of the film in black and white, only to switch to color when Dorothy opens the door of her house and steps into Oz is brilliant.  The performances by Judy Garland (Dorothy), Margaret Hamilton (The Witch), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man) and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) are masterful pieces of showmanship.  Lahr, in particular, endears himself to the audience and gets the "lion's" share of the jokes, which my crowd still laughed at all these years later.  Not everything holds up.  The munchkin musical sequence runs too long, and there are a handful of other unnecessary moments, like the Lion's "If I Were King of the Forest," that keep the movie running in place instead of moving forward.  Probably my favorite takeaway from this re-watching: the realization that Labyrinth is nothing more than a shiny, '80s updated version of Oz.  I've always been a Labyrinth fan, so it was cool to see Oz in that light - as a work of art that was, and continues to be, so influential.  As for the IMAX presentation, the print looks fabulous and the 3D is immersive rather than gimmicky.  ****1/2 out of 5 stars.

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