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BY Steven D. GreydanusFilm Critic
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – PASS
Sense and Sensibility (1995) – PICK
Sneakers (1992) – PICK
Wild Strawberries (1957) – PICK
Oz the Great and Powerful is an unfortunate missed opportunity. The land of Oz is as bright and colorful as in the classic 1939 film (a Vatican film list honoree), and both Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are as good and evil, respectively, as they should be. There are even fleeting vestiges of traditional religiosity. Alas, it’s still pretty mediocre, yet another retread of that overworked cliché, the Prophesied Chosen One Narrative. The story revolves around James Franco as a messianic would-be wizard, and the Wicked Witch’s origin story is about as convincing as Hayden Christenson becoming Darth Vader (not the only Star Wars prequels link).
New on Blu-ray, Ang Lee’s classic Sense and Sensibility is among the most enjoyable and best-regarded big-screen adaptations of Jane Austen ever made — and, under Lee’s direction, perhaps the most beautiful. The intelligent screenplay by Emma Thompson, who also plays Elinor Dashwood, takes liberties with the novel, but it captures the spirit of Austen better than Emma (also 1995) or Pride & Prejudice (the 2005 feature, not the 1995 miniseries).
Also new on Blu-ray, the all-star romp Sneakers is an entertaining if disposable computer caper film with a remarkable cast. The script is more witty than smart, with Robert Redford’s team of elite gray-hat hackers recruited by NSA agents to obtain some top-secret McGuffin before the Russians get it. (Yes, really.) Worth seeing at least once.
Finally, new from the Criterion Collection, the Vatican film list honoree Wild Strawberries, from Ingmar Bergman, an austere reflection on mortality, memory and meaning. With its title, the film evokes an idyllic scene in Bergman’s earlier The Seventh Seal, but dispenses with that film’s religious motifs in favor of dream imagery with Freudian overtones to contemplate the fate of a selfish, indifferent soul. Despite the lack of religious imagery, viewers may be reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
Content Advisory: Sense and Sensibility: Mild references to offscreen affairs. Teens and up. Sneakers: Mild suggestiveness and coarse references; brief violence; an obscenity, limited profanity and bad language. Fine for mature teens. Wild Strawberries: Unsettling nightmare imagery; romantic complications, including marital unfaithfulness. Subtitles. Fine for mature teens.