Saturday, July 6, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray: OZ THE GREAT & POWERFUL --a first-rate prequel to Dorothy & the gang plus reviews from TrustMovies' grand-kids!

Just as far too many of our cultural guardians, especially here in NYC, were slow, uninformed and/or taste-free regarding mainstream movies such as Cloud AtlasJohn Carter, Sin City and V for Vendetta (while praising inflated, empty crap like Iron Man and The Avengers), so it is with Disney's OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, out now on DVD and Blu-ray.

Neither of my grandchildren had seen this film in theaters, though they have watched the 1939 original, along with the 1978 musical version, The Wiz, numerous times. So I rented it and brought it over for a July 4th, get-out-of-this-awful-humidity, movie afternoon.

I'd never have thought of giving Sam Raimi (at left) the directorial reins here but, surprise, his movie is damned good: gorgeous to look at, filled with eye-popping effects and scenery (in which CGI is used sublimely well) and characters who are all too human, including those witches: That's Michelle Williams as Glinda (just below) and Rachel Weisz (left) and Mila Kunis (right), as the naughty duo, further below.

Yes, Oz the G&P borrows from everything from the original to Broadway's Wicked, but it mixes the merchandise into a well-told tale with eye-popping visuals. Granted, the film is no intellectual stimulant. But, hello: Neither was the original. It offered sweet enchantment, one terrific song, and a couple more good ones. The prequel does pretty much the same thing (without the songs).

Another plus: James Franco (below) does some acting for a change! He's the best here since Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Howl. (He's much better even than in This Is the End, where he must play "himself." And since he has spent so much time trying to cover his own tracks, no wonder his "himself" character is less interesting or "there" than any of his co-stars in this very funny, smart and irreverent movie.)

While nods are made to scarecrow, tin man and lion, the two new characters introduced to play sidekicks to Mr. Franco's Oz are truly inspired, even if they are simply voices (Zach Graff's and Joey King's) put to use on special effects. The good little flying monkey (below, right) and the girl made of porcelain (a truly amazing creation, shown at left, above and below) are charming creatures who entertain and move us every bit as much as did Lahr, Bolger and Haley in the 1939 version. Franco's character, by the way, is actually a very different kind of "Dorothy." But he's Dorothy nonetheless. Sure, he plays the Wizard, but his mission here is pretty much the same as Ms Garland had in the original.

Best of all, the movie manages to make a wonderful nod to the magic of motion pictures in its spectacular finale in which early movie technology is used to save the day. This is every bit as lovely and meaningful as anything in Hugo (a movie I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way) -- but it's tossed at us with a hell of a lot more subtlety -- which has, face it, never been a mark of the work of Martin Scorsese.)

So what did my grandchildren think? (Both my daughter and son-in-law loved the movie, too.) The boychik, 5-year-old Ronin (above), found it "good -- and the part I liked best was when the woman turned into the witch." OK...

Marlo (above, on the stairway doing her early-Carmen-Miranda number), the young lady of the house and now 8 years old, loved it, too (that's her mom and my daughter, Laura, above, left). "It was amazing, a little scary, a little sad, very active and very exciting. It was the most amazing movie I have ever seen -- except The Painting." (Smart girl: If you haven't seen The Painting, for art, animation and storytelling's sake, do!)

So inspired by the Oz movie was Marlo, in fact, that she sat right down after the viewing to draw this picture (shown above) of the character played by Mila Kunis before she turns bad.

Oz the Great and Powerful, out now on DVD and Blu-ray (on which it dazzles), is available from Disney, for sale or rental from the usual suspects. (I'm told by my companion that, in 3D, this film looked ever more spectacular.)

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