Sunday, March 31, 2013

Phil sees OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL IN 2D at the Cinelux Theater Campbell-March 16, 2013

It's interesting to trace the career of director Sam Raimi. Here is a man that has directed some truly amazing and horrifying films. After all, we are talking about the man who directed the EVIL DEAD TRILOGY (THE EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN and ARMY OF DARKNESS). After making some other films like DARKMAN, THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, and THE GIFT, he went on to helm THE SPIDER-MAN TRILOGY, which garnered him world wide acclaim. After the series ended, he returned to his horror roots with DRAG ME TO HELL. Now Raimi has returned to the big screen with his latest cinematic endeavour OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, a prequel to the Hollywood classic THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Multi-award winning actor James Franco portrays Oscar Diggs (his nickname is Oz), a shifty, shady, circus magician (a con artist if you will). After having am illicit affair with one of the carny girls, he's chased by the girl's Strongman husband. He escapes in a hot-air balloon, only to get swept up in a devastating tornado. When he awakens he discovers he's been transported to the wonderful, magical world of Oz. Upon arriving he meets the beautiful Theodora (the stunning Milla Kunas), who takes him to the emerald City where he meets her sister Evanora (the gorgeous Rachel Weisz). The two believe him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. He's sent off on a mission to prove that he is the chosen one. He finds not the Wicked Witch, but the good witch Glinda (the beautiful Michelle Williams). Oz finally realizes that he's in way over his head, and confesses to Glenda that he's not the powerful wizard, but her faith in him propels him into become not only the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, but becoming a better person as a whole. But first, he must defeat both of the Wicked Witches.

The film is based on L. Frank Baum's Oz novels, as well as the 1939 Hollywood film, but with slight differences. Remember that THE WIZARD OF OZ is a MGM film and this film comes courtesy of Walt Disney, so they couldn't have things too similar. The cowardly lion is just that; a lion. A real looking lion, not a man in a costume like previously portrayed by the great Bert Lahr. Glenda's costume is different than in the previous incarnation, but her means of travel, the cool bubble, is left intact. Oh, and don't bother looking for the famous ruby slippers in the film, for those are not in the book, but rather created for the 1939 film. The Emerald City looks almost the same, and the famed yellow brick road is there as well, just slightly different. However it does of the traditional black and white 4x3 formant intro.

Like the Hollywood classic, it's filled with cool characters that people will recognize, like the Munchkins in Munchkin Land. Plus there's new characters like China Girl (voiced by Joey King), and for the record, she's called that because she's made out of China, not the actual country of China. We also see Miss King early in the film as the crippled girl who asks Oz to heal her legs. Another new character is the winged monkey Finley (Zach Braff). Now Finely isn't like the evil winged monkeys from THE WIZARD OF OZ. He's more like Oz's faithful servant. Braff also portrays Oz's assistant Frank in Kansas. Both of these characters were my favorite because they brought both a breathe of fresh air to the film as well as humor and pathos.

Now as for the film itself.....well....OK hear me out. So about twenty minutes into the film, after Oz meets Theodora and Evanora and they mistake him as the prophesied wizard who would save the Land of Oz, I suddenly realized that this was a remake of ARMY OF DARKNESS! For those of you who may have never heard of or seen the film (shame on you if you haven't) ARMY OF DARKNESS was the third installment of Raimi's EVIL DEAD TRILOGY, which came out back in January of 1993. So let me tell you the plot of ARMY: When a man named Ash (Bruce Campbell) is time-warped to medieval times, he is soon revealed to be the prophesied savior who can quest for the Necronomicon, a book which can dispel the evil, so he can return home.Yeah, noticed the similarities yet people?!? We have a prophesied hero who comes from the sky, lands in a different world, forced to go on a quest that will save the land from evil. Whoa!! Is your mind blown yet?!? All that was missing from this movie was the catchphrases that Campbell spouted in ARMY! I was ready to hear James Franco say, "Groovy" or "Yo, she bitch!" or "Hail to the king baby!" If Franco would've said "Boomstick," I would have totally lost it! So this begs the question: did Sam Raimi realize that he was remaking his own film while making this film?!? Like they say in the Tootsie Roll commercials, "The world may never know."

So in the end, I liked OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL when it was called ARMY OF DARKNESS. The film relays on way too much CGI, had a weak story with uninteresting characters. It's nothing more of a pale remake of a cult classic. The only saving graces was Joey King and Zach Braff. Not even the beauty of Milla Kunas, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams could've saved this film from sucking. 2 out of 5 stars. This film is a rental at best.

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is currently playing in both 2-D and 3-D in theaters nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Philip. Don’t expect to see the classic in top-form, just expect to see something like it, be happy, click your ruby slippers three times, and have a grand time. That’s what happened to me.