Oz the Great and Powerful

Image_square_webby Susan

2013, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Rachel Weisz. Screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Sam Raimi.

Oz the Great and Powerful was better than I expected. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I were a big fan of James Franco. The CG was beautiful but at times seemed to overshadow the actors. Or maybe James Franco has a problem working with green screen. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something felt the tiniest bit “off.” It might be as simple as a subconscious comparison to the universally beloved Judy Garland classic.

Well, maybe not “universally.” I understand that fans of the original L. Frank Baum books think it stinks. According to a high school friend of mine who was familiar with the books and had never seen the movie until she was seventeen, The Wizard of Oz was “a truly horrible movie that butchered a great story.” That was decades ago and she’s still a very weird person who doesn’t like movies all that much. Now I’m having trouble recalling why we were such good friends in high school, we don’t seem to have a lot in common…

I thought the basic back story of how a flim-flam con artist from a county fair became the Wizard of Oz was quite well done. It was after he got to Oz and started meeting its weird inhabitants that felt a little slow. There were plenty of nicely done, understated references to the 1939 musical but the focus was on what I assume were characters and plot lines from the L. Frank Baum original stories.

ozgreatpowerful

Mila Kunis was fantastic, Michelle Williams was a perfect sugary-sweet Glinda, and Rachel Weisz was great. There are some nice surprises with the way they handled the origin story of the Wicked Witch; her grand entrance was truly awesome! When they finally get past the slow middle part and the Wicked Witch gets involved, the action is quite thrilling.

I suppose citizens of Emerald City can’t help it that they are basically all as dumb as a stump. Or maybe naive is a better word. But I won’t be able to watch the classic now without feeling differently about Glinda and the Wizard.

For a “prequel” to a classic movie that is still being enjoyed by new generations, it was pretty good. I’m so used to the singing and dancing in the first one that I think somehow it almost felt like something was missing in this new one. But that’s just me. I can’t see a Munchkin without wanting to hear “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

Oh, about the flying monkeys – it seems that this new production wants to correct some unfair stereotypes. Maybe not all flying monkeys are evil, ugly little buggers but the ones belonging to the Wicked Witch STILL scare the snot out of me. Go see it. You’ll like it.

Three boxes of popcornRating: Triple Serving plus a box of Milk Duds 

Your Highness

by CosmicTwin3

 

2011, Directed by David Gordon Green. Stars Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Zooey Deschanel.

This comedic spoof of sword-and-sorcery-heroic-quest movies is absolutely hilarious. And absolutely not for children –or anyone who disapproves of bathroom humor in general. Danny McBride takes center stage as Thadeous, the jealous younger brother of handsome Prince Fabious , heir to the throne of their father’s kingdom. The more successful Fabious is with each quest he undertakes, the more Thadeous feels overshadowed and underappreciated. When a dastardly wizard captures Fabious’ virgin bride-to-be to fulfill an evil prophecy, Fabious enlists Thadeous on the quest to rescue her. Mayhem ensues as the band of warriors encounters magical creatures, mythical monsters, valiant maidens, treachery, and ultimate triumph. Along the way Thadeous just might learn how to kick some ass and find his inner hero.

While not nearly the raunch-fest that The Hangover was, Your Highness is in that category of silly comedies that is sprinkled liberally with expletives and crude jokes. James Franco and Natalie Portman playing the ridiculous dialog and over-the-top action with straight faces make the jokes even funnier. Though it isn’t as brilliant as classic Mel Brooks parodies like Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs, this one is a solid comedy with excellent effects that cleverly finds every possible way to poke fun at a genre of movies that is too often overly hokey and pretentious. One of the things I enjoyed most about it was the variety of challenges the heroic band encountered every step of the way; this film redefined the ludicrous, outrageous situations that are the norm in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

I laughed out loud so much I totally forgot that I should probably be embarrassed by how much I was enjoying the low-brow humor. What the heck! This is a great rental that I plan to find time to watch again one day. Shamelessly.

Two boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Double Serving