Life and 100 Films: Charlie’s Review of Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_PosterThe moment I heard Disney was making Oz the Great and Powerful, I was ecstatic. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big movie geek, especially with anything made by Disney, so this was a GREAT match made in heaven.  I’ll leave it to Wikipedia for the plot:

The film is directed by Sam Raimi and stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda. The Great and Powerful serves as a prequel to Baum’s 1900 introductory novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and an homage to the 1939 MGM Classic, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of both sources, Oscar Diggs arrives in the Land of Oz where he discovers three witches; Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda. Oscar is then inclined to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.

One of the great things I really loved about the film was its continuity. Just as in the original film, the opening sequence is presented in black-and-white, and then transitions into color when the protagonist arrives in Oz. We are also treated to some new changes as well: the aspect ratios and sound effects are different (don’t worry, Glinda still travels in a giant bubble), and the Emerald City looks better than ever. Not too many changes have taken place, however, as we still have the iconic Wicked Witch of the West and her sister Glinda, the Good Witch. Several actors who play Oz characters make cameos in the Kansas scenes as well! I don’t want to spoil everything for you, so if you haven’t seen it, look out for these homages, and comment below on what you think they are! While there are some differences from the books and the original film, Mr. Raimi has done a great job colliding all these worlds together to make a great piece of art for fans of old and new!

If you are a fan of Oz, I don’t see how you won’t enjoy this movie. Is it a masterpiece? No, however I think that it served its purpose perfectly and will allow generations of people to enjoy the works of Baum in new ways. If you didn’t know, Disney plans to turn this into a new franchise of their own, especially after it dominated at the box office. I know there are some fans that are mad about this: the fact that the film got the Disney treatment, James Franco’s acting, etc. In my opinion, they need to just shut up and live a little! Even though I may be biased as a massive Disney fan, I think they did great by this franchise, and I love James Franco in the role. Would I have liked Robert Downey Jr. or Johnny Depp better as they were the original picks? Maybe, but I think James did a great job for what it’s worth. To be honest the person I was a little disappointed in was Mila Kunis (something just didn’t seem right), while on the other hand, Michelle Williams was made for her role. I was also happy to see Zach Braff back in the game, as I have missed him on the screen.

It’s been a long time coming for the world of Oz to return to the big screen, especially with the technology we have today to really bring this world to life. Disney has been trying to do it for quite some time, and even though MGM may have been a bit of an annoyance since they seem to own the most random rights (like the ruby slippers from the original film), I think they did a fine job, especially with the ending! Some think it’s a ripoff of Wicked to some regard, but this film is actually loosely based on the original books (which I now want to read), whereas Wicked is completely made up. All in all, if you are a fan of Oz, fantasy, or just a plain good old-time at the movies, I suggest you go see this film, as I don’t think you will be disappointed.

4 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Eat, Pray, Love

Charlie’s on vacation this week, so I’m back with another edition of Adam’s Film Friday.  I decided to review a film about exploring where life takes you and getting to know yourself.  Eat, Pray, Love is based on the memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, (Kim’s book review is here) who after a particularly rough year decides to go on a year-long sabbatical to three different countries.  Her first stop was Italy, where she ate her way through the sites and learned the importance of food and not worrying about calories.  In India, she learned the importance of prayer and meditation, and in Bali she learned to love again.  This film will make you think about your own life, the choices we make, and how we get to certain places in our lives.

The film begins with Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in Bali. She is writing an article about an old medicine man named Ketut.  Ketut tells her she is going to be involved in a marriage that ends in divorce.  When she comes back to New York, she realizes that this prophecy may come true as she finds herself drifting apart from her husband Steven (Billy Crudup).  After divorcing Steven and unsuccessfully rebounding with a young actor named David (James Franco), Gilbert realizes she needs to get away from everything and go on a trip.  She has lost all passion for life and realizes she’s in a serious rut.  She decides to go on a year long vacation, spending four months in Italy, four months in India, and finishing the year with four months in Bali.  While in these places she discovers new things about her personality and allows herself a new perspective on life.  For example, while in Italy she learns about food and friendship and in India she learns to take time to relax and meditate.  Each step of the way Gilbert faces struggles and takes time to adapt, but in the end she discovers new insight into her own life with every place she visits.

I’ll admit, I was extremely hesitant to watch this film.  It looked to me like the ultimate “poor girl has a rough break up, goes to find herself in a far off land, and comes out stronger and happier” type of film.  However, once I began watching it I realized that the film had so much truth and heart to it.  We all get lost in life; we get so set in our routines and our jobs that we sometime forget what living really is.  The heart of this film comes from seeing this woman’s journey, which was directed beautifully by Ryan Murphy.  Every scene in these exotic locales was so beautiful and really showcased the scenery that this woman saw.  You could see why she fell in love with these places.  In the Italy scenes I found my mouth watering from the heaping pasta dishes, in India I felt a weird sense of calm, and in Bali I fell in love with the serene environment.  Every part of the journey built upon the previous lessons learned and the made the viewer able to understand the lessons of the whole journey.

Murphy also makes you feel like you are going on the journey with Ms. Gilbert as well.  We see her struggles, but we’re also treated to her “a-ha” moment in every place.  I think the filmmakers did a great job bringing both of these things to life.  Additionally, although Julia Roberts did a fine job in the role, I think if you had taken any A-list celebrity actress she would have been able to play the character.  Gilmore is a great character, but didn’t seem like much of a stretch to play.

Throughout this whole review the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to the forefront of my mind.  I based what I thought the film would be like on a 2 and half-minute trailer with funky chick flick music in the background.  The one line in the trailer that especially bothered me was the,“this is my no carb left behind” experiment.  However, when the line was said in the film it made perfect sense.  Truth be told, I really did enjoy this film.  I ended up liking the funky chick flick soundtrack, and really enjoyed viewing this woman’s story.  Like always, I will leave you with a question: what would be your 3 places to visit, and what would you do in these 3 places? Leave them in the comments below and I will tell you my choices!

4 out of 5 stars

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Columbia Pictures
PG-13, 133 Minutes