Tag Archives: Fantasy

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

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I know I’m completely in the minority here, but I am not a big fan of the classic “The Wizard of Oz” movie. No, I don’t get nostalgic about it, It’s not a big part of my childhood, and I don’t understand why other people, including my mother, make such a big flippin’ deal about it. In my opinion, it’s a watered-down, sentimentalized adaptation of a good book with a cop out ending (it was all a dream, really?!)

That said, not giving a hoot about the original makes it easier for me to enjoy this reimagined prequel, which, despite lukewarm critical reception, was well-received by me and my family. There are a fair amount of flaws- James Franco’s somewhat over-the-top performance as the titular wizard, as well as some forced humor, come to mind, but for every lame joke there is an effective one, there are delightful characters and genuine emotion, and damn it, the CGI-generated colors and backdrops look so dang pretty on the big-screen TV.

Oscar (James Franco) is a flim-flam man operating in Kansas as a ‘magician,’ smooth-talking young girls, and lacking appreciation for his partner Frank (Zach Braff) at every turn. After a particularly poor show, Oz is blown away in a hot air balloon by a twister and (segue from black-and-white into color, as a nod to the original) lands in the radiantly beautiful but potentially deadly land of the as-yet unnamed Oz.

No sooner as he landed there than Oscar meets Theodora (Mila Kunis,) a wide-eyed witch who falls for his charms. Theodora believes Oskar is there to fulfill a prophecy that will bring peace to a land plagued by a wicked witch. Lured by the promise of gold and riches, ‘Oz’ leads Theodora on to believing he is the chosen one, and is aided by a strong-willed and somewhat annoying china girl (voiced by Joey King) and cute n’ furry bellhop monkey Finley (also voiced by Braff) on an epic quest where being a epic-scale bullshitter might just be the thing that makes Oz the man for the job.

In true ‘Oz’ form, people from Franco’s Kansas life reoccur in different forms in the land of Oz. Among these are Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams,) who appears to be the double of Oz’s old flame Annie who he can’t admit he loves, Frank the assistant AKA Finley the monkey, and a wheelchair-bound girl from Kansas (King) who is the voice of the orphaned china doll.

James Franco is a mix of appealing and charismatic-enough and hammy, pulling potentially cramp-inducing smiles and not above scenery-chewing. Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are appealing as beautiful witch sisters. Michelle Williams, who is typically a wonderful actress pulls a performance similar to that of Anne Hathaway in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” that is so wishy-washy it makes you go so what? Williams is not bad, as Hathaway was, but seems to be trying too little just as Franco is trying too hard.

This film is done by Sam Raimi, the man behind the “Spider-Man” and “Evil Dead” trilogies. And do you know what? I think for the most part he does a good job. Nothing beats hearing your little sister’s delighted laughs at a certain scene reverberate across an empty theater, and she wasn’t alone in her enjoyment. “Oz” is no masterpiece, but it’s funny and cute and it might just behoove you to ignore the critic’s opinion on this one.

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Forbidden Zone (1982)

“The Forbidden Zone” takes place in a world entirely unlike our own. From the bizarre recreation of California to the freaky-deaky “Forbidden Zone” of the title, nothing looks the way it should look and none of the characters act the way a normal person would act under any given circumstances.

This is absolutely one of the weirdest movies I have seen in my life. If this intrigues you, this may be the movie for you. If not, maybe not. This bizarre surrealist musical follows Susan B. “Frenchy” Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman), a Californian with a pretentious French accent, who passes through a door in her parents’ basement to the “Sixth Dimension” a bizarre world ruled by a jealous queen (Susan Tyrrell) and amorous dwarf king (Hervé Villechaize,)

Frenchy quite willingly becomes the dwarf’s sex slave, but the queen, Doris, becomes determined to destroy her. Meanwhile, Frenchy’s dunderhead brother Flash and Grandpa enter the Sixth Dimension, hoping to rescue her.

The acting ranges from okay (Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell) to poor (Matthew Bright, as twin brothers Rene & Squeezit). The music, however, was quite good. I especially liked the voices of Marie-Pascale Elfman and Susan Tyrrell, whose throaty tune “Witch’s Egg” was strangely captivating.

This movie is not for the easily offended. There are racist stereotypes (thought by many to be a satiric portrayal of bias in Hollywood) and out-there sexual content. As a comedy, it’s a little weak (certainly not a laugh-out-loud movie). As a musical, it’s quite strong (with songs composed by the director’s brother, Danny Elfman, who later became a composing regular in Tim Burton films.)

“Zone” will divide audiences. For die hard fans of surrealism and cult weirdness, the film will offer subversive pleasures; for the average person, it won’t offer much. For people to whom “Inception” is hard-core weirdness, it will shock and repel. Regardless, it is a polarizing experience and a original picture, if not a particularly coherent one. I leave this one up to you.

rating-
6.0/10

Tideland (2005)

“Tideland,” Terry Gilliam’s fantastical horror brain child, is an undeniably original, unmistakably repulsive journey into the life and mind of one troubled little girl (Jodelle Ferland.) To say it outstays it’s welcome it an understatement, the film clocks at over two hours and leaves an undeniably bad taste in one’s throat. The characters are hard to comprehend, much less like or understand.

All this would be bad enough without the bizarre intro by Terry Gilliam, who vaguely informs us that children ‘bounce back’ from situations such as these and tells us ‘don’t forget to laugh.’ But what is there to laugh at in a disgusting horror show such as this?  it’s as if Dave Peltzer of ‘A Child Called It’ fame had promised us a knee-slapping good time.

Between the role of Jeff Bridges as the girl’s junkie father, who sits down in a chair to shoot up, dies, and spends the majority of the movie in various states of decomposition, our prepubescent heroine trading ‘silly kisses’ and sexual curiousness with a mentally retarded man (Brendon Fletcher,) and Daddy (prior to his death) instructing his daughter to prepare heroin for him, I found very little to laugh at in this revolting freak show.

The fact that Gilliam expects us to laugh and see this whole travesty through the eyes of a child speaks volumes on the man’s mental stability. What does he think we are? Animals. Sub-human cretins who are all-too-eager and willing to laugh at the mental and psychological destruction of a child? Apparently, if Gilliam should have his way, we will be laughing at child endangerment through the eyes of that child, oblivious to the adult consequences of such atrocities. Mmm-kay.

After her harpy mother (Jennifer Tilly) O.D.’s Jeliza-Rose (Ferland), ten or eleven or so, is swept away from the squalid tenement she calls home by her druggie father (Bridges,) and tries her best to adjust to her new home in her father’s childhood house on the massive prairie, far away from anything. When Dad dies, Jeliza-Rose acts much as if he was alive, talking to his corpse and exploring the prairie, where she meets local freak Dell (Janet McTeer) and her brain-damaged brother, Dickens (Fletcher.)

Dell, who as it happens, bangs the stuttering grocery delivery boy (Dylan Taylor) in exchange for food, takes a liking to Jeliza-Rose and invites her and her doll heads (Jeliza-Rose frequently talks through her collection of severed doll’s heads, did I mention that?) to live in her and Dickens’ family home.

“Tideland” often references Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ as Jeliza-Rose ‘falls down the rabbit hole’ from one bizarre situation to another. Although technically well-made in many respects, “Tideland” is yucky, overlong, and had me begging for it to end by the halfway point.

Jodelle Ferland turns in pretty good performance as Jeliza-Rose (although I found her Southern accent exaggerated) and Brendan Fletcher gives a decent supporting performance as Dickens (who, through no fault of his own, reminded me a bit of Ben Stiller’s ‘Simple Jack’) but overall the film is a fail. I would recommend you watch “Alice” by Jan Svankmajer as a dark take on “Alice in Wonderland” rather than this. It is less sickening and doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching for hours on end, but hey, that’s just me.