June 6, 2013
Scamming-flimflamming circus magician Oscar - nicknamed Oz - flees the carnival life via a tornado to the Land of Oz, a predestined coincidence where inhabitants await the arrival of a wizard by the same name.
Disney's Oz, The Great and Powerful is a whimsical fairytale that ends blissfully when the illusionist - James Franco - transforms himself, and, with helpful-hocus-pocus, delivers the Land of Oz from the talons of two wicked bitches. Of course, he woos and wins a smooch.
Compiled from the L. Frank Baum classic series of children's books, Oz's walkabout predates Dorothy's skip down the Yellow Brick Road.
In a departure from tradition, I recommend watching the Special Features first. As the plot takes second billing to the sets, settings and costumes, I believe that knowing how this prequel was made enhances and enriches the fun and fantasy of the 130 minutes of film.
Actress Michelle Williams says she made this movie for Matilda, her daughter. (Mum plays one of three witches.) A six year old won't read this or agree with my advice to pre-view the Features, but an adult might. After sharing the Oz experience with a kid, you will have enjoyed it even more for having indulged extra time in the Extras. (Your expertise on the flic might even engender animated post-viewing cross-generational conversation.)
"I have been working in movies for 25 years and I still am not sure how they get made," said the uber-experienced and super-modest Production Designer, Robert Stromberg, whose skills have helped fashion varied amazing films (including Avatar, The Hunger Games and The Life of Pi). Ignore the honesty 'cuz he is the perfect guide to help us relish the creative modus operandi.
James Franco produces one of the segments and interviews pals in the picture. If you can forget his bewildering Academy Award hosting, you may find him engaging, both in the movie and in the Extras. He is an ambitious and talented guy with an ample allotment of charisma and clarity to reveal stories behind the story. Mercifully, the superlatives that surge from the mouths of these talking heads do not reek of that sycophantic bullsh*t that stinks up so many other DVDs.
The sequence chronicling Walt Disney's obsession in Baum's Oz presents a fresh take on animation history starting with Hollywood cartooning and leading to today's seamless integration of live action and computer generated imagery.
Weirdly, the most all-inclusive chapter is the evolution of China Doll - from the actress who voices her (Joey King) to the puppeteer who animates her, (Phillip Huber). This is the making of Oz in a capsule: how these folks converted a veritable porcelain 21-string marionette into a thoughtful CG animated character.
If you have little time before viewing the movie (or object to any and all spoilers), watch both "Walt Disney and the Road to Oz" for the abbreviated back-story, and "China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief" for a glimpse into the process. (Neither one reveals any secrets.)
But don't miss Rachel Weisz's hysterical bloopers with a broom, Mila Kunis' make-up metamorphosis, or composer Danny Elfman's musing about music.
If you are not yet convinced to add this Blu-ray to your DVD library, consider the cinematic pedigree that assembled the picture. The Oscar/Golden Globe winners and nominees include Franco, Williams, Weisz , Kunis, Elfman, Stromberg and make-up artist Howard Berger. Director Sam Raimi is most famous for the Spiderman trilogy and Producer Joe Roth's bio includes Alice in Wonderland.
Say no more. Hit Play...
(Editor's note: We also received the 3D version of Oz, The Great and Powerful. If you are a fan of 3D, you won't be disappointed by this Blu-ray. The filmmakers are thankfully reserved in their use of old reliable 3D tricks.
Personally, I opt for the 2D Blu-ray because I relish the luscious palette of colors recruited to render Oz. I find that the 3D glasses tend to diminish the saturation and no amount of 3D top hats flying at my face can compensate.
Of note, considering the above glowing recommendation for the Special Features, the 3D version Blu-ray does not include any of the Bonus material on the disc. We have been informed that the bonus features will be provided on the free Digital Copy, which will be available Tuesday, June 11th, the release date of the Oz, The Great and Powerful Blu-ray.)
Studio: Walt Disney
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox
Length: 130 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital
French & Spanish:
5.1 Dolby Digital
English SDH, French and Spanish