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This week is one of those weeks with so much brand new Blu-ray and DVD content, I wish I could just cuddle under my covers through Friday and power through TV shows like Major Crimes and The Newsroom, and movies like The Emperor’s New Groove 2-Movie Collection (never discount Disney’s two-for-one Blu-ray deals). Unfortunately, it would have taken a time machine or unemployment to have found the time to explore the nooks and crannies of each of the great Blu-ray and DVD releases this week, but hopefully this column will still be able to guide you into making the best purchases.
Read on to learn about some of June 11th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
Oz The Great And Powerful Blu-ray
Oz the Great and Powerful is a unique tale spawned from a great premise. More than 100 years after L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and decades after Oz made its big screen debut via MGM, director Sam Raimi and writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire have put together a backstory loosely based on Baum’s other Oz novels. The original little tale taps into fantasy and imagination, while paying homage to the classic that came before it.
Oz The Great and Powerful follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a two-bit magician who gets caught in a tornado and ends up in the land of OZ. There, he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who immediately falls in love with him, and Finley (Zach Braff), a winged monkey who becomes loyal to the magician. Eventually, we meet two other witches, played by Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz. The film is a colorful fantasy epic populated by winged monkeys and witches, china cities and out-of-this-world plants, but all is not well in Oz and it is up to Oscar to find the good in himself and determine who is a good witch and who is the wicked one.
The film was dazzling in theaters and even at home on a regular Blu-ray, it holds up well. Like The Wizard of Oz, Raimi begins his film in black and white before popping into his fantastical world in full color. Everything about this opening sequence sets fans up for a gorgeous and engaging adventure story, but it doesn’t all work.
While the visionary look of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the world building portions of the narrative never fall flat, the story is sometimes unappealing. The script and screenplay are carefully written and work in a lot of ways, but the finished product lacks the spark needed to invest us in the story or its characters. There’s no emotional pull related to either element and there’s not enough wit to propel the 2-hour (plus) movie forward. Part of this has to do with the sort of character Franco is playing, but the deeper problem is that we spend so much time traveling around Oz, we don’t get enough intimate moments with the characters. All in all, Oz the Great and Powerful is a technical achievement that's missing movie magic, and even a lovely score by Danny Elfman can’t wholly save the project.
Fans can order the set over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Disney has put together a set full of behind-the-scenes footage. If you want to spend some time with the cast and crew, you’ll enjoy some of the bonus features immensely. However, my favorite bit was the promotional segment “Walt Disney and the Road to Oz.” Sure, this extra gets a little mushy when discussing Walt’s love for Oz and his desire to create a wondrous narrative about Baum’s world, but a little Disney sap is far from the worst thing in the world. There's also a lot of jerking off to Walt in the segment, but we get the history of pretty much every Oz project in existence and how Walt’s hope for an Oz project eventually led to Mary Poppins.
Other Special Features:
Second Screen Experience
“My Journey In Oz By James Franco”
“China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief”
“Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz”
“Mr Elfman’s Musical Concoctions”
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