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Sam Raimi
James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams , Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox
Writing Credits:
Mitchell Kapner (and story), David Lindsay-Abaire, L. Frank Baum ("Oz" works)

The land you know. The story you don't.

Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

Box Office:
$215 million.
Opening Weekend
$79.110 million on 3912 screens.
Domestic Gross
$232.416 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Video 2.0
English Dolby Surround 2.0
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 144 min.
Price: $44.99
Release Date: 6/11/2013

• “Walt Disney and the Road to Oz” Featurette
• “My Journey in Oz by James Franco” Featurette
• “China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief” Featurette
• “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz” Featurette
• “Mila’s Metamorphosis” Featurette
• “Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions” Featurette
• Bloopers
• “Second Screen” Interactive Feature
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Oz The Great And Powerful [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 3, 2013)

Ever since 1939’s The Wizard of Oz became a cinematic classic, we’ve found occasional attempts to revisit the magical land created by L. Frank Baum. None of these struck a substantial chord with audiences – not until Oz the Great and Powerful, that is. The 2013 film became a pretty decent hit and showed that crowds might just accept Oz without Judy Garland.

Oz takes us to Kansas circa 1905, as we visit the Baum Bros. Circus. Sideshow magician Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) sells his tricks to the rubes but aspires to more, and he glimpses a reminder of a life he could’ve had when he re-encounters former love Annie (Michelle Williams). When Annie states that John Gale asked to marry her, she clearly hopes Oz will step up his game, but he chooses his quest for fame and success over the love in front of him.

Their reunion gets interrupted when the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) finds out Oz tried to woo his wife (Toni Wynne). On the run from the strongman, Oz flees in a hot air balloon – and winds up caught in a cyclone.

The twister carries Oz far away – all the way to the Land of Oz. There he encounters lovely Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who believes he arrives to fulfill a prophecy and become the realm’s king. Oz scoffs at this – until he learns that the Wizard of Oz gains control of a vast repository of riches.

This proposition comes with challenges, mainly from the Wicked Witch, as she wants to dominate the Land of Oz herself. Oz meets fellow witches Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Williams) as he eventually embarks on a quest that allows him to befriend talking monkey Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and a China Girl (voiced by Joey King) while he tries to eliminate the Wicked Witch and take the throne.

As I alluded at the open, movie history comes littered with unsuccessful stabs at Oz-related flicks. In particular, 1978’s The Wiz and 1985’s Return to Oz provided notable bombs. (I also recall seeing the animated Journey Back to Oz in 1974; I don’t think it made money, but it was notable because it cast Margaret Hamilton as the voice of Aunt Em.)

So what makes Oz the Great and Powerful different? Perhaps it comes from the lack of Dorothy. Unlike its failed predecessors, Oz takes the path found in the hit Broadway show Wicked and presents a prequel. I suspect the answer’s more complicated than that, but it does seem interesting to note that arguably the two most successful post-1939 explorations of Oz come from projects that lack the 1939 flick’s lead character.

Of course, any Oz project since World War II realizes that it sits in the 1939 effort’s shadow; the question becomes how each one will deal with that particular 800-pound gorilla. In this case, Oz nods toward the 1939 movie at times and gives fans some knowing allusions but it doesn’t overwhelm with those.

I regard that as good, as I think too much self-reference would become tiresome. We find enough to recognize that director Sam Raimi and others realize viewers will be well-acquainted with the old movie, but they avoid excessive winking at the audience. Oz manages a good balance in this regard.

It also manages a fairly effective combination of genres. Except for one of the movie’s more clever allusions to the 1939 flick, it lacks musical numbers, but it does provide a nice combination of comedy, action, drama and sentiment – just like the 1939 film. Of course, it updates its tone, so despite all the stylistic choices Raimi makes to ensure Oz looks like its more famous predecessor, we still always realize we’re watching a 21st century production.

That’s not a bad thing, though – timelessness is tough to achieve, and at least Oz avoids an excess of modern cinematic clichés. Yes, it embraces computer effects, but it provides a reasonably restrained sense of storytelling. We don’t find ourselves subjected to gratuitous handheld camerawork or rapid-fire editing or other techniques rampant in contemporary flicks; while I can’t say Raimi emulates older methods, he at least ensures that Oz avoids obvious styles that would trap the film in its era. Raimi seems to feel a lot of affection for the subject matter, and that shows.

As for the cast, Franco received a lot of criticism for his turn as Oz. I can understand some of that, as I can see why the role might seem more appropriate for someone like Robert Downey, Jr., an actor with a more obvious talent for glibness and slick charm.

That said, I feel satisfied with Franco in the lead. No, Franco doesn’t handle sincerity especially well – he’s better at ironic detachment – but I don’t think he harms the role in any notable way. He creates a likable enough hero who might not elevate the material but he does reasonably right by it.

The best performances come from Weisz and Williams, though. Both manage to embrace the inherent cartooniness of their roles, but they also find a depth that other actors might’ve lacked. They connect to their characters in a manner that keeps them archetypal but avoids stereotypes or parody. Both delight at all times.

Of the main participants, Kunis probably fares the worst. She just doesn’t seem able to embrace the range of emotions required of her role, and that leaves her as an unsatisfying presence. It probably doesn’t help that she must spend much of her on-screen time with the more talented Weisz – or that she gets saddled with makeup that makes her resembles Jim Carrey in The Mask.

I can’t say that Oz the Great and Powerful creates a great movie, but it delivers a good one. It gives us a fun spin on the Oz legend and provides a consistently enjoyable, exciting little fable. I’m glad the movie did well financially, as I’d like to see additional adventures in the series.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus C

Oz the Great and Powerful appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc – mostly. The first 20 minutes, 35 seconds offer windowboxed 1.33:1 footage; when we get to 20:35, the image expands to fill the sides of the 2.39:1 frame. (The black and white movie also goes to color at that point.)

Across the board, the image looked great. Sharpness was consistently excellent, as the flick always displayed strong clarity and accuracy. If any softness materialized, it escaped me; I found a tight image here. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes were absent. Of course, print flaws failed to mar the presentation.

Director Sam Raimi chose to offer a palette that emulated the Technicolor scope of the 1939 film, and that meant this Oz boasted awesome colors. I can’t remember the last movie I saw with such eye-popping hues, as they virtually leapt off the screen. Blacks were dark and deep, and low-light shots showed nice clarity and smoothness. This became a simply scrumptious visual presentation.

I also felt pleased with the dynamic DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Oz. Like the visuals, the audio remained restrained for the first act; the surrounds kicked in during the twister, so they opened up a little before the image expanded/went to color, but not much earlier.

Once the track went to all the side/rear channels, it delivered an exciting affair. The twister itself packed a terrific punch, and the rest of the flick came with more than enough theatrics to give us a lively soundscape. All the channels received an excellent workout, with lots of material appropriately located in the side/back speakers. The elements meshed smoothly and created a terrific sense of place and action. Various battle scenes offered the most pizzazz, but the whole package fared well.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was dynamic and rich, with good clarity and punch. Effects came across as accurate and full; expect strong punch from the louder elements. Speech also seemed distinctive and natural. The movie delivered an immersive and impressive soundtrack.

Though the movie did very well financially, the Blu-ray doesn’t pack a ton of extras. Walt Disney and the Road to Oz runs 10 minutes, 13 seconds and provides comments from filmmaker/historian Les Perkins, Disney historian/author Howard Green, historian Greg Ehbar, and original Mouseketeers Doreen Tracey and Bobby Burgess. They discuss Disney’s interest in the Oz books, various aborted projects like The Rainbow Road to Oz and some realized releases. This quick overview includes a mix of good notes, and the Mickey Mouse Club clips make it more valuable.

We visit with the movie’s lead with My Journey in Oz by James Franco. In this 21-minute, 43-second piece, the actor chats with director Sam Raimi, production designer Robert Stromberg, puppeteer Phillip Huber, and co-stars Michelle Raimi, Mila Kunis and Zach Braff. (Franco himself also adds remarks.) We get notes about the script and adaptation of the Baum books, cast, characters and performances, set design, effects, and some other areas.

While “Journey” doesn’t act as a thorough behind the scenes piece, it works better than I’d expected from a sort of “production diary”. Franco works as a pretty good interviewer, and we get a nice overview of topics along with useful footage from the shoot. “Journey” functions as a satisfying piece.

For the five-minute, 26-second China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief, we get material from Braff, Stromberg, Huber, visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk, actor Joey King, costume designer Michael Kutsche, and special makeup effects creator Howard Berger. We learn about the techniques used to bring the China Girl to life in this short but informative featurette.

Next comes Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz. It lasts 11 minutes, two seconds and features Stromberg, Raimi, Franco, Stokdyk, Kunis, Williams, Braff, Franco, producer Joe Roth, executive producer Grant Curtis, and actor Rachel Weisz. We learn about visual design, sets and effects. This becomes another solid little piece.

Mila’s Metamorphosis fills seven minutes, 43 seconds with info from Kunis, Berger, Raimi and costume designer Gary Jones. We learn about the design of the Theodora character and the methods used to achieve that look. While we hear good notes, the footage of Berger and Kunis as he applies the makeup becomes the best aspect of the show.

For the final featurette, we get Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions. It occupies seven minutes, 13 seconds with notes from composer Danny Elfman as he discusses his relationship with Raimi and his work on Oz. Elfman proves to be a fun interview subject and he delivers a quality take on his music.

A set of Bloopers lasts five minutes, six seconds. In it, we see mostly the usual goofs and giggles. A few of these let us glimpse some behind the scenes footage, though, and those are interesting.

Under the banner of Second Screen, we find a different kind of picture-in-picture program, as it requires an external device to work; you’re need to synchronize the Blu-ray to your computer or your iPad.

Normally I don’t review anything that requires an external connection; that’s why I’ve never touched on BD-Live, as I prefer only to discuss content that actually exists on the Blu-ray itself. Some prior Second Screen-enabled Blu-rays offered a “dumbed down” version that worked as a form of picture-in-picture commentary, but that doesn’t happen here, so if you don’t activate the computer/iPad aspect, you’re out of luck.

The disc opens with ads for The Lone Ranger, Once Upon a Time, and The Little Mermaid. Sneak Peeks adds promos for Iron Man 3 and the Disney Infinity video game. No trailer for Oz appears here.

A second disc delivers a DVD copy of Oz. This includes the “Walt Disney” featurette and the bloopers but none of the other extras.

Oz the Great and Powerful won’t make anyone forget The Wizard of Oz, but it doesn’t try to replace the 1939 classic. Instead, it offers its own riff on the characters and situations, and it does so in a fun, creative manner. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a decent batch of bonus materials. I remain disappointed we don’t find a more extensive roster of supplements, but the Blu-ray reproduces the movie in fine fashion.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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