Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Video Review: The Muppets' Wizard Of Oz

After seeing nearly every other movie verion of Wizard Of Oz, I figured I might as well get around to doing the Muppets one too. Since Kermit and friends already knocked over A Christmas Carol and Treasure Island, it was probably going to be this or an Alice In Wonderland adaptation. Originally meant to be a made-for-TV movie, this was released on DVD as an extended feature with some material not used in the original broadcast, which included some rather mature stuff for an intended "family" film.

For this time around, Dorothy Gale(played by Ashanti)is a young waitress(did Tin Man steal this?)who wants to be a pop singer. After failing to get it to an audition for the Muppets, Dorothy heads back home to her trailer park, which gets swept off to Oz by a tornado. Once there, her pet prawn Toto(yep, prawn)has evolved into a larger talking prawn. The Munchkins are actually rats, although they're called Munchkins here, who are watched over by the Good Witch of the North(i.e. Miss Piggy). BTW, Piggy plays all the Witches in this. She sends Dorothy off to see the Wizard with her dead sisters' shoes. Along the way, Dorothy befriends Scarecrow(Kermit), Tin Man(Gonzo), and the Lion(Fozzie). They manage to get past the heckling Kalidahs(Statler and Waldorf), and the Poppyfield nightclub where the Electric Mayhem jam. After finally arriving at the Emerald City, each of our heroes go in to see the Wizard which takes on a different form for each one. The big Wiz tells them to get the Wicked Witch of the West's magic eye. The Witch has Piggy looking like Cher in biker gear, and uses her magic cap to command the flying monkeys(here a biker gang)to get Dorothy. Dorothy manages to push the Witch into a bathtub which was supposed to be filled with bottled water, but instead melts her. Dorothy and the others take the eye back to the Wizard, who is revealed to be a special effects expert from Hollywood and not really a wizard. He however makes it possible for Dorothy to be a celebrity in Oz, and gives the others their own hearts' desires. Dorothy realizes that she really wants to go back home though, so they head back to Munchkinland to get help from Glinda(also Piggy). She then uses her magic footwear to go back to Kansas, where the Muppets hire her on their Star Search ripoff show.

This was ultimately a decent movie, although it seemed to be a bit lacking in both style and substance from most Muppet productions. There was just too many pop culture parodies thrown in, like it was trying too much to be like Shrek. Plus, there was some stuff in this that was definately not for kids, like the phrase "bitchslap", or Kermit bringing up The Passion while being nailed up on the pole as a scarecrow. Ashanti wasn't bad as Dorothy, which apparently helped her later on to get in a recent production of The Wiz. I was mostly impressed though that the movie actually followed the original novel a little more than most adaptations did, like the East Witch being called Tattypoo which didn't even come up until the Ruth Thompson novels, as well as the West Witch only having one eye. I'd recommend this one at least as a rental or legal download.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Raimi & Downey on Disney's new "Wizard" origin

Sam Raimi(Spider-Man, Evil Dead, Drag Me To Hell)has been confirmed for directing Disney's upcoming Oz, The Great And Powerful movie which will tell the origins of the actual Wizard of Oz on his journey from America to Oz and how he became the title character. Raimi has said that the movie will go over various elements of the Wizard's story from the L. Frank Baum books, to which he will add some of his own creativity to for the movie. Robert Downey Jr.(Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes)has stated that he's interested in playing the Wizard in the movie, although nothing solid at this time.

Book Review: The Bashful Baker Of Oz

I recently looked this up on Lulu. It was written by Marcus Mebus from Pumpernickel Pickel Press, which prints original several Oz titles. This short book has some fine illustrations by Luciano Vecchio(although there's one picture with a way too thin Ozma), whose works include Oziana, as well as some other Oz titles for Buckethead Enterprises. The story for this is set in the regular Oz continuity, but centers around some original characters.

In it, the shy cook Maria lives in the city of Crafton where she feels unappreciated, even though everyone seems to love her bakeries. However, she is being courted by the mysterious Emerald City citizen Luka, even though no one in Crafton believes her. Maria decides to go to the Emerald City and find Luka. After hitching a ride on a polite cow, she makes her way to Ozma's palace to ask for help in locating Luka. Jellia Jamb uses Ozma's magic mirror and sees that the one known as Luka is at a boutique which is busy getting ready for a large ball. Jellia and Maria go to the shop where Luka is at, but its revealed that he's really a clothes designer named Derek who pretended to be this important person in order to woo Maria. After Ozma councils Derek on his actions, he confesses his love for Maria, and she gains new confidence in herself. The two of them eventually get married, and live happily ever after in Crafton.

This was a slightly refreshing change of pace involving some irregular but still original additions to the Oz cast, and makes for a decent read. You can order it online here for download and hardcover.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gender Ninja Of Oz

Emeralds artist Erin Ptah recently did an original Oz story titled The Gender Ninja Of Oz which shows Ozma transforming herself into Tip to see how Dorothy would react to it. You can also see some artwork for it at Erin's page at Deviantart.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book Review: The Road To Oz (Little Golden Book)

Random House recently came out with this Little Golden Book edition The Road To Oz, the fifth Oz book. It was adapted by Peter Archer, and illustrated by Harry McNaught. This is so far the only title in the Little Golden Book Line adapted from one of L. Frank Baum's Oz series, although its presented like a follow-up to the original Wizard Of Oz story.

In it, Dorothy is back in Kansas runs across the Shaggy Man. They then go to the strange fox-ruled land of Foxville and meet the Fox King who sends them on their way to Oz. They then encounter a slightly plainer version of the rainbow fairy Polychrome who joins them. Once they come to a river, Shaggy Man summons the interdimensional contractor Johnny Dooit to build them a boat to get across it. The party finally reaches Oz, and the regular gang celebrates Dorothy's return. Shaggy Man stayed in Oz, while Dorothy is sent back home in a magic bubble.

This was a pretty decent adaption of an Oz book, even though it was done over for kids. A few changes like the complete removal of Button Bright from the story as well as Ozma's birthday, plus the Lion wearing glasses, and Ozma appearing around the same as a Glinda. I'd definately recommend it as a children's book, and a pretty fair collectible for fans.

Oz film news

Well, there's alot of upcoming Oz movie projects coming up. Warner Bros. is working on one titled Oz being produced by Temple Hill and written by Darren Lemke, plus another un-named darker film written by Josh Olsen that deals with Dorothy's granddaughter going to Oz to take on an evil force. The Dorothy Of Oz animated movie(set for 2012 release)has recently added Megan Hilty as the voice of China Princess, Hugh Dancy as Marshal Mallow of the Candy Country, Oliver Platt as the owl Wiser, and Patrick Stewart as Tugg the living tugboat. Disney is also looking over directors for its movie of Oz, The Great And Powerful which tells of the Wizard's origins and how he came to Oz. Adam Shankman and Sam Mendes were thought to be up for the job, although recently its been stated that Sam Raimi has been offered it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Emeralds issue #1 finally in!

Emeralds: Hearts In Oz issue #1 is now finally completed. It is written by Jer Alford and drawn by Erin Ptah. Emeralds is a comic book series continuation of the original Oz books created by L. Frank Baum. It has Dorothy as one of the new Order the Witches which was formed to protect Oz. She is also a Princess of Oz, underneath Ozma, the rightful heir to the throne. Much has happened with the regular characters, many of whom have evolved over the years. Their relationships with each other have also gone through changes too. Issue #1 is now available. We're planning 4 issues altogether, so please keep up the support!

Emeralds: Hearts In Oz issue #1=$4.00
(32 pages long)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: Visitors From Oz

I was about halfway through reading this fine book for the first time, when I was shocked to hear that the author Martin Gardner had recently passed away. He was a mathmetictian and author, but most noted for his work on Alice In Wonderland titled The Annotated Alice. He was also a big fan of L. Frank Baum, to which he did a retrospective in his book The Wizard Of Oz And Who He Was. Gardner later wrote this book for the 100th anniversary of the original Wizard Of Oz.

Set in modern day(when it came out it was 1999), movie director Samuel Gold wants to do a film based on The Emerald City Of Oz, so of course he tries getting Dorothy to help make it. He manages to email Glinda(who apparently was set up with AOL)and arranges for her to come to America, although Glinda had Oz sealed away from the rest of the world at the end of The Emerald City Of Oz, so she arranges for Ku-Klip(Tin Man's old tinsmith)to create a Klein Bottle to bridge the gap between to Oz and Earth. A "Klein Bottle" is like an inter-dimensional Mobius strip. They find that they have to install the bottle in the town of Ballville in order to be able to make it to America, so Dorothy along with Scarecrow and Tin Man head out to Ballville with the bottle. Along the way, they discover a doorway leading to Wonderland(yes, that Wonderland)and decide to give it a look. Once there, they find out the inhabitants there aren't as mad as Lewis Carroll advertised. After they come back from there, they have a run in with a pushy giant, but manage to finally make it to New York which is where the Klein Bottle leads to. They befriend Samuel Gold, however soon learn that he is not the most loved movie producer in town. His rival, Buffalo Boggs, is planning his own sketchy production of Peter Pan, so he sends two goons to try and snuff out Dorothy and Co. After a few failed attempts, Dorothy uses the Water of Oblivion to erase the goons and Boggs' memories. So, Dorothy goes back to Oz, Gold makes his movie, and Martin Gardner breaks the fourth wall by being called in to write a book about the whole thing.

I'd say that this was a pretty good Oz story, at least taking into account the history of the original books, although its seems a little convenient that a portal to Wonderland is located in Oz. But its a nice use of the characters, and puting them in present day America. I'd very much recommend this for hardcore Ozians.