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Aug 122015
 

The newest movie version of Wizard of Oz to date is Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, which takes place after the events of the original movie.

As a new evil threat occurs in Emerald City, Scarecrow (voice of Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (voice of Kelsey Grammar), and Cowardly Lion (voice of Jim Belushi) try to bring Dorothy (voice of Lea Michelle) back to Oz with a contraption called a rainbow mover. Even though it’s been years since Dorothy’s last visit, in her world it’s been only a day.

Meanwhile, Dorothy wakes up in Kansas to the aftermath of the tornado. The damage was so terrible all over town that everyone is forcibly evicted from their homes. Dorothy is the only one that’s not willing to stand for it, but nobody seems to listen since she’s not a grownup. Can you believe it?

When Dorothy and Toto arrive in Oz, she ends up off course in a completely different area altogether. She could just follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City, but it’s in ruins. Even in Oz, there’s a problem of weeds growing between the bricks in the ground.

The new villain is simply called the Jester (voice of Martin Short). He’s the Wicked Witch of the West’s brother cursed to only be able to wear a jester outfit. When he tries to remove it, another appears in its place. Now with his sister gone, the Jester is in control of her flying monkey army and is intent on taking over Oz.

The Jester also has the magic broomstick and has used it to turn all of Oz’s leaders into marionettes, including Glinda (voice of Bernadette Peters). It’s a little creepy when the Jester makes the puppets talk. That just goes to show that you shouldn’t take this jester lightly.

As Dorothy heads for Emerald City, she meets some new friends along the way. First there’s Wiser the Owl (voice of Oliver Platt). He struggles to fly and tends to interrupt people. One thing I can’t help but notice is that Wiser’s chest has an imprint that looks like he’s wearing a brown sweater. It makes you wonder how he got it.

The next new ally Dorothy meets is Marshal Mellow (voice of Hugh Dancy) a lawman from Candy County that is made of marshmallows. In a way, he looks like a Nutcracker from the way he’s dressed. It looks pretty cool.

Last to join the group is the princess of Dainty China Country, who is simply known as China Princess (voice of Megan Hilty). She is spoiled and picky when it comes to choosing suitors. Dorothy volunteers Marshal Mellow to be a suitor. He’s against it at first, but does manage to win the princess’s heart. Together they all journey forward and even build a ship out of an old talking tree named Tugg (voice of Patrick Stewart).

This was certainly a good sequel to the Wizard of Oz franchise. However, the timeline is a bit confusing since I remember Return to Oz being the true sequel with a completely different story line, villains, and allies. So where does this feature chronologically fit in?

Feb 112014
 

The X-Men have had many different adventures over the years. The newest movie installment X-Men: First Class shows how it all began. In the early 1960s, young telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is an Oxford graduate and does a thesis on mutation, which makes him an expert in the field.

Charles has a saying about mutation, “Mutant and Proud”. His foster sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) disagrees with that notion because her mutation affects her looks, even though she’s a shape shifter.

Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), who is young Magneto, seeks revenge on Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who is a very powerful mutant that can absorb energy and redirect it. Shaw killed Erik’s mother years ago while forcing him to demonstrate his powers, which are triggered by anger and pain.

It turns out that Shaw is now leading an attempt to take over the world by installing nuclear missiles in Turkey and firing them toward Russia. Shaw’s associates helping him out are Emma Frost (January Jones) a telepath who can also take a crystal form, Azazel (Jason Flemyng) a teleporter, and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez) who can conjure up whirlwinds from his hands.

After CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) witnesses this plot, she warns her superiors, but they don’t believe her. MacTaggert even invites Charles and Raven to CIA headquarters. Charles demonstrates his power, but the CIA superiors still don’t believe that mutants are real until Raven shows her power as physical proof.

Later, a Man in Black (Oliver Platt) takes MacTaggert, Charles, and Raven to his facility, where they meet Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) a brilliant young mutant with monkey feet. Eventually, Erik joins the team, but in order to stop Shaw, they’ll need to recruit more mutants. Hank has just the device for that. It’s called Cerebro, which also becomes a valuable resource to the team later on.

Charles and Erik go in search for these other mutants, which also includes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who has a cameo. It’s hilarious how he bluntly turns them down.

The chosen mutants are Angel (Zoe Kravitz) a flyer that can spit acid, Banshee (Caleb Laundry Jones) an ultrasonic shrieker, Havok (Lucas Till) who can blast circular energy, and Darwin (Edi Gathegi) a mutant with the power to survive any element. As powerful as they are, these young mutants have much to learn before facing Shaw, especially after Shaw invades the CIA facility. Angel joins up with him and Darwin gets killed.

Charles decides to train the mutant team at a new location, which is actually the building used for the Mutant Academy. The mutants can control their powers, but use more challenging tactics to provide a new edge. Once that’s done, the team goes to stop Shaw and save the world in an exciting battle with secrets revealed about several of the characters.

This is a great X-Men prequel about Professor X and Magneto’s back-story. I couldn’t help but notice the jokes about Charles going bald someday. Do you suppose that could be from a later battle, or maybe it’s from other students driving him crazy.

Aug 052011
 

When I was a kid, I mostly remembered Wonder Woman as part of the Super Friends instead of an independent superheroine. It’s clear now that Wonder Woman (voice of Keri Russell) is an Amazon Princess named Diana, who comes from the hidden mystical island of Themyscira, where Amazon women live and shield themselves from the world of man.

Years ago, Diana’s mother Hippolyta (voice of Virginia Madsen) had kept Ares (voice of Alfred Molina) prisoner after Hera (voice of Marg Helgenberger) provided a new and peaceful beginning for the Amazons at Themyscira. That’s the most Diana has ever seen about the world of man because no man can be trusted, according to Hippolyta. That soon starts to change when Air Force pilot, Steve Trevor (voice of Nathan Fillion) crashes on the island.

Of course, the Amazons only see Trevor as a threat because he is both a man and a stranger. Trevor soon gets captured and Hippolyta uses the magic lasso of truth to talk to him because it makes people tell the truth. No one can resist it.

Luckily, Hippolyta doesn’t see Trevor as a threat. So she decrees a contest to select the toughest Amazon to escort Trevor back home to New York City. Diana wants to do it, but Hippolyta won’t even let her participate. Will that stop Diana? Of course not, she weasels her way into the contest just to get a fair chance. Diana wins the contest hands down and is provided with a special uniform. That’s right, the Wonder Woman uniform.

Meanwhile, Ares escapes from his cell. Now Diana has to get him back to the island after taking Trevor back home. After arriving to New York, Diana has no problem adjusting to an urban civilization, but is very concerned about how the women aren’t independent like the Amazons are.

Trevor does like Diana. It annoys her at times, but she eventually warms up to him. Since it may take awhile to find Ares, Trevor takes Diana out on a date as if it might be her only opportunity before going back to Themyscira. Trevor does have a nice nickname for it, “Chastity Belt Island”.

Diana shows some smooth fighting moves against a group of street punks and then against Deimos, a demon Ares sends to kill her. I admit, it was a hot battle, despite the property damage.

Diana and Trevor soon find Ares, who is about to summon Hades (voice of Oliver Platt) for aid. They make a valiant effort to stop Ares, but were unsuccessful. Now Ares is more powerful than ever to wage war on the world.

Although Trevor saved Diana’s life, Diana isn’t grateful because stopping Ares was more important. It takes a little while, but Diana now understands that Trevor was being noble. Soon, Ares gathers his army. Diana and Trevor try to fight them off, but it’s not enough, even with the military’s help. Luckily, the Calvary arrives. That would be Hippolyta and the Amazons, who the military labels as armored supermodels.

As the battle rages on, it becomes more exciting as Ares gets more powerful and summons Amazon zombies into the fight. Then as the living Amazons get killed, they turn into zombies themselves. It’s creepy, but cool.

This was a good updated take on the classic superheroine, even if it is a bit more violent than expected.