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May 072014
 

We all remember the story of The Wizard of Oz. In fact, there’s a new movie version coming out called Legends of Oz. I can’t wait to see that. Oz The Great and Powerful takes place 20 years earlier, which makes it a prequel about how the wizard first got to the Land of Oz.

Small time magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco), Oz for short, is a con artist and a womanizer. His life soon changes when a tornado whisks him away in a hot air balloon to the Land of Oz. It was clever how the scenes in Kansas were all in black and white before turning to color in Oz, just like in the original Wizard of Oz movie. Apparently this feature goes from full screen to wide screen in the same manner.

Upon arrival Oz meets the young and lovely witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who tells him of a prophecy that a wizard named Oz would arrive and save everyone from the wicked witch. Now Oz is not really a wizard, but Theodora mentions that Oz will be the king of Oz. So how could he resist not coming clean?

Later, Oz and Theodora meet Finley (voice of Zach Braff) a talking flying monkey. After Oz luckily saves him from a lion, which I assume is the cowardly lion, Finley becomes his companion. I never knew that there were any good flying monkeys in Oz.

After they get to the Emerald City, Oz meets Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz). She tells Oz that he has to kill the wicked witch first in order to become king. Oz certainly has his work cut out for him now, especially since he still has to keep everyone convinced that he is a wizard.

Oz and Finley search for the wicked witch. Along the way they stop at a destroyed village made of china and porcelain called China Town. (Real clever name.) The only survivor is a living china girl (voice of Joey King). She is simply called China Girl because her name is never revealed. China Girl joins the group since she’s very persistent on getting her way.

They eventually find the wicked witch Glenda (Michelle Williams), but she turns out to be good. Glenda tells them the truth and somehow knows the truth about Oz. Just like with the original Wizard of Oz film; there are allies that are much like certain people from Kansas because the same actors play them. Finley is like Oz’s assistant Frank, China Girl is like the girl in a wheelchair, and Glenda is like Oz’s former girlfriend Annie.

 

Theodora finds out that Oz is with Glenda and her heart breaks. Evanora, the master manipulator she is, gives Theodora an apple that changes her into a heartless monster, later known as the Wicked Witch of the West. That means Evanora is the Wicked Witch of the East. Before I couldn’t tell which witch was who because in every other movie version of The Wizard of Oz that I’ve seen, the two witches were never addressed as Theodora and Evanora. They were mainly mentioned as the witches of the West and East.

Even though Oz confides the truth to some of his comrades about him not being a real wizard, he still leads the good people of Oz into battle as if it were one big magic show. Oz has certainly come a long way since he was in Kansas.

This was a great prelude to the original Wizard of Oz feature. Surprisingly, there was no mention of Finley or China Girl in any other version that I’ve seen. So what could’ve happened to them?

Nov 142011
 

Based on the fantasy novel series, Eragon (Widescreen Edition) is about a young man named Eragon (Edward Speleers) who finds a mysterious dragon egg in the woods, not realizing that it will change his life forever.

There is a legend that dragon eggs only hatch for chosen individuals to become dragon riders who fight evil. There haven’t been any dragons for so long, that no one believes they’re real, except for storyteller Brom (Jeremy Irons).

These are dark times indeed. Galbatorix (John Malkovich), a former dragon rider turned traitor, is the king of Alagaesia and a total dictator. He has his soldiers collect young men in every village to serve in the army against their will.

After Eragon’s older cousin Roran (Chris Egan) leaves home, the egg hatches and out comes a baby blue dragon. Eragon and the baby dragon quickly bond, since this baby dragon is as cute and friendly as a cat.

Soon, Eragon learns about the dragon legend from Brom. Then Eragon helps the baby dragon learn to fly. Suddenly it grows into an adult in a matter of seconds and can speak telepathically, but only with Eragon. Her name is Saphira (voice of Rachel Weisz) and the scar she gave Eragon grants him the ability to summon her when needed.

Eragon is now an official dragon rider and the first thing he does is find Brom to learn more. However, Brom refuses and sends him away. Maybe if Eragon had shown Brom the mark, it might have changed his mind.

Meanwhile, King Galbatorix and his dark sorcerer Durza (Robert Carlyle) learn about the dragon and send the troops out to find and kill Eragon. They kill his uncle Garrow (Alun Armstrong), which now leaves Eragon to fulfill his destiny. Oh, now Brom decides to help out.

It’s soon revealed that Brom was once a dragon rider himself and trains Eragon in swordplay, magic, and dragon riding as they travel to join the resistance and overthrow the king and the Empire. Eragon learns very well, but there are many perils along the way, just like in any exciting quest.

An elf girl named Arya (Sienna Guillory), who originally sent the dragon egg to where Eragon found it, appears in his dreams. One night Arya tells him that Durza has captured her. Against Brom’s wishes, Eragon goes to rescue Arya. Unfortunately, Brom gets killed during the escape. Now it’s up to Eragon and Saphira to lead the resistance in the ultimate battle against the king’s army led by Durza.

This was a good film, which was set to be the first of several. It’s unfortunate that the sequels never got made, even though the novel series continues to grow.

Jul 042011
 

At the time of The Mummy, I wasn’t so sure if there was going to be a sequel because Immhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is long gone. Well, he’s back in The Mummy Returns (Full Screen Collector’s Edition) and this time, he’s not alone. The story takes place ten years after Immhotep’s defeat. Rick O’Connell(Brendan Fraser) and Eve (Rachael Weisz) are married and have a son, Alex (Freddie Boath). He’s a brave young man and is highly fascinated with Egyptology, but his curiosity always gets him into trouble.

This was around the time when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson first went from pro-wrestler to fulltime movie star with his role as the Scorpion King. I must admit, as a scorpion monster, the special effects make him look even more fearsome than Immhotep.

Eve kicks butt in this movie after finding out that she is the reincarnation of the great Eygptian Queen Nefertiti. I especially liked her fight scenes with Immhotep’s girlfriend Anak-su-namun (Patricia Velasquez) when they’re dressed as sexy Egyptian warriors. Oh, yeah.

In addition to the mummy warriors, now there are creepy mummy monkeys that follow Immhotep. Or are they pygmies? It’s hard to tell.

Another amazing addition is an army of Anubas warriors under the Scorpion King’s command. During the battle, they go down smoothly, like the vampires on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their only weakness is decapitation, which sounds simple enough.

This was a great sequel and I can still remember how full the movie theater was at the time. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house, so to speak. I wonder if Immhotep was more difficult to fight this time because there were no cats around.

Mar 242010
 

The Mummy (Widescreen Collector’s Edition) was a unique take on the old movie monster. It helped me understand that a mummy is not only a zombie wrapped in bandages. Immhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is a creepy plague spreader with a jaw that opens wider than Freddie Kruger.

Immhotep was accidentally awakened from his tomb and is on the loose. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Frazier) was selected to find the city of Hamunaptra and put that monster back in his place. Rick is a funny character, especially when he has to put up with his colleges Jonathan (John Hannah) and his little buddy Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor). This film also stars Rachael Weisz as Eve, the gorgeous librarian, who helps Rick with her knowledge on ancient Egypt.

The special effects on Immhotep are amazing. The first organs he got were Mr. Burns’ (Tuc Watkins) eyes. Since Mr. Burns is blind without his glasses, I’m surprised that Immhotep doesn’t need glasses himself after that. It would sure look funny if he did.

Immhotep’s mummified priests are more like the standard types of mummies. Rick battles them, like Ash battles skeletons in Army of Darkness. Same with those other mummy warriors that can smoothly crawl on the walls.

Even though Immhotep grows stronger as he collects more organs from other innocent victims, he screams in panic and flees quickly whenever there’s a cat present. I know that cats are supposed to be the guardians of the underworld. No wonder they’re worshipped in Egypt, and not only because they’re cute animals. But think about it, is a cat scratch more dangerous than a gunshot?

I think this was a well-made movie. It’s good to see that old movie monsters never go out of style. They can only be perfected, just like with that new film The Wolfman.