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The Wizard Of Oz (#110 of 10)

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

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Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Summer of ’90: Wild at Heart

The power of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart is the endurance of an Elvis Presley song (or two), the staying power of a children’s movie, and the sight and sound of a match being struck: romantically mellow, wackily comic, and deadly, darkly serious.

Lynch gets more and scarier mileage out of fire in Wild at Heart than he did out of Frank Booth’s lighter in Blue Velvet. In between the two came the game-changing Twin Peaks, which, soon after Wild at Heart, Lynch would round off with Fire Walk with Me. It’s easy to see the whole arc from Blue Velvet to Fire Walk with Me as part of a single centralizing vision, an identifiable phase of his artistic development—his “fire period,” if you like.

Poster and Trailer Drop for Disney’s Maleficent, Starring Angelina Jolie

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Poster and Trailer Drop for Disney’s <em>Maleficent</em>, Starring Angelina Jolie
Poster and Trailer Drop for Disney’s <em>Maleficent</em>, Starring Angelina Jolie

Red flags should fly with the relaunch of anything as notable—and bankable—as a Disney brand, but the anomaly of Maleficent seems to lie in its spot-on casting, as Angelina Jolie, beyond being one of our few bona fide female headliners, looks wickedly appropriate as Sleeping Beauty’s horned villainess. Aside from the usual handful of leaked set photos, the world got its first peek at Jolie in character last June, and attendees of Disney’s D23 Expo caught a glimpse of the film, and Jolie in person, this past August. Yesterday, an official poster was finally released, showing Jolie in full, dark-magic regalia, and proving once again that, when it comes to modernized costumes, you can’t go wrong with black leather. The ad also features Jolie rocking green peepers, enhanced cheekbones a la Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” phase, and “lips red as the rose,” to quote the Mistress of All Evil herself. Jolie’s aesthetic impact alone boded well for this pseudo-prequel even before its teaser trailer premiered this morning.

Box Office Rap The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer

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Box Office Rap: The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer
Box Office Rap: The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer

“The last time I checked, I owned the films that we’re in the process of colorizing…I can do whatever I want with them, and if they’re going to be shown on television, they’re going to be in color.” These are words spoken by media mogul Ted Turner in 1986, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, defending his decision to colorize classic black-and-white films for television airwaves, most famously Casablanca, leading Roger Ebert to call its colorized airing “one of the saddest days in the history of movies.” That sadness, Ebert claimed, comes from knowing that even the most beloved classics aren’t safe from “computerized graffiti gangs.” Well, this weekend, The Wizard of Oz boots Riddick from IMAX theaters, coming at viewers not only in the format’s scale-oriented excesses, but also in 3D. Thus, though we may still refer to the film as The Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros. is going with The Wizard of Oz: An IMAX 3D Experience. So, a question becomes pertinent: How is turning a 1939 Technicolor film into a 2013 IMAX 3D “experience” any different from Ted Turner colorizing Casablanca?

Like Father Like Son Joe Hill’s NOS4A2

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Like Father Like Son: Joe Hill’s NOS4A2
Like Father Like Son: Joe Hill’s NOS4A2

For years, I had a short story gestating in my head about a ghost who haunts movie theaters, bearing witness to decades of cinema history. Imagine my chagrin when, in 2008, blazing my way through Joe Hill’s compulsively readable anthology 20th Century Ghosts, I came across a story that read like it was plucked out of my skull, concerning a moviegoer who died during The Wizard of Oz and just kept on watching movies. I have no illusions that my version—throttled in the womb though it was—would have matched or even approached the quality of Hill’s execution. But it wasn’t until my reading of his new novel, NOS4A2, that I gleaned some idea of how he managed to map out in such uncanny detail my mental conception of Americana. It’s because a foundational stone of who I am as a genre fiction reader (and, consequently, wannabe writer) and who Hill is as a bona fide professional storyteller is the literary oeuvre of one man: Stephen King.

It’s unfair to insert the accomplished parent into a review of the equally accomplished progeny and even more unfair to up and practically credit the latter’s work to the former as I just did in unforgivably reductionist fashion. I was, of course, overstating for effect. But just like you can’t quite help thinking about father David when Brandon Cronenberg does body horror, it’s difficult to begin one’s thoughts on NOS4A2 in particular without considering King. It’s not just the winking references (exclamations of “my life for you” and “hiyo Silver”) or superficial similarities like the rhyming psychopaths, supernaturally charged cars, and ubiquitous children’s songs. It’s the fact that NOS4A2—a relentless, profoundly disturbing monster of a book—reads at every level like King’s work at its prime, a discomfiting mix of the otherworldly and quotidian, seeded with buried psychic traumas and iconic representations of pure evil.

Poster Lab Oz: The Great and Powerful

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Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and Powerful

A swirling storm is the proper framing device for Oz: The Great and Powerful’s first poster, which heralds its film by tossing trademark elements into a kind of artful rinse cycle. Set for a 2013 release, this Sam-Raimi-helmed Wizard of Oz prequel appears devoid of Dorothy, yet packed with evidence of L. Frank Baum’s brand.

Seeming both introductory and contradictory to its immortal predecessor, the movie tells of its titular wizard’s rise as a magician and a man, promising an arc of self-discovery that doesn’t quite jell with the arc of Frank Morgan’s fraud behind the curtain. But, don’t fret, kids: there’ll still be a poppy field’s worth of faithful stuff to keep you comfy, and it’s presented here in a yin-yang approach that matches dark drama with glittering fantasy. The Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, a swarm of tornadoes, and one integral hot air balloon fill this well-executed design, teasing a new adventure with unmistakable imagery. In another poster, the title almost certainly would have been made more centrally visible, but in this case, it’s hardly necessary. If the main man’s mode of transportation doesn’t wrangle fans, the gleam of all that Oz-ian architecture will, suggesting classic whimsy amid a tumultuous scene that also features some Avatar-esque landforms. The image invites viewers to return to a place they know while still being strangers in a strange land.

15 Famous Movie Monkeys

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15 Famous Movie Monkeys
15 Famous Movie Monkeys

Disneynature unveiled its fourth American Earth Day doc this weekend with Chimpanzee, a glimpse into the life of young chimp Oscar, who may or may not boast more refinement than narrator Tim Allen. Leading the film with at least a small hope from Disney that names will have influence in next year’s Documentary Feature race, Oscar is but the latest filmic primate to captivate viewers, his adorable anthropomorphism reflecting back the basest human instincts and pastimes. More than any other class of creature, Oscar and his ilk afford an audience the fun of animal voyeurism right along with a close species identification. It’s what helps movie monkeys to endure, from the big to the small, the winged to the animated.

15 Famous Cabins in the Woods

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15 Famous Cabins in the Woods
15 Famous Cabins in the Woods

This weekend sees the release of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, the most anticipated and buzzed-about horror film in some time. The setup is indeed the same one you’ve experienced over and over: a group of partying, young-adult archetypes head to a remote getaway, only to find terrifying carnage. But the guys behind Cabin delve far deeper into the geek abyss than many viewers will expect, emerging with a gonzo, convoluted send-up that stirs the pot even as it flies off the rails (no spoilers here, kids). The titular locale is but a dilapidated entry point, and we’ve got 15 more shacks that have opened their doors for audiences through the years.

15 Famous Women in Black

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15 Famous Women in Black
15 Famous Women in Black

This weekend, Daniel Radcliffe celebrates his first post-Potter effort with the release of The Woman in Black, a horror thriller about an axe-grinding female ghost who need only be seen to claim a child’s life. The veiled phantom surely has the edge when it comes to offing the little ones, but she hails from a long line of ladies who’ve gone all Hot Topic for the camera. Witches, wives, and even Whoopi made this list of women who sport only the darkest uniforms, making them scary, sexy, cool, sophisticated, and in some cases, all of the above.

Take Two #2: The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Wiz (1978)

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Take Two #2: <em>The Wizard of Oz</em> (1939) and <em>The Wiz</em> (1978)
Take Two #2: <em>The Wizard of Oz</em> (1939) and <em>The Wiz</em> (1978)

[Editor’s Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

Few four-word concepts would seem as predestined for American canonization as “Motown Wizard of Oz,” and yet I can’t recall anyone—critics, friends, fellow Hitsville and classic soul aficionados—ever recommending the film version of Charlie Smalls’s 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz. If only by default, this movie should be remembered at least as a curio in the career of one of its many notable contributors—Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, Ashford and Simpson, Sidney Lumet, Quincy Jones, and Joel Schumacher among them.

I wish I could report that The Wiz deserves better than this cultural lacuna, but alas: This is a certifiable turkey, one of those doomed “star-studded” productions where a football team’s worth of talent can’t overcome the fact that nobody’s doing what feels natural. Everyone, particularly Ross, who, by all accounts, was the project’s true auteur, seems so amazed by the virtue and capital-I Importance of their undertaking that even the lighthearted numbers feel leaden. As Dorothy, a put-upon Harlem schoolteacher who’s “never been below 125th St.,” Ross plays her character as if she represented the dramatic and emotional summit of Western civilization. And a handful of other reliably joyful entertainers—most egregiously Jackson, Russell, and Pryor—follow her lead. This is The Wizard of Oz pitched midway between the first act of A Raisin in the Sun and the last scene of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and it lasts a mind-boggling 135 minutes.

Lost Recap: Season 3, Episode 20, “The Man Behind the Curtain”

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Lost Recap: Season 3, Episode 20, “The Man Behind the Curtain”
Lost Recap: Season 3, Episode 20, “The Man Behind the Curtain”

The specter of death has long hung-over the inhabitants of Lost but rarely has it struck as brutally or with the frequency it did in last night’s episode, “The Man Behind the Curtain” which detailed the act of betrayal that lead to the mass execution of dozens of employees of the DHARMA Initiative before ultimately snatching up the life of one of the show’s most popular characters…maybe. The angel of death: Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) who both lives up to the Wizard of Oz allusion in the episode’s title while rebuking it seemingly in equal measures. Ben, who you’ll remember once went by the Oz-centric nom de guerre “Henry Gale,” may not be the one pulling the strings behind the scenes, but he’s certainly calling the tune everyone dances to. The revelations of last night’s episode don’t exactly clarify the issue much either, presenting the illusive “Jacob” as both the ravings of a crack-pot (with shades of mother Bates and her boy Norman) as well as a very real and rather terrifying apparition. Is there a show on TV better at having its cake and eating it too?