Music Break – The fabulous songs from The Greatest Showman (2017)

I can’t believe I hadn’t done a Music Break post on The Greatest Showman since it’s been released three years ago. I’ve been listening to its songs over and over, and it’s truly one of my absolute favorite musicals in the past decade.

Interesting Trivia – courtesy of Screen Rant and IMDb:

  • The musical grossed over $400 million worldwide against an $84 million budget.
  • This film was a dream project for Hugh Jackman since 2009.
  • Jackman did extensive research for the film–reading dozens of books about Barnum, long hours of dance rehearsals, and singing – lots and lots of singing! When asked what was the hardest movie to prepare for compared to Logan, Jackman actually said it was hands down this movie!
  • The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016).
  • From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film’s 1800s setting. As Pasek said, “The choice was to express not just the characters’ feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn’t bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one.”

Ok so here are 5 of my favorite songs featured in the film:

Tightrope

Right from the first moment I heard it, I just fell in love with this song. The scene is so beautiful but also heartbreaking as Charity is lamenting on her husband being away with the opera singer Jenny Lind and that success actually drives him away from their family.

This curtain scene is so exquisitely done… and oh so heartbreaking!

I LOVE Michelle Williams‘ singing voice! In an interview with New Zealand Herald, she said:

I find that singing and dancing is a direct path to joy. And I just wanted more of it, that’s why I wanted to make the film. Singing is natural for me. I don’t know if I’m the greatest in the world at it, but I just love it!

A Million Dreams

Though Ellis Rubin played young P.T. Barnum in the movie, it’s actually Ziv Zaifman who provided the singing voice for  for this song which I think sounds fantastic. I love that in the second part of the song, it’s Hugh Jackman singing it as the adult Barnum, it adds such a wonderful dimension to the song.

Rewrite the Stars

One of my all-time favorite duet from a musical, perhaps beating Moulin Rouge!‘s Come What May (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) which was my fave for a long time. Zac Efron and Zendaya have a lovely chemistry and this duet as they’re swaying on a rope is such a showstopper scene that takes my breath away every time I watch it.

I read a bunch of articles how arduous it was for them to film the high-flying aerial stunts and the outtake video of them colliding mid-air. Props for the two actors and the entire filmmaking team for making the sequence look so effortless!

Never Enough

Rebecca Ferguson‘s voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming. She is actually Swedish, born in Stockholm, just like the character.

I love Ferguson’s passionate performance here, she absolutely sells me that she’s the greatest singer in the world. There’s also some intriguing intercuts in the scene depicting the tension in the relationship between Barnum and Charity, as well as Efron and Zendaya’s characters.

This Is Me

This is such a defiant, heartfelt anthem sung phenomenally by Keala Settle who played the the bearded lady Lettie Lutz. The rousing scene

According to Jackman, the film’s nine-year development process from conception to completion was, in part, due to studios’ unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. What finally sold the deal at 20th Century Fox was this Oscar-nominated song This is Me, which had literally been written by Pasek and Paul during the two-hour flight to the studio meeting where the film was green-lit.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen The Greatest Showman, which song(s) is your favorite?

Thursday Movie Picks: Romance Tropes Edition – Forbidden Love

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Romance Tropes Edition: Forbidden Love.

There are plenty to choose for this week’s topic, which actually makes it harder. Well, I’m going with films that people might not have seen yet, and not one most people would automatically think of when they hear the term forbidden love.

In any case, here are my picks:

NEVER LET ME GO (2010)

The lives of three friends, from their early school days into young adulthood, when the reality of the world they live in comes knocking.

I reviewed this movie nearly a decade ago and it’s the kind of film you should know as least as possible before watching. It’s a sci-fi drama starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield who grew up together in school, and there’s a love triangle that happen between them when they grow up.

Based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro, directed by Mark Romanek based on a script by Alex Garland‘s (28 Days Later, Ex Machina), the romantic drama sensibilities offers a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. Lets just say it’s one of the most haunting film I’ve ever seen as you learn the predestined fate that await these characters.

Fun Trivia:
Keira Knightley admitted that she only agreed to appear in the film because her friend and co-star Carey Mulligan had asked her to. She said she was unable to relate to Ruth’s involvement in a love triangle.


LOVING (2016)

The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in 1960s Virginia began a legal battle that would end with the Supreme Court’s historic 1967 decision.

I’ve reviewed this one as well and if you haven’t seen it yet, well, might be good to catch this during Black History Month. It’s really astonishing that this happened not that long ago… I’d like to think hope we’ve come a long way since then.

Jeff Nichols is such a talented and sensitive filmmaker and I like that this film highlights the then-forbidden love between the couple, instead of just using their story to make a political statement. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton beautifully portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through.

Fun Trivia:
Director Jeff Nichols was able to tell the story of the Loving family as accurately as possible by relying on Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story (2011), which captured many details of their private lives.


Suite Française (2014)

During the early years of Nazi occupation of France in World War II, romance blooms between Lucile Angellier, a French villager, and Lieutenant Bruno von Falk, a German soldier.

I have to admit I saw this because of Sam Riley whom I had a huge crush on a few years back, but it also has a great cast including Kristin Scott Thomas, Margot Robbie. The forbidden romance is between Michelle Williams‘ character who falls for a Nazi soldier played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Being in love with the enemy certainly is one of the more popular forbidden romance set during wartime.

Schoenaerts is quite an underrated actor and he’s really good in period romance (love him as Gabriel Oak in Far From The Madding Crowd). The way he looks at a woman he loves… well, that’s the stuff memorable romance is made of. There’s a breathless chemistry between him and Michelle, all stolen glances and repressed passion. This movie ends up being a pleasant surprise about love & survival, right down to its poignant ending.

Fun Trivia:
Margot Robbie and Third Assistant Director Tom Ackerley met and began dating during the filming of this movie. They married in 2016.

Sam Riley (Benoit Labarie) and Alexandra Maria Lara (Leah) are married in real life.

The Lover (1992)

In 1929 French Indochina, a French teenage girl embarks on a reckless and forbidden romance with a wealthy, older Chinese man, each knowing that knowledge of their affair will bring drastic consequences to each other.

I saw this film ages ago, the details are a bit hazy to me now. Yet it’s definitely one of the most indelible forbidden love stories I remember, and the film is quite risqué as well. Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud (who also made The Name of the Rose with its own forbidden romance elements), it’s actually based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras.

Jane March and Tony Ka Fai Leung played the lovers in the film, and there are plenty of explicit sex scenes that’s quite scandalous given March was only 17 or 18 at the time. In the book, the girl is 15 so it’s also a story of sexual awakening. Annaud also shot the sex scenes in a very intimate, believable way, which at times were tough to watch. I don’t watch too many erotic films so this is one of the few films I’ve seen with such unbridled sexuality. But The Lover is also emotionally nuanced so their sexual relationship is more than skin-deep. If you’re curious about this one, it’s also deliberately slow-paced, as some would call poetically-slow, but that’s par the course with Annaud’s films.

Fun Trivia:
Jane March’s first acting role. In an interview with the L.A. Times in Oct. 1992, she said “I had never done a movie in my life. I had never acted before. The first time I saw the film complete, I sat in the screening room and cried. It was the end of my adventure, the end of my first escapade in life.”


So who are YOUR favorite movies about Forbidden Romance?

FlixChatter Review: VENOM (2018)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The next Marvel Comics superhero action movie released by Sony Pictures in 2018 is Venom. The movie is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe, which is auxiliary to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Think The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, etc.) This means that the studio intended to start a new shared universe of Marvel characters featuring those which Sony possesses film rights to and they also intend for the film to share the world of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, alongside Michelle Williams as Anne Weying, and Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot.

Venom basically centers on the story of Eddie Brock (Hardy), an investigative journalist who is dating Anne Weying (Williams), a District Attorney in San Francisco. Brock scores an interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed) who is the CEO of The Life Foundation, and their research facility in San Francisco has been hit a lawsuit regarding Drake’s use of human trials to conduct research. When The Life Foundation discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms, they bring four samples back to Earth, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash. They recover three symbiots and transport them to their research facility, but the fourth escapes and takes human hosts as it makes it way to San Francisco. Brock is approached by Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake’s scientists who wants to help Brock expose him because she disagrees with his use of human trails. Skirth helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, but a symbiote escapes from the body of woman used for human trials and transfers itself into Brock’s body. When Drake discovers Skirth’s betrayal, he kills her and sends a team to retrieve the symbiote from Brock. The symbiote takes over Brock’s body and transforms him into a monstrous creature that fights off the attackers.

The symbiote makes contact with Brock, and tells him that it is called Venom. It explains that the comet that The Life Foundation discovered is actually an invasion force that is searching for new worlds where the symbiotes can possess and devour their inhabitants. Venom offers to spare Brock if Brock helps the symbiotes achieve their goal, and he gets to possess the superhuman attributes that the symbiote gives him. Brock soon learns that the symbiote has two weaknesses: high-pitched noises and fire. Weying dumps Brock after she gets fired for helping Brock sneak into The Life Foundation but later she helps Brock when he struggles to cope with Venom’s strengths and weaknesses. Although Venom claims the Brock’s organ damage is a fixable part of their symbiosis, Weying uses an MRI machine to weaken the symbiote long enough for Brock to separate from it. Brock is then captured by Drake’s men. As the fourth symbiote Riot makes its way to San Francisco, it overpowers Drake and makes him take Riot in a Life Foundation space vessel to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth.

Weying reluctantly lets Venom take over her body so that they can free Brock from Drake’s capture. When Venom regains control of Brock’s body, it tells Brock that it has been convinced to help protect the Earth from other symbiotes through his understanding/connection with Brock and the human race, and they attempt to stop Riot (in Drake’s body) with Weying’s help. SPOILERS (highlight to read): Venom damages Riot’s space vessel as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill Riot (and Drake’s body). Weying also believes that Venom died in the explosion and that Brock is no longer taken over by Venom after this. However, Venom did not die and it secretly remains inside Brock and they set out to protect the city from dangerous criminals.

At the end, Brock goes back to investigative journalism and a future plot point is discussed in a mid-credit scene, featuring serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). This is probably the most interesting part of the movie, as the other parts seem like they’ve been used before in Iron Man, Thor or Captain America. I am intrigued to what Woody Harrelson’s character will bring in future installments of this comic universe. Sadly, Venom was not a very strong movie in my opinion. What made it watchable was Tom Hardy, and the crazy voice he used as Venom.

Overall, this was a fun and intriguing movie with a very long and scattered plot line. While Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams tried to make their characters seem interesting and warm, they were not very successful in doing so. Hardy should take a page out of Deadpool and write some of him own lines for Venom 2, just as Ryan Reynolds did for Deadpool 2. Perhaps Hardy’s humor could benefit him more when he is in charge of what he says. Here’s to hoping the inevitable sequel is better than the first Venom.


Have you seen ‘VENOM’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: The Greatest Showman (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The upcoming original musical The Greatest Showman is directed by Michael Gracey, and written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. First time Australian director Gracey made a wonderful decision to turn The Greatest Showman into a modern-musical, opting for modern day pop style songs over 1800s tunes. Convincing 20th Century FOX, Gracey was instrumental in hiring songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony award winners for the original musical Dear Evan Hansen and then Golden Globe and OSCAR winners for the La La Land song City of Stars). Pasek and Paul wrote eleven original songs for The Greatest Showman, each more emotional than the last. Their original song This Is Me, has so far been nominated for a Golden Globe and could be in play for the Best Original Song category at this year’s OSCARS.

The film is inspired by the life of circus creator and father of modern show business, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). Supporting Barnum are his supportive wife Charity (Michelle Williams), his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat & trapeze-artist that Carlyle scandalously falls for. Broadway star Keala Settle stars as the Bearded Lady and she sings This is Me to perfection. She nearly runs away with the whole movie.

When Barnum struggles supporting his circus made up of freaks and bizarre acts, he invited and hires Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous Swedish opera singer to perform in America for the first time. Barnum called Lind “The Swedish Nightingale” and she ended up being a big hit and performing over 90 concerts for him before quitting the tour and breaking her contract with Barnum. Lind had wearied of Barnum’s assertive marketing of her and that she would end up like Barnum’s circus. When Barnum returns to New York after the tour, the building housing his circus catches fire and while no one is hurt, the building is a total loss. Barnum then figures out that he doesn’t need a whole building to house the circus but rather a very large tent.

Zendaya and Zac Efron have a wonderful connection onscreen, especially when they perform the acrobatically-demanding musical number Rewrite The Stars and when he defends her in front of his parents. They share some terrific chemistry, but it’s hard to beat the moments when Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman share the screen. One of the best scenes in the film is when Barnum talks Carlyle into joining the circus, and they try to out-dance each other. They do this during the song The Other Side. There are also beautiful renditions of Tightrope by Michelle Williams and Never Enough, performed by Loren Allred who provides Jenny Lind’s singing voice in the movie.

The Greatest Showman feels a little predictable and disjoined at times, but the emotions in the movie feel true and very authentic. The movie make you want to care for Barnum and what happens with his family, so you probably won’t care if it is a little over the top – musicals are supposed to be that way. It’s the perfect film to enjoy with the whole family over the holidays; even if you’re someone who hates musicals this one might be the one that convinces you to give it a try. At least one can appreciate the hard work it is to write a whole new, original musical. I have to give them props for a job well done.


Have you seen ‘The Greatest Showman’? Well, what did you think? 

Guest Review: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

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Directed/Written By: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Runtime: 2 hrs 17 minutes

Cinema portrayals of angry people are not usually enjoyable entertainment yet we are fascinated by films that dwell entirely on simmering angst. Manchester by the Sea (2016) is such a film. Perplexing, unsettling, yet engaging, it is a story without joy that is made bearable by outstanding performances and superb cinematography.

The plotline has a simple core narrative framed by frequent and abrupt flashbacks that gradually piece together a jigsaw-like story. We meet Lee (Casey Affleck) as a handyman and depressive loner whose temper blows over at little provocation. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that he lives in self-exile because of a horrible family tragedy he caused. He has become emotionally hollowed out and unable to relate to people. Suddenly his brother has a fatal heart attack and his will names Lee as executor and guardian of 16 year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). But to accept this responsibility, Lee must move back to the idyllic seaside town of Manchester by the Sea which is full of traumatic memories, including of his attempted suicide, his divorced wife, and people who are wary of him. He stays for the funeral, drinks heavily, lashes out physically, argues with his teenage nephew, and wants to cut and run. Gradually, he becomes emotionally re-connected with family and place through the experience of caring for the typically full-of-himself nephew. Lee’s traumatic past makes way for new beginnings, new relationships, and the hope of redemption.

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If you look for originality in storytelling, there is little of it here. Painful battles with inner demons is a cliché, and fighting several at once is simply a compound cliché not something new. Half of this film is spent on assembling the narrative jigsaw so we can understand what makes Lee the way he is, and the other half is spent on standard melodrama tropes about re-connecting by caring for someone else. However, it is the casting, characterisation, and cinematography that save this film from being just another story of angry people destabilised by tragedy. Casey Affleck does trauma and ambivalence very effectively. His bemused tolerance of his nephew’s demands and sexual exploits becomes the emotional scaffold that guides his calming from pot-boiling anger to resigned acceptance that life must go on. Lucas Hedges is the perfect foil for Casey Affleck, and both are helped by a strong support ensemble.

Brilliant acting by Affleck does not hide the film’s melodramatic predictability. But this slow essay on anger would be more unsettling were it not for its joyful filming. Trauma is calmed and un-likable characters forgiven when all are nestled against beautiful images of bobbing fishing vessels lapping the shores of charming Manchester by the Sea. The camerawork visually warms the film and helps bind its elements into an engaging story of loss and redemption.

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘Manchester By The Sea’? Well, what did you think? 

Five for the Fifth: SEPTEMBER 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Still can’t believe it’s Labor Day weekend already! For some reason I haven’t asked this before in the previous September editions. Most Americans will get a day off today in the first Monday of September to celebrate the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

WorkplaceMovies

It made me think of films that’s filmed in a workplace, whether it’s a factory, restaurant, 9-5 office job, etc. Having just rewatched Working Girl a couple of months ago, as well as Equity just last week, there are definitely a ton of films made about Wall Street. But there are a lot of memorable films about less glamorous jobs, i.e. Waitress, High Fidelity, Extract, Office Space, The Good Girl, Up in the Air, just to name a few. I’d also include Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. that takes place inside a scream factory.

So which workplace movie(s) is your all time favorite? 

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2. Ok, for this month FFTF, I want to feature two trailers from films by female directors. The first one stars Marion Cotillard, whose film Allied I actually featured last month. Well, as I said before, anything with miss Cotillard gets my attention!

From The Land of the Moon (Mal de pierres) trailer doesn’t have a subtitle yet but here’s the synopsis per IMDb:

Adaptation of Milena Agus’ novel, set after WWII following Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard), a passionate, free-spirited woman who is in a loveless marriage and falls for another man.

The film is directed by French actress/filmmaker Nicole Garcia also stars Louis Garrel and Alex Brendemühl. I love WWII romances, so I’m automatically intrigued by this. Apparently Sundance Selects has picked up the U.S. rights to the film back in March, and the film opens in France in mid October, but the US release date hasn’t been announced yet.

Here’s a clip that does have English subtitles:

Now this one takes place closer to home for me in the US.

Certain Women focuses on the lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.

I love the casting of the three main actresses: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart. I’m not familiar with filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, but I did remember her film Meek’s Cutoff (also starring Michelle Williams) was quite acclaimed. Certain Women is set for release on October 14th.

Thoughts about either one of these films? 

3. Well, now that the dust has sort of settled on the Summer blockbuster season, a bunch of articles are lamenting that 2016 is one of the worst Summer seasons. The New York Times lists over a dozen movies as financial disappointment (including The BFG, ID4 sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, etc. and perhaps the biggest dud of all, the Ben-Hur remake.

DontBreathe

But it seems that we’re only looking at big, tentpole movies. Seems that quite a few smaller movies like Lights Out, Bad Moms, The Purge: Election Year, Sausage Party, and this weekend’s box office winner for a second week in a row, Don’t Breathe have beaten industry expectations. Most of those movies’ budget are well below $20 mil, but have grossed at least twice its budget.

Which of the Summer sleeper hits are your favorite?
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4. It just dawned on me after I started watching Netflix’s Stranger Things that I’ve been watching two big 80s/90s stars making a comeback on TV. Winona Ryder is one of the stars of Stranger Things, and of course you all know Christian Slater has won acclaims for his performance in Mr. Robot.

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I don’t remember either one of those working steadily, apart from some small roles here and there. But there are some 80s/90s actors who have been working pretty steadily up until now, the likes of Robert Downey Jr. (since his comeback in Iron Man), Rob Lowe, Arnie, Sly, etc. It made me think of their peers a couple of decades ago who I haven’t seen in ages… Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Sherilyn Fenn, Molly Ringwald, and pretty much everyone in The Breakfast Club, boy those were big names when I was in high school!

So which of your favorite 80s/90s star would you like to see make a comeback on TV?

5. This month Five for the Fifth‘s guest is Mark from Marked Movies! I’ve talked about it a few times the topic here but it’s always a fun one to discuss.

What actors people take a disliking to? Not that they’re bad actors but there’s something about their style, or even appearance, that you just don’t take to.
Or alternatively, what actors people have previously disliked but over time began to appreciate them?

Well, I’m sure you have an answer for either one of Mark’s question. Let’s hear it!


Well, that’s it for the SEPTEMBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

Weekend Roundup: Oz The Great and Powerful review

It’s the last week of March already, but Spring is arriving VERY s-l-o-w-l-y here in Minnesota. By around the same time last year, we’re already in mid 60s, I think some people were wearing shorts on St. Patrick’s Day? This year, I’d be thrilled to see mid 40s by next weekend!

I did see a movie that made me feel quite Spring-y with the bright and colorful landscape filled with gorgeous colors and of course, a rainbow!

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If you’re curious whether people who have not seen the original would enjoy this prequel, well I for one can tell you that YES, absolutely you could! In a way I feel that I actually have the advantage of knowing hardly anything of the story, apart from what the wicked witch look like and knowing some of the lyrics of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. You might be amused that the only time I heard this song being played in a movie is from John Woo’s action-packed Face/Off, ahah.

My friend asked me if I wanted to see a matinee showing and I went in with tepid expectations after reading the mediocre reviews. Well, I’m glad to report that I was NOT disappointed. Far from it, it really was a wonderful 2-hour escapist entertainment!

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First of all, the opening title sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful and creative, definitely brings you right into the carnival world where Oscar works as a small time magician with dubious ethics. He soon gets into trouble, which leads him to a hot air balloon that transports him away from Kansas to the colorful Land of Oz. The movie turns from black and white to color and oh, what a feast for the eyes. I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of Oz. Sam Raimi truly turns the movie magic on with this one, I was practically ooh-aah-ing the gorgeous cinematography, special effects and spectacular landscape. Every creature is pretty amusing to look at, yes even the weird ones like the river fairies!

In this magical land is where Oscar meets the three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are all skeptical that he’s the great wizard everyone’s been waiting for. Oscar himself didn’t really want to continue deceiving them at first, that is until Evanora shows him all the gold he’d have if he becomes King. The inner struggle of choosing good over evil is something we’ve all identified with, and Oscar soon realized how high the stakes are for the people of Oz, though we’re never sure of his true motive until the very end.

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I’ve told you about the visuals, now acting-wise, I still think Johnny Depp would’ve been much better in the role of Oscar Diggs instead of James Franco, but he ends up being all right here. I know his character is supposed to be this egotistical smug, but Franco plays it far to literally that he comes across annoying instead of amusing. He has this weird, awkward grin that made me cringe, it just took me out of the movie as I wanted to smack him! I also don’t buy him as this irresistible man who could get all these stunning women to fall in love with him. Fortunately he redeemed himself as the film progresses, in fact I think he was quite good in the touching scene with the China Doll.  His fun companies on his journey on the yellow brick road certainly helps, I love Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and China Girl (voiced by Joey King) who both owed their lives to Oscar.

The real stars of the film for me are the spectacular visuals and the three female actresses. It’s inspired casting to get Kunis and Weisz as sisters as they have similar features. Both look ravishing in their costumes, especially Weisz in the sparkly, feathered black frock. One particular scenes of them together is crucial to the story and I think both actresses acquit themselves well, though I can’t speak for fans of the original on this one. In contrast, Williams projects delicate beauty as the good witch Glinda. She practically looks like a cross between Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora and Cinderella in her silky white dress and crystal tiara. People might say it’s a boring role as she’s good through and through, but Williams is so effortlessly sympathetic and she did her best with what she was given.

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I find the story to be quite absorbing and even hilarious at times. I could see how the L. Frank Baum’s cretion has become a pop-culture phenomenon, not only with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but also the smash hit Broadway play Wicked. One of the primary keys to a great tale is memorable characters, and this movie is full of them. The wicked witch and how she became that way is certainly the main draw, but the supporting characters are entertaining as well. Finley delivers a lot of laughs, the scene of him mooing had me in stitches. Though I’ve never been into dolls, China Girl is so adorable and cute I wish I could take her home for myself!! The citizens of Oz are full of quirky bunch as well, though I had the same reaction as Oscar when the munchkins started to burst into song, ahah. Ah well, this is a Disney movie after all.

Danny Elfman‘s beautiful score definitely helps transport you into another world. I really think Raimi and co did a great job here, and perhaps the fact that I couldn’t compare it to the original gives the film an advantage. But I wonder if having seen the original would make me like this less, I don’t know if that’d be the case.

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Final Thoughts: If you want to lose yourself in a fantastical world for two hours on Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse. I was massively entertained and the few corny scenes (those romantic scenes between Franco & Kunis came to mind) did not derail the film for me. I didn’t see the 3D version and whilst I thought the visuals was still splendid in that format, I’d think the 3D version would’ve been worth it for this one.


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Thoughts on this one? Anyone else love it as much as I did?