Shout! Factory Announces Release Date For Freaks and Geeks Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

NBC’s modern classic teen dramedy Freaks and Geeks only ran for eighteen episodes when it originally aired on NBC from 1999 – 2000. In the time since it ended its initial run on the “Peacock Network” the short-lived series has since gone on to be a cult favorite among audiences. It proved to be such a favorite among certain audiences that in 2004 the series was released in its own full-series DVD box set by Shout! Factory. Now nearly twelve years after its initial home release Shout! Factory is revisiting the series and re-issuing it in its entirety on Blu-ray.

Shout! Factory has announced that it will release Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series on Blu-ray on Tuesday, March 22nd. The series’ eighteen-episode run has been re-mastered from new 4K scans of the series’ original camera negatives. Each episode is presented both in its original 1.33:1 ratio and an enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen presentation and will be spread across nine discs. This presentation greatly expands the footage, revealing never before seen pieces of the series in its original presentation. There will also be a number of extras for true fans of the series included in the set’s presentation.

Freaks and Geeks only lasted for one season in its initial run. But in that time it earned an Emmy Awardfor its entertaining and authentic portrayal of high school life in the 80s in all of its ups and downs. The series was created by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, Spy), executive produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, This is 40, Pineapple Express) and starred some of today’s biggest names in their younger years, including: Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), James Franco (Flyboys, Spiderman 1 – 3, Pineapple Express, Date Night), Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Neighbors, This Is The End), and Linda Cardellini (ER, Scooby Doo, The Avengers: Age of Ultron).

Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series will be available on Blu-ray in stores and online on Tuesday, March 22nd. It will retail for MSRP of 119.00 but can be pre-ordered now direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at a discounted price of $79.99. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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My Uncle Rafael Is Loaded With Laughs And Heart

Courtesy:  TNP Films

Courtesy: TNP Films

My Uncle Rafael is the best new independent movie of 2014.  And it is arguably one of the best new movies of the year, too.  Originally released in 2012, its release this week on DVD marks the first time that it has seen the light of day in home release format.  And while it obviously owes a certain amount of its success to Robin Williams’ 1993 hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire, it still manages to stand strong on its own merits as a movie that is at least somewhat original in its presentation.  That is the central point of the movie’s success.  It has all the heart and wit of Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin Williams’ cross-dressing and manic character portrayal.  And while it does maintain at least some similarity in its approach to the family-fixing plotline, it approaches the issue through a multi-cultural avenue rather than that of a desperate father. Sign of the times, it would seem.  Just as important to the movie’s enjoyment is the acting on the part of the movie’s cast.  It would have been so simple for the cast, which is relatively well-known and experienced to treat the movie like the independent movie that it is.  But each member of the cast approached this work with the same seriousness used in its other performances.  The professional approach taken by the cast of My Uncle Rafael adds so much enjoyment to the movie.  It adds so much especially considering the quality of the movie’s production values.  While released via an independent studio—TNP Films—the movie’s production values are just as quality as anything released by any of Hollywood’s “Power 5” studios.  That actor, along with the work of the cast and of the movie’s writers, makes My Uncle Rafael a complete joy for audiences of almost any age.  Again, it isn’t the first time that the story presented here has been utilized for a movie.  But its execution makes it a move well worth the watch.

The story that is presented in My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  It is the story of an outsider coming into a family’s home and fixing said family.  It has been used numerous times in the past.  In 1993, it was presented in the hit movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Two years prior, it was used in pro-wrestling legend Terry “Hulk” Hogan’s family comedy Suburban Commando.  And to a lesser extent it was also used in Vin Diesel’s 2005 flash-in-the-pan flick The Pacifier.  It could even be argued that a similar formula was used way back in the 1989 John Candy dramedy Uncle Buck.  Considering all of this, it leaves one wondering how many other ways in which the “family fix” formula could be used without it being stale and unoriginal.  Enter My Uncle Rafael.  My Uncle Rafael (not to be confused with Joe Pesci’s 1992 dramedy My Cousin Vinny—yes that bad pun was intended) takes the classic “family fix” formula and updates it by incorporating a multi-cultural theme into the story.  Most interesting here is the fact that the duo used an elderly Middle Eastern man as the movie’s central figure.  This was really interesting especially considering the tensions between Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent currently living in the United States.  It’s an angle that few if any writers would even begin to attempt.  For that alone, Pirhamzei and Yagemann are deserving of a certain amount of credit.  That the duo didn’t try to make a direct light of Rafael’s nationality as a soap box makes the script even more worthy of applause.  Omitting that from the script makes the rest of the story far more enjoyable and in turn more memorable.

The script behind My Uncle Rafael is not the first of its kind.  That goes without saying.  But there are aspects of the script that make it surprisingly enjoyable.  As enjoyable as the movie’s script proves to be in the long run, it would be nothing without the abilities of the movie’s cast.  John Michael Higgins (Yes Man, Happily Divorced, Bad Teacher) brings plenty of experience to the movie as do Missi Pyle (The Artist, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Gone Girl), Anthony Clark (Yes, Dear, Boston Common, Soul Man), Joe Lo Truglio (Role Models, Wreck-It-Ralph, Pineapple Express), Carly Chaikin (Suburgatory, The Last Song, In A World…), and Rachel Blanchard (Clueless—TV Series, 7th Heaven, Are You Afraid of the Dark).  The competition between Higgins’ Damon and Clark’s Jack makes for plenty of laughs.  It is a competition much like that seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.  Missi Pyle is just as entertaining as she becomes caught up in the movie’s central love triangle all while trying to maintain her place as mother to her children.  But it is really Vahik Pirhamzei’s portrayal of the loveable Uncle Rafael that really shines.  Pirhamzei’s portrayal gives Uncle Rafael so much heart and warmth.  He makes Rafael loveable not only to his fellow characters but to audiences, too.  One can’t help but agree in watching Rafael that maybe the uncle really is at the center of everything.  Only audiences that watch the movie or have watched it will get that reference.  In hindsight, Rafael’s portrayal makes that line make perfect sense.  That isn’t to take away from Pirhamzei’s cast mates by any means.  Both the more well-known actors and the lesser known cast members add their own enjoyment to the story in whole, too.  But it is his portrayal that holds everything together and makes each of his cast mates’ portrayals all the more entertaining with the end result of the cast in general doing its own part to show once again why My Uncle Rafael  is this year’s best new independent movie and one of the year’s best movies overall.

The writing that went into My Uncle Rafael and the acting on the part of the movie’s cast both play their own important part in the overall success of this surprisingly entertaining story.  Rounding out the presentation is its production values.  Being that this movie is independent, one would think that it would not have the production values of its bigger name family friendly counterparts that have come before.  But the reality is that its production values are quite high.  That includes the movie’s cinematography, its backdrops, costumes, and all other elements that went into bringing the movie to life.  Having such quality production values, it makes sense that the largely veteran cast would want its portrayals to be just as high quality.  The combination of that high quality acting and equally high quality production values adds to the ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief and in turn allow themselves to be immersed into the story and thus offer it the chance that it quite well deserves.  In giving it the chance that it deserves, audiences will agree that this movie is just as enjoyable as its more well-known predecessors and that it is one of this year’s best new movies as well as the year’s best new independent movie.

My Uncle Rafael is available now on DVD in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/My-Uncle-Rafael-Anthony-Clark/dp/B00O1D3AN6/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418861938&sr=1-2&keywords=my+uncle+rafael.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

Video Services Corporation (VSC) will release the fourth season of IFC’s hit comedy series Portlandia this summer.

Portlandia: Season 4 will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 26th. Armisen’s beloved characters Dave and Kath are back in Portlandia’s fourth season, as are Spike and his uptight girlfriend, Iris. Spike and Iris have to deal with a difficult situation at a Thai restaurant while Dave and Kath actually give relaxation a try. And then there is the couple, Nina and Lance. Nina and Lance have to recover from the trauma of losing a pet this season.

Season Four sees a who’s who of celebrity guests across its ten episodes. Among some of the more well-known guests that appear on the show this season are: k.d. lang, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1 – 3), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Mark Proksch (The Office), and many others. Also returning from Portlandia’s previous seasons is an equally high profile list of stars including: Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 1 &2, Independence Day), Ed Begley, Jr. (Arrested Development, Pineapple Express), Jason Sudeikis (How I Met Your Mother), and director Gus Van Sant (Promised Land, Milk) and just as many other big names.

Portlandia: Season Four was shot entirely in Portland, Oregon. It is co-created and co-written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel. Krisel is also the series’ director. The series is executive prodiced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and produced by Broadway Video. Portlandia: Season Four is comprised of ten episodes on two discs. It will retail for SRP of $19.98. Portlandia has earned a Peabody © award and has been nominated for an Emmy ® award as well, and has run for four seasons exclusively on Independent Film Channel.

More information on this and other releases from Video Services Corporation is available online at http://www.facebook.com/videoservicescorp, http://www.videoservicescorp.com, and http://twitter.com/vidserv. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Shout! Kids’ Latest Pound Puppies Compilation Is Another Great Watch For The Whole Family

Courtesy;  Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Courtesy; Shout! Factory/Shout! Kids/Hub/Hasbro Studios

Shout! Kids released the latest collection of episodes from Hub’s award-winning series Pound Puppies this week.  The latest collection of episodes from this update on the original 1980s series is just as much a jewel as the series’ previous compilation DVDs.  The episodes included in this compilation make it so enjoyable first and foremost because of the episodes’ writing.  By connection, audiences will appreciate the subtle lessons taught through some of the episodes.  Intentional or not, there are some subtle lessons taught through some of this set’s episodes.  It makes the set all the richer.  And last but not least, viewers (especially parents) will appreciate this latest compilation is the list of guest appearances.  Some very big names lend their talents to Pound Puppies in this collection.  Whether it be the guest talent, the lessons, the writing or all three factors together, Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match proves to be another wonderful set of episodes for the whole family.

The writing behind this collection of episodes is the central point of impact for this DVD.  Those that are familiar with this incarnation of Pound Puppies and with the original series from the 1980s know that both series emulate the classic WWII-themed sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in their theme songs.  The new Pound Puppies has taken things to a higher level, actually giving Ace and his canine friends an underground base just like Col. Hogan and his Allied forces friends in Hogan’s Heroes.  As viewers will see in this set’s opening episode, the writers even emulate Hogan’s Heroes in terms of the writing, too.  In “The Yipper Caper”, viewers see McLeash bring in a giant dog feeding machine just to impress his superiors much like Col. Klink would do in Hogan’s Heroes.  Klink was always taking on some wild, hair-brained scheme to impress his higher-ups.  On the other side of things, audiences hear Ace tell Yipper that the Pound Puppies have homes outside the shelter, but they stay there to help others.  Audiences familiar with Hogan’s Heroes will again recognize quite the similarity there.  This writing is a wonderful homage to the golden era of television and takes things one step farther than the original Pound Puppies series.  That homage is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes the writing so fun in these episodes.  Just as impressive to note is the fact that the show’s writers are able to time and again find ways for the Pound Puppies to complete their missions without McLeash ever knowing.  This is the case throughout all five episodes, not just the opener.  Again, this is an homage to Hogan’s Heroes.  It’s one more way to potentially get young viewers started on the road to an appreciation for television’s Golden Era.  And for that, the show’s writers are more than deserving of their applause.

As one should be able to tell by now, the writing behind the episodes included in the latest Pound Puppies compilation DVD is key to the collection’s overall enjoyment.  Even older viewers will appreciate the writing thanks to its throwback to what is one of television’s greatest ever sitcoms.  Just as important to these episodes are the lessons taught through the episodes.  “Hello Kitten” teaches a not so subtle lesson about the ability of people to get along and be friends despite opposing backgrounds.  It does this by having the youngest of the pound puppies help a kitten find his perfect person.  There’s just one problem.  The Pound Puppies’ feline counterparts, led by a feline mirror image of Ace is set out to keep the young kitten from becoming friends with dogs and finding a person for the kitten themselves.  In the end, the cats learn that it’s okay to be friends with dogs.  The secondary lesson taught here is that one must let go of things from the past.  All holding onto the past does is make a person bitter.  “Beauty is only Fur Deep” teaches a lesson about being one’s self when a much talked about dog comes to Kennel 17.  The Pound Puppies have their hands…*ahem*…paws full when the seemingly humble dog turns quite self-centered on getting a new coat of fur.  It creates lots of problems for the Pound Puppies especially when he shoots down the little girl they said was his perfect person. He of course learns a rather valuable lesson from this experience that viewers of all ages will appreciate.

The lessons taught through the episodes culled for Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match and the general writing that pays homage to Hogan’s Heroes both make this latest compilation of episodes just as enjoyable as previous Pound Puppies DVDs. There is one more factor to consider in this DVD that makes its episodes so fun. That final factor is the list of guest stars that lent its talents to each episode. J.K. Simmons (Spiderman 1 3) and Tress MacNeille both share their talents in the episodes included in this DVD. Go figure, Simmons voices a character in “Working K-9 To 5” that is a newspaper man. Hmmmmm, now where have we seen that before? His character is even presented much in the same vein as J. Jonah Jameson from director Sam Raimi’s Spiderman Trilogy. MacNeille (The Simpsons, Futurama) voices a fellow canine in another episode. It’s only a bit part. But parents that know McNeille’s voice will love hearing her voice here, too. And of course, the true queen of comedy herself, Betty White, returns once more as the voice of McLeash’s not so nice mother. These are just some of the guests that appear in the episodes collected for this DVD. Also on board on these episodes are: Tara Strong (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, The Fairly Odd Parents), E.G. Daily (Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Chalk Zone), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Napoleon Dynamite, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy), Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts, Diff’rent Strokes, Tiny Toon Adventures) and so many others. The fact that so many well-known actors and actresses would lend their talents to these episodes shows just how respected a series it proves to be. Parents will recognize most (if not all) of the names mentioned here. And that alone is enough to give the DVD just one watch if not more. And it is most definitely deserving of far more than just one watch.

Pound Puppies: A Perfect Match is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/pound-puppies-perfect-match. More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Shout! Kids is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

EOne’s Angel of the Skies Is An Underrated WWII Story

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

World War II was the most devastating military conflict that the world has ever seen.  The interesting thing about this war is that it led to the creation of some of the film industry’s most iconic movies.  Movies like Tora Tora Tora, Patton, and The Longest Day became cornerstones of the biggest titles linked to WWII.  Since the days of those classics, countless other movies centered on WWII have been churned out.  Some of them have been not so bad, while others have been not so memorable.  Entertainment One’s new WWII era movie Angel of the Skies is one of those movies that while it is an indie flick, is still one that is not so bad.  Sure, there are some historical inaccuracies depicted in the movie.  But the general story behind the movie is what makes it worth at least one watch.  The acting on the part of the cast helps to make the movie worth at least one watch, too.  And the same can be said of the early flight scenes and backdrops.  All of it taken into account, Angel of the Skies is not as bad as some have already made it out to be.

Angel of the Skies has received mixed reviews by some critics.  The biggest criticism of the movie has been its historical accuracy.  There are some issues with said accuracy.  But one must also take into account that no movie ever based on historical events was one hundred percent accurate in itself.  That being taken into account, it really is not that bad of a movie within its genre.  The story itself is worth a watch first and foremost for the themes tied into the overall story.  Writer/director Christopher-Lee dos Santos ties into his story, the themes of brotherhood, determination, and dedication.  He does so in a way that none of the themes overpower themselves through the course of the movie.  They actually work together to give the story an emotional depth that will keep viewers engaged through the movie’s near two-hour run time.  The story’s theme of dedication works quite well in a dual role here.  On one hand, the theme of dedication works as it is linked to the sub-story between Flight Officer Earl Kirk and his girlfriend, Deborah Caldwell (Lillie Claire—Supernatural, Suing The Devil) and to the dedication of the flight crew to one another after  their plane is shot down.  That theme of dedication among the flight crew directly compliments the script’s theme of brotherhood, too.  Even in the greatest of odds, the men refuse to leave one another behind if at all possible, and will do whatever it takes to save one of their own from Nazi officers.  In turn, that theme of brotherhood is directly linked to the theme of determination.  The men were determined to survive and survive together at all costs.  Each of these themes work together seamlessly to make a story that is worth at least one watch by any history buff and film buff.

The interweaving themes that make up the script behind Angel of the Skies are central to the movie’s ability to keep viewers engaged.  They collectively aren’t all to be considered.  The acting of the cast helps to move the story along, too.  The actors that make up the movie’s cast are largely unknowns.  Despite that, they put on a believable performance.  This is the case both by themselves and together.  The men that make up the flight crew do quite the job in their roles.  As enjoyable as it is to watch them take on their roles, it’s the vile SS officer Stutze that truly stands out in this movie.  Stutze (David James) is truly ruthless in his attempts to locate the South African airmen and carry out his duties.  Not to reveal too much, but he is so vile that he goes so far as to have his men kill a German milkmaid that had protected the airmen after they were shot down.  This after he told her that everything would be okay.  He even gunned down a defenseless American soldier early on as part of his character’s setup.  The ability of an actor or actress to make his or her character that despicable means that said individual is more than doing his or her job in said role.  If the combined themes aren’t enough to keep audiences engaged through the story, then that juxtaposition of character types and roles will definitely do its part to keep viewers engaged.

The general writing and acting that comprise Angel of the Skies combine to make it a movie that is well worth at least one watch.  They don’t work by themselves, though.  The movie’s special effects and backdrops play their own role in making this movie worth at least one watch.  Unlike so many other WWII based movies, this movie mixes CG with live action.  The flight scenes are largely computer generated.  It’s obvious where the computer elements were used, too.  But at least they weren’t as cheesy as those used in the 2006 James Franco WWI flop, Flyboys.  One almost couldn’t tell the difference as the bombers were flying into German airspace.  The only times that one could tell for certain that computer graphics were used were when the bombers came under fire from the Messerschmitts and when the flight crew’s bomber crashed.  The rest of the movie’s story was set against a live action backdrop.  What’s interesting about the live action backdrop is that it didn’t feel as over the top as those used in some other WWII era dramas.  It felt more real for lack of better wording.  That is an area in which far too many movie makers get things wrong.  Too many movie makers look for settings that will enhance their movies.  And it only serves to lessen the movies in question to a certain extent.  That isn’t the case here, though.  That realistic feel combines with the movie’s writing and the cast’s acting to make it a movie that despite being an indie flick is still one worth watching at least once by any history buff and movie buff.  It will be available next Tuesday, December 31st on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from the Entertainment One website at http://us.eonefilms.com/films/angel-of-the-skies?lang=en-US.  More information on this and other releases from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Disney Oz Adaptation’s Bonus Features Give Movie New Life On Home Release

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  Who doesn’t know that old adage?  Not to spoil the movie too much for that have yet to see it, but it is this adage that serves as the basis for Disney’s new live action/CGI based Oz The Great and Powerful.  This latest big screen adaptation of author L. Frank Baum’s Oz books was met largely with mixed reviews when it premiered in early 2013.  The fact that it was released to DVD and Blu-ray only a couple months after didn’t bode well for this movie.  Luckily for the movie, the bonus features included in its home release have managed to save it and make it worthy of a second watch.

The hybrid live action/CGI origin story of the wizard and the witch does an impressive job in its attempts to pay homage to The Wizard of Oz.  The sets used for the Emerald City are just as impressive as those used in the earlier story.  That the film makers would try to stay as true as possible to Baum’s fantasy world is worthy of at least some praise.  Making their efforts even more worthy of praise is what is revealed in the behind-the-scenes feature, “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas To Oz.”  Viewers learn in this feature that CGI was only one method of movie magic used in this movie.  It is revealed that actual puppets were used in conjunction with CGI elements in order to bring both the China Girl and Finley to life.  It isn’t very often in this era of largely computer driven special effects blockbusters see such a style of special effects used.  So even in this aspect, it is nice to see that those behind the cameras would go so far in paying tribute to classic film making.

The use of puppets was quite an impressive revelation about this story’s creation.  In connection, the use of CGI to put the faces of Joey King and Zach Braff onto the China Girl and Finley was just as worthy of praise.  It would have been easy to just use CGI based creations and had the pair voice them.  But instead, their faces were put onto the pair. There is something special about this.  Even Sweeter was that both king and Braff voiced their characters.  It shows again the drive to make the story as believable as possible.  It was very nice to see the charged with making this happen took their jobs so seriously.  It proves yet again the importance of bonus features in the home release of any movie.

Viewers that check out the feature focusing on the special effects and general production values of Oz The Great and Powerful will hopefully gain new respect for the film.  If it doesn’t achieve its intended goal, then perhaps the companion feature, “Walt Disney and the Road To Oz” will help in that effort.  It is a much shorter feature in comparison to the previously mentioned bonus feature.  But it goes quite well in companion to the behind-the-scenes feature.  Viewers learn in this companion piece that Walt Disney had actually wanted for years before his death, to bring to life his own take on Baum’s works in a movie titled, The Rainbow Road to Oz.  Yet for a variety of reasons, he never did see those efforts bear any fruit before his passing in 1966.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the company bearing his name would see the release of an Oz-centric story in Return to Oz.  This movie was nowhere near as family friendly as the hit 1939 blockbuster that was The Wizard of Oz.  Keeping all of this in mind in watching Oz The Great and Powerful, one can’t help but have at least some extra respect for everything that went into bringing this latest adaptation to life.  And with any luck, viewers will understand in watching these (and the movie’s other bonus features) that this latest film adapted from Baum’s books is worthy of at least one watch.  For those that saw it in theaters, they will hopefully see that it is worth a second watch.

Oz The Great and Powerful is available now on a variety of platforms.  It is available both in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Disney Store and Disney DVD store at http://www.disneystore.com and http://disney.go.com/thewizard/.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Oz Is Good, Not Great

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Oz The Great and Powerful is one more example of why Hollywood has got to break away from its seemingly unending trend of churning out sequels, prequels, and remakes.  It is a good movie in its own right, thanks to the set design, special effects, and costume/makeup department.  But in terms of its story, it suffers to the point that it largely becomes memorable only for those factors.  The combination of special effects, set design, and costume design are more than worthy of applause in their attempts to bring older audiences back to the world of Oz after nearly seventy-four years since that world first appeared to the masses.  They are just as laudable for introducing younger audiences to the world of Oz for the first time.  For the positives, there are two noticeable negatives to the overall presentation.  Those negatives are the intertwining of lead actor James Franco’s acting and the overall story.  In weighing these factors together, Oz The Great and Powerful becomes more a movie that will be remembered less as one of Disney’s standout greats, and more as just another in the ongoing mass of prequels, sequels, and remakes constantly being churned out by Hollywood.

The combination of set design, costumes, and special effects goes a long way toward the success of Oz The Great and Powerful.  The set designers did an impressive job of balancing actual physical sets and CG backgrounds.  One can really tell that a lot of thought and work went into bringing back the world of Oz.  As hard as the set designers tried though, it lacks a certain something that the sets from the previous movie had.  Perhaps the problem with the sets in this movie was that those who crafted them tried too hard to pay tribute to the original work.  The result is that it didn’t feel as….pure.  They felt “spit-shined” for lack of better wording.  Though, the special effects make up for that.  That is especially the case late in the movie when it is revealed how the Wizard’s famous floating head originally came to be.  That effect alone is worth the wait.  It’s really the best special effects moment in the entire two-hour plus story.

The sets and special effects play their own role in the overall outcome of this story, as has been noted.  They are only part of the movie’s positive side.  Just as impressive as the sets and special effects are the costumes and makeup.  While Disney wasn’t behind The Wizard of Oz, those behind the creation of this work are to be commended for creating costumes that throw back to the original movie, right down to the guards’ uniforms.  And while some might have their own thoughts on the witch’s costume, one must take into account that this is a prequel.  Therefore, the costume had to fit the person and personality.  Of course, speaking of the witch, this is where things get bad for Oz The Great and Powerful.

So much went right for Oz The Great and Powerful in looking at the sets, costumes, and special effects.  What went wrong with the movie was the script and the acting of one James Franco.  The whole story of Oz The Great and Powerful is an origin story of sorts.  It tells not only of how the Wizard came to be the famed figure that he was, but also of how the Wicked Witch came to be wicked.  Not to give away too much, but the two stories play together as they are centered on a figure who is a completely immature young man and three sisters who throw themselves at him just like the women back in Kansas.  Oz plays all three of the sisters just as he played the women back in Kansas.  One of those sisters ends up becoming the now infamous Wicked Witch of the West.  Even as the movie nears its finale, it is difficult to believe Oz has any sincerity as he faces off with the Wicked Witch.  One wants to root for Oz, but it’s next to impossible as at every chance he has to grow, he instead maintains his cocky nature right up to the end.  Yes, he’s a young character, being that this is a prequel.  But it would have been nice to see some personal growth and humility as the Wizard at least showed in The Wizard of Oz.  But that doesn’t happen.  Because of that, there’s no real moral lesson learned here.  There is not even an actual romance story so to speak.  In the end, what everything boils down to with Oz The Great and Powerful is that this movie will be more memorable less for its story or acting than for its production values.  Keeping this in mind, it will largely be one of Disney’s less memorable movies in its decades long list of much better movies.  Because of that, it is a movie that is worth at least one watch, but really not much more.