Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return was a massive box-office bomb panned by critics. Despite being released in theaters, I knew there was no place like home. Unlike every other Wizard of Oz continuation that came before, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return wasn’t based on one of the many sequels by L. Frank Baum. Instead it’s based on Dorothy of Oz by his less known great-grandson Roger S. Baum. The “sequel” isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But while I do think the movie might have been slammed, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is still painfully generic. With ear piercing pop infused songs and less than inspired voice acting. This was the last movie credit for Lea Michele and Kelsey Grammer won a shared Razzie for his part as the Tin Man. Also Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi play the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion respectively. Dorothy and Toto’s traveling companion’s are the worst ones yet. A fat talkative owl, a stoic marshmallow man, and a conceited china doll. The villain isn’t much better. Now the Wicked Witch has an unseen brother that’s a Jester voiced by Martin Short. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is just a colorful distraction for kids that probably don’t want to see it anyway. Once again the original is the only must watch.
The Wiz is the most well known all-black version of an existing story. Although released in the 70’s, I wouldn’t exactly call it Blaxploitation. It’s another take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that originated as a Broadway musical. Something I really enjoyed when my High School did a production of it. The movie is a different story. I first saw The Wiz in Elementary School alongside The Wizard of Oz. I didn’t enjoy it as much I already enjoyed the original. The problems stem from the differences between the play and movie. The play is essentially the same as the original. Only with black performers, funkier Motown music, and a few other minor changes. The movie was basically made to be more stereotypical. Instead of Kansas, Dorothy lives in Harlem. She and Toto are sucked up by a snow twister that takes them to Oz. The Munchkins are graffiti, Oz is a half run down New York, Taxi’s drive on the yellow brick road, and the Twin Towers are the Emerald City. The most glaring change is replacing the young Stephanie Mills with 33 year old Diana Ross. She was way too old for the part and always looks like she’s on the verge of tears. She practically demanded to play the part in exchange for Michael Jackson’s involvement. He plays a garbage filled Scarecrow. Nipsey Russell for some reason plays the animatronic Tin Man. While Ted Ross reprises his role as the Cowardly Lion. When they remember to include the Wicked Witch, she runs a sweatshop. Followed by Richard Pryor’s Wiz. The Wiz drags on forever with endless song after endless song. Only “Ease on Down the Road” and a few others standout for me. The Wiz is better left on Broadway.
The Wizard of Oz is my all time favorite fantasy movie. As well as my favorite movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood. If any film was guaranteed to be on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list it’s The Wizard of Oz. As high as number four, because The Wizard of Oz is the most universally beloved movie of all time. I doubt there’s anyone alive who doesn’t know this heartwarming children’s tale by heart. Like most great movies that I’ve seen in my life, I have my dear mother to thank for my first of countless viewings of The Wizard of Oz. She’s been watching the movie ever since she was a child. Its been a real treat hearing stories about how in awe she was during her first viewing. So if there was any movie I had to watch with my mom the first time, it was The Wizard of Oz. My brother and I watched it at a very young age and we were just as in awe as our mom was. It may have been released all the way back in 1939, but The Wizard of Oz speaks to every generation young & old. I watch the movie anytime it’s on TV, I owned it on VHS (now DVD), and I watched it once at school. Where I was happy to see my fellow classmates enjoying it as much as I already did. Like everyone else, I now know every moment, character, and song in the movie by heart…
The Wizard of Oz famously opens in sepia tone. Though some people may refer to it as black & white. Dorothy Gale is a young lady who lives in Kansas with her Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, three farm hands, and Toto too. Dorothy dreams of far off places somewhere over the rainbow. It’s only when cruel land owner Almira Gulch tries to take Toto away on her bike, that Dorothy gets her wish. She runs off to phoney fortune teller Professor Marvel who sends her back home where, what’s that? “It’s a twister! It’s a twister!” Dorothy’s house is sucked into it where she sees a couple of unusual characters flying around. Until her house eventually hits the ground. History was made when Dorothy finally opens the door to reveal the merry old Land of Oz in full Technicolor. It’s then that she realizes she’s not in Kansas anymore. Oz is full of all sorts of colorful inhabitants. Dorothy first meets Glinda the Good Witch of the North. She explains to her and the Munchkin’s that the Wicked Witch of the East was crushed by the falling house. Their celebration is cut short by the fiery arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West. Her sister’s Ruby Slippers magically wind up on Dorothy’s feet and she vows to get her and her little dog too. All Dorothy wants to do is go home. Her only hope is to follow the yellow brick road to see the Wizard of Oz. While on her journey, Dorothy encounters grumpy trees, poppy fields, and three very special traveling companions. The Scarecrow who wants a brain, the Tin Man who wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who wants courage. Together they skip merrily to the Emerald City trying to avoid the Wicked Witch and her band of flying monkeys. That is until the ominous Wizard of Oz only promises to grant their wishes in exchange for the Witches defeat. But that’s not the only way Dorothy can go home. The Wizard of Oz is known for its imaginative fantasy, but it’s also very funny and surprisingly tense. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite fantasy movie…
The Wizard of Oz was originally created by L. Frank Baum. He wrote the children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite its many differences the 1939 adaptation took on a life of its own. Becoming more well known than the book it was based on. Though Dorothy was meant to be a child (with Shirley Temple in mind), I just can’t imagine anyone but Judy Garland in the part. Her voice brings the magic to all her musical performances. Even Toto was perfectly cast. Glinda was actually a composite of the Good Witch of the North, the unseen Good Witch of the South, and the Queen of Field Mice. It helps to keep her Dorothy’s primary guardian. Of course in 1939, anything too difficult to pull off (like talking mice) had to be changed. Margaret Hamilton makes the Wicked Witch of the West the most iconic live-action female villain of all time. From her green skin and pointy hat to her cackle and broom stick. She’s the image that comes to mind when we think evil witch. Made better by her flying monkeys and Winkie Guards. Her twist death by water is just as iconic. The Munchkin’s were played by many little performers that I’m happy to hear got Walk of Fame recognition later on. The most well known change from the book are the Silver Slippers. Changed to Ruby Slippers, because they would have simply clashed with her famous blue dress. Ray Bolger delivers a great physical performance as the Scarecrow. Flopping around like anyone made of straw would. Jack Haley brings a warmness to the axe wielding Tin Man. A role promised to Buddy Ebsen before his life threatening exit. But the biggest scene stealer is comedian Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion. His hilarious dialogue makes him my personal favorite character. I actually didn’t realize the same actor played so many Emerald City inhabitants. Including the Wizard himself. What appears to be a threatening figure turns out to be nothing more than a fraud. The Wizard is just an ordinary man, but he’s still good enough to honor all their requests. The Scarecrow receives a diploma, the Cowardly Lion earns a medal, and the Tin Man is gifted a testimonial. It’s only when Dorothy learns a lesson that she discovers she had the power to go home all along. By simply clicking her heels together and saying “There’s no place like home.” The Wizard of Oz is only supported by its wonderful music. Including such classics as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The latter won for Best Original Song. It also won for Original Score and was nominated for Effects, Art Direction, and even Best Picture. There’s simply no other film like it. The Wizard of Oz taught us the all important lesson that there truly is no place like home.
Charlotte’s Web is the original talking pig who just wants to live movie. It’s one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. I know I enjoyed reading it when I was young. Written by author E. B. White, the 1973 adaptation was the only one of his stories released in his lifetime. He was less than pleased, but the same can’t be said for everyone else. Charlotte’s Web is one of a few older animated movies that I loved just as much as a Disney movie. It was actually the first original movie released by Hanna-Barbera Productions. You can tell by the quality of animation. Which looks more like a saturday morning cartoon the more I think about it. White’s main criticism was directed towards its Disney style songs. They’re a mixed bag, but perfectly harmless. Charlotte’s Web is all about runt of the litter Wilbur. Who like every other pig, is in danger of becoming dinner. The farmer’s daughter Fern keeps this from happening at first, but only for so long. It’s only at Zuckerman’s barn that Wilbur meets Charlotte A. Cavatica. A loving spider who along with a chatty goose and hungry rat Templeton, decide to help Wilbur. Charlotte spins four different miraculous messages in her web for Wilbur. He’s “Some Pig,” he’s “Terrific,” “Radiant,” and “Humble.” The messages work, effectively saving Wilbur’s life. Sadly that’s not the end of the story. Charlotte passes away at the fair when all her hard work is done. The only time I’ve ever cried over a spider. Which is only helped by Debbie Reynolds beautiful vocal performance. Thankfully Charlotte’s spirit lives on in her children. Charlotte’s Web goes to show that life is precious no matter the creature.
Followed by: Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure
Popeye the Sailor Man is strong to the finish cause he eats his spinach. He’s Popeye the Sailor Man! One of the oldest cartoon characters ever created. His first appearance was in a series of comic strips starting in 1929. Then he made the leap to film, first starring in a Betty Boop cartoon. Popeye is a gruff, but good natured sailor distinguished by his strong chin, one eye, pipe, and large forearms. Always by his side is his extra skinny girlfriend Olive Oyl. He’s always there to rescue her from the big palooka Bluto. There’s also the burger obsessed Wimpy and Popeye’s adopted boy-kid Swee’Pea. Just as old is the live-action adaptation released in 1980. Making it one of the earliest adaptations of a popular cartoon. Brought to life by the very unlikely director Robert Altman. He took a chance on casting an up and coming comedian by the name of Robin Williams. In his first starring role, Williams gives a spot on Popeye impression. Shelly Duvall was born to play Olive Oyl for obvious reasons. They’re just placed in a slow movie that feels more like a series of animated shorts. The pacing problem is mostly the result of the time it was released. Popeye is the new guy in town, he becomes a boxer, his baby predicts races, he finds his father, and there’s also buried treasure. Spinach doesn’t even play a role until the very end, but when it does it’s the best part. Ending with his famous theme song. It’s not the most exciting live-action version of a cartoon, but to quote Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” Which can just as easily be applied to the movie Popeye.
Corpse Bride brought Tim Burton’s macabre storytelling to the altar. At only 1 hour and 18 minutes, Corpse Bride tells the quick story of a nervous fellow living in Victorian England. Victor is to marry Victoria, a woman he doesn’t know, but grows fond of when they share an affinity for the piano. A very unlikely coincidence occurs when Victor accidentally says his vows to a tree root that turns out to be a corpse bride. From there Victor is forced to choose between his blushing bride-to-be and his undead newlywed. Tim Burton obviously brings his keen eye for dark detail. Along with the stop-motion animation he loves so much. Though surprisingly, this is actually the first one that he’s directed. It’s a common misconception that Burton actually directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. Corpse Bride is still distinguishable enough on its own. The real world is so lifeless that it’s practically black & white. Yet the underworld is so lively and full of colorful energy. It’s quite beautiful in a haunting sort of way. I regret not giving it a chance when it first came out. Although I’m still not sure why its a musical. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (of course) help to make Corpse Bride an unexpectedly poetic creepy delight.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is aptly titled. I know I can relate considering most of my crushes have been blonde. Chief among them is “blonde bombshell” Marilyn Monroe. This would end up being the fourth movie I’ve seen with her in it. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes stars both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Although Russell has more screen time and gets plenty of laughs with her dry wit, it’s really Monroe who steals the show. It’s her breathy voice and sex appeal that people remember. She plays a showgirl named Lorelei. Cinema’s most loveable gold digger. Who along with her partner in crime Dorothy, travels on a boat before marrying her rich fiancé. Unbeknownst to her that a detective is secretly trying to find dirt on her. Since Lorelei seems to only care about money. Obviously these morals are iffy, but her logic actually sort of makes sense. She claims marrying a rich man is like marrying a pretty woman. It’s not the only reason, but it helps. Of course the most iconic scene is her performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a pink dress. A scene that’s been recaptured countless times. It’s the reason Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a silly screwball comedy that you shouldn’t take too seriously.
The Country Bears is one of the earliest movies based on a Disney park attraction. Something that would become a bit of a trend moving forward. Why they thought making an entire movie centered around the “Country Bear Jamboree” was a good idea is beyond me. I didn’t see the movie until very recently. Despite being 7 at the time, my initial thought was that it looked bad. Not to mention how creepy the bears looked. Seeing it now I have to say that the movie has a weird kind of dumb charm. If I did give it a chance as a kid, I might have enjoyed it. The Country Bears treats the fictitious group like a genuine country band. The sheer amount of celebrities that agreed to be in this is truly baffling. Beary Barrington is a boy bear who doesn’t realize he’s adopted (despite having a human family). So he sets out to find the Country Bears. Most of the human stuff, along with Christopher Walken’s overacting, is probably the funniest stuff in the movie. The rest is just a generic “getting the band back together” to “save the beloved building” story. Only with animatronic Bears! Which I must admit are impressive. Since I’m not a big fan of country music, I found the random musical numbers to be unbearable (pun intended). Seriously, was anyone really asking for a Country Bears movie?
A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 and 1976 remakes. It wasn’t until the trailer dropped that I decided to do my research. This excessively R rated version managed to take on a life all its own. Since it’s the first one released during the digital age of memes. Little do they know the “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” moment is present in every single version of A Star is Born. As the moment is very important to the relationship of the main characters. Bradley Cooper directors, produces, writes, and stars as Jackson Maine. The alcoholic, drug addicted, hearing impaired country singer who gives the leading lady her big break. While she has acted beforehand, this is Lady Gaga’s big break as well. As Ally, Gaga appears with no makeup or crazy clothing. I didn’t even recognize her before she started singing in the trailer. Jack and Ally also meet in a bar while she’s performing as a drag queen. Since no one will give her a chance because of how she looks. It’s not until after he let’s her sing with him on stage that her rise to fame begins. Where she becomes a 2010’s pop star. Meanwhile Jack’s career starts to spiral. Only it’s a lot more heartbreaking than the other versions. He passes out at the Grammys, goes to rehab, and his final moments are far less accidental. Every performance helps to make it all the more tragic. Sam Elliot was nominated along with the leads. Their natural chemistry is just as good as the music. In keeping with tradition, the signature song “Shallow” won Best Original Song. Officially making Lady Gaga an Oscar winner. A Star is Born (2018) proves some stories will never get old no matter how many times they’re retold.
Remake of: A Star is Born (1976)
A Star is Born (1976) is the second remake to the 1937 original. Following the 1954 remake. In order to avoid repeating themselves, the story was changed a lot more drastically. While still keeping the basic rising fame story in tact. Now rock stars are the focus instead of movie stars. Since traditional musicals weren’t as big anymore, but they still wanted to have original music in the movie. Plus Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were really big at the time. So they just remade A Star is Born as an excuse to use them both. Because of that, this version is the weakest of the 4 movies. Streisand is of course a wonderful singer and her appearance fits the character perfectly. She plays the newly renamed Esther Hoffman. A small time bar singer who confronts drunk rock n’ roll singer John Norman Howard while performing. Since the 70’s were all about female empowerment, Esther has several moments of this. She’s never a pushover, she refuses a stage name, and keeps her maiden name after marrying John. Although he doesn’t say “Hey, I just wanted to take another look” until after the wedding. Kristofferson’s John Norman has plenty of passionate moments with Esther, but he’s a bit of a jerk. Being R rated, he’s now a drug addict on top of being an alcoholic. He also berates an audience when Esther wins what is now a Grammy Award. And to top it all off, he cheats on her. Their relationship is given far too much focus. Making the music the remakes only saving grace. Still managing to get Oscar attention with a Best Original Song win for “Evergreen.” Recognized by the lyric “Love, soft as an easy chair.” Aside from the songs, A Star is Born (1976) does nothing groundbreaking.
Remake of: A Star is Born (1954)