Review: Oz, The Great and Powerful

Oz: The Great and Powerful is still in cinemas. The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle reviews it… 

James Franco stars as Oz

James Franco stars as Oz

1939’s The Wizard of Oz, based on the books of L Frank Baum, is rightly loved all over the world. Technically impressive for its day, it was one of the first films shot in Technicolour, and the story of Dorothy captures children and adults’ hearts even today.

But anyone who knows their Baum books will tell you, the story of Oz was not just confined to Dorothy. Oz: The Great and Powerful takes place twenty years before Dorothy gets swept up by the tornado.

Oscar “Oz” Diggs(James Franco) is a charming and caddish circus magician. In a lovely nod to the original and the author, we watch him fall foul of the Baum Brothers’ Circus strongman in black and white. He finds himself swirled away from Kansas in  a hot-air balloon. In another reference to the original, many of the people he encounters are played by actors who appear back in Kansas.

One of the most impressive sequences is when we watch Oz getting caught up in the tornado. Sadly, the effects of the thirties simply can’t compete with today’s CGI. While Dorothy’s spell in the storm was more like a dream sequence, Oz’s experience is truly spectactular. The land of Oz itself is equally spectacular: the jewelled flowers are a gorgeous example.

Oz (the man) is picked up by the beautiful Theodora (Mila Kunis), who, wide-eyed, hails him as the saviour of the land. The kingdom is trouble: an evil witch killed her father, the king, and the prophecy says only a wizard can save them. Accustomed to charming the ladies, Oz immediately lets her believe that he is the wizard. When he sees the gold on offer in Emerald City and Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) he thinks he has it made. Except he must kill the wicked witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams). Accompanied by his loyal monkey servant Finley (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King), he sets out out on the Yellow Brick Road.

Hang on… Glinda is the wicked witch? Of course, it turns out that Evanora is the evil one (brunette witches are never good in Oz!) and she turns Theodora to the dark side too. Our favourite Wicked Witch of the West, played so wonderfully by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz, is one and the same as Theodora. She is driven by intense jealousy (hence the green skin) after seeing Oz flirt with both Evanora and Glinda. In another wonderful nod to the original, Theodora’s tears burn her skin.

While visually stunning, and with a witty and warm script, Oz: The Great and Powerful overstays its welcome. It’s over two hours long. While James Franco is perfect as the almost too-sweet-to-be-wholesome Oz, the witches are not so convincing. Rachel Weisz is too brittle to be really evil, and Mila Kunis is too petulant to be a truly wicked witch.

However, there’s a lot of good things about the film, not least the climax, which cleverly combines technology from the real world to fool the witches of Oz. It also establishes the status quo we’re familiar with in The Wizard of Oz, although I would have loved a mention of the ruby slippers. The China Girl (literally a porcelain doll) is a marvellous piece of technical engineering.

For fans of the original, it’s a lovely, eye-candy homage to The Wizard of Oz. Surely, L Frank Baum’s stories could have no better legacy than their continued life on screen.

*Lead image via Wikimedia Commons

Oz: The Great and Powerful is still in cinemas. The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle reviews it… 

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What nobody tells you about… being an only child

What’s it like being an only child? The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle spills the beans… 

Lonely only?

Lonely only?

Irish people, traditionally, have always had large families. Growing up as an only child in the 90s, I was somewhat unusual. I was one of only two in my class. Probably around 95% of people I know now have at least one other sibling.

Most sibling-ed people, when faced with a sister who steals and ruins their clothes or a brother who beats them up ‘because it’s Tuesday’, have envied the life of an only. Only children don’t own toys riddled with the toddler’s teeth-marks. Only children don’t have to worry about getting their hair pulled on the way to the bathroom. Only children can rely on their parents to put their drawings on the fridge. Only children’s parents aren’t permanently frazzled by screaming babies or tempestuous teenagers.

The one way to annoy an only child is to call them spoilt. The amount of strangers down through the years who have thought it acceptable to say “You must be spoilt” to my face is staggering.

Some only children are spoilt. But then so are some families of three or four. We all remember the kids who got a Gameboy each at Christmas. Personally, there was never enough money in my family for me to be spoilt, and even if we had been better off, I doubt my mother would have got me everything I wanted. I wore hand-me-overs, rather than hand-me-downs, from neighbours and relatives. My schoolbooks were generally second-hand.

Another weird perception of only children is that we are incapable of sharing. I like to think I’m a generous person, and I have enough manners to offer people my sweets etc. Small children in general aren’t keen on sharing, and they have to be taught by adults to do so. Whether this happens in the home or school, it doesn’t make much difference. Remember how Joey in Friends “ DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!”? Didn’t he have seven sisters?

So would I trade it in for a sibling or two? There are quite a few positives in being an only. The first one is that you get used to your own company, which is very beneficial as you are the only real constant in your life. It makes you a bit more independent and self-sufficient, as you do have to rely on yourself a bit more as a kid. You also get to know your parents more at a young age, because you don’t have that many other people to talk to when you get home. This in turn helps you to relate to adults and older people.

I wonder if there were five other kids in my house would I have had developed such a love of reading. Reading and using my imagination were my hobbies as a child; although I had other children to play with, I often was on my own.

You may have deduced by now that being an only child is kind of lonely at times. Those with siblings have an automatic gang to pal around with, whereas onlys don’t have that luxury. While I know people who have quite negative relationships with their siblings, a lot more get on very well with them and have an automatic support structure in place when they need it. I especially envy those in two-child families, who are usually very close with their only sibling.

It can be tiring at times, being the sole focus of your parents’ attention. If you mess up, there is nowhere to hide; you can’t hope that your older brother will divert them by getting arrested. On the flipside, at least you don’t ever have to worry about dreaded middle-child syndrome. Your achievements will always be a source of pride to your parents, and won’t be overshadowed by or compared to someone else’s.

Finally, the major negative in being an only child will come in the future. Each family, even the smallest, has its own memories and lore. When an only’s parents pass away, a lot of that gets lost with them, as the only has no-one to really share it with. Siblings can fill in the gaps of memory for each other; only children can’t.

I don’t mind being an only child and I am glad of the positives, but I can’t say it is something I wish for my own offspring.

*Lead image via Twitter

What’s it like being an only child? The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle spills the beans… 

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On the bookshelf: March Round-up

Hope I’ll be able to make this a monthly thing. Here are some of the books I’ve read recently and enjoyed.