DVD Review “Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz”

Actors: Jason Alexander, Frances Conroy, Grey Griffin, James Monroe Igelhart, Stephen Root
Directors: Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone
Studio: Warner Bros Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: June 21, 2016
Running Time: 81 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fact that there are still new Tom and Jerry films made blows me away. Not to mention actually good films! “Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz” is the sequel to the 2011 animated film, “Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz”, which was a great film in itself. The songs are great and I love that they incorporated the lost Jitterbug song into the film as well. In terms of voice cast, there is no shortage of talent here. Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) voices both Mr. Bibb / The Nome King, Rob Paulsen (“Animaniacs”) voiced The Tin Man / Hickory, Frances Conroy (“American Horror Story”) voiced Aunt Em / Glinda and Stephen Root (“Office Space”) voiced Uncle Henry. If you love “Wizard of Oz” and Tom and Jerry, this is a must see!

Official Premise: With the Wicked Witch of the West now vanquished from Oz, Tom and Jerry along with Dorothy are back in Kansas! But not for long as an all-new villain has surfaced from beneath the magical land, the Gnome King! Having captured the Good Witch, the Gnome King and his army are wreaking havoc throughout Oz and need but one item to take control of The Emerald City, Dorothy’s ruby slippers! It’s up to our favorite cat and mouse duo to team up, go Back to Oz and save the land they love. Take to the skies, courtesy of the Wizard himself, with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion as they make their magical journey. The laughs and adventure will roar as they encounter all-new frights and mischievous creatures down the Yellow Brick Road, ’cause “we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

Warner Bros Home Entertainment only released this sequel on DVD…but they did include a Digital HD copy, which is a huge bonus for me! In terms of special features, there is not a whole lot included but worth checking out if you enjoyed the film. There are four sing-along music videos from the films songs. There is also a neat alternate opening for the film with the feature “Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz: Classic Style”, which gives the film a fun sepia tone opening. Having watched this film 2 or 3 times already at the time of writing, this film gets better with each viewing as well. Just simple plain Tom and Jerry fun!

“The Wizard of Oz” 75th Anniversary Prize Pack Giveaway [ENDED]

Media Mikes is teaming up with TVStoreOnline.com to giveaway some great official merchandise from “The Wizard of Oz”, which will be getting honored at the Oscars this year during its 75th anniversary. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite character from the film. This giveaway will remain open until March 7th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.


The Wizard Of Oz Shoes To Die For V-Neck Juniors Heather Gray T-Shirt

Was The Wizard of Oz really a political story? Was it a tale of a young woman in a dream land? Or was it just the story of a girl who wanted a pair of shoes so bad that she was willing to take them off of a dying witch? Well, whichever you choose to believe, this adorable Wizard of Oz t-shirt suggests one of the more hilarious possibilities! If you’ve ever loved a pair of shoes enough to do the same, show it off with this cute Shoes Are To Die For t-shirt.

Heather Gray
100% Cotton
Juniors Fit
Juniors fit is a teenagers/young woman fit
Officially Licensed


The Wizard of Oz Dorothy Stripes with Ruby Red Slippers Socks

Has a house ever fallen on your head? If so, you may just be a wicked witch! If you’re a fan of the family classic The Wizard of Oz, these adorable socks will no doubt be quite familiar. Featuring the design of the most notorious legs in the film, these Wicked Witch of the East socks are perfect for any die hard fan of the film. Including little ruby red slippers on the bottom, these officially licensed Wizard of Oz socks are an irresistible way to show some love for your favorite movie.

Red
One Size Fits Most
Officially Licensed


The Wizard of Oz Dorothy Ruby Red Slippers Socks

Have you ever wanted to be like Dorothy and go on a wild adventure? Well, if you’re tired of Kansas, try these officially licensed Wizard of Oz socks on for size! Featuring her technicolor blue socks and bright red ruby slippers, these Dorothy socks are perfect for any fan of this beloved family classic. Just be careful when tapping your heels three times, because we’re not quite sure what will happen with these adorable ruby slipper socks!

Red
One Size Fits Most
Officially Licensed

Win a DVD of “The Wizard of Oz” with Habitat for Humanity’s “There’s No Place Like Home” Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway a brand new DVD of the film. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this great prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite character from the film. This giveaway will remain open until November 29th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

The year-long charitable campaign program kicks off with a digital fundraising campaign via an interactive website: http://thewizardofoz.com/habitat. The campaign will feature several themed initiatives and builds, benefiting Habitat for Humanity’s work to create decent, safe and affordable housing.

Official Site: http://thewizardofoz.warnerbros.com/habitat
Wizard Of Oz on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWizardOfOzMovie

Theatre Review “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” Kansas City, Missouri

WICKED: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
October 10, 2013
Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

For those not familiar with the story, “Wicked” tells the story of the witches of Oz before they are visited by a certain little girl from Kansas. The two main characters are Glinda the Good Witch (Hayley Podschun) and Elphaba (Jennifer DiNoia) the “Wicked” Witch of the West. The story begins where the well known story of “The Wizard of Oz” ends, Dorothy has just gone back to Kansas and the Munchkins are singing and celebrating now that the Wicked Witch is finally dead. As the celebration and singing continues a question is put to Glinda as to the actual relationship she shared with Elphaba when they were growing up. We are than transported by way of Glinda’s memory to her school days and her first meeting with Elphaba.

As you can probably figure, Glinda and Elphaba were very different from the beginning. Glinda grew up in a higher class family, which made it quite simple to achieve any dream she had. She just had to ask and it was given to her. Even though Elphaba’s father is the Mayor she has a little tiny problem that keeps her from making friends… she is green! Her sole purpose in life is to take care of her beautiful and normal looking sister, Nessarose, who is confined to a wheelchair. We follow Elphaba and Glinda to “college,” where their disdain for each other grows. As time progresses we watch them deal with their differences, their disagreements, their shared following of sorcery and their shared love of the same boy, Fiyero.

What’s most enjoyable about “Wicked” is that the story continually works in the story of “The Wizard of Oz,” with some twists involved that make all to much sense to the story that we already know. We learn how the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion all come to be. We learn why there must be good to match evil or, in this case, where there must be evil to match good. What we are all lead to do is to accept the thought that we must unlearn what we already know. You will never watch “The Wizard of Oz” again and feel the same way about any of the characters.

Most impressive of “Wicked” was that the story was all new to me, I went in with only expectations of being entertained and satisfied with the production I saw. What I witnessed was something entirely different. It was an emotional experience that left me drained by the end. You’re not sure if you should choose sides; is there a good and evil in this story? Is it all evil? Is it all good? Do I root for just one character or do I just trust that sometimes there can be two right sides to every story? “Wicked” is a top notch production with great music and a fantastic crew currently running in Kansas City through October 27. It’s a story that you should experience at least once. My only regret about the show is that it has taken me ten years to see it!I

The entire cast of “Wicked” in KC was amazing, with special kudos going to DiNoia and Kansas City native Podschun. Many in the cast had played the same roles on Broadway. I could tell from the beginning that this performance would be like nothing I had seen recently at the theater. “Wicked” was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, and boasts a Grammy winning soundtrack of such memorable tunes as the Act 1 finale “Defying Gravity.” If “Wicked” blows your way I suggest you go see it before a house drops on YOU!

There are currently two touring companies of “Wicked” making their way around the United States. This cast can next be seen in Des Moines, Indianapolis and Cleveland. For more tour information http://www.wickedthemusical.com/broadway-tickets

3D Blu-ray Review “The Wizard of Oz 3D”

Actors: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley
Directors: Victor Fleming
Rated: G / PG
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: October 1, 2013
Run Time: 101 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
3D: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

Perfection! That is what “The Wizard of Oz” is! The film is celebrating its 75th anniversary and it still so relevant and beloved. The twist with this new Blu-ray release is the fact that the film has been converted in 3D. “The Wizard of Oz” is the oldest film to ever be brought into the third dimension. This isn’t no cheap 3D scam either. This 3D conversion a very intense process in which Warner Bros. performed a very high resolution 8k scanning of the original Technicolor camera negative.  So I am sure everyone is wondering “How does “The Wizard of Oz” look in 3D?” Well it is absolutely stunning. The depth is so profound and the colors really pop so well. This is a perfect example of 3D conversion done right and with love!

Official Premise: The magic of M-G-M’s wonderfully colorful and unique fantasy has melted hearts for more than seven decades with its indelible melodies and transcendent themes of family, home and the courage to pursue dreams. To celebrate the beloved movie’s 75th anniversary, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has brought The Wizard of Oz into the present and beyond with a brand new kind of magic: a stunning 3D Blu-ray. Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s timeless children’s tale about a Kansas girl’s journey over the rainbow, The Wizard of Oz starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow; Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion; Jack Haley as the Tin Woodman and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch.

This is not the film’s first go on Blu-ray, since it was released back in 2009. But it still looks absolutely stunning.  Is this new 8K transfer better than the 2009 transfer? Yes and no. There are certain things about it like the colors that stand out better for me but it isn’t much different. But like I said it is stunning nonetheless. The 2009 Blu-ray was equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track.  This new release comes with a brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It still sounds amazing for a film that was made 75 years ago and delivers the lines and songs that we know and love so well. This 75th Anniversary Edition comes with a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + UltraViolet. So there is a little bit for everyone, just in case you don’t own a 3D TV (to be honest this would be a reason to get one for sure).

So you would thing that Warner Bros. did enough with this film converting it to 3D in a painstaking process. They would just released a bare bones Blu-ray right? Wrong!! There is actually more including a brand new and exclusive extra, “The Making of The Wizard of Oz”, which is a 70 minute newly produced, feature-length high definition documentary narrated by Martin Sheen.  Honestly this is a must have for any true fan of the film.  It is extremely extensive and really dives deep into the legacy of the film, it’s production and its affect on Hollywood since.

There is also an audio commentary track with the late Sydney Pollack, which also features noted Oz historian and author John Fricke, as well as rare interview clips with associate producer/writer Arthur Freed’s daughter, Barbara Freed-Saltzman; actress Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West) and her son Hamilton Meserve; actor Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow); actor Jack Haley (the Tin Man); John and Jane Lahr (children of actor Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion himself); uncredited co-director Mervyn LeRoy; assistant choreographer Dona Massin (who worked directly under Bobby Connolly); assistant make-up artist William Tuttle; performer Buddy Ebsen; and one of the last surviving Munchkin actors, Jerry Maren. For those who have never heard it, it is a must listen.

There is a Music and Effects Track only, which is amazing as well I loved isolated tracks and this film just works so well without the dialogue. It is a one-channel Dolby Digital audio track. Speaking of audio track, there is also the Original Mono Track included as well, which will be sure to satisfy those audio purists. Also available is the Dolby Digital track as well which is not a winner in my eyes.  There is also a sing along track as well for the following songs “Over the Rainbow,” “Munchkinland Medley,” “Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard,” “If I Only Had a Brain,” “If I Only Had a Heart,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “If I Only Had the Nerve/We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “Optimistic Voices,” “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” and “If I Were King of the Forest.”

The rest of the special features are included on the second disc. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Storybook” features Angela Lansbury doing a brief read-through of Baum’s work. “We Haven’t Really Met Properly” is biographies (again) narrated by Lansbury, including Frank Morgan (The Wizard), Billie Burke (Glenda the Good Witch), Terry (Toto) and many more. “Jukebox” is a fun collection of original recordings and outtakes from the film, which run about 70 minutes. There are hundreds of stills and production photos included. There is the “Lux Radio Theater Broadcast” from the 1950 Christmas radio broadcast of The Wizard of Oz including Judy Garland. “Good News of 1939 Radio Show” is another a full-length radio broadcast with host Robert Young. Lastly there are extended radio advertisements and trailers included.

Get the Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and UltraViolet on October 1st – http://bit.ly/1fA56uJ

Complimentary Passes to the Kansas City, MO Screening for “The Wizard of Oz” in IMAX 3D [ENDED]

With the 75th Anniversary of the release of the classic film “The Wizard of Oz” approaching, Media Mikes is teaming up with Warner Brothers to send you to see the film as it’s never been seen before.

On Friday, September 20, 2013, Dorothy and her friends return to the big screen in a specially remastered 3D/IMAX presentation of “The Wizard of Oz.” We are giving you and three friends the chance to see it before anyone else.

We are giving away (25) family packs of four passes and if you would like to enter for a chance to win passes to the following advance screening:

Log on to www.GOFOBO.com/RSVP

Enter RSVP Code: MMQJD8

Passes are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is an exclusive one week engagement so be among the first to see it.

Screening Information:
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Time: 10:30 AM
Place: AMC Barrywoods 24
8101 NW Roanridge Rd
Kansas City, MO 64151

World Champion Magician, Lance Burton talks about his work on “Oz The Great and Powerful”

Lance Burton is one of the greatest stage Magicians of the past century. He has starred in numerous TV specials including “Lance Burton Magic Magician: The Legend Begins”, which aired in 1996 on NBC. His show “Lance Burton Master Magician” opened at the brand new Monte Carlo Hotel in the Lance Burton Theatre also in ’96. He has also performed over 15,000 shows throughout his 30-year career in Las Vegas. Today Lance Burton is happily retired and is currently working on a number of documentary and narrative film projects. Lance was also Magic Advisor on Disney’s “Oz The Great and Powerful” and taught magic to James Franco on the film. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lance about his role on the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how did you get involved with the production “Oz the Great and Powerful”?
Lance Burton: I got a call from Grant Curtis, one of the producers on “Oz”, a few years ago and he explained that they were doing. He told me about this character, which was a stage magician and they were looking for someone to help with the magic. So I asked for the script to see what they were talking about. I read it and I just fell in love with the project. I thought it was just fantastic. I flew out to Michigan where they had the operation setup and I met with Grant and Sam Raimi. Sam explain his concept of the film to me and introduced me to all the people involved with the film. From there we just went to work.

MG: How was it working with James Franco and teaching him some tricks?
LB: I met with James for a day or so and worked with him on a couple of slide of hand tricks, a couple of months out and I gave him some homework to do. Then we all moved out to Michigan. The good thing was that we had about two weeks before filming started to practice every day. So we had a regular rehearsal schedule to work on the magic that was going to be throughout the film. So since we had a couple of weeks before filming started, that became very valuable time. James didn’t have any prior education with magic but he is a fantastic actor and that is about 90% of the battle. Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, has said that his classic definition of a magician is “an actor playing the part of a magician”. Sam wanted the magic to be authentic and he wanted James to play the role as a magician. Sam wanted to me to work with him on the way that he carries himself, as well as the magic. The flare of a magician, both on-stage and off-stage. So I worked with him on little flourishes that he can incorporate into different scenes. When I was on-set, I was able to chime in and throw out ideas during shoot, which was great.

MG: For you being the one always having performed the magic; how was it being on the other side of it?
LB: It is a completely different type of satisfaction. When you go out and do a show, whether it is live or a TV show, you do a good job and you feel good. In this case, I wasn’t the one performing it. But again when I saw the finished product, I felt very proud. I felt lucky to be able to contribute to this sure-to-be instant classic, “Oz The Great and Powerful”. It is almost like a pride that a parent feels about a child.

MG: How long would you say you worked on the film?
LB: We had a fun time. It was two weeks in preparation and then I was on the set for about a month during filming. I was there for the scenes in Kansas and then a little bit of when they get to Oz.

MG: What was your most memorable experience from your work on the film?
LB: I will tell you one thing to look for in the film, which was one of my most proudest moments. I had been teaching James how to twirl a cane between his fingers like a baton. I was thinking that this would be something usable that we can work into the film. The first time that he goes into Emerald City, goes into the throne room and sits on the throne, he picks up this scepter. In the script, it says Evanora is sitting there and is enraged. I thought “Ah, what if he twirled that scepter between his fingers?” I thought it would be very disrespectful and could help help get her enraged. So I went to the prop department to see the scepter. I asked them if there was anyway to make it a little longer and they said “Sure”. I talked it over with James and Sam and everyone seemed to like the idea. I wasn’t on the set when they filmed that scene but when I saw the film in theaters. I was very excited to see that twirl in the film.

MG: After this experience, do you see yourself taking on this role again?
LB: It was a very satisfying experience and it was very interesting work. “Oz” was such a huge hit. My prediction is that there is going to be a whole franchise.  So who knows what the future holds.

Blu-ray Review “Oz The Great and Powerful”

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Spencer, Joey King
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 130 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

After the success of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”, we knew that more films like this weren’t far behind. When I heard Sam Raimi was directing this I also was a little hesitant since I wasn’t thrilled at all with what he did with the “Spider-Man” franchise, especially with all that money. But once I saw the first posters and trailers, I was really drawn in. I felt like they might have actually gotten it right. Well let’s say that I enjoyed the film…wasn’t in love with it but there were parts that I liked. The film is a visual thing of beauty but really falls into the category of looking too fake. When you watch “Avatar” you believe that they are really there but this felt like a giant green screen shoot. You are still able to enjoy the film and it’s many references back to the original “The Wizard of Oz” story, but it just didn’t pack any magic to my viewing. I am on board for the inevitable sequel just hope they make some needed changes.

One of the main things, I had a problem with was the believability of these actors in there respective roles. James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz have all either won or been nominated for Oscars and numerous other awards. Sorry Mila Kunis, “Family Guy” is only a TV show. So I found it a little hard to watch these “great” actors in these less than great roles. Also speaking of Mila Kunis, she doesn’t really have a good angry voice. So when she screamed it just felt like Meg from “Family Guy” screaming at Peter, not very effective. So I was never able to really get behind their roles, I thought it was quite miscast for sure.

Official Premise: Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

Obviously, this film was meant to be seen in 3D, read out review of the 3D Blu-ray here. Disney decided to split this film releases and decided not to include a 3D Blu-ray in this combo pack.  I have to say the film still works (sort of) without being in 3D but missing that pop for me that drew me into the world that they created. The 1080p transfer still is quite impressive and like on the 3D Blu-ray, the colors are extremely vibrant, especially with the switch from black and white to color after the opening 20 minutes. I enjoyed this much more in the 3D version of the film since it packed that extra depth. Disney delivered a very sharp DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and the sound is quite amazing from the twister swinging through Kansas to the flying monkeys flying past your head. I have to also give props to Danny Elfman’s amazing score as well!

This Blu-ray release includes a two-disc set with a Blu-ray and a DVD disc.  There is also a digital copy that you can now redeem with Disney Movie Rewards and will be able to view the film online via your tablets, smartphones, TV etc. This release is also the only way to get special features for this film.  They start off with “The Magic of Oz the Great and Powerful: Second Screen Experience”, which is a great way to get immersived in the world of Oz by using the app on your iPads. “The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz” showcases everyone from Munchkins to flying baboons. “The Sounds of Magical Oz” looks into the film’s sound design. “Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater” looks into Zach Braff voice over work. There is also a music video from Mariah Carey’s “Almost Home”.

“China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief” looks into the life behind China Girl and how went from paper to the screen. “Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz” takes a stroll into the visual effects world with Production designer Robert Stromberg. “Mila’s Metamorphosis” looks into how the actress was transformed into her green self with lead makeup artist Howard Berger. “Walt Disney and the Road to Oz” looks into Walt Disney fascination with the Land of Oz and the classic Baum books. “Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions” is an interview with composer Danny Elfman. “My Journey in Oz by James Franco” is a feature with Franco discussing this role and his inside story. Lastly there are Bloopers included.

3D Blu-ray “Oz The Great and Powerful 3D”

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Spencer, Joey King
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 130 minutes

3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A
Overall Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: This review is focusing solely on the 3D release and not on the film itself. If you are looking for more of film review, check out our review for the 2D Blu-ray combo pack here. When I think about “Oz The Great and Powerful”, I think of a really beautiful and visual 3D experience. Disney decided to stray from their usual 5-disc massive Blu-ray combo packs and release the 3D Blu-ray for this film individual from the rest. That means that if you purchase this Blu-ray, you will be no standard 2D Blu-ray or DVD of the film, like usual. That is ok for me since if I am going to watch this film it really would need to be in 3D anyway but I think that this is a really poor choice that Disney has made. To make matters worse, they are then giving you the option to “upgrade” and purchase a 2D Blu-ray for $5.99. Also this 3D Blu-ray isn’t even any cheaper than the 2D Blu-ray combo pack. According to Amazon, they are the exactly the same price.

Now that all of that is out of the way. The film looks absolutely stunning on this 3D Blu-ray. The 3D is some of the best that I have seen recently and literally jumps off the screen. The colors are extremely vibrant and beautiful, especially with the switch from black and white to color after the opening 20 minutes. I think that this move really benefited the film since you are watching it on a 4:3 scale and then it is blown up to 2.40:1 and turned into glorious HD color. As much as I loved the audio track just as much.  Disney delivered a very sharp DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Near Field Audio Mix track! The sound is quite amazing from the twister swinging through Kansas to the flying monkeys flying past your head. My only issue is that the Blu-ray defaults a really basic Dolby Surround 2.0 track, which is mind boggling.  What is going on here? Why not the best track on the Blu-ray?

Official Premise: Disney’s fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot — until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren’t convinced he’s the great wizard everyone’s expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it’s too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity — and even some wizardry — Oscar transforms himself into the great wizard and a better man as well.

I should also point out that even though this 3D Blu-ray release doesn’t come with the 2D Blu-ray or DVD, it does at least come with a digital copy.  Finally Disney woke up and smelled the roses with their digital copy releases and joined the rest of the world with cloud streaming. Plus now they don’t have to produce the extra digital copy DVD for each release. So they are not joining board with Ultraviolet service but you can now redeem with Disney Movie Rewards and will be able to view the film online via your tablets, smartphones, TV etc. So at least that is a plus and I hope that then plan on doing that going forward for the rest of their new releases. Lastly to continue to add salt to the wound, there are no special features on this release.  So if you want those you would either need to purchase the 2D Blu-ray combo pack or upgrade to the 2D Blu-ray.  Let’s hope that this is the last release that Disney decided to do this to.

LOUNA Releases Astounding New Music Video for ‘Business’, an “Oz” Themed Representation of Religious Oppression and Terrorism

‘Behind a Mask’ is in Stores NOW via Red Decade Records and MEG/RED

The world we live in continues spiraling down into violence caused in large part to the religious differences and political oppression that exists throughout our planet. What is not often recognized is that this is a problem not just in America, but all over the world. Religious zealots from Chechniya took nearly 1000 hostages in 2002 in a theater in Moscow resulting in over a hundred deaths. In 2004, over 40 people were killed when a terrorist suicide bomber from Chechniya blew up a subway car in Moscow during rush hour. And now in 2013 terrorists from Chechniya were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. We must remember we are all experiencing these tragedies across the globe. The imagery of religious and political struggle is not spoon-fed fantasy on the screen, but is instead a horrifying reality that is taking its toll on lives throughout the world.

Today, Russian rockers LOUNA release their new music video for ‘Business’, to remind fans new and old, that all cultures share in the heartbreak and strife that results when religious intolerance and hatred control the minds and hearts of people. This honest and thought-provoking new music video points out the misfortunes and dangers of religious and political oppression in our world. The video was originally completed in late March and was slated to be released in mid-April, just prior to the release of their new album Behind a Mask. Due to the horrible and unspeakable acts committed in Boston at that exact time, it was decided that it was inappropriate to release this video until the present. Now that there has been some measure of resolution and those responsible are in custody, LOUNA and their management believe that the message of this song and video are more appropriate to present.

LOUNA faces religious zealotry issues in their home country on a continual basis. LOUNA feels Orthodox church has been, and remains, a tyrannical and overreaching institution that is above criticism or reproach and is directly responsible for the loss of freedom of so many people in Russia (most recently their influence and involvement in the incarceration of the members of Pussy Riot). The United States has experienced yet another shameful, religiously motivated act (Boston Marathon bombing) first hand and has overcome that oppression by standing together and fighting back. The band empathizes with the tragedy that took the lives of innocent people and wishes to express their deepest condolences for the senseless loss of life that took place in April. Both Russia and the United States have been the victims of religiously motivated acts of terror, and it is the opinion of LOUNA that it is time for an awakening. It is time for us to stand together.

The new video for ‘Business’ has been unveiled exclusively by CraveOnline.com and is available for viewing now. ‘Business’ pays homage to several of the greatest films in history, and builds upon the symbolism contained within each of them to deliver a consistent and clear message: the reality perceived by the masses is no closer to the truth than two plus two equaling five. In doing so, LOUNA created the most epic and expensive music video in the history of Russia was created. Consisting almost entirely of CGI and filmed at the largest green-screen sound stage in Russia, ‘Business’ is quite simply art. Directed by young filmmakers Oleg Taravkov and Dmitry Zuev, and written and produced by Travis Leake who also wrote the lyrics to the song ‘Business’, this video represents an artistic vision of a world torn apart by religious hatred and intolerance.

In this video you will see two sides, enslaved by opposing yet equally messaged propaganda. There are attacks motivated by intolerance, first using stones as in the ancient times, and then progressing throughout the ages as technology developed. A bomb, a drone strike and finally a suicide bomber. The result is the mutual destruction of both sides and the death of innocent people caught in the crossfire.

Religion is a serious subject even in our modern and sophisticated world. Religious conflict shapes and forms the geopolitical realities that all of us, everywhere in the world share. None of us are untouched by it. LOUNA does not wish to tell anyone what they should believe–or not believe–but merely to consider that the struggle between these two sides will (in all practical reality) never be decided, because it is impossible to decide. The wars that are fought and have been fought between Islam and Christianity are older than any of us, or anyone who is alive today. The killing and bloodshed and hatred and envy and despicable acts that are committed by both sides must end for there to be any hope for peace. There are no innocent participants in the modern war for the hearts and minds of people.

In a band declaration, LOUNA states, “LOUNA would like to welcome you to our vision of the world. The message of the song and the video will likely encounter two types of viewers: those who will embrace it and those who will despise it. Probably no one will be able to watch it and listen to the song and have no opinion one way or the other. The message of the song and the video is a sensitive one, and everyone in LOUNA realizes the real possibility of some cultures in the world declaring holy war against us, and others will denounce it as atheist propaganda. While it is true that we in LOUNA are all atheists, the message of our song and video is nonetheless undeniable and illustrates the chaos and death that result from religious conflict. Our priorities are people, peace, truth and freedom. We are demonstrating the truth and saying what so many in the world think but are too afraid to articulate. We will not be silenced by intimidation or fear.”

LOUNA’s new album, Behind a Mask, was released last week via Red Decade Records and MEG/RED. The album will appeal to fans of a blistering and passionate hard rock sound. North American fans will recognize the album’s clear handiwork— Behind a Mask was mixed by renowned producer/engineer Dan Korneff (Breaking Benjamin, The Pretty Reckless, Papa Roach, My Chemical Romance, Paramore) and mastering duties were handled by the legendary Ted Jensen of Sterling Sound, New York.

LOUNA is:
Lou Gevorkian (vocals)
Vitaly Demidenko (bass)
Rouben Kazariyan (guitar)
Sergey Ponkratiev (guitar)
Leonid “Pilot” Kinzbursky (drums)

For more information on LOUNA, please visit these websites:

www.lounarocks.com
www.reddecaderecords.com

Book Review "The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful"

Author: Grant Curtis
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions
Release Date: March 5, 2013

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

When you watch “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, you literally drool at what a visual marvel this film is.  There is no denying why this film cost over $200 million dollars. So once watching it I knew that Disney would have to make an equally amazing “art of” book like they have so well done with their releases in the past. “The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful” though is a bit underwhelming. The first thing that I thought when I opened it is that is plays out more like a visual companion or “making of” book than it does an “art of” book. In terms of visual, it is quite impressive but in terms of art it falls a bit short overall.

This release is also a recent first for Disney to publish in paperback only.  The book though runs much cheaper at around $15 dollars but I still would prefer to pay a bit more and get a nice hardcover.  When I think of “Art of” book, I think of a high quality hardcover collectible. After a wonderful film like “Oz” was, I  feel like it really deserved a hardcover binding a little more more TLC, just sayin’. In terms of content though this book is in the right hands.  It is written by Grant Curtis, who is also the film’s executive producer and has worked with Raimi before on numerous other projects. He also authored “The Spider-Man Chronicles”, which was a very sharp book as well (despite how bad “Spider-Man 3” was).  I feel that he does a good job here with delivered interesting content and images but the book suffers from a general lack of love.

“The Art of Oz The Great and Powerful” focuses mostly on the production of the film and features some never-before-seen film stills, a little bit of concept art, all tied up with some nice interviews with the cast and crew. The artwork included was very environmental including the sets and locations.  Since the film is basically all CGI, I would have expected to be a very large plethora of art created by Disney’s talented artists in order to bring their visions to life.  I am sure there was but it is not represented here to the extent that I was hoping for. If you are looking for a look more into the filming process, then this might be the ticket to explore the wonderful land of Oz. I just felt like it was missing a bit of the magic that the film was filled with.

Book Review “All-Action Classics No. 4: The Wizard of Oz”

Author: Ben Caldwell
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books; Elibron Classics series edition
Release Date: September 4, 2012

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

There is never a shortage of new content for “The Wizard of Oz”.  L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz back in 1900.  Sterling Children’s Books’ is behind the new release in their fourth All-Action Classics installment with “The Wizard of Oz”. It is presented in the form of a graphic novel! I was not a mega fan of the animation style but it is bright and colorful and will sure to excite kids.  I have to give some credit to this take on L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy, it is a unique retelling of this great story. Fans of “The Wizard of Oz” will definitely eat this up, at least until next year’s “Oz, The Great and Powerful” by Sam Raimi.

The author that adapted this book is Ben Caldwell, who is a former Marvel comic artist.  He tries his best to captures the charm of Baum’s work.  I just wasn’t a majot fan of his depiction of Dorothy and the Munchkins. The book is a decent quick read though and most importantly it was very simple for kids to jump right into. Caldwell also worked with Sterling on their first three adaptations as well in the All-Action Classics series like “Dracula”, “Tom Sawyer” and “The Odyssey”.  I am curious to see what Sterling is going to be coming up with next.

Blu-ray Review “The Witches of Oz”

Directed by: Leigh Scott
Starring: Paulie Rojas, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin, Ethan Embry, Mia Sara
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed: Image Entertainment
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Running Time: 164 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

Alright so “The Wizard of Oz” has been remade many many times from adaptions with Michael Jackson to even cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry. This is a fun, colorful adaption that delivers the action and the laughs. It is an all-around good time and packs some great visual effects for a low-budget film. The casting for this film overall is very fun and impressive. It even brings together two “The Lord of the Rings” alums back together, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin. Ethan Embry plays Frack to Astin’s Frick and delivers some good laughs. We even get an appearance from genre favorites Lance Henriksen and Jeffrey Combs. Lastly Christopher Lloyd has a small role and strongly channels his inner Willy Wonka as the Wizard of Oz.

This adaption though brings Dorothy (Paulie Rojas) into present day New York. She is simple girl from Kansas who gets an offer from a big agency to write children’s books based on the magic world of Oz. Shortly after, Dorothy realizes that maybe these stories from her grandfather are in fact based on reality. The two worlds start blending and the characters from Oz start crossing over into modern day New York City. It is up to Dorothy and her friends to stop the Wicked Witch of the West and her plans for global domination.

The Blu-ray presentation like the film is also surprisingly good. The video works well with the CG effects and its 1080p transfer. The audio sounds great with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, especially with the special effects and action scenes. The special features on the disc are short and consisting of one extra. There is a behind-the-scenes featurette, which gives you a look into the film’s production from writer/director Leigh Scott. Worth checking out if you liked the film. Lastly there is a trailer included. Very lacking in the “special” features.

Film Review “Dorothy and the Witches of Oz”

Starring: Paulie Rojas, Billy Boyd and Christopher Lloyd
Directed by: Leigh Scott
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour 50 mins
Palace/Imaginarium Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When you hear the word “OZ” you’re immediately taken back to a magical time in your life. For kids of my generation, the film was a CBS television mainstay. Once a year you plopped down on the living room floor and took that trip over the rainbow. In recent years, the film has been re-released to theatres, giving fans both young and old a chance to see it on the big screen. One of my favorite movie moments EVER was when I did a theatre promotion and had several actual Munchkins in attendance. I was shocked when they told me that they had never seen the film on the big screen before. Imagine my delight as I sat in the same row with them and watched them watch themselves! It was magic. And the magic continues with a new film that explores the world of OZ and gives the tale a whole new spin!

The film opens in the Emerald City. A battle royale is about to take place between the factions of witches, good and bad. The baddies are searching for a magic key that will unlock a book and allow them to run OZ as they wish. Things seem to be going well for the bad witches. Until Dorothy Gale and her house drop in!

Dorothy Gale (Rojas) is a Kansas-born author living in New York City. Her claim to fame is a series of children’s books detailing a young girl’s adventures in the land of OZ. Together with her illustrator, Allen (Ari Zagaris) and agent, Bryan (Barry J. Ratcliffe), she is hoping to seal a movie deal for her stories. But she’s having problems with the proposed star, Ilsa (Sasha Jackson). Despite the fact that Dorothy is an eleven year old girl, Ilsa wants to play her sexed up and wearing leather pants. The deal is being brokered by Billie Westbrook (Eliza Swenson), who has much more invested in the deal then she lets on. After the death of her Uncle Henry (Lance Henriksen), Dorothy discovers that her stories are actually repressed memories…that the books she writes are about her!

It’s obvious that the filmmakers had as much fun making the film as the audience will watching it. Director/writer Scott has not only made a familiar story seem new but has paid homage to the lesser known OZ works of L. Frank Baum. Not only are the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Toto referenced but lesser known characters like Princess Langwidere (played by “Ferris Buellers” Mia Sara), Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead. The cast is strong, with Rojas very believable as a young woman who, like eleven year old Dorothy, must face her fears. Other familiar faces include Boyd, Ethan Embry and Sean Astin (they play a pair of diminutive jokers named Frick and Frack) and, of course, Christopher Lloyd, playing the wizard by way of Willy Wonka. It’s especially fun to watch the interaction between former Hobbits Boyd and Astin as they bicker about. The special effects are quite well done and mostly CGI. Even though the film is rated PG there are some scary parts that might frighten some little ones. And the score is marvelous. That it was written by actress Eliza Swenson (see above) came as a complete surprise. The film rises and falls with the score and the music sets the tone of the film brilliantly.

“Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” is currently playing in Phoenix and opens on February 24 in Kansas City and Louisville with more cities being added weekly.

“Oz The Great and Powerful” Begins Production in Michigan

“OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL” BEGINS PRODUCTION IN MICHIGAN

James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams

Topline Sam Raimi’s New Fantasy Adventure

Pontiac, MI., July 25, 2011—Walt Disney Pictures’ fantastical adventure “Oz The Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, went in front of the cameras at the brand-new Raleigh Studios in Pontiac, Michigan, on Monday, July 25, 2011, boasting a stellar cast that includes Academy Award® nominee James Franco (“127 Hours”) as the young wizard, Golden Globe® nominee Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) as the witch Theodora, Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”) as Kunis’ sister Evanora and two-time Oscar®-nominated actress Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Valentine”) as Glinda, the Good Witch.

The cast also includes Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominee Zach Braff (“Scrubs,” “Garden State”), who will play Franco’s circus assistant as well as lend his vocal talents to one of the CGI creatures in the story — Finley, the winged monkey who accompanies the magician on his journey to Oz; and 12-year-old actress Joey King (“Ramona and Beezus”), who will voice another CGI character in the story, China Girl, who also joins the future Wizard on his excursion through Oz.

“Oz The Great and Powerful” imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

The film will be produced by industry veteran Joe Roth, along with executive producers Grant Curtis (the “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Drag Me to Hell”), Philip Steuer (“The Chronicles of Narnia” series) and Palak Patel. The screenplay was written by Mitchell Kapner, (“The Whole Nine Yards”) and David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole,” “Robots”).

Raimi has assembled his own band of technical wizards and movie magicians on the project, which includes cinematographer Peter Deming (“Mulholland Dr.,” “Drag Me to Hell”), two-time Academy Award®–winning production designer Robert Stromberg (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Avatar”), Oscar®-winning film editor Bob Murawski (“The Hurt Locker,” the “Spider-Man” trilogy), veteran Oscar®-nominated costume designer Gary Jones (“Spider-Man 2,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), visual effects Oscar® winner Scott Stokdyk (“Spider-Man 2,” “Spider-Man”) and Academy Award®–winning special makeup artist Howard Berger (“The Chronicles of Narnia” series), who will create the looks of several of the unique denizens of Oz, including creatures such as the Whimsies, the Tinkers and the Winkies, as well as the ghastly look of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Production on “Oz The Great and Powerful” will take place entirely on site at the new Raleigh Michigan Studios, the 200,000 square foot sound stage facility in Pontiac, Michigan, once the location of General Motors’ Centerpoint business campus and truck manufacturing plant.

“Oz The Great and Powerful” will be released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 8, 2013.