Can an animated ‘Wizard of Oz’ sequel find traction among fans of the classic film?
Few films have earned a permanent place in the hearts and memories of so many people as MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The 1939 classic made a star out of young Judy Garland and became such a sensation that it was re-released regularly in movie theaters and became a Special Event when it started airing on television. The film still captivates generation after generation with screenings, public sing-alongs, and deluxe versions on DVD and Blu-Ray.
There have been many attempts to capitalize on this phenomenon with new versions of the story but the only one that has met with success is “Wicked,” the Broadway musical written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman that is based on the Gregory Maguire book. That show, which has become an international phenomenon of its own, is a prequel of sorts, imagining the early years of the two main witches seen in the film. Universal owns the rights to the Broadway show but has no plans to film it any time soon.
The Wrap reports that a panel at this weekend’s Comic-Con showcased what may be the first film sequel to gain acceptance by the original’s legion of fans. Stars Patrick Stewart and Megan Hilty introduced clips from the upcoming animated film, “Dorothy of Oz” that picks up where the MGM movie left off and involves a return trip to Oz for young Dorothy. Surprisingly, it was the first Comic-Con visit for Stewart, despite his iconic “Star Trek” role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a character beloved by Comic-Con geeks near and far.
Stewart was delighted to play a role in the new full-length feature which was written by Roger S. Baum, the grandson of L. Frank Baum, author of the original Oz books. “Right now my feeling is that the greatest innovations in cinema are being made in the world of animation,” Stewart told the crowd. “There’s such a diversity of work that’s being done.” The British actor, who plays a character called Tugg in the film, said that his acting style is particularly suited to animation. “I’ve always thought of myself as a stage actor who occasionally does movies and television,” he admitted. “So when I get in front of the camera, invariably the director is saying to me, ‘LESS!’ In my experience in animation, the directors always want ‘MORE! MORE!’”
Starring as Dorothy in the new film is “Glee’s” Lea Michele, who certainly has the powerhouse voice necessary for the role. Michele has sung several of the well-known hits from “Wicked” on the TV series and seems like the musical star of the moment (it’s rumored that she’s being considered for a revival of “Funny Girl” on Broadway). In this film, Dorothy returns to Oz only to find her friends there in grave danger thanks to the machinations of a wicked Jester (played by Martin Short).
“Dorothy of Oz” also features the voices of Dan Aykroyd as the Scarecrow, Kelsey Grammer as the Tin Man, and James Belushi as the Cowardly Lion. Hugh Dancy and Oliver Platt join Patrick Stewart and Martin Short playing characters new to the story.
Directed by Dan St. Pierre, who worked as an animator on a bunch of successful Disney classics including “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and the “Lion King,” the film, produced by Summertime Entertainment, is scheduled to be released next summer.
Will it work? There are a few live-action sequels to “The Wizard of Oz” in the works along with a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the film and at least two TV series in development. Which project will make it down the Yellow Brick Road and which will meet the dark fate of “The Wiz” (1978) or “Return to Oz” (1985)? I'm sure studio executives all over town are clicking their heels together three times and hoping they make it over the rainbow.
Will direct contemporary re-imagining 'Arthur & Lancelot'
Is bedding down with the secret agent a career boost or bust?
Who could have anticipated that two of the original Bond girls would be in the news this past week? Actress Linda Christian, the first ever Bond girl, died over the weekend. A few days before that, an inquest was held in London regarding the recent suicide death of Angela Scoular, who seduced 007 in the classic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Scoular’s death was particularly sad and gruesome. The 65-year-old actress, who suffered from bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and a bout of bowel cancer, ingested highly toxic drain cleaner and then poured the caustic substance all over her body.
Linda Christian, on the other hand, whose sensational figure earned her the nickname “the anatomic bomb,” died of natural causes at the age of 87. Did you hear that, Baby Boomers? The original Bond girl was EIGHTY-SEVEN! To be precise, Christian, who was the widow of 1940s heartthrob Tyrone Power, appeared as James Bond’s babe in an early TV version of Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” which featured Barry Nelson as the suave secret agent. So if you’re being a stickler and insist on starting the count with the series’ big-screen adaptations starring Sean Connery, then the honor of first Bond girl would go to the three sexpots appearing in “Dr. No” including Ursula Andress (who is alive and well at 75).
Some people have speculated about the “curse of the Bond girl,” claiming that the careers of the young actresses who appear in these high-profile roles take a nose dive after they hit the sheets with Mr. Bond. Apart from the personal travails of certain alumni, most notably poor Ms. Scoular, the theory doesn’t hold a lot of water. Just take a look of some of the women who have played Bond girls early in their careers: Diana Rigg, Jacqueline Bissett, Honor Blackman, Jill St. John, Britt Eckland, Maud Adams, Jane Seymour, Barbara Bach, Grace Jones, Carey Lowell, Minnie Driver, Eva Green, Teri Hatcher—not to mention Oscar winners Kim Basinger and Halle Berry. Hardly a downtrodden group!
And frankly, anyone whose career can survive characters with names such as Holly Goodhead, Plenty O’Toole, Kissy Suzuki, and Pussy Galore must have some well-seasoned acting chops!
While some diehards consider Sean Connery the only “real” James Bond and other fans have a strong allegiance to Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan, actor Daniel Craig has held down the fort since 2006. After two successful outings, Craig is getting ready to start filming the 23rd film in the series. This new caper will be directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and is scheduled for a November 2012 release. Dame Judi Dench will reprise her role as the mysterious M, with the addition of Javier Bardem as a new super-villain, but no word yet on the lucky (or unlucky?) bevy of women who will get to have their way with James Bond in the upcoming film.
On Being the Girl, Getting the Guy and Getting the Laughs
With her wide eyes, quick manner and sass-tastic demeanor, Emma Stone's pulling off a delicate trick -- she's somehow becoming the next big thing without becoming in any way like all the other next big things that have preceded her. Best-known for turns in "Easy A" and "Zombieland" -- and poised for megastardom with a role in next summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man" -- Stone's currently starring as the woman who turns the tables on womanizer ryan Gosling in "Crazy, Stupid, Love." We spoke with Stone in New York.
Ryan Gosling -- talented actor, more associated with slightly more serious films, but he brings that intensity to the comedy here -- what was it like working with him?
Stone: It was fantastic. He's so funny naturally in real life that it was a little mind-boggling that he's not known for being a funny guy. I think he's funny, and it was great getting to have fun with him and play around and see what happened. He's a great teammate.
There's a lot of funny stuff in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.' but there's real stuff on the table too. Did directors ever say to you, 'That take was great, but this time let's move the mixer away from funny or toward funny?' How did you get the calibration of the scenes right?
Stone: There'll be the times where you step in and it's like, 'Let's pace this up a little bit,' or, 'Let's slow this one down,' or, 'Let's skip this,' or, 'Let's move forward to that.' For the most part, I think life doesn't really follow …right now I'm not thinking of how to balance humor with serious answers. It comes out of my mouth. That's my approach when it comes to characters. A bunch of different emotions are always battling within us as human beings, so over-thinking that balance would take away some of the humanity of it -- for me.
Also, 'Captain America' dethrones 'Potter'
The free market has spoken! The Dark Lord has been defeated! Yes, that's right, "Captain America: The First Avenger" has ousted "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" from the top of the box office charts, scoring an impressive if historically underwhelming $65.8 million. Congratulations abound for the Chris Evans-fronted flick, which narrowly beat out "Thor" to claim the dubious title of the summer's biggest opening comic book adaptation. A distinction it will retain at least until next weekend, when "Cowboys & Aliens" finally hits.
Although "Harry Potter" only took in $48 million—a far cry from its record $169 million opening weekend—such a precipitous drop could have been expected. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" debuted to a similarly spectacular $142 million back in the fall of ‘09, before it, too, fell 70% in its second weekend to an otherwise respectable $42 million. All of which merely suggests that the audience for “Potter” is or was as fickle and front-loaded as that of "Twilight."
The most exciting and relevant news for the future of America, however, came towards the bottom of the charts. Voting with their hard-earned cash, the American public has apparently decided that the plight of the endangered loggerhead sea turtle is more compelling than the continuing presidential aspirations of Sarah Palin. At least, that would seem to be the inescapable conclusion drawn from their movies’ respective takes. “Turtle: The Incredible Journey” raked in $27,000 over the weekend to narrowly edge out the Palin documentary “Undefeated,” which stoically solicited $24,000 from just fourteen theaters. “Turtle” has now grossed $260,000 overall, compared to $101,000 for the Sarah Palin pic. Perhaps the best way to go “Undefeated” is not to run at all?
What do you think, Hitlisters? Were you happy with "Captain America?" Amused by "Friends With Benefits?" Will "Harry Potter" fans, outraged by the above comparison to Twilight, come out en masse in the ensuing weeks to support "Deathly Hallows?" And aren't sea turtles adorable? As ever, let us know in the comments.
Oh well, at least it wasn’t Peter Parker!
Just as the Lizard was being introduced as the new villain of the upcoming “Spider-Man” reboot at the film’s jam-packed panel discussion at Comic-Con on Friday, the actor who will portray him, Rhys Ifans (pronounced Reese Ee-vans), was arrested for shoving a female security guard at the event.
The Wrap reports that the Welsh actor become incensed when a member of his entourage was denied admission into the convention hall because he didn’t have the proper credentials. Ifans apparently shoved his way past the guard, who said he was aggressive and belligerent and smelled of alcohol. After participating in the panel, Ifans was cited for misdemeanor battery. It is now up to the San Diego City Attorney whether to pursue charges. A spokesman for Sony Pictures said that the actor deeply regrets the incident.
If they had to get this kind of press at one of their most well publicized events, studio executives must be relieved that it involved their villain, not their new young hero. After actor Andrew Garfield endeared himself to the Comic-Con crowd with his Spidey fakeout and surprisingly emotional speech in which he called his appearance there “the coolest moment of my life,” a verbally abusive Lizard could only build interest in the on-screen showdown between the two actors.
Rhys Ifans is a hard-working actor who admittedly likes to party hard. The sometimes rocker (Ifans appears with the Welsh psychedelic rock band The Peth) has gone from appearing in low-budget indie films (he played Danny in the wonderful “Danny Deckchair”) to big costume dramas (“Vanity Fair,” “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) to international mega-hits (he was Xenophilius Lovegood, Luna’s father, in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1”).
With his upcoming role as Peter Parker’s reptilian nemesis in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Rhys Ifans is poised to become a very familiar name among movie fans. And possibly law enforcement officials?