The Wizard of Oz is one of the most celebrated films in cinematic history and one of my absolute favorite films, so when I saw they were making a prequel I was completely on board for it. Who doesn't want to see the wonderful Land of Oz recreated with the special effects we have in today's age? While it isn't a complete success and has a few mishaps during its two hour adventure, it has successfully captured the spirit of the original and has enough visual spectacle to make up for its shortcomings. We all know where the story is going to go based on the original film, but getting there is still a fun ride. James Franco has the right mix of charm and wit to make the character of Oz work. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz make fine witches. Unfortunately, I thought Mila Kunis was completely miscast as the Wicked Witch of the West. She doesn't have enough fire and energy to pull off the switch that happens with the character. It effects the film a little bit, but thankfully other characters take more of a center stage in this film to make up for it. Zach Braff & Joey King do excellent jobs with their voice acting jobs and all of the minor roles and filled in nicely. The recreation of Oz is beautiful to behold and looks absolutely wonderful, mixing live sets like the original film with computer generated effects as well. I had a great time watching this and it made me giddy in the same way that the original film did. It could have been better, but as it stands Raimi has made a worthwhile and appreciable prequel to an all-time classic.
This is the End is too scatter-shot and vulgar to capture a wide audience despite some hilarious parodies and homages to films that all of the actors have been a part of. Unfortunately, the movie drags on too long and overstays its welcome. At the beginning when you are first getting used to the characters and story it can be pretty funny and entertaining, but after about half way I just found them somewhat annoying and cumbersome to listen to. There are some excellent performances from people like Michael Cera and Emma Watson that are truly funny, but the main actors just go too far for me. The whole film has this old school B movie vibe to it that does work though. From the special effects to the plot, there's plenty of old school horror movie charm. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more to the story than just a small group of guys hanging out in a house the whole time. I was hoping they would go out and adventure a little more to spice things up at some point, but they never do. The marketing campaign fooled me on this aspect of the film. The movie never lost my interest despite all of this because it is so unpredictable thanks to the complete ridiculousness that is the entire production. It's certainly a unique project that got me to laugh a few times, but I don't think everyone will like it and some will even hate its aimlessness & vulgarity.