RYAN: Join me this Friday night at the 7pm showing of Dorothy and the Witches of Oz in Milwaukee, WI at AMC Mayfair Mall 18 as I host a special Q&A session with the writer/director and the cast of this film. Hope to see you there!
CAROLINE: Just when I thought you wouldn't make it after the Harry Potter series came to an end, there's a veritable onslaught of new Wizard of Oz films on the horizon!
RYAN: I am obsessed with both topics so it really is perfect timing. Three new Oz movies coming out over the next thirteen months and the first is from Leigh Scott, a writer/director who, coincidentally, is from my hometown, Milwaukee.
CAROLINE: There's no place like home.
RYAN: [laughs] I'm actually proud of his achievement. I haven't properly met him yet but it's quite ambitious to take on a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. And then to please the fans really says something. All the diehard Oz fan groups on Facebook and Twitter are abuzz about this movie. Plus it's already done well overseas where it appeared as a two-part TV miniseries.
CAROLINE: Clearly you've done your homework. Is anybody famous in it?
RYAN: Christopher Lloyd plays The Wizard.
CAROLINE: OMG I loved him in Back to the Future!
RYAN: Sean Astin and Billy Boyd from The Lord of the Rings are also in it. Sean plays a funny tiny person.
CAROLINE: Like a munchkin?
RYAN: No. More like an itty bitty person and he's comical. Billy is Dorothy's romantic interest. Then there's, wait for it... Mia Sara as one of the more interesting Oz characters L. Frank Baum ever wrote about in his 13 sequels to The Wizard of Oz.
CAROLINE: Mia Sara? What rock did she crawl out from? I only remember her from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
RYAN: C'mon. And Legend with Tom Cruise?
CAROLINE: Never saw it.
RYAN: She's a treat. Eliza Swenson as the Witch of the West is evil-brewing-under-the-surface fabulous and then there's one actor who really stole the show for me.
RYAN: Ari Zagaris. He plays a guy who works with Dorothy and he and a couple other actors are just so brilliantly cast in very poignant roles... their casting is a nod to the original Wizard of Oz. I IMDB'd this Ari and he's also in the Oscar nominated Best Picture Moneyball.
CAROLINE: Oh that's cool.
RYAN: He's really amazing. Overall, for an independent film, without the backing of a major movie studio, this movie looks phenomenal. The creative team was going for a classic '80s blockbuster feel ala Ghostbusters and it looks even better than that. The effects and environments remind me of Alfonso Cuaron's A Little Princess, which is one of mine, and JK Rowling's, favorite films; which legend has it, inspired her to choose Cuaron as director for Harry Potter 3.
CAROLINE: That is quite telling.
RYAN: The other great thing this film has going for it is the story. It successfully blends some of L. Frank Baum's lore with a truly inspired new plot that grounds this sequel into a fantasy-meets-reality situation. The script excellently draws upon Baum's work and then takes Oz to new heights in NYC, of all places. CAROLINE: Was there anything you didn't like?
RYAN: Really no. Some edits were a bit erratic, but this is a cut-down from a longer piece. And the only narrative note that caught me off guard was the use of the Jabberwocky from Alice in Wonderland. But that's just me speaking as an Oz purist. I wouldn't want to squelch the filmmaker's creative instincts. At least it stays within the realm of fairy tales.
CAROLINE: So what's your bottom line?
RYAN: It's a truly magical film for all ages. It's colorful, fun, funny, appropriately dark at times, and ultimately fantastic entertainment. I'm super satisfied as an Oz fan and engaged as a critic so I have to urge you to catch this film on the big screen if you can. It's playing in select cities. Check the official website for showtimes.
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