Tag Archive: scarecrow


1939 saw the release of arguably the most iconic film of all time: The Wizard of Oz. Since then, no film has really managed to touch audiences as much as this and influence pop culture in such a fashion. The red slippers, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch of the West, the cowardly lion, tin man without a brain and a scarecrow without a heart are all easily recognised and associated with The Wizard of Oz. So why on Earth have Disney decided to try and even come close to the original with Oz: The Great and Powerful.

It should be noted that Oz: The Great and Powerful is not a direct prequel to the 1939 film. It is in fact a prequel to the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz due to some complicated copyright business. James Franco is Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs, a small time magician/con artist who is transported to the magical land of Oz, where he meets three witches and is said to make the prophecy come true and become the king of Oz.

James Franco is an actor who seems to love trying to add strings to his bow, however as any good huntsman will tell you one string is all a bow needs. Fantasy is the latest in a long line of genres Franco has had mixed success in along with comedy, drama, science fiction, superhero films. And it has to be said that fantasy is not a genre Franco looks at all comfortable with. Based on this performance alone I would be surprised if anyone ever let him loose with CGI again; his vision and hands and everything else was all over the place. His performance was elevated thanks to actual on screen actresses in his presence and when this happened (particularly in the scenes with Michelle Williams) Franco actually looked like a professional actor.

The beginning of the film, set in black and white and pushed back into a smaller frame in homage to the original film, is poor at best. Supposedly set in 1907 the dialogue and persona of the characters really lets Oz down. I found it hard to get into the film with poor performances for the first fifteen minutes or so and Oz being quite frankly, a very hard character to like.

As the film goes on Oz: The Great and Powerful does appear to get better but it has more ups and downs than Oz’s hot air balloon ride that got him there. The problem with this being a prequel is that the audience already know where the story leads, but in this case it feels as though the producers of the film have no idea where it is going. On the surface, though, there is a lot to enjoy thanks to incredibly well put together CGI displays and the intricate work done on the flying baboons is fantastic.

The supporting cast does very little to help the film with the exception of Michelle Williams and Joey King who both perform their roles as well as they could. This isn’t a performance that Mila Kunis or Rachel Weisz can be proud of and either with their characters being rather poorly written and just firing information at us as if they were telling us every single thought which we really do not need to hear. Zach Braff as Oz’s first real friend Finley the monkey provides a few much needed laughs but there are a lot of jokes that really miss the mark… by a lot.

There is already a sequel in the works but it is going to need a much better script, much better performances and any sign of a sense of direction because you won’t find that in Oz: The Great and Powerful.

My Rating: 5/10.

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Cillian Murphy strikes me as being a very interesting performer; I have seen quite a few of his films and always find his performances enthralling and I consider him to be a fantastic actor. For a time, though, it seemed as though acting would not be Murphy’s destination in life as his first real passion for entertaining was music. When in his teens and early twenties he formed a band with his brother, most of their (small scale) successes came while they performed under the name of The Sons of Mr. Greengenes. In 1996 the band were offered a five album record deal by Acid Jazz Records which the Murphy brothers had to turn down because Cillian’s brother Paidi was still in school. Murphy went on to attend University College Cork where he studied law and failed his first year exams; the reason being he had ‘no ambition to do it’ and later admitted that within days of starting the course he knew law wasn’t going to be it for him. So he came to be an actor.

Murphy started off his acting career on the stage where he quickly got noticed and then started making several short films and independent films in his home land of Ireland, including On the Edge and How Harry Became a Tree. It was a role in the film version of Disco Pigs (a role that was Murphy’s debut on the stage too) that he has to thank for the way his career has panned out afterwards as it was his performance here that brought him to the attention of Danny Boyle. Boyle was looking for someone to cast in the lead role of his film 28 Days Later and Murphy seemed to fit the bill. 28 Days Later subsequently became a hit all over the world and put Murphy in front of the huge crowds he could only ever have imagined. His performance earned rave reviews and Boyle was hailed for finding such a talented unknown actor.

Murphy starred alongside Colin Farrell in Intermission which became the highest grossing Irish film at the Irish box office ever (the record was broken in 2006 but Intermission held it for a while nonetheless) and Murphy also bagged himself supporting roles in his first Hollywood features: Cold Mountain and The Girl With the Pearl Earring. Even with his new found fame and success Murphy still returned to the stage and toured Ireland in theatre roles proving that he still had great affection for his beginnings. Then he got a call that would change anyone’s career…

Cillian Murphy was asked to come and audition for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in 2005’s Batman Begins. Murphy himself suggested that he knew he wouldn’t get the part because he didn’t have the physique to play a superhero yet he went and auditioned anyway. Director Christopher Nolan was so impressed with his performance that he cast Cillian Murphy in the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane, Scarecrow, the villain. He also appeared as the villain in Red Eye, a thriller in which he was the antagonist to Rachel McAdams’ protagonist. Murphy received huge acclaim for his villainous roles and got himself a handful of nominations at several awards shows.

Making it big in Hollywood didn’t change Murphy though and he once again returned to his roots to make Irish film Breakfast on Pluto, in which he played a transgender Irish foundling in search of her mother. Murphy had actually auditioned for the role back in 2001 but director Neil Jordan was hesitant to make the film so soon after his earlier works; Murphy continually tried to get Jordan to make the film before Murphy was too old to play the part and Breakfast on Pluto was eventually made. I think that this shows Murphy has a serious passion for his career and is desperate to take on roles that will not only challenge him as an actor but also challenge that audience’s perception of Murphy.

In 2007 Cillian Murphy reteamed with Danny Boyle to make science fiction film Sunshine, in which Murphy had the lead role. This is the first film that I remember seeing Murphy in and actually knowing who he was and it was this performance that led me to search for some of his earlier works because I thought the film was fantastic and Murphy himself was brilliant to watch. Another director who clearly found Murphy a great actor to work with is Christopher Nolan as he not only cast him in his masterpiece Inception but also allowed Murphy to reprise his roles in his Batman sequels: The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

And even appearing in one of the biggest, most loved and most successful trilogies of all time still can’t keep Cillian Murphy away from Ireland as he continues to ply his trade in independent cinema with turns in Perrier’s Bounty and Broken. Cillian Murphy is an actor who clearly loves his work and he has a very clear idea of how he wants his career to go as he aims to work with Michel Gondry, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep. Yet it is amazing that he still remains down to earth, very genuine, humble and homely; despite being friends with fellow Irish actors Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson Murphy’s closest friends remain those he had before he became successful, he keeps his private life just that which is why not many people may know him as they should. Best of all, I think, Murphy could have his pick of Hollywood films if he wanted but he won’t have because he refuses to move to Los Angeles full time because he doesn’t wish to distance himself from his family. What a nice guy!

It is one of the most anticipated films of all time and how well it is received will determine how Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is seen by future generations; whether it really is one of the greatest film trilogies of all time or whether it burns out over two films and disappears without a trace after a poor final chapter. After watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight yesterday, I was ready for whatever Christopher Nolan had to throw at me with The Dark Knight Rises…or at least I thought I was.

The previous two films opened wonderfully: Batman Begins brought us Bruce Wayne’s origin as a child (or at least part of it) and his place in the real world at present day, The Dark Knight brought us one of the best opening sequences of all time with the Jokers bank robbery. ‘Rises‘ introduces the audience to a new world, eight years after the last confirmed sighting of Batman, Harvey Dent is still celebrated as a hero and Gotham’s streets are free of crime thanks to a police department headed up by Commissioner Gordon (the role reprised once more by the brilliant Gary Oldman). We are introduced early on to new characters in the franchise; Bane, John Blake, Miranda Tate and Selina Kyle aka. Catwoman.

Of these newcomers it was Blake who I looked forward to seeing the most because the stature of his character struck my curiosity and he is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is one of my favourite actors. However, it was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman that really stole the show for me. Nolan has proved doubters wrong by writing a strong conflicted female character who is more than a match for Bruce Wayne himself. In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight I felt that the only places the films really lost points was in the fight scenes; I never found Batman’s fight scenes as exciting or thrilling as I should have because it always felt a little too staged, too jarred but when Catwoman kicks ass in The Dark Knight Rises she really goes for it and the choreography is excellent, the fights are seamless and exciting, they are really incredible sequences. The eventual final climatic fight between Batman and Bane (played by another brilliant English actor Tom Hardy) is better than any fight scenes of the previous two instalments as well.

The plot can be condensed into a simple sentence: Batman has to stop the city of Gotham being blown up by Bane. Replace the two character names and the name of the city and that plot could fit any generic action movie. But to do this, to try and explain the plot of The Dark Knight Rises in one sentence is to do yourself and the film a massive injustice. There are enough twists and turns, revelations and red herrings to keep the audience interested and invested in the story and it moves at the perfect pace; you can tell it’s a long film but everything, every tiny piece of detail and dialogue is needed and it is well worth sitting through!

The Dark Knight Rises is a brilliantly written film, it is directed beautifully and every single member of the cast, young and old, performs excellently to make this wonderful masterpiece. With a cast that boasts so many big names (Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson and Matthew Modine) it would have been just as easy to let them run riot and it still would have been brilliant to watch but with Christopher Nolan at the helm this pool of talent brought their very best to the table to make one of the best films of all time and bring the final curtain on a trilogy that will define the superhero genre but the whole face of cinema for years to come.

My Rating: 10/10