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legendsofoz.jpg

I had a chance to “attend/drive past and take a picture of” the premier of Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, and…

returntooz.jpg
…as sad a portent as this was for the film’s future, I’m honestly more disturbed by the condition of my windshield.  That might even be the most embarrassing aspect of this image.  I’m ashamed really.  Not enough to, you know, not display it publicly for all to see, but still, someone should give me a good talking to.

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Riddick takes our titular anti-hero back to his monster fighting, merc-killing roots. The film opens with Riddick left-for-dead and stranded on an inhospitable planet. A large chunk of the film follows Riddick on a personal quest to not just survive, but thrive in the barren world on which he was marooned. It’s surprisingly entertaining given it’s just Vin Diesel and some CG animals, for the most part. Some flashbacks are interspersed, which fill in the gaps between this film and the end of Chronicles of Riddick. These cut scenes feel like little more than an afterthought, something the screenwriter added to stop the audience from asking pesky questions. They had to get all that Necromonger stuff out of the way because Riddick is essentially Pitch Black 2, as opposed to being a follow up to Chronicles of Riddick. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Riddick lives up to neither of its predecessors. It lacks the intelligence and intensity of Pitch Black and it lacks the imagination and scope of Chronicles.

And yet… I still enjoyed it.

On the one hand, Riddick is chock full of cringe worthy moments, some of which are intentional, but most of which are the regrettable result of poor writing. The entire final 5-10 minutes of the film were borderline unforgivable. This installment also casts our anti-hero in an uncharacteristically heroic light, which feels forced. In general, the writing was very lazy.

On the other hand, if you can forgive these trespasses, Riddick can be quite a bit of fun. If you enjoy the character of Riddick, you’ll get plenty of classic moments. If you enjoy watching Vin Diesel be a bad-ass, there’s plenty of that as well. The film also boasts pretty good graphics and Katee Sackhoff’s in good form. There’s too much gore for my taste, but, if that’s your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed.

Riddick is, in the end, a dumb but serviceable popcorn flick. B-

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WARNING: The YouTube clip and the Reddit link in this post contain mature content and/or crude language that is not appropriate for all audiences.

I have been joyously observing the absurd internet implosion following yesterday’s big announcement, that Ben Affleck will be the next caped crusader.

My initial reaction was relief: Thank the lord it’s not Gosling or Brolin!!!!!!

Then I remembered Daredevil, and laughed ‘til my sides hurt.

Yes.  That IS a real line from the movie.  Bwahahahahaha!

Finally, I remembered this clip from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and thought it probably bore a remarkable similarity to Affleck’s current state of mind.

BTW. My favorite response so far was from a Reddit comment feed:

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WARNING: The YouTube clip and the Reddit link in this post contain mature content and/or crude language that is not appropriate for all audiences.

I have been joyously observing the absurd internet implosion following yesterday’s big announcement, that Ben Affleck will be the next caped crusader.

My initial reaction was relief: Thank the lord it’s not Gosling or Brolin!!!!!!
HallelujahSquirrel.jpg

Then I remembered Daredevil, and laughed ‘til my sides hurt.
AffleckDaredevil.jpg
Yes.  That IS a real line from the movie.  Bwahahahahaha!

Finally, I remembered this clip from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and thought it probably bore a remarkable similarity to Affleck’s current state of mind.

BTW. My favorite response so far was from a Reddit comment feed:
RedditSmithBatman.png
RedditSmithBatman.png

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

Have you ever watched a car crash in slow motion? Possibly in driver’s ed. back in high school? You know, where you can see what’s about to happen, and then you watch it unfold in excruciating detail while you try helplessly to look away? That’s kind of what it’s like watching This is 40. Except, when you watch a car crash, you generally hope that the person in the vehicle is okay or, at the very least, still alive. Judd Apatow’s semi-autobiographical follow up to Knocked Up is so painful to watch, so cringe inducing, that, at the end of the film, you desperately want the characters to die or, at the very least, get a divorce.

I suspect Apatow wanted his audience to find humor in the dysfunction. We are clearly meant to laugh at Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd) as they muddle through their marriage and self-destruct on screen. “Hey, look at that middle-aged person having a nervous breakdown! Isn’t it hilarious?!” The answer is, unfortunately, no.

That’s not to say there’s no humor in this film. There are a couple funny moments, particularly when Jason Segal and/or Chris O’Dowd are on screen. They provide some much needed levity in what is largely a very serious portrayal of an imploding marriage. The Apatow children also provide a little comedic relief, though… (you guessed it, I’m about to be an over-critical jerk) the comedy might have worked a bit better if the children’s roles were performed by more talented young actors.

Watching the film, I was reminded of something Judd Apatow said in an interview about making This is 40. Apatow was asked what it’s like directing his wife in love scenes. His answer was essentially that he can deal with this as long as she isn’t into it. Then he gets almost a perverse enjoyment out of making his wife kiss someone whom she finds disgusting, like Paul Rudd. [My apologies for not providing the link; I simply couldn’t find this specific interview, however he’s said similar things in several other interviews.] As I watched This is 40 I kept thinking about this interview because I really feel like the aforementioned distaste comes through in the finished project. Pete and Debbie can’t stand one another. Why then should I root for them to work things out?

In the end, the best thing I can say about This is 40 is that it will almost certainly make you feel better about your own comparatively healthy relationship or lack thereof. Then again, I did watch this film on a long-haul flight that had been delayed by five hours. Perhaps my foul tempers are to blame for my perception. I guess I should give Judd Apatow the benefit of the doubt. C-

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As I sit down to write this review, I have no idea what score I will ultimately give Star Trek into Darkness. Should I go with my brain or should I listen to my gut? How can I reconcile the two?

My brain is pointing out that the film does almost nothing with character development. My brain is noting that the film feels like an exercise in seeing how much stimulus the filmmakers can throw at the audience. The pacing is so frenetic that it prevents the audience from experiencing any feelings of gravity; it prevents any registering of emotional relevance for the characters, as well as the viewers. The writing is clever but not intelligent, and the ending is bizarrely anti-climactic.

My gut, on the other hand, just keeps repeating, “yeah… but it was fun!” Star Trek into Darkness is a humorous, enjoyable visual spectacular of a film. It’s engaging and exciting and just plain entertaining. In particular, Benedict Cumberbatch is overacting his little heart out and it’s simply delightful.

I should probably mention that, like so many others, I have been and always shall be a fan of Star Trek. My mother, on multiple occasions, has informed me of my childhood proclivity for acting out scenes from the original series during bath-time. Many of my fellow fans, for reasons I won’t explain, have been calling JJ Abrams’ second foray into Trekdom, “heretical,” “sacrilegious” and/or other terms which suggest Into Darkness has befouled something holy. While I, personally, do not feel this way, I understand where this upset is coming from. So if you’re a fan who has yet to see Into Darkness, be forewarned. It is not reverential; it is referential with a wink and a nudge.

But, let’s get back to my main conflict. What score do you give a film which under-delivers on character and story, but over-delivers on fun? In many ways, Into Darkness is a lot like the popcorn you probably ate while you watched it: satisfying for the taste buds, but it leaves you feeling undernourished. Ultimately, if you go in expecting the intelligence and poeticism of Wrath of Khan you will be disappointed. But, if you prepare yourself for a cheap thrill akin to a theme park ride, you’ll have a great time. B

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L.J. Says

Oblivion is a beautiful sci-fi masterpiece that explores the familiar yet relevant themes of identity, love, and the nature of humanity…until you think about it.

Early in the film, Jack (Tom Cruise) is low on parts to fix the various drones that somehow manage to breakdown at exactly the right moment for a new plot point to occur. So instead he uses chewing gum, which I assume is laced with electrically filtered unicorn tears, to fix one of them. And that right there is the perfect metaphor for what this movie is. It’s a story that doesn’t have the parts it needs to work, so it’s constructed out of pieces of other films and held together with duct tape and spit.

There are several times when characters, both good and bad, should do something or should have done something way sooner in order to succeed at their objective and/or prevent needless injury or worse. Why didn’t they do those things? If you work in Hollywood and your answer is, “because that would make the movie only 40 minutes long,” then you just won a new scholarship to enroll back in story school. Because that is nothing more than an excuse for not giving enough of a damn about your narrative to understand its own internal logic. (Incomplete sentence intended.)

Oblivion wants us to think it’s a sci-fi action/adventure flick with a brain. And maybe that’s an apt description since it’s believed that we only use about 10% of our brain. Then again, that particular notion tends to be espoused exclusively by people who have neither spoken to nor read anything written by scientists who study that organ. But what do scientists know anyway? Bunch of lousy dropout hippy nogoodniks if you ask me.

I won’t spoil what, I guess, amounts to the existential and emotional thesis of the film (though it’s probably not that hard to figure it out). But I am very curious to see how other people react to it. I haven’t seen or heard much discussion about the message of the film, perhaps because it doesn’t really warrant it. I will say that the kind of conclusion it draws seems both emotionally simplistic and ethically dubious. The kind of moment the film is trying to go out on only works if you had spent the entire film in the bathroom and walked back into the theater to catch the last minute and a half… Also, if you’re in the bathroom that long you should probably see a doctor.

So that’s Oblivion. It’s a film that loves to raise questions but it sure doesn’t want you to think too much about them; because the people who made it sure as hell haven’t. It’s sad when a film isn’t smart enough to know how stupid it is.

C+ (I added the plus because 10% of my brain liked the pretty visuals) P.S. Where the hell did Tom Cruise find gum?

Courtney Says

Those who’ve gotten to know me through the podcast have probably figured out that I’m pre-disposed to enjoy a film such as Oblivion. By “a film such as Oblivion” I, of course, mean a conceptual sci-fi action flick with OTT visuals and music. These components very often combine to create something I will love. It’s like my grandmother’s caramel cake recipe. It’s infamously tricky to do well, and, as such, about 30% of the time the result is amazing, mind-blowing, best-thing-you’ve-ever-eaten-in-your-life perfection. About 50% of the time, it’s good, not great. The final 20% of the time, the result is barely edible.

I expected Oblivion to fit comfortably into the middle category of “good, not great.” I was intrigued by the concept–which I previously had told L.J. looked kind of like a high-octane version of Moon (BOOM!)–and the visuals did look pretty cool from the marketing materials. So how did Oblivion shape up? Well…

Oblivion lives up to its potential in the area of visuals. This film is a feast for the eyes, with some breathtakingly beautiful and simultaneously haunting imagery. It also has a great sci-fi score; the music is reminiscent of 80’s techno sci-fi music but has a decidedly more modern feel. It’s sweeping and intense, and effectively amps up the drama.

Unfortunately, it really needed to do just that, because Oblivion fails in some really crucial ways. The story presents the audience with a world ending conflict, but somehow never manages to make the stakes feel all that high. Part of the problem is with character development; the film only bothers to do any character development for Tom Cruise’s role. Granted he’s the main protagonist and gets the vast majority of screen time, but the secondary characters really needed some more attention. Another problem is the generous amount of plot holes.

(Side Note/Call to Arms: The sci-fi genre is chock full of hole-ridden story lines, and we as fans need to stop silently allowing leaky narrative. The time has come for fan-girls and -boys to stand up and demand seaworthy plots.)

Regardless, I can think of other films with plenty of plot holes, which still manage to sell their conflict more successfully. The point I’m trying, unsuccessfully, to make is this: from my perspective, the main reason this film fails is due to shoddy performances and a couple glaringly bad decisions from the filmmakers–which I suspect were actually mandated by the studios.

I will quickly note that Tom Cruise’s performance was serviceable, though nothing special. Olga Kurylenko is a complete nonentity. They could have cast a potato to fill her role and gotten the same performance. Morgan Freeman totally phoned in his performance. The one exception to this parade of bad acting was Andrea Riseborough. Hers could almost be called a breakout performance. Also, if you plan to watch Oblivion in the future, you should pay attention to her eyes. Her pupils were extremely, painfully dilated in virtually every single scene, with one key exception. It’s seriously unsettling, but provides some great, subtle context for her character.

(Another Side Note/Call to Arms: Tom Cruise is now 50 years old, and his two leading ladies are aged 33 and 31. Age-ism in Hollywood has always been gendered, but it’s beyond time that we stop accepting as rote 20 year age differences in our films.)

Beyond the lame performances, there were also some seriously questionable filmmaking decisions, which massively harmed this film. First and foremost are the incredibly hokey, explanatory voiceovers that start and end the film. These elements are out of place in the context of the rest of the film and serve little purpose other than to explain the movie to the apparently dim-witted audience. The other unforgivable decision is the conclusion. The filmmakers almost managed to write a gripping and emotionally relevant ending, but it seems as though they chickened out. The ending we are left with completely neuters the rest of the story.

The resulting film is beautiful and sometimes fun, but uncompelling . Ultimately, Oblivion is a missed opportunity. C+

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

L.J. Says

Oblivion is a beautiful sci-fi masterpiece that explores the familiar yet relevant themes of identity, love, and the nature of humanity…until you think about it.

Early in the film, Jack (Tom Cruise) is low on parts to fix the various drones that somehow manage to breakdown at exactly the right moment for a new plot point to occur. So instead he uses chewing gum, which I assume is laced with electrically filtered unicorn tears, to fix one of them. And that right there is the perfect metaphor for what this movie is. It’s a story that doesn’t have the parts it needs to work, so it’s constructed out of pieces of other films and held together with duct tape and spit.

There are several times when characters, both good and bad, should do something or should have done something way sooner in order to succeed at their objective and/or prevent needless injury or worse. Why didn’t they do those things? If you work in Hollywood and your answer is, “because that would make the movie only 40 minutes long,” then you just won a new scholarship to enroll back in story school. Because that is nothing more than an excuse for not giving enough of a damn about your narrative to understand its own internal logic. (Incomplete sentence intended.)

Oblivion wants us to think it’s a sci-fi action/adventure flick with a brain. And maybe that’s an apt description since it’s believed that we only use about 10% of our brain. Then again, that particular notion tends to be espoused exclusively by people who have neither spoken to nor read anything written by scientists who study that organ. But what do scientists know anyway? Bunch of lousy dropout hippy nogoodniks if you ask me.

I won’t spoil what, I guess, amounts to the existential and emotional thesis of the film (though it’s probably not that hard to figure it out). But I am very curious to see how other people react to it. I haven’t seen or heard much discussion about the message of the film, perhaps because it doesn’t really warrant it. I will say that the kind of conclusion it draws seems both emotionally simplistic and ethically dubious. The kind of moment the film is trying to go out on only works if you had spent the entire film in the bathroom and walked back into the theater to catch the last minute and a half… Also, if you’re in the bathroom that long you should probably see a doctor.

So that’s Oblivion. It’s a film that loves to raise questions but it sure doesn’t want you to think too much about them; because the people who made it sure as hell haven’t. It’s sad when a film isn’t smart enough to know how stupid it is.

C+ (I added the plus because 10% of my brain liked the pretty visuals) P.S. Where the hell did Tom Cruise find gum?

Courtney Says

Those who’ve gotten to know me through the podcast have probably figured out that I’m pre-disposed to enjoy a film such as Oblivion. By “a film such as Oblivion” I, of course, mean a conceptual sci-fi action flick with OTT visuals and music. These components very often combine to create something I will love. It’s like my grandmother’s caramel cake recipe. It’s infamously tricky to do well, and, as such, about 30% of the time the result is amazing, mind-blowing, best-thing-you’ve-ever-eaten-in-your-life perfection. About 50% of the time, it’s good, not great. The final 20% of the time, the result is barely edible.

I expected Oblivion to fit comfortably into the middle category of “good, not great.” I was intrigued by the concept–which I previously had told L.J. looked kind of like a high-octane version of Moon (BOOM!)–and the visuals did look pretty cool from the marketing materials. So how did Oblivion shape up? Well…

Oblivion lives up to its potential in the area of visuals. This film is a feast for the eyes, with some breathtakingly beautiful and simultaneously haunting imagery. It also has a great sci-fi score; the music is reminiscent of 80’s techno sci-fi music but has a decidedly more modern feel. It’s sweeping and intense, and effectively amps up the drama.

Unfortunately, it really needed to do just that, because Oblivion fails in some really crucial ways. The story presents the audience with a world ending conflict, but somehow never manages to make the stakes feel all that high. Part of the problem is with character development; the film only bothers to do any character development for Tom Cruise’s role. Granted he’s the main protagonist and gets the vast majority of screen time, but the secondary characters really needed some more attention. Another problem is the generous amount of plot holes.

(Side Note/Call to Arms: The sci-fi genre is chock full of hole-ridden story lines, and we as fans need to stop silently allowing leaky narrative. The time has come for fan-girls and -boys to stand up and demand seaworthy plots.)

Regardless, I can think of other films with plenty of plot holes, which still manage to sell their conflict more successfully. The point I’m trying, unsuccessfully, to make is this: from my perspective, the main reason this film fails is due to shoddy performances and a couple glaringly bad decisions from the filmmakers–which I suspect were actually mandated by the studios.

I will quickly note that Tom Cruise’s performance was serviceable, though nothing special. Olga Kurylenko is a complete nonentity. They could have cast a potato to fill her role and gotten the same performance. Morgan Freeman totally phoned in his performance. The one exception to this parade of bad acting was Andrea Riseborough. Hers could almost be called a breakout performance. Also, if you plan to watch Oblivion in the future, you should pay attention to her eyes. Her pupils were extremely, painfully dilated in virtually every single scene, with one key exception. It’s seriously unsettling, but provides some great, subtle context for her character.

(Another Side Note/Call to Arms: Tom Cruise is now 50 years old, and his two leading ladies are aged 33 and 31. Age-ism in Hollywood has always been gendered, but it’s beyond time that we stop accepting as rote 20 year age differences in our films.)

Beyond the lame performances, there were also some seriously questionable filmmaking decisions, which massively harmed this film. First and foremost are the incredibly hokey, explanatory voiceovers that start and end the film. These elements are out of place in the context of the rest of the film and serve little purpose other than to explain the movie to the apparently dim-witted audience. The other unforgivable decision is the conclusion. The filmmakers almost managed to write a gripping and emotionally relevant ending, but it seems as though they chickened out. The ending we are left with completely neuters the rest of the story.

The resulting film is beautiful and sometimes fun, but uncompelling . Ultimately, Oblivion is a missed opportunity. C+

http://www.anotherpodcastaboutmovies.com/

We attended Doug Loves Movies live at the Gramercy Theater on April 2nd, 2013, featuring Jim Gaffigan, Kamau Bell, Pete Lee and Graham Elwood.  For fans of DLM, you might get a kick out of L.J.’s name tag, which earned a mention in the show (around the 1 hr 14 min mark):

snakesonabane2.jpg

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(Warning: the following post contains spoilers for Oz the Great and Powerful and Army of Darkness. If you haven’t seen Oz yet, and plan to do so, give us a bookmark and come back once you’ve been entertained and/or disappointed by that film-going experience. If you haven’t seen Army of Darkness yet…than I don’t even know who you are anymore.)

I didn’t really seek it out, but somehow I found myself at the theater, opening weekend, for a screening of Oz the Great and Powerful. I’ve never been much of a The Wizard of Oz fan. I was always more of a Labyrinth guy (though, ironically, they both share a very similar plot line and structure). And yet there I was. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing the film, but about halfway through it hit me — Sam Raimi has remade Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness was my first exposure to Sam and Bruce Campbell and the dead that I quickly learned were most evil. I then experienced the rest of the trilogy exactly backwards. I really enjoyed Evil Dead 2; and Evil Dead 1…well, it’s cute that they tried. But Army of Darkness was truly my first love, and as such, I’d recognize it anywhere; and I very much recognized it here. Surely Sam knows what he’s done. But did this happen as an amusing accident? Or did he knowingly and deliberately make what amounts to a $215 million, family friendly, 130 minute long wink at Evil Dead fans?

Maybe you think I’m reaching. Maybe you think this new Oz movie merely contains a few coincidental echoes of Sam Raimi’s previous work. Maybe you think there’s no such thing as a massive underground conspiracy keeping the REAL truth about cats and dogs a secret (that Thurman, Garofalo flick was a cover up). Well you’d be wrong. I have evidence. Behold — a spoiler filled list of thirteen tropes and plot points that both movies share:

Key:

    1. Army of Darkness
    2. Oz the Great and Powerful
  1. An extreme time and/or fantasy world displacement for the protagonist (à la A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).

    1. Ash is transported to a fantastical medieval age complete with demons, magic, and a wizard.
    2. Oz poses as a wizard after being transported to the Wonderful Land of Oz, which possesses witches, magic, and a colorfully overproduced aesthetic.
  2. The protagonist is a self-absorbed, cowardly, selfish, womanizing prick who occasionally demonstrates he has something akin to “heart of gold”-like tendencies.
    1. Ash’s selfishness mostly manifests with his self-preservation at all costs mentality.
    2. Oz’s selfishness is displayed mostly with his lust for gold, as well as a few sociopathic tendencies.

oz-the-great-and-powerful-teaser-photos-hi-res-005.jpg

The protagonist sets off on a quest to save the realm.
Ash is sent to acquire the necronomicon which will help them to defeat the deadites.
Oz is sent to kill the Wicked Witch.

The protagonist seduces an extremely impressionable/gullible innocent woman under the false pretense that he is the chosen one spoken of in a prophesy and has come to save them.
Exhibit A: Sheila.
Exhibit B: Theodora.

The protagonist unwittingly/incompetently sets in motion the events that lead to the creation and empowerment of a great evil.
Ash misspeaks the magic words while taking the Necronomicon from its pedestal, which brings about the rebirth of his now gruesome evil doppelganger, who in turn raises an army of the Dead.
Oz thoughtlessly scorns Theodora who, in her despair, allows herself to be manipulated and tricked by Evanora into eating a magic apple. The apple transforms Theodora into a more powerful and evil witch – more powerful and evil than Evanora herself.

The Protagonist’s beautiful, sort of but not really girlfriend is transformed into a hideous and evil version of herself by the film’s main villain. (This and the previous trope are very much tied to each other.)
Evil Ash turns Sheila into a deadite.
Evanora transforms Theodora into the ugly, and very green, Wicked Witch of the West.

There is a montage of scenes depicting the protagonist preparing a ragtag group of unlikely warriors for the final confrontation.
Ash shows them how to make new weapons, and teaches the villagers and peasants how to fight (albeit in a somewhat comical and unconvincing fashion).
Oz gets the pacifist inhabitants of Oz to build what will be an elaborate rouse (à la The A-Team/The Three Amigos) to defeat the evil witches and their minions.

army-of-darkness-2.jpg

The Protagonist brings scientific knowledge from his time period/universe to give the good guys a tactical advantage.
Ash teaches the wizard and blacksmith how to make black powder for explosives.
Oz teaches the tinkers how to make black powder for fireworks.

The protagonist conspires with a local craftsman on a secret project.
Ash and the blacksmith create a death coaster from the car that transported there with him.
Oz and the Master Tinker build a hot air balloon similar to the one he was in when he transported to Oz.

The protagonist’s futuristic/otherworldly black powder projectiles demoralize the enemy.
Ash’s explosive arrows greatly intimidate soldiers in the dead army to cartoonishly comedic effect.
Oz’s fireworks frighten the witches and their army.

The protagonist flees from battle at a critical moment in what looks like a shameful display of cowardice to his allies.
The castle is invaded and Ash is seen escaping behind the castle walls.
Once they’ve entered the castle, Oz leaves the resistance to execute the plan on their own while he fills up his new balloon with gold from the treasury.

Just when the situation looks to be at its worst, the protagonist surprises everyone when he reemerges with some crazy contraption to turn the tide against the enemy.
Ash, in an explosion of wooden door shards, reveals himself riding his secret death coaster, complete with giant spinning blades of death, and easily mows down any deadite that dares cross his path.
The new Wicked Witch shoots a fireball at Oz’s balloon as it sets off with its expensive cargo. The Balloon hits the ground in an explosion of fire and gold. Shortly thereafter, the prototype of the famous giant floating head projection of Oz appears and intimidates the hell out of everyone.

And finally, zombie dinosaurs rise from their prehistoric graves and eat the brains of orphans… and non-smokers – but that’s mostly a political statement. Zombie dinosaurs are very upset about the legislative restrictions forced upon the American smoker by their tyrannical government oppressors. (I assume anyway. I never actually made it to the end of these films. Too scary.)

Well, I think I’ve both made my point, and wasted a fair bit of your time with trivial nonsense. You’re welcome.

Those are the parallels I thought of anyway. Please feel free to comment on this post if you think of anything I missed.

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