Disney meets L. Frank Baum, and the results are more spectacular than special.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" is a visually arresting prequel to the classic "The Wizard of Oz," exploring how the Wizard got to be the Wizard. Turns out he was a traveling carnival magician (played by James Franco) who ends up catching a tornado to the colorful land of Oz where he tries to double-talk his way past an evil witch (Rachel Weisz), a good witch (Michelle Williams) and one who could go either way (Mila Kunis). Director Sam Raimi brings the flash and spectacle to this rendition of Oz, but there's not much charm on display. The casting is also uneven, with Weisz and Williams running rings around Franco and Kunis.
The other mainstream movie this week is the thriller "Dead Man Down," a darkly atmospheric revenge drama with some gaping plot problems. Colin Farrell stars as Victor, a mid-level hood for a crime lord (Terrence Howard) who's being bedeviled with cryptic messages plotting retribution for something. Victor meets Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a woman who tries to blackmail Victor into helping her exact revenge on the drunk driver who crashed into her, disfiguring her face. Director Niels Arden Oplev (who helmed Rapace through the Swedish version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") employs Farrell and Rapace well, and creates a sinister vibe that almost compensates for the craziness in J.H. Wyman's script.