Oz: Great and Powerful?

Oz: the Great and Powerful.

But is he?

Well, yes and no…

Disney make some amazing films, that can’t be denied. Unfortunately, that can also be their undoing. They coat a particular brand of gloss over their productions that is wonderful when it shines, but is disappointing when it doesn’t. With Oz, the shine is definitely there, but in parts, that’s the problem.

I loved the black and white introduction. The girl Oz is ‘sweet’ on mentions that a man who’s surname is Gale has asked her to marry him. I thought that was a nice touch. An interesting link to the classic original. I wonder, however, what Disney will do if they feel obliged to produce a sequel to this prequel. Any such film must still be a prequel to the first film (which is, I suppose, now a sequel?) as it would genuinely be a bad move to actually remake the Wizard of Oz.

With a distinct lack of ideas, so many films are being remade – Total Recall, Fright Night, Evil Dead and many more – but there are those films that simply MUST be left alone. The Wizard of Oz is one such movie. Make a sequel if you will (as has been done – Oz, Return to Oz, The Wiz, The Witches of Oz (!)) but don’t touch the original.

Please.

When Walt Disney was alive, I believe he refused to make a sequel. Now he’s no longer with us, it seems most Disney films will have a number 2 or more at some point. In some cases, these are good. In others, not so. The Lion King is one of my favourite animated films. Up there with Finding Nemo (“just keep swimming!”). I was disappointed by the second one, but thought the third was a unique take on sequels. It worked, and was very funny.

But what will they do with Oz: The Great and Powerful? They’ve set the scene, leading into the original nicely. The Gale name is there, linking Dorothy and the Wizard. There’s the green Wicked Witch (I thought the transformation here was a little weak, but it does have to cater for the younger audience). And the reason for the smoke and mirrors is established too. As such, there’s the potential for a second film to be squeezed in, potentially just because it has the Oz name. Not necessarily a good idea.

Anywho, back to the film.

Black and white. I thought this was a fitting tribute to the first film. Plus, when Oz arrived in… erm… Oz, the contrast between the monochrome and the stunning colour was amazing. One issue with black and white films nowadays is that they look like a colour film with the colour removed. The definition is still there. It doesn’t look like a traditional ‘black and white’ movie. A little ageing effect here would have, I think, added. Some imperfections to enhance the perfection.

Still, the transition from dirty old Kansas to beautiful Oz was seamless and Sam Raimi (who I’m a fan of anyway) has helped make the world a much bigger place than it ever was before. As Oz floats along a river to musical plants and river fairies, you’re transported to a wonderful land brought to impressive life. I saw the film in 2D – which would help keep the colour vivid – but there were definitely some parts which were included for the 3D viewers. A fall down a waterfall was effective in 2D, so would have turned stomachs in 3!

There was humour mixed nicely in with the shocks and surprises. Finlay, the flying monkey, and his liking of bananas. A Chinatown made from real china pottery. The flying baboon that suddenly appeared, teeth bared (which made me wonder why more wasn’t put into the transformation of Theodora – even Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches’ adaptation had something shown).

Sometimes the actors appeared a little uncomfortable in their roles, apart from Zach Braff who seemed perfectly at home as the monkey (lol). The ‘Bully’ cry of the Tinkers and the ‘Not now’ fanfare of Nuck felt forced, and the baboons gaining on them in the mist looked scribbled and not actually doing anything (and the fake running of Gelinda?) but these were fairly minor things in retrospect, considering .

So, Oz: The Great and Powerful. Was he?

Well… Majestic, I think so. Visually impressive, mostly, yes. A nice lead in to the original? Pretty much. It had some excellent parts, some good parts and some ok parts. It had a couple of not so good parts too.

But, did I enjoy it? Yes I did. ‘Nuff said.

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A Jump to the Left…

If someone said “It’s just a jump to the left…” to you, what would your reaction be?

I’d hazard a guess it would be: “And then a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight!”

And you’d be fighting the urge to put your hands on your hips and perform pelvic thrusts that would have you arrested under other circumstances.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is forty years old. Wow. That’s pretty impressive. Even though many younger people might not even realise that the Timewarp actually came from a film (let alone be allowed to watch such a movie) they still laugh and dance and sing. .

This is exactly what happened on Saturday night in Grimsby.

Freezing. Ice on the paths and temperatures lower than a snake’s belly. The Grimsby Auditorium was sold out and, in such pseudo-arctic conditions, a multitude of people dressed in stockings and basques – men and women – to thrust their pelvises and have the place, literally, swaying. I doubt that such apparel could be worn in public with no-one raising an eyebrow at any other time.

The house was packed. It felt as if I’d never seen so many people there. Granted, when I’ve been to watch Derren Brown or other shows, it’s been a sell out, but it seemed to bulge at the seams this time around. Especially when the seminal Timewarp came on. It’s fairly close to the beginning of the show and, though people were laughing and clapping etc., not everyone sprang up. There were enough, however, to make it so you could feel the seating structure move with the dancing. By the end, when they reprised some of the bigger songs and repeated the Timewarp, the whole house was on its feet.

The hecklers that were in the audience to interrupt the Narrator and Frank N Furter were obvious plants, but it didn’t matter. It had other members of the audience blurting out crudities and such, and had everyone laughing their backsides off. Both Sam Attwater and Roxanne Pallett did great jobs as Brad and Janet. Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff was excelkent but the roll will never be captured quite as brilliantly as the show’s creator Richard O’Brien. Oliver Thornton, as Frank N Furter himself could give Tim Curry a run for his money, leaping into stockings and part with abandon.

Applause to the Narrator, too – in particular for his Meerkat impression.

Apparently, Rocky Horror holds the record for the longest running theatrical release of any movie in film history (as it is still shown in cinemas across the world), and even then is based on a play from earlier yet. I would hope that it keeps that accolade.

As my wife and I walked home along our street, we were still laughing and ‘timewarping’ as we went. That has to be tribute to such a fantastic show.

We’re taken our eldest daughter to see Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson tribute next week and I can’t wait. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime…

“Don’t dream it, be it!”

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Enter a Dark Place…

My latest book is Dark Places, a collection of thirteen short stories and thirteen poems, all with a dark theme. I’m not sure why I like to write this type of story, to be honest. I’m generally an upbeat, happy sort of person – too laid back to let things get to me. I’m always making jokes and having a laugh. Perhaps it’s because I write such things? The darkness is vented in my work so there’s only light left?

I doubt it, but it’s a thought. I’m normally a very positive person. I call Sin my ‘Dark Half’, so maybe he’s writing them!

The poems contained therein were, actually, written during a time where I wasn’t so positive. Things weren’t going well in my life and various things prompted various poems. The memory of how I was treated by my natural father. Loves lost. I’m sure everyone has these twilight periods to battle through. I didn’t exactly find solace in the words, but I couldn’t seem to write anything else at the time. The stories are different. I can be at my happiest (as I am now) and still produce a piece with shadows and death. I find poetry to be much more personal and so it reflects how I feel at that moment. With a story, I follow the path of the characters, and they have their own moods unencumbered by my own.

As I’m meant to be working on the sequel to Sin, my Muse thinks it mighty hilarious to put all sorts of other ideas into my head and I need to give them form to clear the mist for Sin to continue with his adventure. Hence, I wrote I Am Death. Like a lot of my work, it grew from just the first sentence. I don’t necessarily have any idea what the story will be as I’m writing. It turns out however it turns out. This happened with Sin and with the majority of his blog posts (he has his own diary at http://singularityspoint.blogspot.com).

I Am Death began with, simply, ‘I think…’ and the result was a tale of Death contemplating life as he prepares to take his next soul. My wife saw a writing competition in one of her magazines and said I should enter. The Last Dance was written for this. It didn’t win, but, when my wife read it, it brought a tear to her eye. A friend of mine told me that, when she was 9, her cousin said the sink overflow was where the dragons went in. I used her exact words for the beginning of ‘There Be Dragons’ without any idea of how it would go.

So, it can take very little to inspire me. I go with the flow, caught up by the current of something I’m not entirely in control of.

The idea of the collection came from a fellow writer. She asked me to look at something she’d written ‘while in a dark place’. I suddenly HAD to write using that title, and the collection came together soon after, with the addition of stories that I couldn’t stop writing. I had the bit between my teeth and was being led along at a real pace. The themes of darkness becoming real, of reality and surreality being intertwined, of the helplessness of being pushed to events you can’t control, were almost a whirlwind of words that were finding an outlet through my fingers.

If you know what I mean…

A friend at work created an original watercolour inspired by the stories, and this is featured in the book. It’s between the contents and the first poem and acts as a doorway to the darkness within.

I had started to write a prequel to Sin, intending it to be nothing but a short. I wanted to include it in Dark Places but was asked ‘what about Joy?’ I was halfway through what was to become Prelude, then, and stopped. They were right. What about Joy? Joy is Sin’s sister, and appears in the book as a ghost – either to help or hinder him. She disappears just when he seems to need her most and is unable to give him real information, so has to resort to guidance that frustrates and angers her brother. Suffering a mirror image of Sin’s ‘talent’, Joy has committed suicide. But what of her origins? I wrote Joy to give her that voice, that chance to tell it from her side.

Fittingly, I think, Joy became the final piece in the collection, a place she deserves.

The reaction to Dark Places has been wonderful, with comments such as: “The descriptive passages create fabulous imagery,” and “The author’s portrayal of death could lead you to believe he’d actually experienced it.” I’m hoping it has the same success that Sin has enjoyed but, either way, I sincerely enjoyed creating it.

Dark Places can be found on Amazon at:
US: http://amzn.to/DarkPlacesUSEB
UK: http://amzn.to/DarkPlacesUKEB
And at Smashwords at: http://bit.ly/ShaunAllanSW
And in paperback form at: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shaunallan

The ebook and signed copies are available from the bookstore on my website: http://www.shaunallan.co.uk/bookstore.php

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Each to their own…

My novel, Sin, is on Wattpad as a Featured Book. It’s had almost 363,000 reads. I think that’s pretty good.

I’ve also had some AMAZING comments. People have said it’s the best thing they’ve read, that it’s marvellous, perfection, even.

Wonderful comments and truly inspiring and humbling.

So. This morning I had an email. Wattpad send you them to let you know of new comments and followers. Someone had left a comment on the prologue for Sin. The person mentioned that they liked my writing, but thought I should know when to stop talking nonsense. Fair point. Something to take on board, I thought – even though Sin is written through the mind of someone who may well be insane. I welcome all comments, good and bad. Everyone has their own opinion and I respect and appreciate that.

My personal point of view on various things may not coincide with that of others and so on. It makes the world a much more interesting place. If we didn’t have differing outlooks, we’d have nothing to talk about.

The comment is no longer on there, however. Usually, I’d leave something like there. A balanced view is important. And, as I said, they’re entitled to their opinion.

It was the fact that the person finished by saying ‘I kinda hate your guts’ that made me delete it.

I didn’t appreciate that.

My work on Wattpad, including Sin: http://wattpad.com/ShaunAllan

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Time…

Where does time go? Who steals it? And why do they take my best intentions along with it?

Damn cheek if you ask me.

Who decided to only have 24 hours in the day? Hmmm? Didn’t they realise we need at least twice as many as that?

In my story I Am Death, part of my Dark Places collection, the Grim Reaper talks about ‘an interminable period of time between the end of one day and the beginning of another – at true Mid Night – when forever fits neatly into a heartbeat. The Null.’ We could all do with one of those, couldn’t we?

Why am I so bothered, though? Why do I pine for the stolen minutes and hours?

Because I’m a writer. Because, if I don’t write, the words threaten to dribble out of my nose. That’d be messy. I have sinus problems as it is, without the added complication of Vocabularious Vomitus, or whatever it might be called.

But… I also have a day job. I also have a family. I also need to market. The latter also (useful word, that) a way to interact with other writers and fans. I can actually say I have real fans, based on some of the comments I’ve received for my work. What ends up happening, however, is that writing takes a backseat to everything else.

No wonder Sin took me ten years to complete!

Maybe, one day, we’ll all be like Igglepop, my strange friend who runs the Under the Bed Sweet Shop (where you go when your mum says “Sweet dreams”):

He’d a time machine in his belly, which he used twice a day, and the complete Enid Blyton on his wellie, carved in clay (the left boot, of course, certainly not the right! He was strange but not crazy! That would be such a sight!).

Well, maybe I’ll pass on Enid Blyton. Classic as they are, I’ll settle for The Belgariad or the Odd Thomas books, thanks. Still, the time machine would be useful. Or a voluntary Groundhog Day.

I think all such things are whimsy and want, though. I’ll have to continue to let loose my Muse when I can, and strap him down for the rest of the time. He’s a wriggly so-and-so, I have to say. I just hope he doesn’t escape whilst I’m writing a report or writing out my shopping list.

OK, I don’t write out a shopping list. I tend to wander around, picking the things I think I need off the shelves, knowing I’ll be half way home before I remember the three things I’ve forgotten but am desperately short of. But that’s half the fun.

So, time. It runs through my fingers and scampers off, laughing at me as it disappears over the horizon. There’ll never be enough. Apparently Time is relative.

A far distant cousin, from what I’ve seen.

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