Friday Flicks: Take a Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road with ‘Oz: The Great And Powerful’

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Jon Furniss / Invision for Disney / AP

Sam Raimi, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, James Franco, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff attend Walt Disney Pictures European Premiere of 'Oz: The Great And Powerful' at the Empire Leicester Square in London on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

Oz: The Great And Powerful

Director Sam Raimi tackles the popular subject matter that is The Wizard of Oz with his reimagining of the fantasy fable in Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Oscar Diggs (James Franco), is a small-time circus magician with ever so slightly dubious ethics. And when he finds himself abducted from Kansas to the Land of Oz by a tornado, he reckons that he might just have hit the big time. But he hasn’t considered what impact three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), will have on his sudden new direction in life. They don’t believe Oscar is the wizard everybody’s hoping to meet. Can Oscar use his magic to convince them? And will the fact that the movie is in 3D convince you to part with your money?

The critics don’t appear overly convinced by what’s going on. Our own magician, at least with words, Richard Corliss, isn’t particularly charmed by the movie’s leading man: “Some blame has to fall on the versatile Franco … who lacks the con-man star quality of his sleaze turned superhero. His gummy smile is the rictus of a poseur second-class; his musk is of flop sweat. When one hears that Robert Downey, Jr., and Johnny Depp were in talks to play the lead role, one imagines the giddy, crafty showmanship Oscar could have embodied.” The Hollywood Reporter isn’t putting any thumbs up either. “Quite the opposite of the great earlier film, the Oz here is a dull place to be. Given the choice, you might even consider going back to Kansas.” And Screen International notes that “Sam Raimi tries to mix dark and light tones while bolstering the action and effects, but the resulting film is a glossy jumble that is rarely magical.” However, Emanuel Levy takes a kinder view, making the point that even though it can’t compare with the original, it’s still better than the current competition. “Though not fully satisfying as prequel to the 1939 classic, Raimi’s film is vivid, colorful and more enjoyable than Jack Giant Slayer, Mirror Mirror and other recent retooling of fables.”

MORE: James Franco Is the 21st Century’s First Great Public Intellectual

Dead Man Down

Tagline: Revenge is coming.

Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the original Swedish-language The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, reunites with his leading lady, Noomi Rapace, in his U.S. debut Dead Man Down.

Rapace plays Beatrice, who is drawn toward a stranger named Victor (Colin Farrell). He’s a Hungarian immigrant hoping for a better opportunity in the land known for them. But instead, everything that was good in his life is taken from him, as these two characters explore their mutual desire for revenge. Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper help round out a promising cast. At this time of writing, there isn’t much in the way of reviews to go on, but Enstars gives it a solid B+, pointing out that “the real star of the film is Rapace for the many faces her character has.”

VIDEO: Q&A with Noomi Rapace
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: It’s doesn’t seem to compare to last week’s releases but, if pushed, we’ll plump for Dead Man Down.

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