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Fairuza Balk Talks Return to Oz Documentary

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Thirty-two years ago, Disney’s Return to Oz premiered in theatres and managed to scare the living hell out of children across the globe. Between the terrifying images of the Wheelers and Princess Mombi’s hall of stolen heads (not to mention allegations of botched electroshock therapy, of which Dorothy Gale is almost a victim)… at first glance, there is no obvious rainbow to be found in the film. Not a sequel to the Judy Garland musical but an adaption of L. Frank Baum’s second and third Oz books, Return to Oz is a dark fantasy (emphasize dark, at least by Disney standards) released in the midst of such films as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; a precursor to the type of family film that Tim Burton would become known for.

But Return to Oz was not an initial success. Audiences seemed incapable of disassociating the film with the 1939 version and because of the “joyless” subject matter, critics were almost unanimously negative. The film began development in 1980 under the direction of Walter Murch, the Oscar-winning film and sound editor behind such films as American Graffiti, The Godfather: Part II, and Apocalypse Now

Around this time, Disney was attempting to shed the negative notions of its image. The world had changed since Walt Disney’s death in 1966 and in turn, so did audiences’ interests. The whacky family comedies of the ’50s and ’60s couldn’t sustain the company any longer, going up against the gritty-heavy releases of the ’70s (not to mention, competition from other non-Disney children’s entertainment). Films like The Black Hole, The Watcher in the Woods, and Something Wicked This Way Comes had attempted to break new ground, ultimately proving to be disappointments, but it was at this time in the company’s history that brought forth a rather confusing project like Return to Oz. During the course of production (which included budget overruns, financial cuts, and at one point, the firing and eventual rehiring of the director), the Disney company had went through two series of management changes (deemed a necessity given the company’s dire prospects at the time). This left final studio heads, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenburg, unsure of what to make of this upcoming film. Despite a gala premiere at Radio City Music Hall, promotion was relatively weak given the uncertainty of how to market the film. Coupled with the negative reviews, mainstream audiences predominantly forgot about this gem post-release.

Fortunately, Return to Oz has come to thrive with repeated DVD viewings, continually frightening new audiences while also coming to be more warmly embraced. In her film debut, The Craft‘s Fairuza Balk gives a captivating performance as the stoic Dorothy Gale; the characters of Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead are brought to life to perfection via alumni of the Jim Henson company, and David Shire’s hauntingly beautiful score remains powerful all these years later.

To underline the post-release success, Family Film Productions is currently in the midst of shooting a documentary titled Remembering Return to Oz, which focuses on the history and legacy of this Disney cult classic. We recently caught up with Fairuza Balk to chat about the project, and while she says she hasn’t shot her portion of the interviews yet, she is excited at the prospect of her debut film receiving the documentary treatment. “It’s wonderful because I’m very proud of Return to Oz. At the time the film came out, it was very controversial and it’s really wonderful to see there’s such a huge fan base now, and that it’s being appreciated because Walter Murch is a genius. I love the movie and I’m very proud and happy to see there is a documentary in the making about it. I was a child so it’s been a long time and I’m sure there’s plenty of stories from other crew members that I’d love to hear from.” 

Balk also took the time to reflect on one of her favorite memories of shooting. “It was my birthday and I was sad because I was working. I had thought that my mom and everyone had forgotten and I was trying to be a little trooper and not say anything. And then at lunch, Robbie Barnett, who played one of the Wheelers… He came out dressed as a giant bunny on stilts with an enormous carrot. He picked me up and put me up on his shoulders and walked me around on the stilts, and he brought out a big birthday cake and everybody wished me happy birthday. I was just so, so surprised and felt so loved. It’s a very, very pristine and clear memory of how they treated me on that film and how protective and loving everyone was. You hear these horror stories about what kids go through on movies and it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone treated me like I was their kid. It was wonderful.”

Scheduled to be released next year, Remembering Return to Oz will also include interviews with director Walter Murch, producers Gary Kurtz and Paul Manslansky, composer David Shire, and actors Emma Ridley (Ozma), Justin Case (Scarecrow), Deep Roy (The Tinwoodsman), Denise Bryer (voice of Billina), Sophie Ward (Mombi #2), Fiona Victory (Mombi #3), Pons Maar (Lead Wheeler), Lyle Conway and Brian Henson (son of Muppets creator Jim Henson), who were the puppeteers and voices for the Gump and Jack Pumpkinhead, respectively. For more on the doc, be sure to check out the official Remembering Return to Oz Facebook page for further updates!

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Netflix’s The Cloverfield Paradox Scored 2.8 Million Viewers in First Three Days

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A few weeks back we brought you a news story in which Netflix shelled out a whopping $50 million for the streaming rights to The Cloverfield Paradox.

If you are like me, then you’ve been wondering how that investment is paying out for the streaming giant in the wake of the resounding “thud” the film made after it hit late on Super Bowl Sunday.

Well, it seems the movie did pretty good… but nothing special (which is the general consensus to the film itself) and scored 2.8 million viewers in the first 3 days of release.

These numbers come to us from Variety, who reports that, while 2.8 million is no small number, when compared to the 11 million viewers that David Ayers’ Bright starring Will Smith pulled in late last year, The Cloverfield Paradox pales in comparison. But is it fair to compare The Cloverfield Paradox to Bright? Shrugs.

What do you think? Let us know below!

The film is directed by Julius Onah from a screenplay by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung and stars David Oyelowo, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, and Chris O’Dowd.

The film is now streaming on Netflix.

Synopsis:

Astronauts must fight for their lives after making a terrifying discovery in outer space.

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Toy Fair 2018: Funko’s Savage World Turns Horror Icons Into Masters of the Universe Characters

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What would happen if classic horror icons existed within the world of the Masters of the Universe franchise? That’s a question Funko have answered with their new ‘Savage World’ line of action figures, which depicts horror characters including Leatherface, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Pinhead as they would look had they been birthed into the world of Castle Grayskull alongside He-Man and Skeletor. Funko have given us some pretty weird shit over the years, but this is on a whole other level.

Thanks to Bloody Disgusting, Preternia, Popvinyls.com, and the Twitter account @FakeEyes22, we are able to share some images of these testosterone-fueled slasher figures, which were on display at the New York Toy Fair. There’s currently no word on when these musclebound monstrosities will be hitting stores, but I’m willing to bet that one look at the gallery below will instantly have you counting your change.

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Death Confirmed to Be Part of Bill & Ted 3

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Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal introduced the world to a version of death that has since become iconic. A dark force, the Grim Reaper is willing to give people a chance to reclaim their souls should they best it in a game. While this incarnation is truly magnificent, I believe that many people will recognize the parody version that William Sadler brought to life in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the 1991 sequel that saw Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves’ characters die and face the awkward spirit.

Nearly three decades later, fans of the Bill & Ted series are awaiting a third film, which has been known to be in the works for quite a while. Dubbed Bill & Ted Face the Music, it’s been written by Ed Solomon (Men in Black), who recently took to Twitter to confirm that the scythe-wielding ghoul is in the film and that he hopes William Sadler reprises the role! Solomon is also the man responsible for writing the first two films as well as the animated series “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures” and the 1991 video game Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure.

At this point, it’s all just speculation as to if a third film will ever be made. However, nearly every single party involved is ready to make this a reality, so all it needs is a studio to pony up the money!


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