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Saturday, March 25, 2017



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"Return to OZ" is one of those underrated gems that just gets better and better every single time I see it. From the lovable characters; to its special effects; right down to its scary as hell moments that come from the film's villain the Nome King and his minions. And rather than talking about him first, I'm going to go the opposite direction and talk about the villains that serve him, and then talk about him since we don't see him until the third act of the film.

The film's secondary antagonist that's allied with the Nome King is the witch Mombi, who is now under the position of Princess once Oz has been taken over by him. Before we meet her, we hear threatening things about her from her henchmen, and an off-screen Nome King, but when we do finally see her, she turns out to be lovely and pleasant as she just sits in her beautiful palace playing a mandolin. And just as you begin to wonder what's so evil about her, since she seems so harmless, we are then exposed to her collection of heads that she's taken from the former residents of OZ, and uses them to change her appearance to make herself look beautiful, and with the famous Dorothy Gale in her grasp, she locks her up in a tower until she becomes a woman so that she can take her head, and put it into her collection. The concept of the character alone and what she tends to do to Dorothy is already disturbing enough, but the film takes extra steps to scare us for when Dorothy tries to steal a magic bottle that's next to her real head, which her actions accidentally causes the witch's wicked face to wake-up and angrily scream out her name (though how does she know who Dorothy is if she never wore that head in her presence...who cares it’s a scary scene), that also awakens her headless body that comes after Dorothy, and her other separate screaming heads. I may have not grown-up with this movie, but I do consider this scene to be the scariest scene in the movie that will disturb if not traumatize you whether you are young or old. And when she's not chasing after Dorothy for her head, she sits around taunting the real princess of OZ who she enchanted into the mirror (and real world...I guess).

Assisting Mombi in carrying out her plans to capture Dorothy, are henchmen who are half clown and half bicycle called Wheelers. Now I'm going to admit that I didn't really find these creatures as scary as many other fans of the movie have felt. Their designs are cool and at times freaky, but for the most part of the film I just found them to be comical. They all run away after being hit by a robot with a lunch pale, and when one of them gets captured as he's begging to be spared while acting cuckoo is just silly and pathetic. Truth be told I found myself feeling bad for them, rather than I did fearing them since they are shown being constantly abused by Mombi, and being forced to serve her. Not to mention the fact that a few them died in the deadly desert when they were chasing after Dorothy at the demand of their master, where any living thing that touches the sand will turn into sand (which more than likely means that half of the sand in the deadly desert are the remains from the creatures and people who have set foot on it). These guys are crazy and may probably already be the bullies or thugs of OZ when they weren't under Mombi and the Nome King's control, but if one thing's for sure, they're definitely not serving Mombi out of their own free will. The moment where I pity these creatures the most is when they act as a horse-drawn carriage as Mombi violently whips them in a hell-like environment, acting insane with her messy hair and wide-eyed expressions as she tells them to move faster.

However, even though I don't find them to be as scary as everybody else makes them out to be, that doesn't mean that I didn't find them horrofying at at least one point during the film, because I did, and that's the scene when we first meet them! Before we see them, we see graffiti on the walls of the ruins of OZ that reads "Beware the Wheelers", as we hear the screeching of their wheels and would occasionally catch tiny glimpses of them. And when they do show-up, we at first think that their angry stoned faces are their actual faces, only to realize that those faces are really their helmets and that their actual faces are very clown-like, as they then skate after Dorothy laughing, making strange animal-like noises to signal each other, and threaten to tare her into pieces with their wheels and throw her remains into the deadly desert as she's trapped by them. That is truly a scary introduction that gets more unsettling the more I see it, when I originally thought that it was just weird the first time I watched and reviewed the film. But aside from that, I still don't think they're as terrifying as everybody else has built them up to be.

Even though Mombi and her Wheelers assist the Nome King in ruling OZ, he does have minions of his own who are all made out of stone, just like him. These creatures can appear on any piece of rock and stone that lies on the surface of OZ, where they usually keep an eye on Dorothy and her friends, and report back to their master. The scenes when the Nome Messenger reports to the king truly look like something from my nightmares when I was a kid. That creepy voice (voiced by the actor playing the lead Wheeler) and the demonic-face on the walls of the Nome King's lair with the red hot fires reflecting on it as we hear his deep voice echo, just makes me shiver.

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With him and Mombi ruling OZ with his minions, what exactly did they do to it? Well they replaced Munchkinland with a dark forest, destroyed the yellow-brick road, stole all the emeralds from Emerald city, imprisoned the Scarecrow, and turned all of the inhabits of OZ to stone (including the Lion and the Tin-Man) as Mombi took a few of their heads. I mentioned earlier that Mombi helped the Nome King achieve it by imprisoning the princess Ozma, but it was mostly done by the Nome King when he got a hold of the ruby slipper when they fell off of Dorothy's feet as she was flying back home after she clicked her heels. So to make things more depressing of what's become of the land of OZ, it was mainly Dorothy's fault for her carelessness of possessing the slippers.

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Just like how we first met Mombi, instead of the Nome King looking scary and acting ruthless when we first see his stone face on the mountains of OZ, he instead friendly greets Dorothy and her friends, asking what he can do to make her visit happy. And when Dorothy claims that he stole the emeralds, and demands the Scarecrow to be released and the emeralds to be restored back to the city, he just laughs and lies to her by claiming that the emeralds were already his, and that he suspected that the Scarecrow stole them since he runs OZ, while he's taking her on a surreal tour through his lair and collection of emeralds. All throughout Dorothy's encounter with him until the climax, he hardly ever shouts or loses his cool in front of her, he always remains calm and graceful, by trying to cheer-up a down and out Dorothy over the loss of her friend after turning him into an ornament as "revenge" by giving her the chance to find him; offers her and her friends some tasty refreshments; and is willing to take Dorothy back home and erase her memory of OZ if she's not willing to find the Scarecrow.

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And why would she not want to find the Scarecrow you may wonder (for those who don't mind spoilers), because he has them play a guessing game to find the Scarecrow by touching an ornament in his treasure room and saying the word OZ, and if all three guesses are wrong, the person who fails to guess correctly will turn into an ornament themselves. When Dorothy protests against the challenge claiming that it's not fair and that he didn't tell them what the risk was going to be, he humbly tells her that she didn't ask, and if she were going to risk something than it is fair, and if they don't play his little game he'll throw them into his fiery furnace. This whole sequence is drenching with complete suspense from start to finish. Even when I know what happens in the end, I still find myself completely sucked in to the tension from the atmosphere, and how much I care about the characters and relate to what they must be feeling about being forced to take this challenge. The cool thing about this scene is every time when a character turns into an ornament, the Nome King's appearance keep's altering because when no one remembers OZ, he will become completely human (I don't know why, especially when he has the ruby slippers, but it's a fantasy so whatever). He goes from being a face on the stone walls of his lair, to later on having a rock body that are both carried by glorious use of Claymation that still holds up to this day for how much it fits the character, to looking nearly human where's he's played by the actor voicing the character (Nicol Williamson) that's supported by fantastic make-up.

But out of all the forms that the Nome King takes, the image that had many of us crapping ourselves is when he becomes a rock monster at the end! When Dorothy and the gang pass the challenge that they weren't supposed to succeed in, in a state of anger and frustration, the treasure room gets destroyed, the flames in his lair grow bigger and brighter, the music becomes intense, his minions become more monstrous looking as they begin to surround their prisoners, and the Nome King becomes bigger and scarier than he has ever been in the movie. And instead of just sending Dorothy away like he thought about doing before, he decides to devour them all. This is clearly where the Nome King's lair literally turns into OZ's interpretation of hell, for how demonic and infested with flames it is. But when the chicken accidentally drops an egg inside his mouth, he and the rest of the rock minions slowly turn into skulls since egg's are poisonous to Nomes.  And I have to say that even though the Wicked Witch of the West's death will always be iconic and one of the classic deaths in film history, I admire that this film actually hint's that a chicken is somehow deadly to Nome's, rather than it happening out of the blue and revealed at the last minute, and when we find out why, it still comes off as a surprise, and dare I say a more intense demise.

Just like in the classic OZ film that everybody has seen or heard of, where the majority of the characters that Dorothy meets are fictional counterparts to the people that she's known in Kansas, this film does pretty much the same thing, mainly regarding the villains. The Nome King's real-life counterpart is a jolly friendly doctor, who is obsessed with "Electrical Healing" feeling that it can help a person since he believes that the brain act like machines, as he tries this method on people with a machine that resembles a face. But as pleasant as his presence is, and persuading his method would sound for people at the time, it in reality horribly damaged his patients so much that he would keep them locked in the cellar of his clinic, where you can hear their screams echo through the dark halls. A few of the qualities and characteristics that both the doctor and the Nome King have in common is they're both liars who act nice and seem to want to help Dorothy (both claiming that they know what will "cheer” her up, which are actually horrible solutions), but in reality they're just talking down to her, and are only trying to harm her for their own personal gain, than actually doing good for her. Even as going as far as claiming that the electric shock won't hurt her, when he knows that it indeed will after trying it on many other patients. They both are also seen smoking a pipe to emphasize on their class. And if the machine that he has by the way looks familiar to any of you who've seen the film, that's because it's supposed to be the real-life counterpart for the robot Tik-Tok, since it has a face and needs to be wand-up.

Mombi's real-life counterpart is a nurse who serves the doctor just as faithfully as her fictional counterpart does, who is so strict and emotionless as she wears a dark and gothic looking dress, that I swear that she makes Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" look sweet and professional. To be perfectly honest, even though I enjoy Jean Marsh's performance as Mombi when she's wearing her real head for how wildly cruel and wicked she is, I actually found her scarier as the nurse mainly because she doesn't ham it up as much as she does as Mombi. If anything, I get more chills out of her for how straight-faced and no-nonsense she is. Some of the other things that resemble her OZ version of herself that you are more likely to miss is that she keeps Dorothy locked in a room, that interestingly enough has the same number as the number for the cabinet where Mombi keep's her original head. Also when either form catches Dorothy escaping after having her locked up, they both react to her attempt by exclaiming "So"! And just like how Mombi has a gang of Wheelers assisting her to help out the Nome King, she has unfriendly looking nurses that are always shown pushing the stretchers (the one that pushes the one that Dorothy is on, is the same actor who plays the lead Wheeler). You may even notice that just like how Mombi's palace at first look pretty and decorative to looking old and dusty when Dorothy is being taken the away, the same can be said exactly about the clinic that the Doctor runs.

What's especially interesting about how both forms relate to each other is that their fates are very similar. The Nome King loses his kingdom and dies, as the doctor loses his clinic because of lightning and dies as he tries to save his machines. And Mombi gets imprisoned and is disenchanted from her magic, as the nurse goes to jail for assisting the doctor in damaging the minds of innocent people. The thing that I find head scratching about the movie but not in a negative way at all is it was never clear if OZ was a dream or not. In the original classic that the film is NOT a sequel too, but borrows a few elements from it however, is it was clear that Dorothy's journey was a dream since she was knocked unconscious during the storm, and in the end of her trip she wakes up in her bed. But here, it's a little more puzzling. She gets taken away by the current in the river, and wakes-up on land when she comes back from OZ, but who was the girl that saved her from being electrocuted? We never see her again after she frees Dorothy, nor find out who she was in reality. Was she just a figment of Dorothy's imagination and that she probably freed herself somehow? Ok, but what are the chances that the nurse and doctor would share a similar fate that her dreams had? It's a little too coincidental for a dream if you ask me. Could it possibly be that Dorothy really did get shock therapy, and everything starting from the lights going out to when she was awake, is her being delusional as she's wandering around not knowing what's going on and seeing stuff that isn't there, or looking at things that are currently happening through a different reality? The answer to me at least remains a mystery, and I haven't seen the film enough times to give you a complete analysis of it, but needless to say that the mystery of it is one of the reasons why fans of the film love coming back to it. I know I certainly do.

It’s surprising that Disney can make a good OZ film and be enchanting, but also legitimately horrifying for any age. And it all comes from crazy bicycle men, a Witch who takes people’s heads, and rock monsters, that are all lead by the biggest monster of them all who destroyed a fantasy world that we all wish to visit. And before we enter all of this, we witness Dorothy face a doctor who believes in the horrible process of shock therapy, and cold and bitter nurses in a dark clinic full of locked people who have gone insane. If you forgot that “there’s no place like home”, don’t worry the Nome King and all who serve him will greatly remind you by scaring the living day-lights out of you!

"There's noooo place like home"
-The Nome King

Tuesday, March 14, 2017





I'll admit that this was a difficult choice choosing if I liked Syndrome or Lotso better, not just in terms of ranking the villains on my list but for which one is my favorite Pixar villain altogether. Both are similar for having a tragic back-story that turns them into heartless characters that seek power, but they both have a major difference in terms of personality, abilities, and how they carry out their villainous schemes. It was a very hard decision, but in the end I wand-up choosing the rich fan-boy who carries weapons to create chaos and fight against his enemies.

The first reason why I prefer him over Pixar villains like Randall, Hopper, and Lotso is his heartbreaking back-story. When we first see him he's a hyper and enthusiastic kid named Buddy, who obsesses over his idol Mr. Incredible by following him as he's fighting crime in hopes to persuade him to be his sidekick so that he can help save the world with him. He knows all of his skills, history, and moves; can create inventions to help aid him and Mr. Incredible for their battle for justice; and has taken the time to a make a cheesy Superhero outfit and heroic identity called "Incredi-boy". But no matter how hard he tries to convince Mr. Incredible to give him a chance, he coldly turns his back on him at every turn, telling him to "fly home" because he "works alone". And when he tries to take action, he just makes things worse by accidentally destroying property and letting the villain get-away. Now in all fairness, I don't really blame Mr. Incredible too much for turning his back on him. I mean after all he is a kid who's inexperienced at fighting, makes mistakes, and probably needs some help given how much he obsesses over him (and doesn't remember the fact that he was holding the villain Bomb Voyage in his grasp when he told him to leave, instead of directly staring at him as if he had nothing to do), where it makes sense for him not to want put the kid's life on the line, especially when considering that he doesn't have powers like him (and yes I know he lets his children help him fight crime, but it's not like he was opened to the idea from the start either). But with that said, he was a little too harsh on him. He uses the ejector seat to throw him out of his car instead of politely telling him to leave, or shoving him out himself; doesn't congratulate or seem impressed that a kid has invented a pair of rocket boots at all; and the way he tells him to leave was just flat-out cruel. I know he's fighting a bad guy, and that he’s getting ready to get married, but can he be just like "Hey, I admire your courage for coming out here to help, and I'm impressed by your rocket boots, but I don't need any help right now, but maybe in the near future will discuss how you can help me fight crime". It probably wouldn't have worked considering how over-obsessed and determined he is to impress Mr. Incredible and that he'll eventually realize that his kind way of telling him to leave was complete B.S. overtime, but at least he would show some kind of gratitude and respect for his "number 1 fan", rather than his anger towards him feeling personal.

The reason why I find his back-story more heartbreaking compared to Lotso is even though Lotso's story is sad; it was still revolving around a misunderstanding. He thought Daisy had replaced him, when in reality it was her parents and there was nothing that she can do about it. Here, our villain is directly being shunned away by the person who he idolizes and wants to be like as a kid, which is definitely every kid and young adult who fans over a celebrity worst nightmare come true! How would you feel if the person you looked up to, coldly turned you down, or wasn't the person you thought they was, you'd be devastated, which is why his transformation to becoming a villain is so sad because we can relate to his feelings of disappointment and rejection. The interesting thing about seeing Syndrome when he was young is the fact that he's voiced by the same actor who voices him as an adult, Jason Lee, where you think that would sound distracting since he's voicing a kid, but his voice surprisingly fits the personality and design just as well as how the film's director and writer Brad Bird perfectly fits the role of voicing the character of the female Superhero fashion designer Edna Mode.


One of the many cool thing that makes the villain my favorite from the other Pixar villains is how insanely rich he is! Since he has a talent for creating weapons and gadgets at a young age, he eventually got so rich from making them that he owns a whole entire Island that looks like Neverland from an aerial view, but looks more like an Island that a James Bond villain would love to have once you set foot on it, with tons of skilled henchmen working for him that carry guns and drive futuristic flying vehicles to chase down intruders, as well as a number of robots disguised as birds that keep the Island under surveillance, and will alert that there's an intruder if a person doesn't identified them-self. He also has secret passage ways that control the nature on the Island that lead to his lair; a giant computer room with hidden booby traps; a dining room located by a waterfall of Lava; a monorail system that goes around the Island; a launch tower for rockets that's located inside a volcano; and he has a Jet that can function as an airplane and submarine, complete with an automated pilot that serves cocktails. Holy cow, this guy really has it made!

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With all the money he has, and possessing weapons that he made from scratch, instead of using them for good, he uses it for revenge against his idol Mr. Incredible. He has an energy beam that can freeze any one in place and levitate them as they are frozen; new and improved rocket boots for him to fly around; a miniature bomb that's shaped after Mr. Incredible’s old symbol that can cause massive destruction; and a device that can see if anyone's dead or alive. He's so powerful with all the gadgets and futuristic weapons he carries that with the exception of the baby Jack-Jack, none of the Incredible's ever lay a finger on him since he can freeze them all in a millisecond. He also shows no problems or remorse over killing Mr.Incredible's own family because seeing him cry about the loved ones he's lost is sweet revenge for him, where he goes as far to taunting him with the same words that he used to break his spirits as a child. Most of Syndrome's taunts against Mr. Incredible and his family are both harsh and yet so funny thanks to Jason Lee's delivery. My favorite taunt is when he mocks Mr. Incredible for calling for help, that's humorous for how he hops around saying "help me" in a scared childish voice, but at the same time harsh considering that it would be out of character for him to ask for help which upsets him so greatly that it causes him to angrily shout out the word "lame" a few times. And that's another thing I find intriguing about this villain, even though he hates Mr. Incredible after the heartbreak that he's given him, he still obsesses over him. He wanted Mr. Incredible to be the final test subject for a weapon that he's created before he takes action; geeks out over the facts that he faked his own death, and that he married another Superhero and had a family of supers; and knows that Mr. Incredible would never ever kill an innocent, even after losing his loved ones that he uses for his own advantage.

But as much as he takes pleasure on taking revenge on Mr. Incredible, that's only a minor part of his overall evil plan. His main goal is to actually wipe out Superheroes forever!

He does this by locating Superheroes in-hiding, and hiring his assistant Mirage to send them a video message of mission briefings. Before I go further into the plan, I'm going to talk a little bit about his assistant Mirage. While I like that her character, mannerisms, and design is supposed to resemble a bond girl working for a villain like Pussy Galore from "Goldfinger" for example. I don't find her character that interesting. She's not boring or anything, but she's mainly the kind of character who you know is going to reform later on in the film, that just makes her come across as a cliche with hardly anything new about her.

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Getting back to Syndrome's main goal, once the heroes contact Mirage, they go to his Island to fight off an experimental battle robot called an Omnidroid, where he secretly uses the heroes as test subjects for his robot by killing each and every one of them. But if a Superhero destroys the Omnidroid, he'll know what needs to be improved, and will summon the Superhero that destroyed it back, where they're this time guaranteed to never leave the Island. And he keeps doing this process until the majority of supers are dead (since he can't track Elastigirl, and that Mirage lets Frozone go free so Mr. Incredible can take his place) and when he's ready to test his robot on the hero that he hates the most. The primary reason why Syndrome is my number favorite Pixar villain is because he commits genocide! He's killed such a large number of down and out Superheroes over the years after being let down by one, that it’s disturbing and sad. We never met them, but it's still depressing considering that he's killing off a race of powerful but innocent people out of hate and vengeance! And looking at their names and designs on the computer when we discover this information, we find ourselves wanting to learn more about them before they were axed off. The Omnidroid also comes across just as interesting as the Superheroes are, since it's been through so many different designs and alterations, and the final product that came out of it is Syndrome's most deadliest weapon yet, that can shoot lasers; has claws that can turn into buzz-saws; can change into a sphere to roll around to get to places faster; is gigantic in size; and is indestructible!


When his Omnidroid is finished, he plans to let it loose in the city to cause havoc and endanger the lives of many, and show-up as a Superhero to fight the machine, when he'll actually be secretly using his remote that controls the robot to destroy it, and in the end be praised as a Superhero for his staged actions by rising to fame and glory. And when he retires from saving people's lives, he'll sell his inventions so that everybody can have powers and be super. So he doesn't just kill the majority of Superheroes just to pass himself off as one, but he plans to make sure that Superheroes will be gone for good when Superpowers can now be accessible to the point where they'll no longer be considered to be a special or an abnormal thing! Who would have guessed that such a dweeb would be the downfall of Superheroes, let alone being one of the richest men in the world?!

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When his plan backfires since he can't stop his own robot, and that the Incredibles have taken away his supposed glory by destroying the robot themselves as he's knocked-out, he sinks to a new low by kidnapping the family's baby to raise him to be his evil sidekick as revenge for foiling his chance to become a Superhero, and for Mr. Incredible refusing to take him under his wing when he was a kid. Now that's truly one disturbed man! But in an out of nowhere and yet hilarious twist, Jack-Jack has the powers to shape-shift into different forms, including a mini-devil to fight against Syndrome and destroy one of his rocket-boots. When Syndrome is about to make his get-away after the baby is rescued, Mr. Incredible throws a car at his escape Jet, which causes his cape to get caught inside the Jet's engine that sucks him right in and causes the jet to explode! OK, that is in my opinion thee harshest and gruesome death to have ever happened to a Pixar villain! And what I enjoy most about his defeat is how the film foreshadows it. When we see him as a kid trying to impress Mr. Incredible by flying away to get help, Bomb Voyage places a bomb on his cape that nearly gets him killed. And when Mr. Incredible asks Edna to add a cape on to his new suit, she refuses as we get a series of flashbacks of Superheroes getting into accidents because of their capes. What’s also amusing about the foreshadows to his death is Syndrome doesn't just get into an accident that costs him his life because of his cape, but he also suffers the same fate as one of the Superheroes did in the flashback! The film's mockery of Superheroes wearing capes is indeed one of the cleverest and yet darkest jokes that the film has to offer.

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Earlier I talked about my favorite taunt from Syndrome, but the line from him that makes me laugh the hardest for how funny the delivery and writing is, is not from the movie itself, but from the spin-off short film "Jack-Jack Attack". The short film is no masterpiece compared to Pixar's other works in terms of short films, but it's still a lot of fun as we get to look into the enigma member of the Incredibles where I find myself buying that these events happened while they were fighting on Syndrome's Island. And Sydrome's cameo towards the end when the babysitter Kari thought that he was the back-up babysitter that Helen was supposed to send always has me laughing hard, because when Kari asks what the S on his suit stands for, he claims that it stands for "Sitter" and that he didn't want to use the initials for babysitter because he would be walking around with a big "B.S.", as he is talking B.S. That is just gold! One thing you may notice from his little cameo in the film is that he's not wearing his mask, which is interesting because we never ever see him take off his mask when he's an adult. And speaking of a feature to his costume, I do enjoy the design and color scheming for his Super-villain identity, where his clothing is drenched in black and white, as the only bright color that stands out is his red volcano shaped hairdo, that looks silly but at the same time mischievous.

I know it may be weird for some of you that he's not on my top ten since he is my favorite Pixar villain, but that's because the villains that I have coming up on the list are characters who I like better in terms of ranking all categories of Disney villains (well...with the exception of TV shows). But whether he is on my top 10, top 20, or even top 30, Syndrome from both "The Incredibles" and the short film "Jack-Jack Attack" still out ranks all of my favorite Disney villains in the Pixar category. His back-story is sad; he's tons of fun to watch; he carries all kinds of powerful gadgets that the heroes hardly stand a chance against; lives on an awesome Island; and his motivation of ridding the world from Superheroes is darker than any Pixar villain I've ever seen.

"And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that everyone can be superheroes. EVERYONE can be super! And when everyone's super...NO ONE will be."