BIG RELEASE: Oz the Great and Powerful (March 8)
THE BIG PICTURE: Lovable weirdo James Franco stars in this prequel about one of pop culture's greatest enigmas (other than Oprah)... Harry Potter, meet your cinematic granddaddy: a certain yet-to-be-wonderful wizard named Oz. When his weather balloon gets sucked into a tornado, a wannabe magician from Kansas is transported to the land of Oz. Faster than you can click your heels and say "there's is no place like home," Oz is up to his neck in witch trouble. Heralded as a long-expected saviour of the land, Oz's arrival is not welcomed by members of the local broomstick flying community. For his part, Franco displays a range of emotion (i.e. more than one) as Oz that Anne Hathaway would have killed for when he co-hosted the Oscars in 2011. Oz the Great and Powerful also tells the coming-of-magical-age stories of the land's three witches. Mila Kunis plays Theodora (the future Wicked Witch of the West), Rachel Weisz is Evanora (the future landing pad for Dorothy's house) and Michelle Williams is Glinda (the Good Witch). Frankly, I've never been more pro witch. Three more reasons to drink down this silver screen elixir.
FORECAST: Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Join the Lollipop Guild (you can pay your union dues in song and dance). This one could be the first real must-see film of 2013. Unlike most prequels, Oz's story deserves to be told -- and the film is bound to have more heart, courage and brains than Tim Burton's similar attempt to rehash Alice in Wonderland. This one is directed by Sam Raimi (the Spider-Man trilogy). Sam, just spare us the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" Spidey lecture and make with more Munchkins.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Dead Man Down. Niels Arden Oplev directs his first film since the original, Swedish version of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. In this thriller, Noomi Rapace blackmails and seduces Colin Farrell into killing a mob boss. Apparently, revenge is a dish best served... bold. Farrell is a one-man army. Apartments, cars, hearts, heads and henchmen explode -- and not necessarily in that order. They could have called this The Guy with the Irish Temper.
BIG EVENT: JACK (March 10, CBC, 8 p.m.
BIG PICTURE: CBC seems to hedging its bets on Canadian icons. First, we were treated to a miniseries on Don Cherry (whose "achievements" largely consist of fashion crimes and Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Hockey videos) and now Jack Layton receives a well-deserved biopic. Rick Roberts (This is Wonderland) plays the man with the signature moustache and Sook-Yin Lee (Shortbus, CBC's Definitely Not the Opera) plays Olivia Chow, his wife and political partner.
FORECAST: Get ready for another Orange Crush. Layton's ever-present smile and positive attitude had a non-partisan appeal -- as the national mourning that followed his untimely death proved. JACK focuses on the events that shaped his political path from Toronto city councillor to federal Leader of the Opposition -- and presumably also tells the origin story of his magical facial hair. On a side note, I have an idea for CBC's next biopic: REX, the untold story of Rex Murphy's childhood in the Jurassic period. Abandoned at birth and raised by pterodactyls, Murphy's tough-love childhood paves the road for him to become Canada's ageless crank (the script practically writes itself).
HONOURABLE MENTION: Homeland (March 6, BRAVO, 8 p.m. Finally a Canadian network smartens up and lands the broadcast rights to TV's best show -- and the 2012 Emmy winner for best drama, lead actress (Claire Danes) and lead actor (Damian Lewis). Enjoy. This psychological thriller about terrorism and American intelligence is "24 for people without ADD."
DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Fashion Star (March 8, NBC, 8 p.m. Ask yourself this: In what kind of crazy, screwed up world are BOTH Jessica Simpson and Nicole Richie considered mentors for anything? Season two of Fashion Star is upon us -- it's like Dragons' Den for fashion designers. Mentor away girls.
BIG RELEASES: (March 5): Son Volt (Honky Tonk), Wildlife (...On the Heart)
BIG PICTURE: Alt-country genius Jay Farrar follows his own yellow brick road into the heart of the American country music cannon. With a vintage sound that includes the fiddle and the pedal steel guitar, Farrar's band pays homage to classic country legends like Hank Williams and Buck Owens. If you want something closer to home, Toronto indie rockers Wildlife release their sophomore album. With big emotions, big hooks and big anthems, it promises to wear its heart on its sleeve.
FORECAST: Leave the Justin Timberlakes and Jay-Zs of the world to their suits and ties. Put on your straw hat and flannel and listen to some Honky Tonk. Or just sit back and enjoy the Wildlife.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Chelsea Light Moving (Chelsea Light Moving). This is grunge all grown up in the hands of one of its granddaddys. Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore returns with a new group -- but the same eccentricity. Moore offers a glimpse into the kind of music Kurt Cobain could have been making today.
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week