Monthly Archives: March 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Alice Kingsley is a 19-year-old girl who is more or less of a dreamer.  Bored with the contemporary views of Victorian London, she has always thought of at least six impossible things before breakfast.  Now at one of the most crucial moments in her life, she once again finds herself following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and into the tyrannical clutches of the Red Queen, who has viciously taken over since Alice’s departure 13 years prior.

      Visually, this film is spectacular.  Burton knew how to use the 3D and used it well.  And Colleen Atwood will always exceed expectations as far as costumes go.  There, that is out of the way – now to a more pressing matter, the characters.

      What I liked most about the characters is that they are better-rounded: they now have names and motivations for their actions, which will be played out further – and amazingly enough, the characterizations are still extraordinarily true to the book (more of the poem Jabberwocky), if not exaggerations.  But now we know about why the Red Queen is the Queen of Hearts, and why the Hatter’s so mad – they have depth now!  However, I felt that some characters, such as the Tweedles (Little Britain’s Matt Lucas) and the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), should’ve been on camera far more often.

      And speaking of the Hatter, or Tarrant Hightopp, he seems to be on everyone’s mind.  Depp portrays the Hatter as seemingly a bipolar cross between Vincent Price and Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons, channeled through a mood ring, wrapped in the visage of Elijah Wood on crack.  Personally, I think this role was overplayed – not so much in the acting sense (I mean, come on, he’s literally mad, what did you expect?), but I don’t really know why he became such a major character, even more so than the remarkably charming Cheshire Cat, Chessure (ooooh Stephen Fry, you complete me).  Could this be another marketing ploy from Disney? – Using Johnny as their profit puppet?  You sicken me.  Also, the relationship between Hatter and Alice is almost baffling – it’s cute, like brother and sister, but grows more awkward if anything – screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Mulan, The Lion King), what were you thinking?

And while I am writing to you, Woolverton, why is Alice so bland?  (I do not blame Mia Wasikowska for this portrayal whatsoever – she appears to be a very competent actress.)  I mean, I know she’s still figuring out who she is, but why present her with such apathy?  Oh, and that Fuderwhack, that was so random…but the only reason I’m not completely turned off is because it’s Wonderland (well, “Underland”), and anything can happen…but that was still so ridiculous…alas my mind is torn.

However, I am fond of the notion that Absolum, the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman…yum) did become an important character, because lately he’s just been perceived as that caterpillar who is stoned out of his mind – but in this, he is more of a guiding light than that Cat ever was.  And on a more separate note, I am particularly glad to see a new bunch of actors in Burton’s troupe (Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Lucas, Fry, Michael Sheen), and I really hope to see them in some of his future endeavors.

So on the whole, though this film is definitely aimed at the tween set (…fuderwhacking…dear Lord…), Burton gives us a story that will still please fans of the book, while offering more depth to these characters.  And as colorful as it is, the film is still exceptionally dark (the tiny Alice hopping across the moat on the severed heads was a particularly nice touch) – but then again, so was the original story.  If only Woolverton hadn’t botched things up…fracking Disney…..

Final Grade: B

“Ten points from Gryffindor!”

Shutter Island

In the spring of 1952, Federal Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), is investigating a murderess’s disappearance from an institution for the criminally insane, conveniently located on the mysterious and secluded Shutter Island.  Perhaps it’s the isolation or maybe the general psychosis of the “patients,” but the more time spent on the island, the more haunted he becomes by his own past.

      This film made me fall back in love with the psychological thriller, not that much persuasion was needed, but I’m telling you straight up that this film was pretty good.  I mean, this brings back memories of The Silence of the Lambs (oh hey Ted Levine, nice cameo you got thar) – and that’s quite a statement from me.  Scorsese’s use of visuals and story are such a compelling match, you’re instantly drawn into the plot.  And the score!  Holy crap it could’ve not been a better match!  Not only is the audience driven into Daniels’ mind, but I swear I could feel the unadulterated tension and paranoia.

      Again, this movie is great.  It’s reminiscent to an old-school psychological thriller, but thick with originality.  Hoorah.

 Final Grade: A