Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review Assignment Part 1: Research


Alice in Wonderland

March 4, 2010
Sexual panic is the last thing you'd expect to prod Alice to get her ass down a rabbit hole. But, hell, this is Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, not your third-grade teacher's version. Scholars of British author Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) will no doubt shriek, "Off with Burton's head!" for the liberties he takes in this 3-D mix of live action and animation. In the script that Linda Woolverton (The Lion King,Beauty and the Beast) has woven, often forcibly, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, things have changed — dramatically.
For starters, Alice is no longer seven years old. As played with feminist fire by Mia Wasikowska (so good as the suicidal, erotically confused gymnast in HBO's In Treatment), Alice, now 19, is her own woman. No way is she marrying the dweeb her guardians have chosen for her. So when the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) interrupts her engagement party, Alice returns to Underland (the real name). She doesn't remember the old gang, but they're there. Some in the flesh — the mood-swinging Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the good-but-goofy White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the villainous, giant-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her creepy Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover, a genuine wizard of odd). Other characters are animated and voiced by the cream of Brit talent, such as Absolem the caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Cheshire cat (Stephen Fry), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both Matt Lucas) and that dragon of a Jabberwocky (Sir Christopher Lee, his voice breathing fire).
It's a setup for magic that only fitfully comes. Burton is a visionary, but the film was shot in 2-D and converted to 3-D, a process that lets the seams show in a way they don't in, say, Avatar. Worse, there's a character jam that lets the film go inert and lose sight of Alice's goals to kill the Jabberwocky and find self-enlightenment.
The actors help enormously, but only a few are given the time to stretch out and insinuate themselves. Bonham Carter gets laughs, whether she's warming her feet on a squealing pig or ordering decapitations like lattes. Better yet, she shows how the regrettable size of the Queen's head has made her a freak in her own mind.
Depp is a marvel as the Hatter, orange hair sprouting as a result of poisoning from the mercury used in making hats. He handles Carroll's language so well that you wish more of it had slipped into the script. Love for Alice shines out of his eyes. But those hoping for a peek into the alleged perversity of Carroll's interest in young girls won't find it here. Still, even Disney and a PG rating can't bury Burton's subversive wit. Like Carroll, he's a master at dressing up psychic wounds in fantasy. If you're looking for the trippy bounce of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" with its wisdom in the shrooms, it can be found. Like Alice, you just have to dig for it.

Citation: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/alice-in-wonderland-20100304


3-D 'Alice in Wonderland' sparkles with magic, splendor

    When it comes to 3-D visual splendors, give me Wonderland over Pandora any day.
    For those who were wowed with the look ofAvatar but put off by the wooden characters and clunky dialogue, now there's Alice in all her "muchness." Alice in Wonderland's menagerie of characters range from mildly loopy to certifiably insane. But they're immensely fun, and what they have to say has charm and verve.

    Director Tim Burton has reimagined Lewis Carroll's classic tale in a way that might put some purists off. But the story he presents, with a more empowered 19-year-old Alice, is engaging and amusing. The visual landscape in which she travels is awash in color, magic and splendor.

    What is often forgotten in the more sanitized and sweet versions of Alice in Wonderland is that Carroll's story is essentially about growing up, which entails some dark experiences. Burton's distinctive cinematic style makes this eclectic fantasy — infused with both dark and light — a dynamic marriage of original material and modern filmmaker.
    Though there a few moments when the plot meanders, the inventive turns mostly keep the momentum going. The only misstep comes as the credits roll, with a pop song by Avril Lavigne that sounds like a generic version of one of her previous hits and seems to pander to a teen audience. Its inclusion is unnecessary and jarring.

    As Alice, Mia Wasikowska is pitch-perfect, looking the part and capturing her sense of innocence. She's a girl unlike most of her stuffy Victorian set, out of step with her peers, preferring to take off in vivid flights of imagination. A proposal from a stupefyingly dorky but aristocratic young man (Leo Bill) awaits her. But as Alice prepares her rejection, she's distracted by a white rabbit sporting a pocket watch (voiced by Michael Sheen). Soon, she has fallen down the famous rabbit hole, and her topsy-turvy adventure is underway.

    Burton artfully creates animated characters such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry) and the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee). British comic Matt Lucas 
    is the heart and soul of computer-generated Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
    But Burton also wisely calls upon his dual muses, Johnny Depp as the addled Mad Hatter, and Helena Bonham Carter as the imperious Red Queen. Depp is terrific as the carrot-topped, wonky-eyed Mad Hatter, a character given more depth than in previous clownish incarnations.

    Bonham Carter, though, steals the show with her hilarious verbosity. There's a lot more to her than fiery exhortations of "Off with your head!" However, heads loom large for her. She sports a particularly outsized and bulbous cranium, the object of much jesting. The Mad Hatter admires her protruding skull unabashedly: "I'd love to hat it," he burbles.
    It turns out that Wonderland is actually called Underland — which makes directional sense — and Alice had visited more than a dozen years before. In her absence, Underland has deteriorated under the Red Queen's reign of terror. It's up to Alice to side with the peaceful, if somewhat odd, White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and make things right.
    The movie should come with a note marked "Watch me" for its extravagance of whimsy and wonder.

    Citation: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2010-03-05-alice05_ST_N.htm?csp=IMDBreviews

    What’s a Nice Girl Doing in This Hole?
    By  Published: March 4, 2010

    Into the dark you tumble in “Alice in Wonderland,” Tim Burton’s busy, garish and periodically amusing repo of the Lewis Carrollhallucination “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It’s a long fall turned long haul, despite the Burtonian flourishes — the pinch of cruelty, the mordant wit — that animate the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the porker that slides under her feet with a squeal. “I love a warm pig belly for my aching feet,” the queen tells Alice. Played by Mia Wasikowska, Alice looks a touch dazed: she seems to have left her pulse above ground when she fell down the rabbit hole of Mr. Burton’s imagination.

    Mr. Burton has done his best work with contemporary stories, so it’s curious if not curiouser that he’s turned his sights on another 19th-century tale. Perhaps after slitting all those throats in his adaptation of “Sweeney Todd,” he thought he would chop off a few heads. Whatever his inspiration, he has tackled this new story with his customary mix of torpor and frenzy. After a short glance back at Alice’s childhood and an equally brief look at her present, he sends the 19-year-old on her way, first down the hole and then into a dreamscape — unfortunately tricked out with 3-D that distracts more than it delights — where she meets a grinning cat and a lugubrious caterpillar, among other fantastical creatures.

    Dark and sometimes grim, this isn’t your great-grandmother’s Alice or that of Uncle Walt, who was disappointed with the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.” “Alice has no character,” said a writer who worked on that project. “She merely plays straight man to a cast of screwball comics.” Of course the character of Carroll’s original Alice is evident in each outrageous creation she dreams up in “Wonderland” and in the sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass,” which means that she’s a straight man to her own imagination. (She is Wonderland.) Here she mostly serves as a foil for the top biller Johnny Depp, who (yes, yes) plays the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Burton’s bright and leaden whimsies.
    First thought up by Carroll in a rowboat in which one of the passengers was the 10-year-old Alice Liddell, the object of his much-debated love, “Wonderland” (1865) is, among many other things, a testament to glorious nonsense as well as an inspiration for dark thoughts (about Carroll’s feelings for Liddell) and for lysergic works from the likes of David Lynch. It’s a total (head) trip, one that starts and stops and doesn’t fit easily into the mainstream narrative mold, which could explain why the screenwriter Linda Woolverton, borrowing both from “Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” has given Alice a back story, a dash of psychology and a battle royal if, alas, not a pool of her own tears in which to swim.
    Since narrative momentum isn’t Mr. Burton’s strength, “Alice in Wonderland” probably seemed a good fit for him, and there are moments when his transparent delight in the material lifts the movie and even carries it forward. His Wonderland (here, Underland) isn’t inviting or attractive. The colors are often bilious, though the palette also turns gunmetal gray, bringing to mind “Sweeney Todd.” There’s a suggestively nightmarish aspect to Alice’s journey, as when she steps on some severed heads in the Red Queen’s moat as if they were stones. The queen herself is a horror: Bette Davis as Elizabeth I and reconfigured as a bobble-head doll. Ms. Bonham Carter makes you hear the petulant child in her barbarism and the wounded woman too. She rocks the house and the movie.
    And she does, even though the character is a harridan clich√© who, smitten with her knave (Crispin Glover) and clutching her power, rules with a boom. (“Off with his head!”) She eventually dukes it out with her rival and sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, gliding like an ice dancer), who enlists Alice’s help. There’s more, including computer-generated flowers, assorted 3-D projectiles and the usual British actors earning their pay, like the “Harry Potter” alumni Timothy SpallAlan Rickman and Imelda Staunton. Mr. Burton lavishes his attention on the little things in “Wonderland” — the perfectly drawn red heart painted on the center of the Red Queen’s mouth, for instance — perhaps because nothing else claims his attention. He’s very bad with the awkward action scenes, maybe because he’s embarrassed that they even exist.
    Mr. Depp’s strenuously flamboyant turn embodies the best and worst of Mr. Burton’s filmmaking tendencies even as the actor brings his own brand of cinematic crazy to the tea party. With his Kabuki-white face, the character seems to have been calculated to invoke Heath Ledger’s Joker, though at his amusing best the Hatter brings to mind a strung-out Carrot Top. But Mr. Depp doesn’t have much to do, which he proves as he wildly flirts with the camera. The only time the character hooks you is in the shivery moment when his gaze turns predatory as he looks at Alice, who, every inch a Tim Burton Goth Girl, from her corpselike pallor to her enervated presence, presents a more convincing vision of death than of sex.
    That queasy, potentially rich and frightening moment expectedly fades as fast as the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), which doesn’t leave you with much else to hold onto, Alice included. Mr. Burton’s heroine is a wan figure to hang an entire world on, and Ms. Wasikowska, who’s a livelier, truer presence in the forthcoming “The Kids Are All Right,” barely registers among Mr. Burton’s clanging and the computer-generated galumphing. This isn’t an impossible story to translate to the screen, as the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer showed with “Alice” (1988), where the divide between reality and fantasy blurs as it does in dreams. It’s just hard to know why Mr. Burton, who doesn’t seem much interested in Alice, bothered.
    Citation: http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/movies/05alice.html?_r=0
    Notes:
    All reviews have very descriptive words describing the characters: villainous, squealing, mildly loopy, certifiably insane, lugubrious

    Tim Burton's film style is mentioned by all the critics: Burton is a visionary, Mr. Burton has done his best work with contemporary stories, Burton artfully creates animated characters, The visual landscape created by Tim Burton is awash in color, magic and splendor, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, not your third-grade teacher's version

    All critics comment on the aesthetics of the animation characters: The queen is a bobble-head doll,  The Mad Hatter is carrot-topped and wonky-eyed

    All reviews compare their analysis to the original "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll

    Items Essential For Own Review:
    Characters (If they are the same actors/actresses if the the movie is a sequel)
    Length of Film
    Rating
    Story Line
    The Director

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