Monday, June 14, 2010

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland: Reviewed

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland: Reviewed

Its maybe long, but hopefully not painless, well here on this blog, maybe a little!lol

I think that its pretty much a given to have pre-concieved (and rightfully so at that) before watching Tim Burton's films, and excpeing them to be really quite strange and fantastical, which they offen are. Edward Scissor hands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, James And The Giant Peach, The Corpse Bride, even his Batman was weird to some degree, though I'll be the first to say that its the best in the series. This movie, Alice In Wonderland is not short on Burton's imaginative weirdness, but it also works within the parameters set, as Wonderland is supposed to be quite weird in the first place.

Lets move on shall we?...

We start watching a conversation between a man (Alice's father), and some other very old looking men. A young girl (9 yr. old Alice) interrupts saying she had a (the, as she says) again, and that she worried she may be mentally ill, to which her father replies "You are, your stark-raving mad, but all the best people are". What a pep talk! Next we see a carriage speeding through a courtyard with teenage Alice, and her widowed mother inside, arguing over how she's dressed and her rebellious ways. She says she had the dream again. her mother gives her a necklace tat Alice's father gave her, and then off to what we later learn is Alice's engagement party. There we meet the parents of the proposed groom, an overly snobby woman, and a kind business man, whom worked with Alice's father, and now controlls and oversees his trading company. Her suitor, Hamish is a rather dorky look kid, who seems to be concerned for Alice's absent mindedness, he then says he wats to meet her under the gazebo (Again, spelling?). Her older sister soon rejoins her and lets her in on the surprise ahead of her (the proposal). She stumbles upon her brother inlaw cheating on her sister with another girl and then heads of to the gazebo. Heimlisch flimsily and slowly proposes to her infront of all the guests, and as she reasons it out (with voicing all but her own opinion), she runs off after the rabbit whom she's been seeing, chasing after. she discovers the hole and falls in.

Off to never, never land! Whoops! Sorry, Wonderland. Wrong movie, and possible infringement on Metallica. Sorry guys!

Now, after falling an inordinate amount of time, she finds the shrinking cake and eats some. She then discovers the door she needs to get though is locked, and the key is up on a very large table. The then drinks the enlargement elixer, and grows. She grabs the key and eats the shrinking cake, all the while being watched by the White rabbit, the Dodo and the Doormouse, who argue over her Aliceness authenticity. She then walks henceforth into wonderland. Walking along, she finally meets the White Rabbit, the Doormouse, the Dodo and the twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum. To confirm her identity, they take to to the Caterpillar (whom they ferfer to as Absalom). They roll out the calendar for wonderland, the "oraculum", and show her her destiny, though she believes it's all a dream, and says shes not the Alice they are searching for. They all become angry and confront her, when the Bandersnatch comes through, with the Queen of Hearts army. One by one, thet all fall as they run for safety but Alice, who faces the bandersnatch, and is wounded by the beast with a scratch to her arm. We are then shown that the Knave of Hearts now had the "oraculum" of wonderland, and realizes that she is indeed the real Alice, and searches for her. As its shown that all were captured by the Queen but Alice and doormouse, we first meet the Red Queen, who interrogates her frog servants about who ate her tarts. The Knave returns revealing the oraculum, and they devise a plan to find and kill Alice. She send the Knave, her army and a dog (who becomes Alice's ally later), whom they threaten with his captured family. Alice, still wondering through Wonderland, meets the Cheshire Cat, who bandages up her wound, and takes her to the Hatter. Here we meet the Hatter and the March Hare, who are still having tea, awaiting Alice's return. The hatter when angry, switches to a distorted Scottish accent and becomes quite dark and foreboding. Upon discovery by the Knave, the hatter hides Alice in a tea pot. When the dog, Bayod, sniffs her out, Hatter convinces the dog to to not signal her presence due to them both hating the Red Queen. After the Knave leaves due to not finding anything, Hatter takes her on a journey to tell her the story of what happened when the red Queen took over. All of a sudden they are closed in upon by the red knights. Fleeing, Hatter allows him self to to be captured, but not before throwing Alice (who has been riding on his hat) to safety. Alice Spends the night under his hat, but is found in te morning by the Bayod, who reveals to her they have his family captive, and agrees to help her free Hatter, and take her to the White Queen, in return for helping to free his family.

And its of to the Red Queen's Palace.

Once behind the walls of the Queen's fortress walls, Alice is found by the White Rabbit, and is given some enlargement cake. She is found by the Red Queen, who is fooled by Alice into thinking she is a girl named Um, from Umbridge, and is soon befriended by the Queen. In the palace, she sees Dee and Dum, and is almost given away by one of them, before the Queen sends them away. The Knave returns with the Hatter, and quickly takes a liking to Alice, whom he also thinks is Um aswell. The Hatter tricks the Queen into letting him go, by saying he'd like to hat her, which she accepts. Meanwhile, Bayod returns and tells the White Queen of Alice's whereabouts, and to prepare for her return. Late that night, the White Rabbit steals back the oraculum, and reveals to Alice where the special Vorpal sword is kept (In the bandersnatch's pen). On the way, she is cornered by the Knave, and she fights of his unwanted advances. Once inside, Alice gives back the eye of the Bandersnatch, whom then befirends her as well, and lets her have the key around its neck, as well as cure the infection in her arm wound. The Red Queeen while being hatted by the Hatter learns from the Knave, who lies about the encounter between him and Alice, sends her army after Alice and imprisons Hatter and Doormouse. Alice escapes and heads to the White Queen's palace, with the aid of the Bandersnatch.

To the White Queen's kingdome...

Alice brings the Vorpal sword to the White Queen. and they talk about her time with the Red Queen, and gossip about her head, while they return Alice to her normal size.back at the Red Queen's palace, the Cheshire Cat returns and helps to free the Hatter, Doormouse from execution while as the hatter, while the real Hatter exposes all the Queen's friends fakes, while their "enhanced" body parts fall off and are revealed as liars, and turn her people against her.

Off for the big battle...

Upon escaping, Hatter, doormouse, Dee and Dum, Rabbit, Cheshire and bayod's family return to the White Queen and Alice. Alice then talks with the Hatter about her fear for Frabjas day, when she is supposed to slay the Jaberwockey. the next day, Alice in fear, again runs away from her choice to slay the Jaberwockey. Then in talking with the Caterpillar (Who's in a cocoon, ready to transform into a butterfly) once again, she finds her inner-strength to battle the Jaberwockey. We are then revealed to her past adventures in Wonderland, and that it never was a dream, and she has been going there for years. On the battlefield, Alice returns to champion for the White Queen to slay the Jaberwockey, while the armies battle it out as well. Alice defeats the Jaberwockey, and the White Queen sends the Red Queen and Knave into permanent exile together, which prompts the Knave to try and kill the Red Queen.

Alice is returned home, only to again turn down the marriage proposal from Hamish, and to tell off her mother, and would have been mother in-law, to the delight of her would have been father in-law, and joins him in her fathers business, where she then develops the first trade root to China.


"And Now I Wait My Whole Lifetime"

For me, I feel the film was excellently done, and I like it very much, but it's not that there aren't some flaws. I feel that this could have deffinitely been longer, cause an hour and forty some minutes certainly doesn't do it justice. I feel they started out nice and paced, but as time went on, they rushed it for some reason, and some key character development, and not trying to feature more of Alice's prior visits to Wonderland more/make her past visit activities recent. I actually would have been fine had this been a 2, 2 and a half, 3 hour movie, and still would have been into it for that long.

As far as acting goes, you couldn't have asked for a better cast for it. They all turn in absolutely amazing performances. Mia is a great Alice, and possibly the best Alice since the animated Disney film! Depp's performance as the Mad Hatter is perfect, could not have picked better actor to have played the role. In fact, if they ever use the Mad Hatter as a villain in the Batman movies, I vote Depp's version and Depp.

However, IMO, I still feel we don't have the definitive version of it yet. We're close, but no cigar on this one. If you took the length, and closeness to the story the 1985 TV movie had ( ) and the timelessness of the cartoon, and mashed them up with this, then you'd have the perfect Alice.

Definitely buy it, and for sure treasure it, and its the best we'll get for a long time, and possibly the best we'll ever get.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Main Cast:
Alice: Mia Wasikowska
Hatter: Johnny Depp
Red Queen: Helena Bonham-Carter
White Queen: Anne Hathaway
Tweedledee and Dum: Matt Lucas
The Knave of Hearts: Crispin Glover
Cheshire Cat: Stephen Frye
White Rabbit: Michael Sheen
Caterpillar - Alan Rickman

You can view the full cast list here:

Hey! Hey! Take note of all the Metallica references, not only is it an allusion to a future happening, but 2 future blogs as well, one possibly being up later tonight!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Great, White Isolation: John Carpenter's The Thing (Reviewed)

Norwegians and snow and alien blobs, Oh My!

John Carrpenter has long been one of the more unsung heroes of the horror's famed group of directors with more popular directors such as Wes (Craven), Sean (Cunningham), William (Friedkin), Michael (Bay), Marcus (Nispel), Todd (Browning), John (Landis) and Dario (Argento). Single handedly creating what we now know as the Slasher genre with Halloween, and giving us others such as Christine, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, The Crawling Eye, Tales From The Crypt, Village of the Damned, Prince of Darkness, They Live and the movie this whole thing is about, The Thing.

A remake of sorts, from the Howard Hawkes film, The Thing From Another Planet, and that being based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell Jr., this was the first entry into his Apocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness, and In The Mouth of Madness. This is also Carpenter's first "studio film", and the third in a sting of 6 movies to feature Kurt Russell as a lead actor. Though despite being released and running against E.T., and having a poor outing in theaters, its gained a huge cult following and launched theme parks, comics, video games and a now announced prequel.

"Whoopdy doo Basil! But what does it all mean?" - Austin Powers (HA! I found a way to work an Austin reference into a horror movie review! Take that!)

Two research teams (An American team, and a Norwegian team) are sent to the Antarctic to explore and send back information regarding possible life in the area. One morning the American team awakens to find an Alaskan Malamute being chased to their base and being fired at by the Norwegian research team. After killing all but one of the only surviving members of the Norwegian team (unbeknownst to them), they take the dog in and and put it in the kennel with the other sled dogs. Later that night they check to see how its getting along with the other dogs and to feed it, and see that its killed/killing all the other dogs, and that its trying to assimilate them to itself. They kill it, and examine it, and find it has a full set of human and animal internal organs. Slowly, the remains start to take over the rest of the crew slowly trying to absorb them all. Despite figuring that out (Kurt Russell, Keith David, Richard Dysart ) it slowly transfers its way from one host to the next. After losing 3 of their fellow crew members (Richard Masur, Thomas G. Waites and Peter Maloney), they learn that even if the host is dead, the alien organism can still live and transfer, and that it can only be stopped by burning the remains of the dead. After running a computer generated test, the on site doctor (Wilford Brimley) finds that after first infection, it would take 3 years to infect everyone/thing on earth. He grows highly suspicious of everyone around him, and destroys all ground transportation and communication, and is then locked in an on site bunker by the remaining members of the research group, building and alien like craft underneath it. Fearing for their lives, and looking for answers, some non infected crew members, fly over to the Norwegian base to see if there is anyone else alive, and to see what their team found. Once on the ground, they find all are dead, and that they had uncovered an alien ship buried under ice for more than a thousand years, that they had awakened, and let loose one of its inhabitants. Upon returning to the base, they devise a sort of blood test to see who is infected and who is not. As more crew members become infected, and are killed one by one, chaos ensues, till only 3 are left. 2 men and 1 alien enter, one "Thing" leaves (Yes, pun intended).

This movie works on so many different levels its not funny. You really feel the isolation, paranoia and insanity. From the outside scenes, to its drab and stark appearance, to there being no women featured in the movie at all. Having all the outside shots filmed on location in the middle of the freezing Canadian winter, really gives it its authenticity. Also, even with all the inside shots being filmed on a soundstage in a studio, it still feels like your inside a real base. Again, with the absence of women in the film, you really get the feeling of frustration, of bordem, and there is no love interest to bog the movie down or sap it up. Russell, David, Brimley and the whole cast turn in very inspiring performances. They just ooze paranoia. The special effects are stunningly good, and frightening to say the least. The story telling is captivating, and and after a while, it feels like your right there with them, experiencing the same insanity they are. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this film in the least (Well, one, but that might be a spoiler for some). Definitely a great watch when alone on a cold, blizzardy winter's night (Or anytime really)!

Rating: Two insanely huge, undecomposed zombie thumbs up.

If you call yourself a horror fan, you NEED to own this movie.

The Thing

Kurt Russell (Escape From LA, Big Trouble In Little China, Death Proof)
Keith David (They Live, Platoon, Pitch Black)
Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, Brubaker) (Mr. "Diabeetus!"lol)
David Clennon (Missing, Being There)
Donald Moffat (Popeye)
Thomas G. Waites (The Warriors)
Joe Polis (Seinfeld, Cheers, Star Trek: Voyager)
Peter Maloney (Manhunter, Amityville Horror)
Charles Hallahan (Wings, Vision Quest, Dante's Peak)
T.K. Carter (Ski Patrol)
Richard Dysart (Pale Rider, Prophecy)
Richard Masur (Mr. Boogedy, It, Nightmares)

(More reviews to come throughout the rest of this month featuring, The Exorcist, They Live, Children of the Corn and Nightmare Part Tres!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Dying breed: The Halloween Special

Yeah, I know its a little too early for people to be in to any and/or all things halloween, and so maybe this post is a bit too pre-mature, but, TOO BAD!

Today's blog comes from the the world of the dying holiday, Halloween. With people being more concerned with things such as the economy, religion (the main thing holding back all of society), child predators (only real valid reason) and primetime ratings, my absolute favorite holiday is slowly being dragged to the depths of scarcity and extinction. Who suffers the most? Kids (But that's another story for another time). Sure, us grown up Halloween loving, decoration nuts are fewer and further between, and yes, Halloween's waning popularity hurts us too, but kids suffer the most, and as such, grow up to be bitter, conservative sticks in the mud. Schools have taken away Halloween celebrations where kids had in-school parties, were allowed to dress in costume and were able to get and eat candy/baked goods in school in favor of "Harvest celebrations" with none of the above mentioned happenings. Halloween isles in stores are slowly getting smaller with less quality products and decorations, and my main gripe here today, Halloween specials are slowly disappearing from TV's everywhere with with "fall" themed episodes taking their place.

I was born in 1987, so I missed the best ones, but luckily, I grew up in the late 80's and 90's so there was still massive interest in halloween, and everything fun, so I got to see many great "new" halloween episodes/specials, and reruns of the greats. I grew up on things like: The Witch That Turned Pink, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (The Animated one with Bing Crosby as narrator, and live action with Jeff Goldbloom), The New Misadventures of Ichabod Crane, The Worst Witch, Mr. Boogedy, The Canterville Ghost, The Great Bear Scare, Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Garfield's Halloween Adventure, The Halloween Tree and Halloween episodes of Roseanne, Home Improvement, Doug, Pete and Pete, The Simpsons, Disney Halloween Hall of Fame, Bugs Bunny's Howl-o-ween, Buttons and Rusty's Which Witch Is Which?, Disney's Halloween Treat and so on. All of which, with the exception of the odd re-run of the Home Improvement Halloween episodes, have been pretty much erased from history and forgotten about.

Now, yeah, I was little when all this was happening, and most had been out since before I was born, but to me then, and to me now, they were all considered classics, as were the Halloween commercials for Hallmark, Dunkin Donuts, Doritos, Pepsi and a few other assorted Halloween commercials. I watched them all until my mom shrieked when I would ask to watch the battered VHS tapes they were recorded on. I watched them till I knew every word for every character, knew every song and till the tape inside started tearing apart. Every friend I ever had/still have in my home town, and every girlfriend I ever had/have, all grew up on these and lived, slept, ate and breathed Halloween. It was all we cared about every year. Its all we still care about every year, and its all I'll ever care about, aside from any of my possible future children's birthdays.

Over the years, those specials/episodes I listed above, started to fall victim to the Halloween serial killer, and just started disappearing, with Disney being the trend setter by pulling things like Disney's Halloween Hall O' Fame and The Halloween That Almost Wasn't off the air, and putting lackluster poser Halloween themed shows like Halloween Town (And all its sequels) and The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It on in their place. Then Home Improvement was canceled, Roseanne went off air, Pete & Pete was nixed after two seasons, and Doug died a horrible death, all replaced by mindless drivel like House, Gossip Girl, Grey's Anatomy, Mercy, Hannah Montana and iCarly. That was the final garlic wrapped, cross shaped steak through the heart for me for a long time. Until just recently...

With the latest resurgence of horror movies (Due in part to remakes of older, classic movies, explained in previous blog post), and the very slowly growing re-interest in Halloween, more classic horror movies are being remastered and released to huge chain stores, and things like Wizards of Waverly Place, Phineas and Ferb, and JONAS (I know, I know, but still credit for an actual Halloween episode) are bringing back the Halloween special, and Cartoon Network re-airing things like Scooby Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf and Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School, Halloween is now on an upslide. Anchor Bay re-issuing Mad Monster Party and Lion's Gate acquiring the rights to The Halloween that Almost Wasn't, maybe Disney and 'Toon Network will wake up and give proper release to their timeless Halloween classics. I know the chances are slim, but maybe a petition to all the different studios would make them see the dark, orange, soul light of Halloween.

To Disney, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros, and all other studios who hold the rights to the above mentioned, and unmentioned Halloween specials, I paraphrase a quote from the great James Hetfield - "We're telling you not to fuck around!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

(Undead)State of the Union Addres

My fellow Ghosts, ghouls, assorted undead (And lets not forget them lycanthropes!)

I feel, much like a blogger should, the need to openly, harshly and relentlessly criticize anything or anyone I feel brings me any pleasure or displeasure, just for the sake of griping. However, I am not one of those people and am fairly content with most anything, and normally very soft spoken and very polite, only subjecting things to scrutiny or hatred only when I feel necessary. This is one of those times.

I am, along with many of my closest friends (CJ Fox, Jason Popa and the rest know who they are), are huge, HUGE, horror movie fans. Dracula (Lugosi and Langella), Frankie (Karloff), Wolfie (Lon, Jack and Benicio), Jason (Hodder), Freddy (Englund) Leatherface (Hansen) Pennywise (Tim Curry) and Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) are just as iconic and lovable as say, the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz (One of the best movies of all time/One of my all time fave movies ever) to us horror fans. But here en lies the problem. They've been done once. There is no need to do them over, especially when they're called classics now. That's like repainting the Mona Lisa, and making her up like Demi Lovato.

That's right. I said it. I am most rigidly (With very few exceptions) against remakes. No problems with using those characters over, but make new stories for them to be in, that aren't dumbed down for the un-horror masses or so unbelievable that they become un-watchable (Looking at you Jason X). Case and point = the Twilights and anything with Paris Hilton (Repo The Genetic Opera and the House of Wax remake (BTW, who ever said she could act?!). That's why the whole genre can't be taken seriously. Its either sooo campy its almost unwatchable with situations and characters so unbelievable with such poor acting (Anymore) or way over dramatized to the point of either boredom or being completely unscary (Which is the whole point of the genre). I'm not saying I don't enjoy humor in horror movies, or the template upon which the Friday the 13th's and Nightmare On Elm St.'s and Dawn of the Dead's and American Werewolf In London's of the world were made on (gore, girls(naked at that!) and humor). Its what set those apart. But at the same time, they were scary and nightmare inducing even to grownups. They achieved the goal. They SURPASSED the goal. They set even higher goals. They are now THE goals. Yet people still feel the need to mess with, tinker around with, over CGI and most times completely ruin these established CLASSICS.

Then there are movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House On The Left, The Exorcist, The Omen, Children of the Corn, Amityville Horror, Burnt Offerings and The Shining, which contained almost no humor at all, and were so scary and suspenseful, that they like the above mentioned franchises, well surpassed all standards and goals set for horror and are now classics themselves as well. They proved the horror could be done in such a way and with such class and dignity and integrity that they could compete with and be considered legit movies without falling on stereo-types and resting on its laurels. They could even appeal to people who weren't fans of horror movies. They were suspenseful, dramatic (Without being over dramatic) and scary. There's that word again. It will come up several times, so become familiar with it.

I so wish I was born earlier to enjoy this stuff, at my age now, then, and not have to worry about suffering though poser horrors (Twilight, I'm looking right at you), remakes and completely uninspired drivel like "Super Shark 4000 vs Giant Platypus". Now don't get me wrong here, as animal horrors can be done very well (Cujo), but are very few to begin with (Good ones) and very far between. Also, don't get me started on CGI. Its a crutch for poor acting and bad, half thought out storylines now, rather than peppered in to help the visual aesthetics of the movie and enhance practical makeup and sets and to provide atmosphere.

Its either no one (and I do mean no one) can come up with an original idea anymore, movie studios are interfering with directors (Take Paramount having their co-producers override their directors on 3 Friday sequels (Tom McLoughlin, John Carl Buechler and Rob Hedden), or studios are just scared of making something that they are afraid won't make money in the genre. I can count on one and a half of zombie hands how many movies I've seen the past 10 years that were original and interesting and scary. 30 Days of Night, Zombie land, The Devil's Rejects, Hatchet, Mortuary, Trick 'r' Treat (2009. Not the horrible 80's metal horror with Lemmy and Ozzy) and Dark Floors. Look at the original Japanese versions of The Ring, The Grudge, One Missed Call and The Eye. All rip apart the American remakes, and are far better than most horror movies that were American released/made during the same time. Heck, Lordi is a Swedish heavy metal band (and a 3rd rate GWAR at that) and still managed to make a better movie with Dark Floors than the Twilights and Paranormal Activity (The most overhyped movie of all time) combined.

So listen up Paramount, Universal, Anchor Bay, Lions Gate, New Line, SyFy and anyone who would dare employ Michael Bay and Marcus Nispel. Remake the movies that NEED to be remade, and leave the classics alone. Remake Black Cat, Cat People, Werewolf of London, Freaks, The Man Who Laughs, The Old Dark House, Murders In The Rue Morgue (Great Iron Maiden song aswell as a movie!), White Zombie, Black Friday, The Mask of Fu Man Chu, The Raven and the like, and stop the dumb supped-up animal vs animal movies, and make real, legitimate, scary movies. Those movies could use a remake, cause most are so out dated they won't print them to DVD or are so old and fragile that they don't dare damage them any further by remastering and printing them to DVD.

So until then, if your into horror, stick with watching the original classics, as I've seen the horror movie slate, and except for Frozen, its just a bunch of remakes in your future. Also, if you're a horror fanatic with children who would like to slowly turn them on to horror and science fiction, may I suggest Wizards of Waverly Place on the Disney Channel. I have personally watched it myself, have seen every episode, and for a 22 year old metalhead/horror fanatic, I love it (Watch it to kill time between teaching guitar lessons to kids who are late to session). Its a great way to introduce your kids to horror as it deals with such things as vampires, zombies, witches, werewolves, ghosts, aliens, wizards, magic and the like, all made for kids to understand and comprehend.

Peace out my horror brothas and sistas! \m/,