Posts Tagged ‘anne hathaway

09
Jun
10

“Alice in Wonderland’s” Queen Trumps the Mad Hatter

Parable or allegory?

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, and Crispin Glover. Directed by Tim Burton. Based on the books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.

NOTE: I watched this in Disney Digital 3-D.

I’ve never been a big “Alice in Wonderland” fan. I know the gist of the story: girl follows a white rabbit into a hole and enters a strange land inhabited by the translucent Cheshire Cat, the insane Mad Hatter, befuddled twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum, March Hare, blue hookah-smoking Absolem the caterpillar, and the Queen of Hearts with the signature phrase: “Off with their heads!” That’s as much as I remember.

As of late there has been a lot of discussion about Alice’s adventures and whether or not it was really kid story material. Granted the initial novel was written over a hundred years ago, and yes times have changed, but what was the story about? The current consensus is that it’s a weird tale of a girl running into even weirder characters, moving from event to event. Tim Burton saw this challenge and decided to give his own spin and story structure to Carroll’s famous characters.

When this tale begins, Alice is four years old and confesses to her father that she’s been having a weird dream filled with these various characters. Her father reassures her that even though she may be mad/bonkers/off of her head, some of the best are a little mad.

It’s now fifteen years later and Alice’s father has recently passed. Alice (Wasikowska) is now nineteen years of age and being taken by her mother (unknowingly) to an engagement party. Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) is a red-headed Lord with digestive problems who plans to propose to Alice. Everyone at the party knows that he plans on asking for her hand in marriage at the gazebo. Hamish has title and money and in interest of those times, Alice would be a fool not to accept. Her only other option is to wait and end up like her Aunt Imogene (Frances de la Tour), a woman physically in account but mentally in her own world, forever waiting for her prince to come. Standing at the gazebo, Hamish on his knees proposing, Alice is emotionally overwhelmed and runs away, chasing after the white rabbit and falling into a hole.

After getting past the “cake makes you bigger, potion makes you smalle” debacle, Alice enters Wonderland and finds a weird wasteland that unfolds. She’s escorted by the chubby, dimwitted twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (voiced by Matt Lucas) and the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) to Absolem, a blue caterpillar smoking a hookah. The White Rabbit swears that she’s the correct Alice and Absolem replies that she’s not quite Alice yet. The Oraculum,” a scroll detailing the chronological history of all events regarding Alice, is produced and Alice is foretold to be the one who will save Underland by slaying the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen’s dragon.

Meanwhile, we meet the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), a small tyrant with a giant, heart-shaped head of red that has a moat filled with the heads of the beheaded including her husband, the former King. The Knave (Crispin Glover) is her right-hand man. He’s incredibly tall with a scar across his face and a heart-shaped eye patch that changes from black to red. After retrieving the Oraculum, he commissions a bloodhound named Bayard (voiced by Timothy Spall) to find Alice. Alice must evade the Knave and slay the Jabberwocky, along the way befriending the Mad Hatter (Depp), March Hare (voiced by Paul Whitehouse), and Mallymkun the Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor). She must also get the Vorpal Sword and conquer the dragon, Jabberwocky.

But the real question is: does it live up to the hype?

If not for the fact that this is based on books whose characters have permeated pop culture history (“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, anyone), probably not. If not for the fact that Johnny Depp is in it, probably not. If not for the fact that Tim Burton directed it, probably not. If one were to take out any of these three crucial elements, the film would’ve suffered. All three, and no one would have bothered to go see it.

Which brings me to say that as it lays, “Alice in Wonderland” is a good movie. Not great, but good enough. There’s a solid structure to the story going on which plays as either a parable or an allegory; you be the judge. The characters Alice meets in Underland are abstract caricatures of those back in the real world and just like the real world, Underland is forcing Alice to grow up; no more living life on her own terms of what she does or doesn’t want to do.

As noted in the title, the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) really sets this movie moreso than Depp. Depp is an interestingly complex Mad Hatter, sure enough, but this film really rests on the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts and in that department, Carter delivers. The Queen is more of a brat than a bitch per se which makes sense in Alice’s world.

On a filmmaking level this movie probably harkens more to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There is a level of kid-friendliness to it, mixed with Burton’s grasp of visual desolation, but underneath it all is a heroine who needs to come to bat in order to save the world/grow up. On a visual level it’s not “Avatar” nor is it meant to be, but Burton does a well-enough job mixing live action green-screen technology and CG characters.

One problem I had with the film was The White Queen (Hathaway). Imagine if Arwen from “Lord of the Rings” danced around prim and proper and was shot with a creme-colored filter. I have heard that the White Queen was supposed to be as mad as the Red Queen but not show it, and that’s acceptable, but the character just didn’t work for me; she seemed to belong more to Middle Earth.

The other problem I had with the film was in the final act, and there are two: first, the Mad Hatter is supposed to do a dance better than anyone else. He does a funky jig (infused with some hip hop music) that just looks too goofy for any seriousness. Then again, I might be taking it too seriously. The second problem is that attention is diverted from Alice trying to slay the dragon to the battle between the White and Red Queen’s armies. This was unneeded, seeing as the movie was about Alice learning to grow up and take responsibility as opposed to two sides waiting eternally for some prophetic day when both will battle for sole control of wherever.

One final note: my favorite character was the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry). Great, cool character that was well done.

TRIVIA: Christopher Lee does the voice of the Jabberwocky. And for those who didn’t know, Lewis Carroll wrote that, too.

My grade: B

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

01
Mar
10

Movie Review: Valentine’s Day

WATCH Hollywood cram a holiday into 2 hours…

Starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, and Taylor Swift. Directed by Garry Marshall

24 hours of love and loss in Los Angeles. And yes, the entire cast is used.

Since there is no real plot to the story, and I guess you could argue that love really has no plot, let me give the rundown: The day begins with Reed Bennett (Kutcher) proposing to his live-in career-minded girlfriend Morley (Alba). With a “Yes” he’s triumphant and heads out to the shop for the busiest day of the year with his business partner and friend, Alphonso (Lopez).

Julia Fitzpatrick (Garner) wakes up after a night of great lovemaking with her boyfriend Harrison. Harrison is getting ready to go to a conference up in San Fran. Julia is a teacher while Harrison is a –supposedly- divorced cardiologist.

Also enjoying last night were Jason (Grace) and Liz (Hathaway). Liz is late for her job as a temp working at a Talent agency for Paula Thomas (Latifah) and rushes out to get on her bike when she gets a phone call from her other job, which is being an adult entertainment operator. Jason works in the mail room of a company and has only known Liz for 2 weeks.

Kelvin Moore (Foxx) is the number two sportscaster for a local station and he’s given a task by his producer, Susan (Bates): he has to do a “Man on the Street” Valentine’s Day segment. With some protest, and because it’s a slow news day, he relents and goes to do the piece.

Speaking of sports, quarterback Sean Jackson (Dane) has some problems with his career. His agent Kara (Biel) is torn between figuring a way for him to get out of the situation he’s in and keep her Anti-Valentine’s Day party going.

On a 14-hour flight back to L.A., Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) is napping on the shoulder of Holden (Cooper). Kate has one day, Valentine’s, to see her son before she’s shipped back to duty in the Middle East. Holden is a smart, savvy professional who isn’t a big fan of the holiday but builds a connection with Kate.

High school track star Willy (Lautner) and his dance team girlfriend Felicia (Swift) are in love, so much so that he gave her a giant, white teddy bear. Meanwhile, Alex (Jenkins) and Grace (Emma Roberts) are dealing with the pressures of “doing the do” for the first time.

And love isn’t just for teens and adults. Edgar (Elizondo) and Estelle (MacLaine) are a little bit away from renewing their vows, but Estelle has a secret. Incidentally so does their grandson Edison (Robinson).

I think that covers everyone. Are you confused?

What happens next is how all these lives run parallel, intersect and somehow make it through the heartwarming and heartbreak of Valentine’s. Morley confesses to Reed that she’s more into her career than him. Julia books a plane ticket to San Fran to be with Harrison, not knowing he’s in Brentwood with his wife and kid. Jason debates what to do about Liz for Valentine’s Day while Liz deals with the keeping her phone sex operator job a secret. Kelvin doesn’t want to do the “Man on the Street” bit and winds up befriending Kara. Sean doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Alex has a misadventure professing his love for Grace; he stands in her room naked, strumming a guitar and waiting for her when Grace’s mom walks in on him. Estelle finally tells Edgar that years ago she had an affair on him with his business partner.

And so goes the stories of the L.A. lovelorn. The movie covers the entire day’s events, with occasional narration from Romeo Midnight (Paul Williams).

What else can I say about the movie? Well, they found a way to squeeze everything you like, and a lot of what you don’t, about Valentine’s Day into 2 hours. And with one of the largest ensemble casts I can think of in a while that’s no small task, so I’ll give them that credit.

I can say that there are some good performances in here but with so many stories going on, it’s difficult for me to ascertain who was better than whom. I’m half-and-half with romantic movies so aside from the sickening saccharine of the first hour, the rest of the movie went pretty smoothly. I give credit to giving the tribulations of love a reality I seldom see in other films.

And what’s the moral to the story? Sometimes love is staring at you all along and sometimes, it’s your best friend. Loving somebody is about loving all of them; the small things as well as the big. Sometimes people should have the courage to stop others when they see something as being wrong. Love hurts and love heals.

My grade: B

24
Jun
08

Movie Review: Get Smart

 

 

Sorry about this one, Chief.

 

Starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, and James Caan. Directed by Peter Segal

 

For the most part, it was enjoyable.

 

The story: Maxwell Smart (Carell) works for CONTROL, an organization that rivals the CIA and is thought to be defunct. Smart is one of the best linguists for CONTROL, producing reports on singular conversations that look like tomes of literature. What he really wants to do, however, is be a field agent. On his eighth try he passes the test, but Chief (Arkin) won’t promote him because Smart is too good at his job.

 

When Siegfried (Stamp), a terrorist wanting to get KAOS back into action, blows up a factory and infiltrates CONTROL, agents are killed and their identities compromised, the Chief has no choice but to send out Smart (because no one knows who he is) and Agent 99 (Hathaway), who had facial reconstruction surgery (know one knows who she is, either).

 

Meanwhile, Siegfried and KAOS have a plan: the President (Caan, doing a “W” impersonation) will be attending a concert at L.A.’s Disney Hall. During the final notes of “Ode to Joy,” –KABOOM. Ensuring this plan is Shtarker (Ken Davitian) and a gigantic bodyguard named Dalip (Dalip Singh), as well as the possibility of a double-agent inside CONTROL.

 

What works for this movie is the “amusing” humor. Not always laugh-out-loud, not always knee-slapping, but whimsical, amusing humor. It’s this light-hearted humor that sustains for the first third of the movie. From there it goes to action sequences (the best I’ve seen done for a comedy movie) that are broken-up by an occasional remark or laugh-out-loud moment.

 

Carell’s plays Maxwell Smart as a doggish-character who gets kicked around a lot, but keeps loyal to the task at hand. He may not be 100% the Maxwell Smart envisioned a la Don Adams, but he’s the closest we got. Hathaway does a good job at being Agent 99, but I think she was a little young for Carell. Arkin was great as The Chief, and Dwayne Johnson did a good job, too. Hell, even Bill Murray did a good job as Agent 13 (an agent forever disguised as a tree).

 

Is there anything I didn’t like about the movie? Not really. I wasn’t expecting a lot. Does it stack up to the television show? Seeing as how the show was on the air decades ago, it’s kinda difficult. I mean, condense a TV show down to a two-hour film and don’t use the actors who were originally in it. Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Should we continue making movies based off of TV shows? That’s a discussion for another time.

 

Kudos to Trevor Rabin for making music that really stood out.

 

Overall, this movie was enjoyable in a “kill an afternoon” sorta way. If this doesn’t make the money it needs at the box office, it’ll be a hit when it comes out on DVD and makes its way to cable.

 

My grade: B