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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Toy Story 3 review

There are times in life when you experience something for the first time and you realize you are experiencing greatness. I experienced greatness the first time I rode Fahrenheit at Hershey Park. I experienced greatness the first time I ate a Rita's chocolate/vanilla swirl frozen custard cone. And I experienced greatness this past Friday when I saw "Toy Story 3".

To be fair, its greatness is entirely expected. The first two "Toy Story" movies were great (something rare for an original and even rarer for a sequel) and almost all films from Pixar Animation are great as well. The only thing I was worried about going into the film was that maybe my expectations were too high, but those worries were unfounded. The film lives up to the highest of standards.

At the end of the last film, Woody the Cowboy (Tom Hanks) was glad to be reunited with his owner Andy, but it was with the understanding that Andy only had a few more years before he would outgrow playing with toys.

Several years have passed, Andy is going to college, and he has a decision to make. He can either put his toys in the attic where there's only the slightest of chances that he'll give them to his kids someday, or he can just outright throw them out. Andy's mom mentions that the local daycare could use some new toys, but Andy isn't keen on donating. Figuring they have nothing to lose, the toys take it upon themselves to get donated.

The toys don't know what to expect at daycare, but they love it immediately. The other toys welcome them with open arms, and they all seem to look out for each other. Their leader, Lotso Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) seems really nice And as the kids grow up and leave the center, new ones are guaranteed to take their place. There's only one problem - most of the other toys get to enjoy the mature kids in the Butterfly Room, but Andy's toys are stuck with the younger kids in the Caterpillar Room. The younger kids play rough. Really rough. Being stuck in the Caterpillar Room is a nightmare for Andy's toys.

Astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) promises to convince Lotso to let them into the Butterfly Room, but Lotso insists that Andy's toys pay their dues in the Caterpillar Room first. Suddenly Lotso isn't so friendly and the daycare center turns out to be more of a prison. Suddenly rolling the dice with Andy isn't seeming like such a bad option for the toys.

Woody, meanwhile, opts to leave the daycare center before the other characters know what hit them. He knows he belongs with Andy and would rather be there for him and never needed than have the fleeting affection of the daycare kids. He stows away in the backpack of a girl named Bonnie who turns out to be a really good toy owner, much like a young Andy. One of Bonnie's toys warns Woody that the other toys are in danger. The rest of the film is a race to break the other toys out of the daycare center and get back to Andy, whatever the consequences.

The film is filled with awesome gags, awesome moments and awesome characters. Lots of favorites are back, including Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Rex the Dinosaur (Wallace Shawn) and others. There are a ton of new characters, the best of which is a vain Ken doll (Michael Keaton). If the film has a failing, it's that it could have used another hour or two to develop all the new characters. They're toys, let the writers play with them.

"Toy Story 3" continues Pixar's streak of greatness. It's touching in the right places, funny in the right places, and awesome in all places. It will more than likely end up as my favorite movie of the year.

2:27 pm edt          Comments

The A-Team

"The A-Team" really tries to avoid being one of "those" TV-to-movie adaptations. "Those" adaptations are the ones that rely solely on nostalgia for the source material in order to get made and sell tickets.

This particularly applies to cartoon adaptations, where we're expected to shell out money to see what hand-drawn characters and scenery look like when millions are thrown into seeing exactly what all those rocks on "The Flintstones" look like when they're real rocks. When it comes to live action adaptations, the films usually rely on gimmick casting and updated special effects.

For the record, both the casting and special effects are excellent in "The A-Team." Liam Neeson is Hannibal Smith, the wise leader. Bradley Cooper is Face, the pretty boy. Sharlto Copley is Murdock, the crazy guy. UFC fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is B.A. Baracus, the tough, mohawked enforcer. No one in charge of casting said "People will pay to see Liam Neeson and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson the way they paid to see Jessica Simpson in those Daisy Dukes in 'The Dukes of Hazzard.'" The actors are cast because they are the right people to play the characters, and they all turn in decent, respectful performances.

All four characters are people you'd want on your side, both on a mission and in life. When they aren't coming off as four of the world's greatest drinking buddies, they're practicing a fierce loyalty not displayed by characters in similar roles in other movies.

All have saved the others' lives at some point, which means they all owe their lives to each other. It is a bond not broken by things like "imminent danger" and "federal law." The only one who really gets pushed around is Baracus, mostly because he is usually opposed to either the violence required for the mission or the need for him to be in a plane (he is deathly afraid of flying, understandably so with the psychotic Murdock at the controls). Even then, the group makes sure to cook him favorite meal as a peace offering.

The action scenes are surprisingly crisp and inventive. Murdock does things that no one in their right mind would ever do with an airplane. Other scenes involve things that no one would ever do with a cannon, a tank, bungee cords, a bus door, rollerskates and tires. We wonder what the grand finale will be, and are disappointed when it's little more than a shooting-and-explosions dock firefight.

Sadly, there is an area where "The A-Team" does drop the ball, and it does affect one's overall enjoyment of the film. That area is the plot.

We are introduced early on to a set of plates that can be used in a printing press to counterfeit U.S. currency. An army general friend of Hannibal's convinces the team to undertake an unsanctioned mission to retrieve the plates. However, a bad-guy team of independent contractors steal the plates and kill the general. The U.S. government blames the A-Team for botching an unsanctioned mission and the team members all go to prison.

A CIA agent (Patrick Wilson) helps them break out of prison to retrieve the plates for the government again, but really wants them for himself. An army captain ex-girlfriend of Face's (Jessica Biel, not coming off as half as smart as her character) tries to keep tabs on everything. Admittedly she does a much better job of following things than I did and probably a much better job than the film's screenwriter did.

"The A-Team" is ultimately a bad film, but not for the reason that most TV-to-film adaptations are bad. There are specific flaws in plot and action, but it seems unfair to write off the whole project because of that. The four main characters are well developed and the performances are endearing. I found myself liking the A-Team, but disliking "The A-Team".

2:26 pm edt          Comments

Get Him To The Greek review

2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" marked the last time we saw bizarre rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand). It also marked the last time I was able to enjoy a sweet, heartfelt. R-rated comedy.

I have enjoyed admittedly nasty R-rated comedies ("Step Brothers," "Tropic Thunder," "Bruno") since then, and likewise, I have forced myself to sit through dull R-rated comedies that tried to play nice ("Pineapple Express," "Funny People").

But now, for the first time in a while, I don't have to choose between sweet and funny.

The film tells the story of two men presented with the opportunity to achieve greatness. Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) is a young record executive who loves music more than anyone else at the label. His boss, Sergio (Sean "Insert Whatever Nickname He's Using This Week" Combs), is looking for ideas and Aaron suggest putting on an Aldous Snow concert.

Snow has been out of the limelight for a while now recovering from drugs, a divorce, a breakup with Sarah Marshall and a disastrous flop of a single.

Sergio books Aldous for a show at L.A.'s Greek Theater and instructs Aaron to go to London to pick up Aldous and bring him to L.A. If Aaron succeeds, he will be a made man at the company and Aldous will make a career comeback.

Unfortunately, Aldous has a knack for finding trouble, and this causes problems for the duo's travel arrangements. He isn't afraid to delay things by partying, drinking, doing drugs, hooking up with women, or searching for his estranged father (Colm Meaney).

All of this drives Aaron crazy, of course, but this doesn't stop him from emulating his idol and partaking in some of the partying himself. This causes an even greater rift between him and his nurse girlfriend Daphne (Elisabeth Moss), already upset with him for his flat-out refusal to move with her from L.A. to Seattle to pursue a job opportunity.

Aaron's actions on the road may be deplorable, but we want to see him and Daphne succeed as a couple. They have excellent chemistry in early scenes, and clearly they are willing to go out of their way for each other. It's nice to see a screen couple worth caring about again.

Aldous may be too superficial to be as deserving of true happiness, but it is still touching to see him try to work on his relationships with his ex-wife Jackie (Rose Byrne), his father, his son, Aaron, and even himself. It is genuinely sad to see him struggle with his self-destructive tendencies, and uplifting to see him gain a measure of control.

Mushy stuff aside, the film's funniest parts are born out of raunchy humor.

• Aldous' and Jackie's songs are so obscene that it's a wonder they ever became radio hits.

• Sergio uses intimidating profanity to teach Aaron about sucking up to Aldous (a hilarious scene that establishes Combs as a strong comedic talent).

• Aldous wants Aaron to hide his drug stash in the most disgusting way possible.

• Aaron and Aldous go on several wild, deplorable party binges.

• Aldous has an unconventional way for Aaron and Daphne to make up.

• And a poolside stunt by Aldous has gruesome consequences. Again though, it's handled with a refreshing smartness and honesty that makes for more than cheap laughs (except for the drug stashing, that's all lowbrow).

The best scenes in "Get Him To The Greek" are ones that don't seem like they took a lot of time to set up. These scenes come off as though director Nicholas Stoller just set up a camera and let the actors run their lines. Or that Stoller and co-writer Jason Segel were able to write out an entire scene in one sudden burst of inspiration.

Either way, the film marks a welcome return of the kind of sweet, intelligent comedy that by no means should be seen by children.

2:24 pm edt          Comments

Prince of Persia review

Video games-turned-movies have a bad reputation in Hollywood for being consistent bombs. The good people at Disney have promised that "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is unlike any video game adaptation ever made. They claim to have gone to great lengths to make it accessible, well-crafted and fun. After seeing the film, I can report that they have spent a lot of money on the film, and that's about it.

The problem with "Prince of Persia" has nothing to do with its source material. This isn't one of those zombie-laden splatterfests where the movie would be terrible no matter what. There might be a good "Prince of Persia" movie to be made, but this isn't it. The plot is riddled with nonsense, the action scenes and special effects are generic, the characters are poorly developed - and the acting is terrible. The film could have been based on an acclaimed piece of literature and still been just as awful. Blaming the fact that it was originally a video game is not an answer or an excuse.

The plot involves "Prince" Dustand (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unofficial member of the Persian royal family. He and his brothers lead an attack on a subsidiary kingdom that they believe is selling weapons to enemy empires. Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) of the innocent members of the kingdom tries to protect a valuable dagger, but Dustand intercepts it. One of Dustand's brothers gives him a holy robe to present to their father the king as a war spoil. The robe turns out to be poisoned, the king dies and everyone thinks Dustand is responsible, despite him not having a motive (his older brother is next in line for the throne and the robe was recently in the hands of enemies). Tamina helps Dustand escape and they go on the lam together.

Tamina reveals a secret to Dustand. The dagger that he stole from her is powerful as well as valuable. A jewel on its hilt releases The Sands of Time, which rewinds time one minute. But there is also a huge stockpile of magic sand in her kingdom that might allow an unscrupulous person to rewind time years and years. But if they rewind time too far, they might trigger a sandstorm that would wipe out the whole world. So it's best to just take enough to rewind time for a minute. Dustand must stop the guilty party, but who is it? One of the power-hungry brothers? Or his uncle (Ben Kingsley) who saved his brother the king as a child, unintentionally sabotaging his own chances at the throne in the process? Fans of Disney's far-superior "The Lion King" know to put money on the uncle.

There's a laundry list of problems with the film, I'll have to rattle them off quickly. All the actors are from America and England, they can't play Middle Eastern convincingly at all. The characters are inconsistent in their dispositions (Tamina is particularly problematic, she'll be wise and independent in one scene and nagging and needy in the next). The climactic fight scene makes no sense and it's not clear how exactly the villain hasn't completely succeeded. And perhaps most irritating is the fact that the film is far too violent. Adventure has nothing to do with the constant sword-skewerings, not to mention the way that it goes against the family-friendly Disney model. Heck, the characters spend the entire movie trying to get control of a weapon.

Disney will have "Toy Story 3" ready to go in three weeks, and I'll be ready to forgive them by then. "Prince of Persia" is a bad movie, but it's too bland for its badness to stick with you. Its inability to hold anyone's interest may prove to be its greatest strength, because just about everything about it is certainly a weakness.

2:22 pm edt          Comments

Shrek Forever After

Everybody's favorite disgusting ogre is back for a fourth family film.

The 2001 original saw Shrek (Mike Myers) meet his best friend, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and fall in love with his human-turned-ogre wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) after saving her from a curse.

In the 2004 sequel, Shrek made friends with Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) and got things off to a rocky start with King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews), Fiona's parents.

The 2007 third installment was a collection of painful pop-culture jokes that I've blocked from my mind, but I do remember that Shrek and Fiona had ogre triplets.

This would be Happily Ever After for Shrek, but the beginning of "Shrek Forever After" sees Shrek having problems with the "Ever After" part.

He's happy having a family, but he's not so happy with the idea of it affecting the rest of his life. He's definitely not happy spending so much time around crying babies, a nagging wife, a claptrap best friend, an irritating array of fairy tale creatures and an inexplicably adoring public that won't leave him alone. Shrek wants to be alone and feared again, a "real ogre," if only for a day.

Shrek meets up with shady dealmaker Rumpelstiltskin. Rumple's been having problems of his own since the first "Shrek" film. Fiona's parents were ready to sign their kingdom over to him in exchange for lifting the curse when they found out that Shrek had already broken it and called the deal off. Now nobody wants any of his deals. He wishes Shrek were never born.

Shrek and Rumple make a deal: Shrek will get a day to enjoy the kingdom being scared of him, and Rumple will take away day from Shrek's childhood.

Shrek is whisked away to a version of the world that Rumple promised and enjoys a day wallowing in filth and others' misery. When he's had his fill, he goes home to see his family. But Fiona, the kids and his home have all disappeared.

It turns out that Rumple took away the day that Shrek was born and now the whole world is twisted. With no one to rescue Fiona the first time, Rumple got to take over the kingdom. He now rules it with an iron fist with an army of wicked witches to do his bidding. Shrek has never met Fiona, Donkey, or any of his friends. Fiona is leading an ogre rebellion against Rumple and is tough and disillusioned in love. And Puss is too fat to even fit in his boots.

Shrek spends the rest of the film trying to break the contract by getting a kiss from Fiona (even in a fake-ish fairy tale, it's the only way to get out of a sticky situation).

Rumple tries to keep them apart, but like too many idiot villains, he thinks separating them by walls and chains in the same room is better than making one of them just go away.

Eventually it just gets to the point where you want them to kiss not because you're rooting for Shrek but because it's painful to watch the movie drag out the suspense.

"Shrek Forever After" is an odd way to end the franchise because the story starts out one way and then the battle is to get things back to the way they were, with no progression.

The highlights of the film involve Shrek being gross, Fiona being tough, Donkey being a yapper, Puss being fat, and Rumple trying to suck people into his contracts. It's not a lot of unique ground, but at least the film eases up on the lame pop culture references of the two sequels before it, and for that I'm grateful.

2:18 pm edt          Comments

Nightmare on Elm Street review

I'm probably one of the few people who likes the sequels to 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street" more than the original.

The point of the original is: "there's a killer who can murder you in your dreams." A scary concept to be sure, but once you see it done once there's no reason to see it done a half-dozen more times.

The point of the sequels is: "We've got a whole bunch more Freddy Krueger!"

It is Freddy, not the nightmares, that is the key to the franchise.

Freddy Krueger is the villain of the series, and the only character to be in all its installments (he keeps killing off the good guys). Unlike many slashers, Freddy is actually scary-looking with his horribly burned face, whereas most of the other psychos wear generic masks and need to be holding sharp object to be frightening.

This isn't to say that he doesn't use anything sharp, his modified knife-glove is iconic. His other big advantage is that he can talk. He didn't have much to say throughout the first "Nightmare," but by about the second sequel, he was a real chatterbox, adding much-needed intentional humor to a franchise that frankly was already unintentionally hilarious.

I was thrilled when I learned that Jackie Earle Haley was playing Krueger in the remake. Haley is an accomplished, Oscar-nominated actor. He can be funny when he wants to be, and plays creepy almost too naturally. He also has a face fit for a horror movie, although the Freddie-burn makeup obscures this. Still, Haley seemed to fit the role perfectly. I waited anxiously to see how the personality that Haley would give Krueger. Eighty percent of the way through the film, I was still waiting.

All too much like the original, this version of "Nightmare" presents Freddie as The Killer, not as Freddie. We don't see much of him, we don't hear much from him. All he does is pop up, sometimes to kill people, sometimes to hurt them, but usually just for the sake of popping up.

Sometimes pop-up scares are a good thing, if your brain can figure out the setup for how the pop-up happened. But as long as there's a dream going on, Freddie can pop up anywhere he pleases, which is cheating. It is also unnecessary, Freddie is scary enough through his appearance and his actions. He doesn't need to be playing the part of a boogeyman.

His victims are typically uninteresting teens. Surprisingly, the films limits Freddie's sights to a group of five, most of whom (except for the inevitable first victim) get significant screen time. I'm actually in favor of keeping the number small, there's nothing to be gained by a high body count when it's clear the filmmakers aren't going to be getting creative with the personalities, dreams, or killing methods.

The dreams themselves are a missed opportunity. The kids lack the imagination to have proper dreams. Blame it on iPods or whatever, but they only dream about the situations that are already happening. This is to make it more of a surprise when Freddie pops up in the middle of their houses. But I like it when Freddie interrupts wonderful, crazy dreams.

The film actually picks up at the end when all the boring buildup is out of the way, Freddie can get slash-happy, and we get a particularly gory version of the standard post-resolution instant pop-up. But it's too little too late. The film's underestimation of the face of the franchise is ultimately its downfall.

2:15 pm edt          Comments

The Losers review

"The Losers" is a loser of a movie and the inevitable joke is out of the way. It is one of those comic book movies that never lets you forget it is from a comic book. Throughout the film, characters pose in awkward positions and have exaggerated physical characteristics that you can tell started out as drawings. Other comic book movies have done this formula - but better.

The movie starts as a team of CIA agents who are about to raid a drug camp in Bolivia. We meet the team, but the captions go by so fast we can't rely on them. The members barely have personalities, so we aren't missing much. There's The Leader, The Angry Guy, The Quiet Guy, The Guy With The Family, and the Smart-Aleck Tech Guy. They set up the camp to get bombed, but realize there are children in the camp and try to rescue them. Max, the film's villain, has other plans. Things get botched badly, and the team is forced to pretend they are dead and go into hiding, swearing eventual revenge on Max.

Max is one of those bad guys who places such little value on human life, that one wonders how he's sane enough to be an evil genius. Early in the film he gets out of a plane with an assistant holding an umbrella. A gust of wind causes the umbrella to falter a bit in the assistant's hands, and Max kills her for it. This is supposed to tell us that Max is a perfectionist who believes in violent consequences for failure. It really tells me that Max is stupid because now he has to hold the pesky umbrella himself. Not to mention that he'll have to get rid of the body.

One day the leader of The Losers is approached by a woman (Zoe Saldana, the only marketable name in the cast) who is willing to pay him and The Losers to get revenge on Max, as well get them their lives back. She has a ton of resources, and the timing is right because Max is about to blow up a good chunk of the world in a "restoring balance" plot lifted right out of "Watchmen." The plan seems too good to be true, but the team goes along with it, not least because the leader has the hots for the girl.

The rest of the film is mostly a series of scenes of The Losers trying to obtain clues or helpful items. They'll exchange some unfunny stakeout dialogue, then there'll be lots of shooting, maybe an explosion or two and then they meet up to analyze what they've found.

Many of these sequences are set to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," which means that the film is guilty of the unforgivable sin of making me hate that song. The film climaxes in a sequence where two high-ranking henchmen are actually dumb enough to get into separate vehicles and drive toward each other at full speed trying to squash the leader.

"The Losers" has the audacity to give us an unsatisfying conclusion, as if they'll have to get a sequel to give us the ending we want. This movie is not going to get a sequel, early box office reports indicate it isn't even one of the top three films in this, its opening weekend. I don't want to see a second "Losers" movie, hopefully you'll be wise enough to avoid the first one.

2:14 pm edt          Comments

Clash of the Titans review

"Clash of the Titans" is a fairly generic sword-and-sandals epic filled with unconvincing CGI. To help the film become a bad-but-fun experience, here are some Popcorn Games for you to play while you wait for the film to end:

• The film stars Sam Worthington, current King of the Blockbuster Epics after his roles in "Avatar" and "Terminator: Salvation." Here he is cast as Perseus, a demigod (half god, half human) in ancient Greece. Eat a piece of popcorn every time fails to hide his Australian accent.

• Liam Neeson plays Zeus, greatest of all gods. He is supposed to be the "good guy" of the Big Three Gods (the other two being Poseidon and Hades). Eat a piece of popcorn every time he just comes across as an egomaniacal jerk.

• The plot revolves around the gods and their need for prayers for humans. Apparently their power derives from these and without them they will die off. Eat two pieces every time the gods mention this, but seem to be getting along just fine without them.

• Hades (Ralph Fiennes) interrupts a fancy party at the palace in Argos to inform everyone that in a few days he will destroy the city unless they sacrifice the local princess. He kills the queen just to show who's boss. Eat a piece of popcorn for every point on a scale of one to 10 that the princess seems upset that he's just killed her mother. In other words, eat one piece.

• Hades won't destroy Argos by himself, he'll use a mythical creature called a Kraken. Eat three pieces of popcorn when you realize that it's only been three years since we've had another Kraken movie with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

• Perseus sets out on a journey to find a way to stop the Kraken. Along the way he encounters various CGI creatures, some good (flying Pegasus horses, desert people who look like threatening Ewoks), some bad (giant scorpions, an ugly freak of a disgraced king). Eat a piece of popcorn every time you get the feeling that the filmmakers couldn't come up with any good use for these creatures, but wanted to "work them in" anyway.

• Perseus is accompanied by a band of soldiers, many of whom are easy to confuse with one another. Eat a piece of popcorn for every one of them you can remember. If you can't remember any of them, just eat one piece and count "the one with the beard" as one.

• Eat a piece of popcorn every time someone in the group beats up Perseus to teach him a lesson about fighting. There are at least two times that I can remember, there may have been more.

• Perseus is accompanied by Io (Gemma Arterton), a fellow demigod who becomes a love interest. Eat three pieces of popcorn when you realize that she never mentions who her father is and that there is a one-in-three chance that she and Perseusare both Zeus's son.

• The group has to get advice from a trio of witches who can see into the future. Eat three pieces of popcorn every time you forget for a moment that you're not watching "Macbeth."

• The group has to do battle with Medusa, the mythical snake lady who can turn people to stone if they look her in the eyes. You're going to want to yell "squint, you morons" at the characters. Stuff your mouth with popcorn instead.

• And finally, shove an entire bag of popcorn up your nose when the gods finally do battle with each other and we finally get the "Clash of the Titans" that the title promises. Don't worry, you'll never have to do this because we never get it.

2:08 pm edt          Comments

Alice in Wonderland review

Thiis is going to be another one of those reviews where I repeatedly chew out a filmmaker for going to a certain well way too often. In this case the director is Tim Burton, and that well is the one of the twisted fairy tale. He likes to show audiences things that are somewhat ugly, somewhat beautiful, but always strange. He has done this with "Edward Scissorhands," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Sleepy Hollow," "Sweeney Todd" and several others.

Now comes "Alice in Wonderland," a film based on an already-strange children's book by Lewis Carroll. This seems like a good choice for Burton. Carroll already got him started, so he just has to fill in a few gaps.

But this is precisely why this is a bad choice for Burton. Audiences already know what he's going to do. We're familiar with the story and its characters, there won't be any surprise there. We've seen the visual style of Burton's other works, there won't be any surprise there either. Burton has done so many strange films that what he considers strange is no longer strange to us.

The storyline doesn't really follow Carroll's. In fact, Burton's version is more of a sequel, as if he thinks we have enough interest in these characters to want to see them in a new adventure. Nineteen-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) takes another trip to Wonderland after she dismissed the trip she took as a six-year-old as a dream. There she meets up with all the classic characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the Dormouse and others. They don't talk nearly enough in their famous riddle/confusing manner, opting all too often for straight talk that advances the plot.

They all have a new mission in store for Alice, one that involves getting her to fight against the evil Jabberwocky. In the course of the film, Alice goes from not wanting to kill the Jabberwocky because killing is wrong to not thinking she can kill the Jabberwocky because he's too hard to beat. Since one of the film's themes is making the impossible possible, and it's a shame that Alice doesn't decide to try to do the impossible and make peace with the vicious dragon. She fights it, which is what everyone expects, and which I find disappointing.

The film is actually structured very much like a typical "Harry Potter" film. The main character is bored with the real world, gets sucked into a magical world, discovers that people in the magical world are a lot more friendly and nurturing, sees that the world is in trouble, discovers that they are the only ones who can fight the villain and save the world, which they to do set up an inevitable sequel. It's a structure done by many other, better films.

I compare it most to the "Harry Potter" films because there is a lot of hopping around between minor characters. There are a ton of them, and we get to see very little of each despite the fact that there are a lot of talented actors behind them. In fact, "Alice in Wonderland" shares many minor actors with the "Harry Potter" franchise such as Helena Bonham Carter, Timothy Spall, Alan Rickman and Imelda Staunton.

Walking out of the film, I heard people saying that it was "too bizarre." These people have been tricked. Burton thinks he's being bizarre by throwing in a few mangled trees, grotesque hairstyles, and unconvincing special effects (The Red Queen's digitally enlarged head looks particularly cheesy). He's really giving us the kind of bizarre that is utterly normal for him.

2:03 pm edt          Comments

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