Sunday 28 March 2010

Review: Kick-Ass

Year: 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughan
Screenplay: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughan
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chole Mortez, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage

I can't lie when I say this but I found it to be very difficult to truly get down with the buzz of Kick-ass. When sites like Ain't it cool cooed over its more than warm reception at comic-con, I found it hard to be that excited. It's a super-hero movie based on a comic book written by a notable comic book writer. Call me a cynic but is it really that hard to get comic book fans that impressed over something like this?

The answer? Probably. We all know how finicky fanboys get when Hollywood comes over with it's millions; purchasing material left, right and center to make dubious movies like Catwoman (A film I watched for free and still wanted my cash back). Kick-ass is a little different in that it was more independently produced and had no one to really answer to. This is probably why we've had such a intrusive ad campaign for the project. So meddlesome were the rollover ads, that at one point when checking my mail, the ad was also blocking ANOTHER ADVERT FOR THE BLOODY MOVIE. If the aliens of They Live existed then we would have been under their control to obey in minutes.

Anyway, all that aside there was a lot of hoopla surrounding the film and sometimes with an arsehole like myself this can go the other way from what people want. I've had cinema managers stating it's the best comic-book movie in the last five years, I've had people who were on the film telling me years in advance to watch out for it, So after all the talk, the buzz and ads that block ads advertising the same thing...was it worth it? The answer is yes. I found Kick-ass to be a very satisfying movie. Part coming of age, part comic-book movie, but most importantly all fun.

Picture Watchmen without the anguish, Spiderman without the cheese factor and you get the gist of what your expecting. It's a comic-book movie that loves it's source material and takes pleasure in its absurdity without getting too bogged down in the mental misery that tortures Bruce Wayne in his sleep, or bothers Clark Kent when he's stalking his kid. There is angst throughout the movie, but it's handled well enough that you don't wish to punch the characters in the face. Quite the opposite actually, as screenwriter Jane Goldman (Johnathon Ross' amply breasted wife) and director Matthew Vaughan bring us characters that are very likable and enjoyable to follow.

While it takes narrative points from the aforementioned Spiderman, Kick-ass manages not only to feel fresh but also remain amusingly subversive at times, the titular Kick-ass character likening super-heroes to serial killers is one of the quieter highlights with other moments include aspects such as tracking down Kick-ass' secret identity; a moment which I thought about first and was pleased when the characters brought it up. The film also revels in moments of meta-fiction; idea of a film of a comic book character who then gets his own comic book within the film is a bit of a trippy one, along with a certain filmmaker craftily making sure his wife gets a piece of the action. Also, fans of Layer Cake will not wonder where they've seen that 4x4 before.

But with all the self-referential winks to the audience what Vaughan doesn't forget what they've has come to see and fills the film with some bold set pieces, including two action sequences involving the films break out star Hit-girl (a superlative display from Chloe Moretz) that I absolutely adored. He also helps coax some great performances out of his cast. The aforementioned Moretz is great fun, while Aaron Johnson once again shows off the potential that made his portrayal of John Lennon so appealing in Nowhere Boy. Mark Strong is slowly becoming the go-to guy for general villainy (he makes it look easy). On a lesser note Christopher Mintz-Plasse looks like he may become the next Micheal Cera, while Lyndsy Fonseca is gorgeous but don't look for a show stealing turn as she hasn't got too much to work with. Clark Duke shows his comic timing and made me smile often as Marty. It's a little unfortunate he didn't have me biting the inside of my cheek as much as Nic Cage; two words: Adam West.

So final thoughts on Kick Ass? It works. It's fast, snappy and fun. It took me a little while to get into but once the film finds it's rhythm then I was with it all the way. A film with genuinely enjoyable characters wrapped in an action packed ultra violent package. Empire is suggesting on it's front page as "your new favorite film" which of course comes off as the hyperbole it is but as a piece of mainstream entertainment it's a damn good laugh.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Review: The Spy Next Door

Year: 2010
Director: Brian Levant
Screenplay: Jonathan Bernstein, James Greer
Starring: Jackie Chan, Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez

The plot Synopsis is here

If your a follower of this blog, you should know not only do I write reviews here but I also co-host a film podcast at Geek Planet Online. The show (Cinematic Dramatic) allows me to yell even more pompously and pretentiously than I do here. Due to my ranting, my Co-host Iain decided that followers of the podcast should suggest in the forums which "bad" flick I should watch this week to talk/rant about along side the main review I Love You Phillip Morris. The boards decided to inflict The Spy Next Door on me and in a bizarre turn of events; I found myself enjoying Jackie Chan's children adventure a lot more than the aforementioned ILYPM for the simple reason that it knew what it was and did what supposed to well enough.

What did it do? Well it had Jackie Chan despite being past his prime, pulling off nutty stunts. It had a cheesy script that made no sense but still had enough cheap shots to amuse a loser like myself. Expecting the film to be a life changing piece of cinema is like the kid that gets picked last at football to score the last minute cup-winning goal. But it works fine as a dumb piece of knock around fun.

Why did it work? I guess it was the physicality of it all, watching a Jackie Chan family film with stunts that are still done by the guy despite being in his mid-fifties is still ten time better than sitting down with The Pacifier or Are we there yet? Chan's grinning face and slightly less daring feats than before get us through the film. The film is sub-par but Chan's charm is still quite high with me and sometimes it's that alone that make certain scenes palatable.

The rest of the film? Pretty much tosh to be frank. There's some risible child acting, Billy Ray Cyrus shouldn't be allowed near anything to do with film and Brian Levant's direction and editing of the action seem to be trying it's hardest to ruin what ever excitement that is generated from the medium flying stunts (not really high flying as Chan is clearly not in his 20's anymore). Yet with these issues in tow the film is still just about passable. It's sweet but not too saccharine, its heart is in the right place and it does what it's supposed to; which is of course keep kids quiet for 90 minutes and hey presto it works! Of the all the naff films that come out for children these days, I'd rather sit through something like this than the next CGI filled, Pop-Culture clustered, Animal Yakking, Dreamworks nonsense. I'm sure my kids (when I get them) won't mind if I showed them this either...I think it could only be the once however.

Review: I Love you Phillip Morris

Year: 2009 (U.K release 2010)
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Screenplay: Glenn Ficarra John Requa
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor

Plot synopsis is here

I was a little surprised that I Love You Phillip Morris has come out in England before the U.S. There was a strange moment of British smugness over the fact that we got a Jim Carrey movie first over the yanks. I don't know why but it felt like some sort of achievement. However I wasn't too surprised by the film itself. Despite some interesting elements, this "serious" Carrey venture is as bland as vanilla ice cream with cardboard sprinkles. Those who have their wits around them will have guessed the films ending in the first two seconds; this wouldn't be to much of a problem if the film didn't have such a meandering plot, uneven tone and in my opinion; not much laughs.

It's not so much the fault of the actors, as Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor do the best they can with the material given to them. Carrey's performance reminded me how strong his comic timing can be, while McGregor hasn't been this interesting in ages, playing up to the nativity of the character. The trouble seems to be in the films direction. The films play on standard Hollywood rom-coms is honorable but boring as we get scene after scene which do nothing to elevate the emotion we're supposed to feel about the two characters. The film isn't humorous enough to give us the connection we need and so when it suddenly flips on the audience and goes for it's serious moments, the lack the punch to make them effective.

It's a shame because co-directors (writers of Bad Santa) actually do a good job with the central romance, as the film does as much as possible to play the relationship as straight (heh) as possible. It would be be possible to re-write the film as a heterosexual rom-com with little or no issue at all and does well to say that gay people are just as nuts as straight people. Brokeback Mountain this is not, what we have are normal people in a supposedly extraordinary situation. Unfortunately it's way too ordinary to elicit any more than a passing interest.

The film appears to be in a constant struggle with itself, undecided if it wants to be a board comedy, a more subtle affair or something dramatic, annoyingly there are scenes that seem to suggest that this could have been a character study of sorts, but these virtually ignored from the start. The struggle leaves us with a stalemate, a Jekyll and Hyde of a tale with isolated moments of entertainment that are almost lost in the mediocrity that surrounds them

Looking at the IMDB I happen to be in the minority and that's fine, I can deal with that, it's happened before and as always I'm happy that others found something in a film that I didn't. However, I do find it quite surprising that so much got so much out of such a schizophrenic movie that tries far too hard to be loved by everyone but will not win over any Carrey haters let alone those with a casual interest to film. I have to say however the films view on homosexuals will no doubt infuriate some of the more insane followers of the bible belt...once again the smugness rises.

Friday 19 March 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Year: 2009 (U.K Release 2010)
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Screenplay: Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace

Plot synopsis is here

This week there was rumblings that that English language remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the works may fall into the hands of David Fincher (he is looking more like James Cameron by the day). It's interesting (read not surprising) that Fincher would be looking at such a project because to me The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feels a lot like a Swedish Seven. Those last two words placed together should either freak out those who hate the idea or get fans even more intrigued.

Based on the first novel of Stieg Larsson's The Millennium trilogy (Original Swedish title is the very aptly named Men who hate women), Niels Arden Oplev's film is a heavy one. Not only does the film have enough graphic imagery to make someones crotch crawl back into themselves, but the dense plot strands demand your attention throughout the 152 minute running time. This isn't your average crime thriller, but a headstrong, character driven beast which might take a while to get into but was never uninteresting in the slightest.

A website I frequent, compared the film to the Da Vinci code, finding the plot to be too heavily based on computer searches to be appealing. This is something i disagree with, as it's the characters (considered cold and stereotypical in the same review) which we follow that make the film so appealing. The plot may be more than a little "out there" but the burning intensity that Noomi Rapace gives the character Lisbeth kept my eyes glued to the screen. A resourceful yet emotionally stunted girl, who hides her secrets with her brilliant ability and upfront attitude. Her outward look shows a woman who is always in control and yet the tiny inflections and fragile glances by Rapace barely conceal the character's vulnerability. It's a woman who is no damsel in distress (watch her fight) but is still struggling to cope with a deeper inner conflict. Stereotype? To some. Absorbing? Most definitely.

Plaudits should also go to Michael Nyqvist whose "lost" face is actually one constantly fraught with disillusionment. Divorced, with an upcoming jail sentence looming; he takes a job he really wasn't sure about in the first place and find himself in a web of what may or may not be a conspiracy which could destroy what's left of him. Forgive him if he's not filled with a more fiery spirit. Nyqvist's Mikael Blomkvist is the calm "straight man" to Rapace's intense Lisbeth. The two work superbly in tandem so it's it's even more ballsy to keep the two separated for the narrative's first hour allowing the film to focus on building the characters of both.

As a thriller, TGWTDT is a constantly engrossing; it's admittedly outlandish story is still one of entertainment and solid internal logic, it's moments of humor are strangely playful amidst the morbid themes (Race, Misogyny, Greed) that are raised within the narrative. Director Niels Arden Oplev takes time in telling the story and still had me wanting to know what happens next to these characters. I have got long to wait as the second part of the film is on it's way very soon. If Fincher gets his hands on the project, then I expect the same level of interest.

Friday 12 March 2010

Review: Shutter Island

Year: 2010
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Sir Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydrow, Michelle Williams

Plot Synopsis is here

Note: This review has been written to try and avoid spoilers and it should give anything in the story away. However inquisitive readers may put what they've seen from the trailer, other sites and what I mention in the early paragraphs and put somethings together. You have been warned.

Shutter Island is a movie I will need to see again. One because I loved it, and two because I found the screenplay (Night Watch's Laeta Kalogridis), so neatly placed together, working so well with Scorsese graceful direction makes sure that at the end of the film, it has kept the same air of logical ambiguity that we entered.

We shouldn't look at this film for absolute reasoning. The films mood (Likened by Roger Ebert to a haunted house movie), atmosphere and themes forbid it. It's obvious from the violent rainstorm outside, the spiraling staircases and maze like quality of certain areas of the Shutter Island mental hospital, that the film takes place within the recesses of the mind. Of course we all know that when we think, normally the thoughts, flash backs and/or otherwise are always fractured, they never appear in true clarity.

With this knowledge in tow, I fully appreciated the films dream logic. Like A Nightmare on Elm street, Scorsese films the piece in such a way that you never truly know which scenes are real and which ones are not. It revels in surreality almost to the point where at the end, where what could easily have been a terrible plot hole in an inferior movie, could merely be askew judgment from a twisted perspective. Many have felt that the trailer, that has been played for so long due to the unfortunate delay of the movie may give away too much. But no, Shutter Island keeps it's cards close to it's chest and still manages to make a viewer second guess what they're seeing.

It's a fantastic turning of the screws from the film's screenplay that does it. Detectors have stated that the script is patchy. I disagree. It is purposely hazy and Scorsese masterful direction play on our need for reasoning constantly. We focus on certain things because he wants us to, questioning aspects to make us forget others. A second viewing of this film will reveal more to us because our prospective will have changed. We will look at characters again in a different light and respond and react differently...perhaps. What makes the film so devilishly enjoyable that the second viewing may leave you in the dark or shed more light on the conclusion, such is the delicate handling of the work.

Performance wise, DiCaprio puts in what I consider to be his finest work. The boyish image is gone and a harden look has taken it's place. It's interesting that the other 50's period piece that he was in; Revolutionary Road had him overacting the role with a shouty "look at me" display which did nothing but point out what could be is flaws. DiCaprio is better in films like this where he's allowed to be a but more introspective and restrained, with flashes of emotion. He slips into the hard boiled role with ease and by the film's climax I was truly won over.

He is also surrounded by great character acting talent. It might feel like a bit of a conveyor belt of talent, rolled out to do "their little bit" but it gels so well with the narrative, that nagging feeling can easily be ignored. I could be here forever talking about Jackie Earle Haley's intensity, the wonderful chemistry Mark Ruffalo shares with DiCaprio or the pivotal scenes which have excellent moments from Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer or even the uneasy clam that Sir Ben Kingsley provides....oh and Ted Lavines sleazy.....see?

It's easy to mark on the films Scorsese has been influenced by and talk about them. A bit of shock corridor here, a touch of vertigo there, a sprinkling of film noir, however as a genre piece of it's own the film works fine. It's gorgeous cinematography may have film buffs hooting and hollering but those who haven't seen the aforementioned films can enjoy this as well. The references don't feel obvious and tacked on. They are constructed to help highlight the emotions and mindset of the film not just to show the filmmakers knowledge.

Dripping with a tension and dread I haven't felt since my first viewing of Ringu, Shutter Island is a film that really did a number on me. It's a film that I can't wait to obtain on DVD, and had me considering on watching it again as soon as I can. Some have bemoaned that it's not as good as Goodfellas, Raging Bull and the like but I don't mind. This is Marty in his comfort zone, creating a genre piece that still has so much to absorb and inspire. Gushing period is over. I think I've found a film that I'll be still talking about at the end of the year.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Review: Green Zone

Year; 2010
Director: Paul Greengrass
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendon Gleeson, Jason Issacs, Amy Ryan

Synopsis is here

Those who are adverse to the shaky cam techniques, that Paul Greengrass uses his two Bourne movies will do well to avoid Green Zone. The chaotic and sometimes madding use of this camera style is all over this film in droves and despite it giving us the immediacy and energy the green zone needs, the blurry out of focus shots and hyper editing is sometimes distracting and can lose the sense of place needed for the action set pieces to make a stronger impact.

However, Greengrass a director that can still manages to utilize this style and still bring about tension and advance a films plot. Case in point: In a pivotal scene between Millar (Matt Damon) and Briggs (Jason Issacs), Greengrass' roaming, almost rabid visual style almost blurs alot of the actual fight but the shot that most important to the narrative reminds in the viewers eye. There's method to the madness it seems.

Visual style aside, Greengrass as made a good solid action thriller with slight political asides. It has a complex but not complicated plot that had me gripped in it's quieter moments and while it may feel a bit too preachy and liberal for some, there's still enough in the story to make you stop and think. I will say however there maybe some out there who will watch Green Zone and feel that the film has told them nothing they don't already know.

What's most interesting about the film for me was it's presentation of it's characters within the films narrative, the antagonists in particular. Its villains are seeped in shades gray. Some motives are clearly underhanded but seemingly for the good of people while others obey orders from their bosses and do not question their higher ups. The crux of the film lies on information from a source who may or may not have been telling the truth, which once again begs the question: Were the Allied Forces far to willing to go to war? The film does well not to answer this fully but leave enough residue to the viewer into what they might think.

Strangely despite looking at the war from a different angle, I found it gels well with the addiction to aggression themes displayed in newly Oscar crowed The Hurt Locker, suggesting that no matter what war may be in our blood and despite our evolution we may just be finding civilized way to feed the primal. With this said Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland do well to make that despite the questions asked, the film keeps a good pace and remains enjoyable.

It helps when you place a top of his game Matt Damon and a handful of great character actors to head the cast of the film. Damon's character may feel like Jason Bourne with more memory and less martial arts, that everyman charm that was in said trilogy once again shines through in spades. Everyone else (Brendon Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Jason Issacs et all) put in some good work but for me the other stand out of note was Greg Kinnear who provides a Cater Burke feel when ever he's on screen, even when doing nothing....maybe that says more about how I feel about Greg Kinnear!

With both Green Zone, The Hurt Locker and many other films that have appeared in the last few years, it has shown that the war and it's issues have become more open topic to the world of film. As the war rages on it appears that filmmakers are beginning to create mature and yet entertaining works on a difficult subject. Green Zone may feel like Bourne meets Modern Warfare 2 but isn't afraid to ask questions either.

Monday 8 March 2010

Review: Legion

Year: 2010
Director: Scott Stewart
Screenplay: Scott Stewart, Peter Schink
Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Dennis Quaid, Charles S Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki

Plot synopsis is here

Convention is fine, Homage isn't an issue and neither is cliche if used correctly. These things will never bother an audience if the filmmakers are creative enough with their material. Legion however is devoid of pesky little things like imagination, in fact it damn near avoids it. But that's not the only thing this little movie has in store. It's also inept in storytelling, full of atrocious acting and lethargic action sequences. Let's not stop there! The film is also full of cheap shoddy symbolism, tried themes and a distinct lack of's also fucking stupid.

Legion is a bad film. A film that takes a tried premise runs it into the ground, but even then has trouble finding the floor. I've never seen an apocalyptic movie which seemingly has so little at stakes. Even when the film tell us (it does love to TELL you things instead of SHOWING) the levels of peril, it can't even effectively display the risk. We are not scared, we are not worried...hell for most of the movie I wasn't even bothered.

Much of this stems from the movies reluctance on building on the (very) tiny sparks of interest and deciding on retreading elements and imagery that were used in better movies. Watch how the angel Micheal (A very bored Bettany) descends to earth and also how he's introduced to the human characters when he emerges out of the LA police car. The imagery is so connected to a certain sci-fi film, that it looks not only out of place within this film but foolhardy. The film constantly does this; a bit of Assault on Precinct 13 here, a little bit of night of the living dead there, the film is a hodgepodge of ideas used better in other movies. The director does nothing to hide this or integrate them properly into the film he lets them hang ridiculously...such is life.

I'll be honest. I really liked the idea that if mankind was to be wiped out by the angels, then our will, emotional strength and our very humanity would be tested first. When these words are uttered in the film I was expecting to see something worthwhile. Director Scott Stewart decides that whats more interesting then testing these characters is more talking in a diner. Like I said before...tiny sparks of interest. It's a damn shame they shrivel and die like weeds in a well kept allotment. What's more interesting to Stewart is absurd character motivations. Check out poor Kate Walsh's schizophrenic mother character for a laugh.

Other unintentionally amusing moments include token black thug (the "wonderful" actor that is Tyrese) and token black gospel guy (Charles S. Dutton...Why?) sprouting stereotypical dialogue that would make Ben from Night of the Living Dead cry tears of blood, perfect t-shaped explosions, Dennis Quaid looking like he didn't get paid enough for his woeful dialogue and of course a whizzing mace that is carried by all angels.

Will I see worse movies than Legion this year? Possibly. But Legion wishes to belong to one of those special inner circles of cinematic hell. You know the place, where the resident evil sequels and American Psycho 2 reside. Imagine the torture to be hellish, however not as hellish as having to watch this again.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Year: 2010
Director: Scott Cooper
Screenplay: Scott Cooper
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell

Plot Synopsis is here

Crazy Heart is not a very surprising movie. It follows the same well trodden paths as many musical biopics or character studies and seen them once then you've seen them all. However, Scott Cooper's film is not only effective in telling the tale well but it also features a great performance from Jeff Bridges. It may not be the Dude, but it's a towering performance that dictates much of the film. There's a laid back charm shines through so many moments of the display, that it's hard not to like Bad Blake, despite what his inner demons have done. I feel that if you enjoy Bridges' performance than you'll warm to the whole movie.

This is not to say that there's nothing else to Crazy Heart at all. Not at all. From an acting point of view the whole cast is worth watching; Maggie Gyllenhaal's sensitivity and shyness is spot on as Jean, Robert Duvall (a producer to the film) appears with a small yet amusingly grizzled display, and Colin Farrell once again reminds us that he has a great talent for accents.

In fact Farrell's pivotal role is one of the most interesting of the film as we are given a character who looks to be a full on antagonist who actually isn't that despicable at all. The few scenes that Farrell share with Bridges on screen are to me the most memorable. The reasons for the former partners breaking up are ambiguous enough to keep a considerable amount of weariness about both characters and what happened. Credit to Cooper is due for keep the tone in the writing and execution of the scenes from being too explicit.

I also liked how alcoholism is approached in the movie. Yes, you have your more "blatant" moments, but it's the quieter moments that are the most affecting. The best moment being seeing Blake sober compared to drunk. A small moment but effective.

This does bring me to the movies third act, which unfortunately are not as strong as the scenes that have taken place before it. At the end of the film, everything seems to tie up a little too neatly. In fact I found myself asking "is it that easy?!?!" It's a little hard to swallow considering how far this character had fallen. However like I mentioned before this is a character study on rails and contrivance does rear it's ugly head at the best of times.

But it doesn't stop the film from being watchable. Very watchable in fact. The dialogue is funny, the emotional moments are warming enough and the almost relaxed nature of the film makes it hard to hate. There's been comparisons of Crazy Heart to The Wrestler and while I can see the similarities, The Wrestlers effectiveness comes from the attention to detail to that world. It's a stronger movie that doesn't let up. Crazy Heart is more interested in letting you go with the flow.

Review: Alice In Wonderland

Year: 2010
Director: Tim Burton
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bohnam Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, Barbra Windsor, Alan Rickman, Micheal Sheen, Matt Lucas, Paul Whithouse

Ploy Synopsis is here

For me, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is much like his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; the film lacks focus. The script is patchy, the main character is relegated to background for various reasons and emotional response is minimal. Once again Burton is more interested in bulking up the background of the "oddballs" than giving the lead character and the story the drive that the film truly needs.

In addition to this, the visual aspect of Burton's work is weak. There's an over reliance of CGI and Green screen that really effected my enjoyment of the world. In comparison to the wonderful balance of CGI imagination and real world that Terry Gilliam managed with The Imaginium of Doctor Parnassus and I found that visually, Wonderland suffers. Not that we're allowed to see that much of it anyway. Once we enter Wonderland we are never given a full experience of actual Wonderment that is really needed to be effective. Alice falls down the rabbit hole having forgotten her original adventure (a bad piece of plotting) but doesn't seem to give much of a damn of how bizarre this world is, something that The Blue Movie (for it's faults) got right.

But then again the film doesn't appear to be really about Alice in Wonderland. No it's more about the Mad Hatter in Mordor (Wonderland nabs quite a bit from middle earth in looks) or The Red Queen's sibling rivalry with the White Queen. Mia Wasikowska is a blank slate and remains that way throughout the entire film. Yes, she bookends the film's story, however her "realizations" at the end of the film come of a little more than a bit of a cheat. Is Wasikowska a bad actress? Maybe. But this film isn't the one to judge her because she has nothing to do and no characterization to grab hold of. But this was the same in CHARLIE and chocolate factory in which Burton and his screenwriter decided that Willy Wonka is clearly the focus of the film and not the titular character.

So once again the film relies on the viewers affection for Johnny Depp more than anything to hold your attention. It's a shame that my love for him is waning. This is not because Depp is a bad actor or bad in this (in fact he's one of the more appealing aspects of the film). But it's because that the more "off key" the Depp performance is the plainer it now seems to become. Depp by numbers is the term I'd use. I doubt we will see a subtle performance from him anytime soon.

It's been quite a while since the movie and I'm still wondering in the point of Anne Hathaway being in the role she was in. I like what she did with the part, but she had to do something to make such needless character interesting. The same goes for Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts. The standout is of course Burton's wife Helena Bonham Carter, who, nepotism or not gives a devilishly delicious display (say it quickly) as The Red Queen. Yes, her character traits are from the queen of hearts but give her some credit!

The problem is there's not enough of Carter's energy to go around. It's that kind of verve that was needed to push the films flimsy plot forward. Once again Burton has mentioned of his dislike of the source material (RE: Batman, comics) but the changes agreed with himself and others in the production are more frustrating than anything else. Many of the films set pieces are quite dull, and the films pace is a plodding one, which wouldn't be a problem if Alice wanted to explore such a dream world. May I also add that the 3d element is clearly an after thought and not only takes away some of the films sorely needed colour but adds no depth of immersion to the proceedings but I enjoy the idea of 3D...

On the whole Alice in Wonderland is yet another dreary adaptation of a famous work that lacks the heart found in Big Fish nor the inventiveness of his earlier works. I'm there's enough Johnny and art direction for the die hard fans, but those looking for a dark look at a classic fairy tale may find the whole thing a bit soulless.

Note: Burton's latest achievement in Depp and Set Design is breaking a few Box Office records but hey, just because 50 Cent sold $12 Million on get rich or die tryin doesn't mean I have to think he's a great rapper.