Category Archives: re-imagining

Alice’s New Adventures in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland ~ This 2010 edition of the Lewis Carroll stories was masterminded by Tim Burton and presents a tale that is both a sequel and a re-imagining of the Alice saga. It’s been highlighted with the best special effects CGI and Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX can offer.

There’s been a lot of hype about this movie, and just like its creative predecessor, Avatar, I had the same thought leaving the theatre – where did the money go? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s up on the screen, but it’s neither in the writing nor in the acting. The plot is at times slow and boring and at best predictable. Title player Mia Wasikowska and Knave of Hearts Crispin Glover aside, the cast sleepwalks through this special effects extravaganza. Wasikowska is someone to watch.

And those that don’t drift through – Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, both day-glo nightmares given CGI life – overact and hog the screen mercilessly. And none of it is pleasurable. I cringed when either of these two were on screen. Depp is really only likable for a few moments toward the end, but by that time it was too late.

This is a good film, and a visual spectacle that must be seen – preferably in 3-D and in IMAX to get the ful effect, but I couldn’t help thinking it could have been much better. I mean, if you’ve already spent, let’s say, $300 million, why not invest another five mil to get the script up to snuff? The all-too-brief bright and shiny scenes in which we see the young Alice experiencing the original Wonderland adventures made me yearn to have seen more. Perhaps half that and half this dark Burtonesque Wonderland with the adult Alice would have worked better both visually and storywise.

All in all, this is recommended, but on the whole a disappointment of what could have been. The battle at the end is a sight that is on a scale with the end conflict of Avatar. Definitely see it, despite my small quibbles, and see it on the big screen.

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The Legend of the Lone Ranger

The Legend of the Lone Ranger ~ 1981, at a time when other heroes of yesteryear were being brought back from the dead and onto the big screen, like Superman, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Little Orphan Annie – the Lone Ranger might have seemed like a natural to the folks trying to cash in, but somehow I think the project may have been cursed from the start.

Much like the very recent Sherlock Holmes, the Lone Ranger suffers a recognition problem. You might know the name but there are clearly multiple generations that have gone by without knowing what that name is about. And of course, director William A. Fraker also made the tragic mistake of all superhero movies – boring the audience to death with the unnecessary origin instead of just telling a good story. Also at the time of the film, actor Clayton Moore, who had portrayed the Ranger for decades on television and in movies was banned by the Wrather Company, owners of the character, from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger. If the film had any audience interested in seeing it, this action alone alienated them.

The string of bad luck did not end there. The young unknown hopeful-soon-to-be-superstar set to play the Lone Ranger, Klinton Spilsbury, was not only a terrible actor with bad seventies hair, but also had to have his voice dubbed throughout the film by the uncredited John Keach. He never went anywhere after this, his only acting role, and perhaps that’s a good thing. Spilsbury is probably better known as an obscure trivia answer than actually portraying the Lone Ranger.

Now that’s not to say that it’s all bad. The film has an old school 1950s-60s American western feel to it, except for the violence which alternates between excessive and over the top to fake and ridiculous (sometimes the blood is obviously strawberry jam). Christopher Lloyd does a surprising turn as villain Butch Cavendish and Jason Robards is as ever excellent in his role of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Michael Horse, also a bad actor here as Tonto, is still miles better than Spilsbury in the title part. And for the most part the movie is more Tonto than Ranger, which acting-wise was a good idea, but an epic fail for a movie about the Lone Ranger. For the record, Horse became a better actor and went on to a recurring role on “Twin Peaks” and a career doing voicework in animation.

There are too many unintentionally funny moments. One, in what should be the most dramatic and triumphant moment, where John Reid finally puts on the mask and rides off into the sunset with Tonto to the beats of the William Tell Overture, is completely ruined as they ride past the mountain where Captain Kirk fought the Gorn. I know I laughed out loud.

And forgive me, but I love the theme song “The Man in the Mask” sung by Merle Haggard with lyrics by Dean Footloose Pitchford, someone else who went on to better things. This tune is the best thing about this movie in my opinion. This one is a miss unless you’re curious or a hardcore Lone Ranger fan.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still… and then sat down…


The Day the Earth Stood Still ~ Just the concept of remaking this classic 1951 flick sticks in my crawl. Why would anyone remake a perfect film in the first place?

To my mind there are only a few reasons for a remake. The update – the film needs a retelling because the original is dated and makes less sense because of it. Technology – the special effects can now be done better because the technology has arrived to do so. And finally, a new twist – something so original, some new factor that spins the first version on its head, hopefully to a superior fashion. The Day the Earth Stood Still for 2008 does none of these.

The remake twists the original story in a new direction, a politically correct green one. The human race is killing the Earth, so aliens (well, only a couple, really) come down to set things straight and exterminate the pests (us). Really, not the best of plots, a bit of a cliché with some light global warming seasoning thrown in, but that’s what the producers have done to us this time.

The cast is a mixed bag with Kathy Bates revisiting the evil well for her role as a maniacal Presidential aide and Jennifer Connolly completely wasted except as eye candy. This must have been one hell of a paycheck for Ms. Connolly. One can only hope she learns to pick better roles in the future. Keanu Reeves for once is half-way decent as his emotionless monotone is perfect in this version of Klaatu. He’s likable, and there’s not many things he’s in of late that I can say that about.

The highlight of the original film, the robot Gort, is a badly animated CGI creation in this one. And while it’s the best thing about the remake it barely appears, and when it does it becomes a bad special effect that makes the film version of Galactus from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer look positively lovely. Boo. Hiss. And I mean that from my heart.

When a remake is this far off the mark, so different from the look and flavor of the original source material, I say why even retain the name? This is much like the American Godzilla or the more recent Wanted. To the producers – if the source material wasn’t what you had in mind, why pay all that money for the film rights? Give it your own title and keep all the money.

Suffice it to say, don’t see this if you’re a fan of the original. It will be barely watchable for you. Not a great movie, a horrible remake, but a decent watch for those who don’t care about classic film.

The New Bionic Woman

This review will just be about the show, the pilot (whether it’s the final pilot or not remains to be seen as there have been three so far) specifically. I’ll save the nightmares that have plagued the production since early on for another time. It’s much too messy to open that putrid can of dead and hate-filled worms right now.

This new ‘re-imagining’ of “The Bionic Woman” comes from the folks who did the same type of hatchet job on “Battlestar Galactica.” Much of the cast is borrowed from there as well. Michelle Ryan, Zoe from the BBC’s “Eastenders” and late of the much-acclaimed “Jekyll,” is tapped to play Jamie (new spelling) Sommers. Rounding out the cast are Miguel Ferrer and Wil Yun Lee who are always a pleasure to see in action.

Unlike the original series with Lindsey Wagner that spun off of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” this show is not kid-friendly. And even worse, it is definitely not friendly to anyone who grew up watching the show, which is a mistake I think. When adapting a project that was successful, effort should be made to find out why it was successful at least. This new version seems to have shrugged off any charm that the original may have had.

This Bionic Woman is a bartender rather than a tennis pro, and she is preceded by an evil Bionic Woman, played by “Galactica”‘s Katee Sackoff who is stalking her. This Jamie has a bionic eye in addition to one arm, one ear and two legs. And the special effects that strike me as downright hysterical make her super super-vision look like a mistuned TV station and her super-hearing sound distorted. Aren’t they supposed to be better?

When the show finally veers away from conspiracy, bad acting, music video and fixing your perceptions of the old show – and turns to action, we get a predictable duel between the Bionic Women. It feels like a martial arts fight where only dodging and parrying are allowed. I’m dumbstruck as to why neither woman even tries to land a punch. Weird.

I really can’t recommend this show. I predict it’ll be moved over to SCiFi after three or four episodes before being eventually canceled. Unless they change their attitude, this Bionic Woman is destined for the same trashbin the Bionic Dog and Bionic Boy ended up in.