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“Alice in Wonderland”
a review by Darby O’Gill

It’s time to go back to Wonderland, and to do so you’ll need your Tim Burton 3-D glasses. This version of Alice in Wonderland is not so much a remake, as it is a continuation of the original classic tale. Of course, it’s also told through the eyes of visionary director Tim Burton, and marks his third remake or retelling if you will, of an already existing movie classic. I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, but I’m truly starting to miss the originality of his former moviemaking. It’s true that these remakes embody the essences of an original Burton film, but there is still this underlying familiarity of the original movies or stories on which the work is based. Which is a good thing for a remake to embody, but at this point I would really like to see Burton take me to a place I have never seen before. We don’t have many visionary directors that can do what he is capable of, and it seems like for the last few years we have been getting the “What if…” versions of Tim Burton films. For those of you that are not huge comic book nerds, “What if…” comics, are a Marvel Comics series that takes a classic storyline, like say… Spider-Man. The comics would raise the question, what if Peter Parker’s Uncle hadn’t died? Would he have learned that with great power, comes great responsibility? And that is exactly what we have here, “What if… Tim Burton directed Planet of the Apes?” Sadly, we all now know the answer to that question.

In this version of Alice in Wonderland, we follow a now nineteen year old Alice, who has forgotten all about her original adventures in Wonderland, and finds herself now facing even more grownup decisions than ever before, which could not be better timing, because the creatures of Wonderland (or Underland as they call it) are facing troubles of their own; and only Alice can save them. I think they did a really good job of putting a new spin on a classic tale, while still retaining some moments from the original story. The movie moves at a nice pace, and Tim Burton’s visuals are anything but boring. The special effects are quite amazing, and it managed to do for me what Avatar couldn’t, which was being able sell me on the movie’s world and characters. I was totally submerged in the world of Wonderland. I cared about the characters. I was interested in the story they were telling. And even though I was familiar with the story they were telling, they still managed to take me somewhere new, and give me an environment that was worth caring about. Okay, maybe I’m laying it on a little thick. The story wasn’t that amazing; but if anything, it just proves that James Cameron did not try hard enough to change his Dances with Wolves storyline in Avatar.

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter is well… Okay. Look, Johnny Depp is an amazing actor. I think we can all agree on that. But, it seems like when he plays these remake roles for Tim Burton, he tends to go too far. He almost over plays the role. I’m not saying it’s a bad performance by any means, but much like his portrayal of Willy Wonka being almost Michael Jackson-ish, it feels like sometimes less could be more. I feel that these characters already have such a larger than life persona attached to them that Depp is almost trying to harness that imagery by playing them as big as he possibly can, when the truth is playing them slightly smaller, might actually give you the same effect in the end. Anne Hathaway, surprisingly, gives a horrible performance as the White Queen. I’m not quite sure what happened there. I would have to imagine that it was the way Burton wanted the role to be portrayed, but I’m afraid it really didn’t work for me. I found it to be very distracting. I couldn’t keep myself from trying to figure out why she was acting that way. The best I could come up with is that the role of the White Queen most likely would have been the role that Burton’s former fiancé, Lisa Marie, would have played if they were still together. He was most likely directing Hathaway as such, which would possibly explain the uncomfortable nature of her performance in the film. Just a theory. On the better side of the coin, Little Britain’s Matt Lucas gives an amazing performance as both Tweetledee and Tweetledum. And what Tim Burton film would be complete without current fiancé, Helena Bonham Carter? Donning an abnormally large head, inspired by the books original illustrations, Carter plays the hot-tempered Red Queen.

Like I mention at the beginning of this review, Alice in Wonderland is a part of the new and ever growing trend that is 3-D movies. Now, I will admit that this new RealD 3-D system works so much better then those old red and blue glasses ever did. But, it’s still getting a little out of control, if you ask me. I enjoy watching these new 3-D films in the theatre, but once you watch the movie at home, I’m afraid it’s just not quite the same experience. The scenes in which the glasses just add depth are fine, but when things are constantly being pointed at you and there is sadly no 3-D there to enhance it, you truly notice just how lame those stunts make the movie look in the end. Also, the 3-D seems to have a hard time handling fast paced close-up action. Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole was very blurry; and because of the glasses, I felt like I might have missed some really nice moments on the way down. Over all, the movie does a great job of delivering a fun, entertaining, and somewhat curiouser and curiouser night at the movies.

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“Avatar”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Okay, so I finally got around to seeing Avatar. Ah, well… It was definitely… I think… You know what? Let’s come back to that. Avatar is the story of human beings doing what they do best, taking what they want. It’s the year 2154 and groups of people from Earth have traveled to the distant planet of Pandora to harvest a rare mineral called Unobtanium. Don’t worry. We’ll come back to that too. The only thing standing in the way of our obtaining the Unobtanium (God, even I want to punch me in the face.) is the natives of Pandora, called the Na’vi. They’re basically giant blue cat-monkeys. Sorry if anyone thinks that’s racist. I don’t want to aggravate you’re Pandora Blues Syndrome. We’ll get back to that as well. So, before the conflict started getting out of hand, the humans tried to negotiate with the Na’vi, by using Avatars. An Avatar is a bioengineered life form that is a mix of Na’vi DNA and the human controller’s DNA. It’s like virtual reality, but you’re not in a simulated computer system. Instead, your consciousness is uploaded into the Avatar body in the real world. When Jake Sully, a paraplegic war veteran, played by Sam Worthington, who’s twin brother is killed, the opportunity presents itself for Jake to step into his shoes… Well, metaphorically. Jake’s brother was set to work on the Avatar program, and since his DNA make-up matches that of his twin brother’s, Jake is able to operate his brother’s Avatar. Once in the Avatar program, Jake is met with the promise of getting his real legs back, if he would be willing to spy on the Na’vi for Colonel Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, and provide him with some inside information from behind the enemy lines. However, once on the inside, Jake finds himself questioning his loyalties, and will soon need to choose a side.

Well, okay. I guess I’ve got a few things to get back to here. First, it took James Cameron twelve years to make this movie, and I really find it hard to believe that in twelve years he couldn’t come up with something better than Unobtanium. I mean what the fuck! Are you kidding me?! You could have called it Shitanium, and even that would have been better than Unobtanium. James Cameron you’re better than that. I do have one request though James. Please do not pull a George Lucas, and make a new Terminator series that claims the Terminator’s exoskeleton is actually made of Unobtanium. That would be even more unforgivable than Titanic, which brings us to our next callback point, the Pandora Blues Syndrome. People are claiming to find themselves dealing with depression symptoms after seeing the film, because Pandora is not a real place. I’m not even going to touch that. Let’s move on.

I didn’t really care for this movie. Let me clarify, I didn’t find myself getting emerged in this world at all. When you see a movie like this, like Jurassic Park or Harry Potter, I think it’s really important to care about the world the film is trying to sell you on. At no point during Avatar, did I find myself immersed or excited to be experiencing this world, and in 3-D no less. Don’t get me wrong, the world of Pandora in Avatar is well imagined, but there’s just something missing that I can’t put my finger on. Once again, I have to point out that this movie took twelve years to make! In this day and age, I think we are just not as easily impressed with ground breaking effects these days. In the last decade, we’ve seen so many amazing leaps in special effects, and it’s hard to see what took twelve years to achieve in this film. It’s the kind of thing where you really need to see the behind the scenes footage to fully appreciate what they’ve done.

With that said, let’s talk about the story. Did you ever see Dances with Wolves? Great! So, we’ve talked about the story. I’m not kidding; this is Dances with Wolves in space. I understand that every story has been told before, but come on! It’s really hard to enjoy a movie when you don’t care about the world you are in, and you know every twist and turn of the story, because you’ve heard it before. Avatar is so not the best picture of the year! I can’t believe it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Drama. It shouldn’t even be in that category. It’s more of an animated film than anything else. I would say 80% of it is CGI generated. With all that said, I think it’s an okay movie. At no point did I want to stop watching it, I just wished I could have enjoyed it more.

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