Fim reviews: Burton through 3D looking glass
Alice in Wonderland
ALICE must decide whether or not to accept a marriage proposal. She's pushing 20, her looks won't last forever and a lord is quite a catch. But, distracted by a rabbit, she runs off into the woods, falls into a hole and wakes in what she assumes is one of her fantastic dreams -- a 3D dream, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. A dream where costume-makers and make-up artists roam free with the magic cats and card armies.
Adapted and extended from Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this thoroughly modern Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is more out of time in her real world than in W-Underland which is magically post-apocalyptic and "Burton Goth".
She doesn't remember her previous visits and no one is sure if she is, indeed, the right Alice -- but it must be the right Alice for she has to save the Hatter (Depp) from the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) before championing the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).
The problem with anything innovative is that once you've seen it, it either becomes the norm or gets repetitive. While the visual endures, the Mad Hatter's split personality doesn't do enough to really differentiate him from Depp's own Willy Wonka, making him a victim of his own success. The original was never, to me, very engaging and although they have constructed more of a narrative it still fails to engage entirely. It's telling that the Red Queen and the Hatter are the most appealing characters. Bonham Carter is great.
Coming so hot on the heels of Avatar does no 3D film any favours and this, too, suffers a little in comparison. However, it is visually fabulous and needs to be seen on a big screen. There are parts that might scare small kids and it was a little hard to understand at times (speech, not plot) but there is much to enjoy for kids and adults.
Alice in Wonderland is now showing
If the prospect of Bridget Jones going toe-to-toe with Beelzebub doesn't float your boat then it's fair to say that director Christian Alvart's Exorcist-style scary movie, Case 39, might not be for you. Such is the spectacle that awaits in this spookathon starring Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones), The Hangover's Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane. Lovejoy was never like this.
Zellweger stars as Emily Jenkins, a live-alone, overworked child services worker whose intuitive sixth sense is as highly developed as her, er... 666th sense is lacking. The former allows her to intervene and save the life of troubled 10-year-old Lilith (Jodelle Ferland) just as the girl's psycho parents are taking their opportunity to bring a whole new meaning to the concept of what constitutes "oven-ready". (Think "kids" as opposed to "chips" and you've put yourself in the disturbing picture.) The lack of the latter, however, results in Emily taking pity on Lilith and agreeing to foster her when the parents are consigned to institutional care. Big mistake.
It isn't long before things start to go bump in the night as Lilith switches to full-on Satan's little helper mode. Casualties include Emily's love interest, Douglas (Cooper), a child psychiatrist who discovers to his cost that Lilith doesn't really do touchy-feely, while the hounds of hell play a leading role in the demise of cop Mike Barron (McShane).
Zellweger and McShane succeed in the difficult task of keeping straight faces for the duration while Ferland has some great moments as the creepy kid who underpins proceedings. It's also worth stating that moments of unintended hilarity abound. Strictly for genre fans.
Case 39 is now showing
PERHAPS this erotically charged relationship drama should carry a don't-try- this-at-home advisory. There are many ways to react to the suspicion that your partner is having an affair, but on the evidence of this tale directed by Atom Egoyan, hiring a prostitute to test their fidelity might border on the ill-advised.
Such is the path pursued by Catherine (Julianne Moore) when an incriminating text leads her to believe her university professor husband David (Liam Neeson) may be indulging in some extra-curricular activities of the non-conjugal variety.
Considering this Toronto-based power couple are deemed to be models of marital bliss -- newspaper articles have been written about their mastery of the work/life balance dilemma -- Catherine is obviously devastated.
Catherine avails of a seemingly chance encounter with Chloe (Mamma Mia's Amanda Seyfried), a high-class hooker, to set up a honey trap to put her husband's marital vows to the test. To suggest that unforeseen consequences ensue is to understate the situation, as themes involving desire, longing and obsession take centre stage in a manner that convinces for the most part.
Grown-up subject matter, fabulously glossy production values and the carefully calibrated introduction of suspense do much to sustain engagement levels. Neeson and Moore bring a touching credibility to their portrayal of a married couple on the verge of a mid-life meltdown while Seyfried is also compelling as the enigmatic hooker whose icy exterior masks a vulnerable core.
All these attributes, however, don't sufficiently distract from a conclusion that undermines the quality of what has gone before. While the seductive nature of the set-up encourages investment, the paucity of the pay-off is undeniably deflating.
Chloe is now showing