I'm still alive, and also still reading my f-list, in case you were wondering. I'm just being a little bit hermit-like in general lately. Also I'm absolutely skint so haven't really been doing anything particularly interesting. However, I have seen a couple of films recently, and my LJ is long overdue a good old rant, so here I am: updating with two film reviews and a moan. :P
Firstly, last Tuesday (2nd March) we went to see The Lovely Bones...
I think it makes me a very bad ex-literature student when I see film adaptations before reading their source books, but my reading list is so bloody long, it's somewhat unavoidable. In any case, it's now on said list, or at least on my Amazon wishlist. :P
...Bones tells the story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who is brutally raped and murdered (though the former is only implied in the film) and watches her family come to terms with it and eventually find out who the murderer was. Despite the subject matter, it wasn't depressing at all. Purists are complaining (as ever) that it's not a perfect adaptation, but adaptations never are. As a film standing alone, I found it enjoyable: a little slow in places, but also very tense in others - most notably the sequences around Susie's demise, and several scenes thereafter involving her murderer, Mr Harvey, played by an unrecognisable Stanley Tucci.
Some of the 'heaven' sequences went on a bit too long and were heavy-handed in their metaphors (like the ships-in-bottles smashing on the shoreline, over and over again), but the real life sequences, despite also being somewhat dragged out, were more effective. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Susie's sister uncovered Mr Harvey's notebook, and the part where he was trying to get rid of the safe where he'd stowed the body. I really, really wanted that safe to burst open before it reached the sinkhole and reveal the horror within.
The rating for the film was 12A, which I thought was somewhat low. There's a long scene in which Susie enters a muddy, blood-covered bathroom, which I found quite disturbing. Ratings confuse me sometimes. Perhaps children may enjoy the brightly-coloured heaven sequences, but beyond that there's not much to interest them...
It did provoke some discussion between Paul and I afterwards, as to whether Mr Harvey was a paedophile, since it was never expressly mentioned. I knew already that in the book Susie was raped before she was murdered, even though the film didn't expressly show it - in the same vein, it didn't show that she was dismembered afterwards, though it was hinted at by the amount of blood and the fact that he managed to cram her body into a safe... On reflection, though, Harvey's perversion was more than obvious. All of his victims were girls under the age of 18, the youngest being six ("He only wanted to touch her," Susie tells us, "but then she screamed.") The rating may have hampered the film-makers to some degree, or it may simply be an interpretation of the views of the time: such things were not mentioned in police society and it wasn't such a 'buzz word' as it is today. It may even simply be a lack of bravery on their part to delve into the issue. Personally, I think it worked well – that unexpressed implication only makes it more sinister.
I also enjoyed the fact that it only took one defiant girl to break the chain of abuse and horror, and Harvey's end was more than deserved - the icicle was a very nice touch.
Overall, well worth a viewing.
Then on Sunday, we went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D... I had checked the websites for both Cineworld and AMC to check listings for Alice, and eventually decided on Cineworld because there was more choice. Thanks to previous horrible cinema experiences at AMC (two films in a row ruined by obnoxious talking people), we were half considering seeing it at IMAX, but their website wouldn't let me check screentimes without booking tickets, which were just under £10. I'm sorry, Tim; I don't love you quite that much. In retrospect, I really wish I could have afforded IMAX...
Cineworld claims to have "more 3D screens" than anywhere else. This may well be true, and they were indeed showing Alice in 3D on two screens. However, I have two major gripes.
Firstly, nowhere on any of their listings - the website, the boards outside or the screens at the ticket booths - do they differentiate between the 2D and 3D showings of the film. The screens above the ticket booths are especially a failure in this regard because, despite listing by screen, they don't show the full title of the films, and the truncated titles do not scroll. Hence, we arrived in time for the 3.00pm showing, which we had opted for, on checking said screens, because it was on Screen 1. "If we're going to watch this in 3D", thought I, "we might as well go for the largest screen".
The lady in the ticket booth sold us our tickets (which were £4.20 each, the usual off-peak price) and did not think to mention or check with us that we were booking tickets for the 2D version of the film. I was suspicious immediately after booking that a) she hadn't asked if we needed glasses, and b) that it didn't cost their usual extortionate price. I attempted to double-check on the self-service machine, which had the same problem as the other listings and screens everywhere of not telling you which version it was, so we checked with the ticket man on the gate. He confirmed that we had indeed just pointlessly bought tickets for the 2D showing, but said we could go into the 3.30 (3D) showing instead.
I assume from this reaction that several other people have made the same mistake all frelling weekend, and it’s quicker to let them through than make them queue up for a refund or new tickets.
My second gripe is this: whilst they were showing Alice on two screens, those screens were 6 and 10 respectively, two of the smaller (and possibly the smallest in the case of 10) screens in the building. They are still nonetheless bigger than the biggest screens at New Street Odeon, but that's beside the point. If you're going to advertise yourselves has having "more 3D screens" than anyone else, you should at least transform one of your biggest screens, not your smallest.
Needless to say, by the time I'd realised all this I was feeling very frustrated and despondent, which was not helped by the apparent army of families with Small Children who had attended. We also then had to queue to get in (opening weekend FTW, clearly) which we didn't realise so ended up with rubbish seats at the side of the auditorium, which meant that the 3D effects were not as good as they could have been. Thankfully, however, apart from one shrieking child near the beginning who was apparently obsessed with caterpillars, and the girl wearing stupid flashing trainers, the children were surprisingly well-behaved. Though in respect of said shrieking child, I reiterate my point from when I saw Mary Poppins: if your child is too young to communicate in any other way than screaming, they are too young to go to the cinema. End of.
Anyway. At least we got to see it, by the skin of our teeth admittedly, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though bizarrely I actually enjoyed it more in retrospect than I did at the time, which sounds odd but is true.
The script has been criticised by several sources, and... yeah, some of it was a bit ropey, but that's not Burton's fault. For all the points where it was banal or predictable, there were moments of pure joy - and I shall comment on those later. It had all of the charm one would expect from Burton's films: Danny Elfman's score echoing shades of Nightmare... and Edward Scissorhands in places (a return to old form, much appreciated), and Coleen Atwood's costumes as beautiful as ever. It had the vastness and scope I was hoping for (so sorely lacking in Corpse Bride and so important to all of his films), both in Wonderland/Underland and Alice's real world, and whether the environment had been green-screen or otherwise, it looked amazing nonetheless.
Helen Bonham-Carter and Johnny Depp between them stole the show. Bonham-Carter's Red Queen was channelling Blackadder’s Queenie to a terrifying degree, and she was note-perfect throughout (so to speak). Ann Hathaway's White Queen really reminded me of someone in her mannerisms, but I absolutely cannot think who - unless it's just some generic Disney princess (I wouldn't put it past Burton to poke fun, even though it's Disney's film...). Apparently he based her character on Nigella Lawson, which I can... sort of see, and she's also vaguely reminiscent of Lisa Marie's alien character from Mars Attacks!.
I’ll discuss Johnny Depp in a moment, but before that, I just want to mention the impressive voice performances of Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (Dormouse) and Alan Rickman (Caterpillar), not to mention the sheer unmitigated genius of cloning Matt Lucas as Tweedles Dee and Dum. They were awesome. Stephen Fry in particular had some of the best lines in the film, my favourite being “Goodbye, sweet hat…”
Depp’s Hatter was a triumph of schizophrenic ranting and surprising – often touching – humanity. It’s just a shame he didn’t get more screentime. In that respect, Alice suffered in the same way the first Pirates film did: the sense that Johnny Depp was full of character exploration energy and simply not given enough space in which to express it. (If there’s ever a sequel in the pipeline, my vote’s on Hatter in Overland. :D) When the Hatter was abducted by the Red Army, I was incredibly sad to see him go, and very glad that he made some more appearances later on. I’d commented beforehand how surprised I was that, for once, Tim Burton had succeeded in making Johnny Depp look scary, rather than pretty - but that only applies to the promo photograph. He portrayed the character as much more than a Disney caricature of insanity, with an intelligent insight into what made him tick - his accent slipping from English to Scottish with his changes in mood. (As opposed to Paul Whitehouse's March Hare, who was purely, gibberish-spoutingly insane. :D)
I enjoyed how the Hatter lived for hatting, that when he was back doing his trade he seemed considerably more lucid and calm. It's interesting how really, all of Underland's inhabitants are plainly mad; with the Hatter (and the Hare) it's more obvious and external, whereas with the others it's under the surface. The Red Queen is power-hungry and lonely; Stayne (the Red Knight) is desperate for approval, following whoever leads best; the White Queen is constrained by her 'vows' and wants to rebel. In her own world, Alice is seen as mad; in Underland she's the only sane one left.
My favourite aspect, however, and one which I was not expecting in the slightest, was the relationship between Alice and the Hatter. I most definitely did not anticipate that I would be shipping them, but apparently I'm not the only one, if the IMDb message boards (and the section on FFN!) are anything to go by. It's taken me completely by surprise and subsequently eaten my brain, and I am holding Mr Depp entirely to blame for this. The spark hit early on (when Alice was riding on the hat) and grew into something bigger during the hatting scene at the Red Castle. Whereas Alice's (or Um's) encounter with Stayne felt awkward and almost sinister (“I like you, Um. I like… largeness…”), all of her scenes with the Hatter had that familiar undercurrent of potential shippiness. If the "Why are you always too big or too small?" line didn't clinch it, then the battle scenes did: the Hatter was the first to volunteer to go in Alice's place, and the last to say goodbye. And there's the balcony scene. All of which were perfectly devised to squeeze my shippy heart into a ball. :)
I need to see it again. Not just so I can have better seats and enjoy the 3D effects more, but because there is so much more I could have talked about if I hadn't been feeling so rubbish the first time around. I forgot to look for inter-referencing (apart from the tree and windmill from Sleepy Hollow and Elfman's musical reminiscence) and for me, that's completely unacceptable. I still need to see it with Lisa and also my mum, so that's at least two more viewings on the cards. After which I will be irrevocably obsessed with Alice/Hatter and more than likely a lost cause. That's assuming I'm not already.
I do worry, sometimes, that Tim Burton is losing his magic touch. His latest films still retain his special mark of genius, but it's not quite so obvious as in his early work. Where The Corpse Bride was clearly a triumph of stop-motion technology, for example, it falls down on the enchantment and timelessness of Nightmare Before Christmas. I think the answer is that he needs to produce more original work (like Nightmare and Beetlejuice) rather than re-inventing old stories. That's where his talents lie; he's an artist, not an adaptioneer. But that being said, I do think he has the best approach to musicals that I've seen thus far, and I'd like to see more of that.
Anyway, that's more than enough. We shall now return to our regularly scheduled not!posting.