WONDERLAND IS A FASCINATING AND FUN PLACE TO VISIT
Posted on Jun 04 2010 by Greg
For this journey down the rabbit hole, Tim Burton
is the driver and Johnny Depp
the tour guide. Several film versions of Lewis Carroll's
two "Alice" books have been released almost since the beginning of the 20th century. By and large, they have not been box office successes, though Walt Disney's
1951 animated feature has become perhaps the most iconic (I also like the 1933 Paramount film, the 1972 British musical film, the 1966 TV special of Through the Looking Glass
, all on DVD, and the Hanna-Barbera 1966 special, which I wish was on DVD.)
Disney's new big screen version of Tim Burton's vision of Alice in Wonderland
, or "Underland," gives us Johnny Depp once again creating an original persona to our sheer amazement, This film is the first mega-hit movie version of Alice ever, hitting the 1 billion dollar mark worldwide. It's a testament to Johnny Depp's astronomical star power within the right vehicle. It has also been accomplished not only through Burton's artistry, but Linda Woolverton's
screenwriting (she penned Disney's Beauty and the Beast,
But they also had to change the story to make it work as a movie. Every filmmaker has struggled with the Carroll texts because, like dreams, they are random experiences with no arc. Walt Disney was the most successful, in my view, at staying faithful to the story without adding an arc (and Walt's artists' vision of the rabbit hole is still the best of all time).
What was done with the 2010 Alice in Wonderland
was to make it a revisit, of sorts, with Alice at marrying age and at a crossroads in life. This is her second Wonderland visit, to bring her confidence and direction. It's probably the most re-defined and altered story arc of any Alice
adaptation to date (in the excellent Hallmark TV miniseries, Alice is afraid to recite a poem and the Wonderland characters give her moral support).
Alice, in this version, is a bit like the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
-- sent by a prophetic destiny to rid the kingdom of an oppressive, deadly leader. The characters are given names (which my son loves: "It's not the White Rabbit, Daddy, he's McTwisp!"). Elements of the Carroll narrative (the rabbit hole, "drink me," etc.) are still here, but eventually the new adventure takes hold and the film becomes an action fantasy.
By the time Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse reach the Queen's castle, they've become a team more in the style of L. Frank Baum
than Carroll -- in fact, I expected Alice to tell the Hatter "I'm going to miss you most of all." She even says a line similar to "and you were there, and you and you!" But I digress and perhaps spoil.
But you know what? It works. And it's more akin to Disney tradition that it may seem at first, since Walt himself considered changing the Carroll story as well, and also almost made a live-action/animated version with Ginger Rogers
. This film, with its blend of live actors, CG animation and motion capture, was virtually all performed in front of a green screen, a descendant of the live action/animated sequences in Mary Poppins
and Bedknobs and Broomsticks
The cast is marvelous, on screen and off. Mia Wasikowska
suggests Hayley Mills
, with a physical resemblance as well as a similar spunky yet sober attitude. Helena Bonham Carter
is having a ball with a juicy, outrageous villain to chew on Red Queen. Anne Hathaway
channels Snow White (watch those bent elbows) and Billie Burke as the White Queen. The voices of Stephen Fry
as the Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen
as the White Ra-- oops, I mean McTwisp are among the letter-perfect voice casting. And of course, there's to Johnny Depp's masterful, mercurial "Bozo-Blows-His-Big-Top," yet somehow heartbreakingly sympathetic, Hatter.
One note to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
fans: the legendary Barbara Windsor,
voices the swashbuckling Dormouse, was the blonde girl friend of Arthur Millard
, the big goofball who got the ugly haircut from Dick Van Dyke's
machine in the Sherman Brothers
1968 musical classic. And that's just a small part of a very big stage and screen career. It's nice to hear her in this film.
The film is visually amazing and as good a reason as any to plunk down the cash for a Blu-Ray player. The DVD has a handful of the bonus features included on the Blu-Ray disc, but I sure would have loved to hear an audio commentary from someone about such an interesting film.
Can't wait for the sequel -- how can there NOT be? I've always loved Alice in Wonderland
and am glad to see it possibly become a franchise, as well as "cool" again. This is one instance where today's filmmakers have realized that total fantasy and escapism is what audiences want during depressed times.
And it still compliments the Walt Disney version without replacing it. There's always room for another Wonderland, and the Walt Disney version will always be landmark, especially because of its Mary Blair
look, classic voice cast and unforgettable songs.
Friday is...ummmm...NATIONAL DOUGHNUT DAY!
Posted on Jun 03 2010 by Greg
What a proud, great nation we live in -- a place where we can celebrate the glorious tasty miracles that are DOUGHNUTS!
Apparently when you visit Krispy Kreme they'll give you a free doughnut on June 4. If you don't have a Krispy Kreme in your town, don't worry. If you've been reasonably good all your life, they hand you fresh hot Krispy Kremes in Heaven -- and they won't be fattening up there. That's worth being good for.
SWINGING SIXTIES GROOVINESS ON BBC RADIO 2 THIS WEEK
Posted on Jun 01 2010 by Greg
British and American '60s pop culture is celebrated this week on BBC Radio 2 with these shows which you can stream free for a limited time.The Top 60 Best Selling Records of the 60s
From The Beatles to The Archies, Englebert to The Monkees, Elvis to Sinatra, English DJ Tony Blackburn presents a special countdown of 60's music hits in a four-hour broadcast in full stereo.
Available here now for the next 5 days.
The British InvasionAlice Cooper
narrates this one hour documentary about how England changed the pop music scene with The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Who
and others, with commentary by Petula Clark, Peter Noone
and more.Available here now for the next 6 days.Eye Witness to History - Vicki Wickham's Sixties
The host of Ready Steady, Go!
, the British American Bandstand
, hosts this one hour look at the swinging styles in music and fashion that influenced the world in the sixties with interviews from Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves and Roger Daltrey
.Available here now for the next 7 days.
REMEMBER THOSE FLEXI-DISCS?
Posted on Jun 01 2010 by Greg
Right here for the next two days
, you can hear a 30-minute tribute to the "The Wonderful Weightless World of the Flexidisc"
on BBC Radio 4. I knew them as "soundsheets." I used to cut The Archies records off the back of Kellogg's Sugar Pops and also fished Hip Pocket Records out of the boxes.
The BBC discusses very early flexi discs and their influence on 70s and 80s rock. My favorite is the Walt Disney Character Parade postcard from around 1977. Cool stuff!
DENNIS THE MENACE ON DVD -- SORT OF...
Posted on May 25 2010 by Greg
Rumor has it that the 1959 classic TV series version of Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace
may someday reach DVD, but in the meantime, check out The Donna Reed Show, Season Three.
In the episode "Donna Decorates," Jay North
as Dennis himself shows up at the Stone residence to help Donna Stone fix up her house -- and of course, hilarious wackiness ensues. When things get too much for Donna, she calls Mr. Wilson for help -- and Joseph Kearns
appears in a phone conversation.
Crossovers were nothing new, even in 1960, and these were both Screen Gems shows, and I think shared the same house facade on the Columbia backlot. The Stones' living room turned up on both I Dream of Jeannie
By the way, The Donna Reed Show
kind of became an easy target for Nick at Nite when it ran the series a few years ago. Marketing the show in a sarcastic, lampoon fashion was a clever approach, but it ultimately cast the series in an unflattering light. Sure, this was an archetypical "nice" TV family of the late '50s and early '60s before the counterculture and grittiness and satire of the years to follow made it out of fashion, but to be fair, the Stones do have arguments and exhibit faults in this episodes, though not to the degree of a Norman Lear
series.The Donna Reed Show
is usually about the smaller issues in daily life -- often "about nothing" as Jerry Seinfeld
later exemplified in his series. In fact, there's a Donna Reed
episode in this Season called "The Mystery Woman" in which Donna meets a lady while shopping and is invited to dinner, and cannot remember the name of the lady. Seinfeld did the same thing, only with, as they like to say nowadays, "with an edge."
By season three, The Donna Reed Show
has hit its stride, with tight, clever scripts and defined characters. It's definitely worth looking at and enjoying on DVD, and there's a bonus feature included with co-star Paul Petersen
and Mary Owen
(Ms. Reed's daughter).
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