Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Opening up with mixed reviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film. Of course I went to see it in 3D, and I recommend anyone going to see Alice in Wonderland, go see it in this format. Everyone knows the story of Alice, following the white rabbit down the hole, so I won’t bore you with details. There are a few fresh twists on the story, not that they work very good.

This movie really used Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) in its marketing, and I was disappointed in Depp’s  performance. Why I am not sure, he was weird and kooky like you would expect from the Mad Hatter, he just lacked character. Helena Bonham (Planet of the Apes, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein)Carter was good as the Red Queen, but hard to really pay attention to her performance with her enlarged head. Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Willard)  plays his usual character and Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, The Devil Wears Prada) gives a very lackluster performance as the White Queen.

Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands) does a great job with creating a fun quirky world, visually stunning to look at, but maybe that was the only thing he was paying attention to. If you are a huge Burton fan, you will enjoy seeing the world he has created, but anyone else, the movie will probably bomb for you. For me the 3D made it interesting to watch once, but that is about it. If you want 3D fun, go check it out at a matinée price, plus you get a lengthy Toy Story 3 trailer in 3D, otherwise save your money.

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Away We Go

Away We Go is the 5th film from Director Sam Mendes. Known for American Beauty, Road to Perdition and last years Revolutionary Road which are very dark in tone and content, this is a step away from the norm from him and frankly is a breath of fresh air. Away We Go is the story of Burt, played by John Krasinski (The Office, Leatherheads) and Verona, who are a mid-thirties couple who find out they are going to have their first child. Burt’s parents played by Jeff Daniels (Gettysburg, Speed) and Catherine O’hara (Best in Show, Beetlejuice) decide to move to Belgium a month before the baby is born. Burt and Verona, having no ties to their home town any more, go exploring for the perfect place to raise a family. visiting lots of friends and family across  the country, it is a fun adventure of possibilities.

The performances in the film are all pretty good, but the one surprise performance that stands out is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary). She plays Burt’s cousin and takes the idea of being close as a family to a whole new level, to the point of being creepy. Her performance is spot on as she delivers her lines with complete confidence without batting and eye as she talks about sharing a bed with her husband….and her kids! She is so good in this role, I could see her getting a Supporting Actress nomination.

Overall I don’t think this is Sam Mendes best film as the movies mentioned previously are very powerful films, but this is a very light, intelligent and delightful film. I would recommend seeing this movie, it is something fresh and not the usual rehashing of a story line you have seen twenty times already. Worth watching for sure!

Beetlejuice

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Where do you even begin to review a movie that has a freelance bio-exorcist in it? “Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose.” To me this is one of Tim Burton’s (Edward Scissorhands, Batman) best film. This is a film about a young couple Adam and Barbara, living in a small New England town, spending their vacation in their house. While running an errand they are killed in a car accident and have to stay in their house…dealing with the living…as ghosts. Being new at hunting a house, they call upon Betelgeuse, the freelance bio-exorcist to help them run off the living from their house. And the zaniness takes off from there!

Back before the days of CGI and big budget special effects, it actually took some creativity to get special effects done. Tim Burton does a wonderful job of directing this film and seeing his vision come to fruition. Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) and Geena Davis (Thelma and Louise) both give very understated but true to life performances. Winona Ryder (Girl, Interrupted) is perfect as the goth teenager that is the only one who can actually see Adam and Barbara when they are ghosts. The best performance of course comes from Michael Keaton (Batman) who plays Betelgeuse. Keaton is an absolute riot and spouts off memorable one liners one after another! It is almost hard to believe it is Michael Keaton!

I am sure most out there have seen this as it has turned into a cult classic, but if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it. Although I know everyone’s taste in humor is a bit different and Tim Burton seems to have a niche of humor all to himself, give it a chance. It is a ingeniously creative and very funny movie.

The Aviator

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The Aviator, deservedly nominated for Best Picture, and in my opinion, a much better film than the winner that year, Million Dollar Baby.  This is a film about Howard Hughes and in particular his love for aviation. The film begins in Hughes “directing” era when he is making Hells Angels. While in production of his film Hughes is constantly pushing the boundaries of aviation and eventually buys TWA and challenges Pan Am’s monopoly on international flights. Of course the Hercules…more commonly known as the Spruce Goose…is included in the film as well as the congressional hearings and Hughes eventual demise due to his obsessive compulsive disorder.

This movie has a stellar cast highlighted by Leonardo DiCaprio’s (Titanic, Gangs of New York) portrayal of Mr. Hughes. DiCaprio is wonderful at having an attitude about not caring about money, when ever there is a problem, his solution is to “buy” it or hire someone to fix it. For example hiring Professor Fitz, played by Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings), to monitor clouds for in teh background in the movie  Hells Angels. DiCaprio is also great in slowly introducing the obsessive compulsive side of Howard Hughes. From being paranoid about washing his hands to the extreme side when he has locked himself in a room, totally naked, trying to avoid any type of germ. Personally, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio could have won an Oscar for this role. I though both he and Don Cheadle (nominated for Hotel Rwanda) were better than Jamie Foxx in Ray, but we all have our opinions.

The other outstanding performance, which did result in an Oscar, was Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) playing Katherine Hepburn. She was incredible with her accent and the way she carried herself in general. As I mentioned this film has a great cast, and many very nice performances…..Alan Alda (MASH) was nominated as best supporting actor for his role as Senator Brewster, Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice) as Juan Trippe, and even a small role for Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) playing actor Errol Flynn.

Behind the camera is Martin Scorsese (Best Director The Departed), and usually what ever he is involved with turns out nothing less than great. Again, another Oscar could have been won here as I thought for directing, he did a much better job and took more risks than Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby. (Although I never mind seeing Clint Eastwood win anything, he has become an American icon.) For instance, look at the first hour of the Aviator, there are no greens in the movie to reflect a look and tone of the time. No your TV does not need adjusting, even the green peas on the plate are blue. The Aviator with it’s grand scale and top notch cast needed a great director like Martin Scorsese, as where I believe there are a handful of directors that could have done Million Dollar Baby.

As much as I have mentioned the word Oscar here, it did take home 5 Oscars and deservedly so. If you have not seen this film, this is really a great movie and worth watching. It will give you an appreciation of what Howard Hughes did for the field of aviation and the airline industry. At least see this once.