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Posts Tagged ‘Mia Wasikowska’

Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depps.

Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depps.

“ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS”   My rating: C 

113 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG

Perhaps to truly enjoy Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” just forget there was ever a Rev. Charles Dodgson, a socially awkward mathematician who under the nom de plume Lewis Carroll wrote children’s fantasies bursting with sly satire and fabulous wordplay.

Sly satire and fabulous wordplay are in short supply in this overproduced yet perfunctory sequel to 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland.” They’ve been replaced by unfocused, unmanaged movement. This is a very busy film.

The best way to approach “Looking Glass” is as a two-hour 3-D special effects demonstration reel. With lowered expectations it might not be so bad.

Fans of the Carroll novels will be utterly at sea. Familiar characters drift in and out, but the story cooked up by screenwriter Linda Woolverton is cut from whole cloth and hits hard on issues of female empowerment — a worthy topic, perhaps, but not something on the Rev. Dodgson’s radar.

In the first scene Alice (Mia Wasikowska reprising her role), now a young woman, is the captain of a sailing ship braving a fierce storm and Malay pirates.

Bring on the F/X!

She returns to 1870s England only to discover that her beloved father has died and her impoverished mother (Lindsay Duncan) has agreed to sell the ship to the pea-brained, chauvinistic ex-fiance she spurned in the first movie.

Guided by a butterfly (voiced by the late Alan Rickman in his final role) Alice passes through a mirror into “Underland,”  where a new quest awaits her.

She learns that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is ailing — at death’s door, in fact, mourning the demise of his family years before.

Alice resolves to travel back in time to rewrite history and save her suffering friend. This entails a visit to the citadel occupied by Time personified (Sacha Baron Cohen), where she pilfers a time machine.

Once in the past she not only tries to rectify the Hatter’s domestic situation but discovers the origin of the enmity between the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and her sister, the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter).

At one point the story zaps back to the real world, where Alice has been institutionalized with what her barbaric male doctor calls “a textbook case of female hysteria.” (more…)

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Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

“MADAME BOVARY” My rating: B 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It is wise to approach a new screen version of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” with caution. (And today in KC we see the openings of two cinematic interpretations…see my review of “Emma Bovary.”)

In even the best of productions Flaubert’s tale of a foolish young wife — so convinced that she deserves a life of romance and luxury that she drives herself and her poor sap of a husband to ruin — is a downer.

The movies’ track record with Emma Bovary is spotty.  Americans are most familiar with the 1949 version starring Jennifer Jones, a spectacular beauty who oozed sexuality. It was easy enough to view her Emma as born to wickedness, and the character’s ultimate downfall must have proven particularly satisfying to misogynists who could argue that this is just the way these silly women are.

Now director Sophie Barthes emphasizes the tragedy in Flaubert’s tale by casting as Emma the wan Mia Wasikowska, who at age 25 could pass for a teenager. No voluptuary, Wasikowska — we first noticed her as the title character in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — has the physical presence of  a gawky adolescent.

In fact, Barthes and Felipe Marino’s screenplay opens with young Emma being educated by nuns. She’s a free spirit, though, who won’t follow instructions, and the next thing you know she’s being married off to country doctor Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and planted in his drab house in a drab village filled with drab people.

(more…)

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Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore

“MAP TO THE STARS” My rating: C

111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There have been plenty of great movies about Hollywood.

“Sunset Boulevard.”

“The Bad and the Beautiful.”

“The Player.”

David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars” is not one of them.

It’s got a terrific cast (including recent Oscar winner Julianne Moore) and offers many observations about the pathetically fragile egos of those caught up in the celebrity/career cycle, and of the moral vacuum in which the entertainment industry operates.

What it hasn’t got is one character — just one — who isn’t either homicidal, mental, or otherwise set apart from the rest of us average folk. Now this may be a perfectly accurate reflection of life in LaLa Land,  but it makes for an uninvolving movie experience.

The screenplay by Bruce Wagner (“Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills”) follows the template of a classic Robert Altman film.  Take an evocative setting (Hollywood, Nashville, a wedding, a health food convention) and toss into it a dozen or so characters whose trajectories intersect at various points.

It begins with the arrival in L.A. of Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a fresh face from Middle America seeking her future and fortune in the city of angels. Did I say she had a fresh face? Not pecisely. Agatha has a huge scar on her left cheek and wears old-fashioned over-the-elbow lady’s gloves to hide what she says are burn marks.

She hires a limousine driver (Robert Pattinson, late of the “Twilight” franchise) to give her a tour of the sights and of celebrity residences. He’s actually an actor, he says, and is contemplating Scientology. “I was thinking about converting. Be a good career move.”

(more…)

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Jesse Eisenberg and...Jesse Eisenberg in "Double"

Jesse Eisenberg and…Jesse Eisenberg in “The Double”

“THE DOUBLE” My rating: C+ (Opening July 4 at the Screenland Crown Center)

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R)

 

Though it is based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, one could be forgiven for thinking “The Double” is an adaptation of Franz Kafka.

Richard Ayoade’s film gives us a hapless protagonist trapped in a web of illogical but rigid social and political rules. This poor schlub finds himself living in a nightmare from which he cannot awaken.

The problem is that for me dramatizations of Kafka never really work.  They may be well acted, imaginatively mounted, and they may deal with important human issues. But what seems subversive and insightful on the printed page always comes off as a bit silly and, worse, boring when brought to the screen. Kafka-ish yarns are always about an Everyman…and Everymen aren’t all that interesting.

Once in a blue moon a director takes a Kafkaesque situation and makes it both funny and compelling — Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” for example.

“The Double” works about half the time, thanks to its depiction of a glum alternative world and a bravura double performance from Jesse Eisenberg. But it can’t quite make it over the hump.

Eisenberg is best known for playing dweebs in films like “Zombieland” and “Wonderland” and — let’s face it — “The Social Network.” Here gets to play not only a disaffected dweeb but also his lookalike tormentor. Two characters that are polar opposites.

And, yes, the kid can act. He’s so good here I wish I liked the movie more.

Simon (Eisenberg) lives in a grungy, ill-lit metropolis in which technology seems to have peaked around 1935.  He’s employed by some sort of government agency ruled by the Colonel (James Fox), a paternalistic Big Brotherish figure in a white uniform. Exactly what this agency does is never made clear, but it must be important since it has a high degree of security. When he leaves his ID at home, Simon has a hard time convincing anyone at work that he’s been coming there for years.  He’s that forgettable.

Our man yearns for success but is totally lacking in the qualities that might bring it. He’s got no self-assurance, creativity, or charisma.

(more…)

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Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode

Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode

“STOKER” My rating: B- (Opens March 22 at the Glenwood Arts and Tivoli)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Stoker” represents an extraordinary level of film craftsmanship.

Every shot, every color choice, every cut and transition, the soundtrack – even  the opening credits –suggest an almost obsessive determination to get all the details exactly right. On so many levels the movie is breathtaking.

Given this, why isn’t Korean director Park Chan-wook‘s first English-language film more satisfying?

I think it’s because in trying to give us a classic Hitchcock-style suspense film he (and his writer, the actor Wentworth Miller) has in fact given us a somewhat academic deconstruction of a Hitchcock-style suspense film.

Big difference.

 If you’re looking for thesis material “Stoker” is chock full of allusions, references and outright steals.

But for genuine suspense, go elsewhere.  Unlike Hitch, Park (whose best-known film in this country is probably the incest-and-savagery epic “Old Boy”) doesn’t allow us to identify with his characters. They might as well be specimens of exotic insects in glass jars.

Our heroine is high school senior India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), whom we meet at the funeral of her beloved father, who has died in some sort of fiery car crash.

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“JANE EYRE”  (Available Aug. 2)

It’s an old story in Hollywood: A fresh young director makes a splash with a first movie, but loses his/her way with a followup effort.

But Cary Fukunaga has avoided the sophomore slump. His “Jane Eyre” got rave reviews when it opened in March, and despite coming out on DVD this week the latest adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Gothic romance is still playing theatrically in Kansas City (it’s more or less taken up residence at the Screenland Crown Center).

Fukunaga, 34, is a native of Oakland CA and a film graduate of NYU who wowed many of us two years ago with “Sin Nombre,” a Spanish-language yarn about a Central American banger who hops a northbound freight train to elude his murderous fellow gang members and travels right up to the U.S. border, befriending a young woman hoping for a better life in America.

“Sin Nombre” suggested a major talent; “Jane Eyre” confirmed it. (more…)

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