Cinepub


2011 in Film: Number 1: Season of the Witch by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Starting a new little project on this blog and going to try and watch every film released in 2011 (at least as listed on Wikipedia) and as luck would have it, I must begin with a Nicolas Cage film. Now normally I like to do a video review of Cage’s films but I’m having some technical issues in that department so I have to resort to something barbaric like typing out the words with my fingers rather than speaking them with my mouth parts. Enough of my problems, on to the review!

The film opens during the crusades which were apparently fought by quipping Americans who may or may not be trying to do English-esque accents. I honestly can’t tell if Nicolas Cage is trying speak with an English accent and just failing or if it’s just the way his voice goes when he’s trying to speak in somewhat faux Olde English. Ron Perlman, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to bother and honestly, his performance is more enjoyable because of it. Anyway, the two Crusadery chums are hacking their way through battles, killing for God and drinking with wenches and just generally having as good a time as two knights can. After a while though, they come to the realisation that they aren’t just killing deserving infidel warriors but also women and children too. They decide that enough is enough and leave the Crusades and go on the run as deserters.

So they find themselves wandering around medieval Europe. What are they doing? Well, that’s never really explained. Probably going from village to village and righting wrongs where they can. That’s the ind of shit that righteous outlaws are always doing from Robin Hood to The A-Team. Anyway, they come across a kingdom blighted by the plague where they are recognised and arrested. However they are given a holy quest by a plague-ridden Christopher Lee (in one of the more bizarre cameo appearances in film history). The quest is to deliver an alleged witch to a monastery where a rite will be performed that will remove the curse of the plague. Cage is reticent to sign up and work for the church again but ultimately relents in exchange for a guarantee that the accused witch will receive a fair trial and that he and Perlman are given full pardons.

They are accompanied on their quest by a priest, the unfortunately named Debelzaq, a swindler/merchant named Hagamar, another knight whose own land has been ravaged by the plague, causing him to lose his daughter, named Ulrich and a young aspiring knight Kay. They set off and, honestly, not much actually happens on the way. There’s a few deaths and few things which are possibly meant to make you wonder if the girl actually has supernatural powers or not whilst actually makes it pretty fucking obvious that she has supernatural powers. What happens could best be described as dude gets stabbed, there’s a rickety bridge on which no one dies, some demon wolves and then bam. They’re at the monastery.

There are bad things afoot at the monastery however! Apparently the plague has struck there too and it’s down to Debelzaq to try and perform the rite to sort out the witch. But bad things are afoot inside the girls body! It turns out that she’s not a witch at all but she is, in fact, possessed by bad CGI Satan! So any chance of this being in anyway interesting is almost immediately lost, any hint that maybe the girl wasn’t supernatural and was perhaps just crazy is instantly gone (though they would have had to explain a shit lot of the stuff that happened earlier if they had gone that route). What we’re left with is a final battle between our main cast and some poor special effects. Ugh.

So where exactly did this film go wrong? Well, there’s the cheap look which renders everything just a little unbelievable, the poor writing and somewhat stilted acting but the biggest problem is the constant shift in tone. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a buddy action comedy? A psychological thriller? A straight up supernatural horror? Don’t get me wrong, tonal shifts in movies can work but not when they seem to be happening every time there’s a scene change. It’s just comes off as jarring.

Was there anything good about the film? Well, this isn’t the worse that Cage has been and he isn’t exactly bad at playing the repentant, world-weary warrior but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Cage isn’t playing it a little crazier given the setting. Also Perlman’s entertaining but he’s taken being entertaining in cheesy bullshit and turned it into an art form.

At the end of the day those two points aren’t really enough to recommend the movie to anyone really. I will say that there are entertaining moments but they are very few and far between and most of them are quite near the beginning of the film. Overall I can’t in good conscience give this more than one pint out of five. Laterz.

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Review: Alice In Wonderland by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

No long, extended set up to this review. My head hurts again. You all know the basic history of Alice in Wonderland, especially the Disney version and if you don’t then where the hell have you been hiding all of your life?

Alright fine, quick summary. Little blonde girl called Alice ends up falling down a rabbit hole and ends up in a surreal nightmare world called Wonderland where everything is crazy as shit, cats disappear, people celebrate days that aren’t their birthdays and people play golf with flamingos. After all the craziness she finds her way back home.

There are we all caught up now? Good. Anyway, earlier this year saw the release of Tim Burton’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ which I guess you could call a kind of pseudo-sequel to the Disney cartoon version. The film takes place when Alice is nineteen years old and, after running away from her engagement party, once again she finds herself following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and ending up in Wonderland again. Well, sort of anyway. For some reason Tim Burton has decided to rename Wonderland to Underland, explaining that Wonderland is what Alice mistakenly called it when she was there when she was a little girl.

I’d just like to know why? Why would you change the name of Wonderland. I’ve never read the books but a quick search of Wikipedia, guardian of all human knowledge, implies that the lands real name was never Underland in the books, it was always Wonderland. It’s the same problem that the recent ‘Last Airbender’ suffered from. Why would M. Night change the way the names are pronounced? More comparisons to the Last Airbender to come later.

Like right now. The main problem with this film is the first half. Much like the Last Airbender, scenes seem to skip through without any real character development at all. It seems as though Burton is just trying to hit notes and include as many familiar things from Wonderland as he can before getting where he really wants to be, the Tea Party scene with Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter. Thankfully after that things seem to calm down a bit and things develop a little more like a film should. Still keep in mind that the Tea Part scene doesn’t occur until half an hour into the film so that’s a lot of time spent on stuff that Burton doesn’t seem that bothered about.

To be fair, things do become a bit more entertaining after that scene and the story seems to come together with the characters involved becoming a lot more fleshed out, particularly The Mad Hatter who, from what I can recall of the Disney film wasn’t that big of a character. Still I haven’t read the book so maybe I can’t judge.

Still, whilst the film does come together a bit more towards the end, it never really seems to deal that much with Alice until the films very final scene. Sure, what comes before does build her character up a little and influence the way in which she acts in the final scene but it’s not really clear how. You see, the entire point of the film is that you should take charge of your own life and do what you want to do. Alice does this in the end by deciding not to marry the man who had been set up for her, instead deciding to go into the opium trade or something. I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case but it’s the Victorian era and she goes to China on business so I’m assuming opium is involved somehow.

The point is, I’m not sure where she has gotten the idea to be in control of her life. Upon reaching Wonderland she is told that an ancient prophecy says that she will slay the Jabberwocky, defeating the Red Queen and allowing the White Queen to reclaim her throne. She then does this which essentially means she has done exactly what everyone has told her to do. In fact, whilst a little hesitant, she seems far more willing to do what other people have told her in Wonderland than she did on the surface before going there so the whole sudden realisation that she has to be her own master (Or mistress, I suppose but that just seems oddly sexual for some reason… possibly my depraved mind) seems to come completely out of left field.

All in all, the film isn’t bad. The special effects are beautiful and Tim Burton doesn’t seem to go into full kooky gothic Burton mode. You know what I’m talking about. Well, I guess now that I think about it again, he does but it seems a little more subtle some how. The acting is all pretty good, no one stood out as particularly bad and Stephen Fry is awesome as the Cheshire Cat. His performance just seems to convey exactly the way a cat with magical powers would be. Johnny Depp is pretty much as good as you’d expect him to be as well though he does look eerily like an insane, ginger Elijah Wood. Still, the film isn’t particularly good either. It’s just lacking something somewhere and it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what which is a shame because I really wish I could tell you what it was. Maybe it‘s just another case of style over substance from Tim Burton. Yep, that‘s probably it.

All in all, I suppose it’s worth a watch if there’s nothing else on, maybe a rental but I’d definitely watch it first before deciding whether or not to buy it. Still, I bet it looks good on Blu-Ray. Two and a half pints out of five. Laterz.




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