Cinepub


31 Days of Horror 13: Stoker (2013) by Jamie

It can be debated about whether or not Stoker counts as a true horror. It could be said that it is really more of a thriller but I find that the borders between the two genres are often blurred somewhat and so I feel good with my choice of including it here. I’ve even heard some critics describe it as a horror so that helps aid my decision to include it plus it’s heavily influenced by that ol’ master of horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock. What this all boils down to is screw it, I watched Stoker and now I’m reviewing it. Deal with it.

The first thing I should point out is that this is not a vampire movie. There seems to have been confusion when this film came out, I guess owing mostly to the name Stoker. The film does draw some inspiration from Stoker’s novel Dracula but nope, this is not a vampire film. This is a movie more in the mold of Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, a film which I’ll say right now that you haven’t seen, you should. It’s awesome.

Anyway, Stoker is about a young girl called India and how her life gets twist-turned upside down when her father is killed in a car accident on her birthday and her Uncle Charlie comes to stay with her and her emotionally fragile mother. Uncle Charlie seems like a very nice guy but is there something sinister lying behind his polite nature and his good looks like some kind of handsome shark?

That’s where I’ll stick to on synopsis because this film has a number of twists and turns whilst still managing to keep a slow, steady pace. That’s not a criticism. This is a Park Chan-wook film and from this and Oldboy (the only films I’ve seen of his, a tragedy I seek to correct as soon as possible) I can say that he is a master of deliberate story-telling, choosing not to reveal anything until he is ready to but managing to keep you drawn in with his beautiful visual style and steady pacing.

Thankfully, this movie isn’t just well paced and well shot, it’s also terrifically acted. I can’t think of a bad performance in the whole thing… Well, maybe some of the bully characters who are kind of broadly drawn arsehole stereotypes but they’re a pretty minor part of the whole piece so I’ll let them slide. Oh and the way music is used is just another reminder that Chan-wook is a master of his craft.

Overall this is a pretty terrific film. Rent it, buy it, do whatever you have to do but see it. Can’t think of a bad thing to say about it really, or, sadly, too much good because to go into too great detail would inevitably reveal something about the plot. So yeah five pints out of five. Laterz.



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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