An awesome weekend for movies, South Africa!

It's a bumper week for new movies releases - probably the strongest collection of any Friday in 2010 so far. Although I do have a clear personal preference for the weekend, my choice is just a priority. I definitely want to see every one of the Big 3 released today.

First up, and my obvious pick of the week, is family fantasy adventure Alice in Wonderland, which is releasing locally in both traditional 2D and, more importantly, 3D. Alice in Wonderland 2010 comes from Walt Disney Pictures (who of course gave audiences the classic animated Alice back in 1951), and is directed by animator-turned-filmmaker Tim Burton, a man known for his gothic sensibilities and striking visuals - and who, incidentally, is one of my favourite directors. The perfect creative combination, no?

Anyway, this new Alice in Wonderland is not based on Lewis Carroll's book of the same name, or even its sequel. Rather it is an entirely new story, with 19 year old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) fleeing from a unwanted engagement, only to fall down a rabbit hole and end up in Wonderland once more. This time though Alice finds herself drawn into a battle between the bad tempered Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her sister, the passive White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

A host of other stars appear in Alice in Wonderland, or provide their voices in this CGI-heavy film, as Carroll's beloved characters. Regular Burton collaborator Johnny Depp toplines as the Mad Hatter, while Little Britain's Matt Lucas is Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Alan Rickman is the Caterpillar, Michael Sheen the White Rabbit, Stephen Fry the Cheshire Cat and Crispin Glover the Knave of Hearts.

I've blogged quite a bit before about this new Alice in Wonderland, including my fears about Depp being left unsupervised to inappropriately overpower the project with yet another eccentric performance. Fortunately this worry seems to be unfounded - if the first batch of reviews about the film is to be believed. At the time of writing this blog entry, Alice in Wonderland was 65% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. That's not an especially good score, but Burton's work does tend to divide critics.

Alice in Wonderland is being called dazzling and lovingly made on one hand, and on the other hand derivative and too preoccupied with visuals at the expense of soul. Personally I expect the film to be beeeyoootiful - saturated with memorable imagery - but probably quite shallow or muddled storywise. That's about par for the course with Burton, and something that his fans (myself included) typically forgive as we succumb to the magical experience he provides. Let's just hope that Alice in Wonderland meets expectations and isn't a Planet of the Apes-style disappointment!

I've blogged before about Daybreakers, an apparently nifty little sci-fi thriller meets meets B-grade action flick meets social commentary about the waste of natural resources.

These days, the creatures of darkness that dominate on the big screen (and draw in the crowds) are either zombies or vampires. Daybreakers centres on the latter, but fear not Twilight haters, this film couldn't be further from the saga of a goo-goo eyed teenage girl and her sparkly, shirt-challenged immortal lover. Daybreakers offers a potentially very intriguing role reversal.

The film is set in the near future, where, due to a mysterious pandemic, vampires are the majority, and humans the hunted minority. This isn't a problem however until the authorities realise that the human race is nearing extinction, and without blood, vampires mutate into rabid, bat-like monsters. Enter vampire hematologist Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) who is tasked with creating a blood substitute, but finds himself in a precarious position when a group of human rebels (including Willem Dafoe) contacts him about a potential permanent cure for vampirism. It turns out that a cure is the last thing Edward's powerful boss (Sam Neill) wants.

I must admit I'm a sucker (ha!) for the depiction of vampires as suit-wearing callous corporates (like in the original Blade), so I'm already sold on Daybreakers - which, out of interest, is actually an Aussie production from writer-director brothers Michael and Peter Spierig. Daybreakers is 67% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is praised for its intelligence and inventiveness, but apparently falls apart right near the end as thoughtfulness gives way to explosions and wild gore. Regardless, I'm very excited about seeing Daybreakers.

Finally, if you prefer your cinema entertainment more critically acclaimed and encrusted with gritty reality, there's the clunkily titled Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire. Precious is in contention for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is based on a reality-inspired novel and centres on an obese, illiterate, 16 year old black girl (Gabourey Sidibe) who has been subjected to years of sexual, mental and physical abuse by her unemployed parents in the ghettos of Harlem. Precious has a Down Syndrome baby by her drug addict father and is pregnant again with her second child. Suspended from school, she is admitted to another learning facility where she seizes basically her last chance to get an education.

Admittedly, Precious sounds like a very tough viewing experience - about as far from the escapist fantasy of Alice in Wonderland as you can get. Even the critics are calling Precious incredibly grim, but that hasn't stopped the film from racking up a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Precious has been called unsubtle and uneven, but it is apparently redeemed by its authentic performances and the emotional impact it has on viewers. By the sounds of it, Precious is the closest this awards season to Slumdog Millionaire, offering viewers an inspiring tale of triumph against poverty stricken, uncaring odds.


Terrance said…
This is definitely a movie weekend like no other so far this year!

I still need to get around to braving Book Of Eli but after reading some more reviews I'm tempted to just skip it altogether. I do really want to see Alice in wonderland in 3D and then I'm interested in checking out Daybreakers as well. I may just opt to watch them all this weekend seeing I have no writing work lined up! :)
Dante said…
LOL Alice could have been the only movie to be released today and you would have said that it is a awesome week for movies. hehe. Should probably take the GF to see it. I was hoping for a darker alice. ah well...
MJenks said…
What? The Red Queen and the White Queen fighting a war? Where could Burton have possibly gotten that idea???
Pfangirl said…
Hey Terrance, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts if and when you get to see the films.

Dante, I'm waiting for a dark American McGee style Alice on the big screen too.

MJenks, hey, I have the first book in my massive To Read pile, having picked it up for next to nothing at a book sale a few years back. Is it any good? When I read the back cover blurb it sounded like it was Orcs-level in terms of quality. However, clearly it has a following if it has spawned so much other material.

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