Thursday, March 25, 2010

Universally Bad Movies (and How They Could've Been Avoided - Maybe)

As anyone can tell from reading my blog posts, I am a very positive happy person. I don't really like leaving negative reviews because even if "I" think it's a bad film, your own personal experience of the viewing might be different.

And then there's those movies that are just so bad that everyone agrees on a universal level that they're just bad movies. Here are a few of those turkeys ad what could've been done to avoid their unavoidable Razzies.

  • Why do studios insist on making these parody movies? From what I read, a huge majority of audience members hate them and they make no money. However, there is an audience for these parody movies - and I use the term "parody" loosely - so the studios churn them out. There are some gems in these pieces of garbage though, namely Dance Flick, Scary Movie and it's sequels and Date Movie. Disaster Movie was one that I think could've been much better than it actually was - with a few tweeking of course.
  • First of all, the title needs to go. The main focus of it's mocking had almost nothing to do with disaster movies. This movie mocked High School Musical, Juno and Enchanted among others. I would've called it Summer Movie, or Tween Movie. Although if it was called Tween Movie that would limit it to a certain age of audience, eliminating more than half of it's most effective gags.
  • I would also have eliminated a really lame joke in which The Disney Princess is revealed to really be a man. I think it takes away from the great comedic work that Nicole Parker put into that character. I also would've given her more scenes, rendering Kim Kardashian's role almost pointless. I also would've given the character of Juney more to do. A Juno satire played by Crista Flanagan should never go to waste.
  • I am going to be completely honest here (Wow I sound like Simon Cowell). The only thing that worked for me in this movie was that mentally challenged younger brother that Ben and Jen were watching after, played by Justin Bartha. That decision of course has nothing to do with my attraction to dopey guys. Give him more scenes and lose the lesbian subplot and you have a somewhat passable movie.


  • Oh Mariah. Girl what happened? So this movie was a mess, and that is so sad because it started off as really promising and then gradually became a huge glittery mess. Edward glitter. So what could've helped this movie?
  • I would've made it a tad more gritty. It looked way too polished and artificial. I know it's called Glitter, but come on, we have to believe in the world our characters inhabit.
  • I would've nixed the abandoned mother subplot. It was almost non-existent. Throughout the movie, Billie is looking for her mother while becoming an 80s Pop Icon. Instead of all of that, I would've had Billie (Mariah's character) purposely try to avoid her mother for abandoning her, and then realize at the end that family is all she can really have. I would have her decide for herself that it's time to patch things up with her mother so she herself can be a full person. That would make Billie a more active character.


  • First things first. Lose Bane.
  • Next, I was all right with the bright colors of the movie, the nipples on the costumes, the enlarged cod pieces, and even the homoerotic nature of it all. Well, I am still me. What I wasn't okay with was how Batgirl wasn't Batgirl. It's almost as if the director forgot that Alicia Silverston can actually act so he just told her to be herself. Not a good move Joel Schumacher. Also, I can make peace with the fact that they changed her into Alfred's niece as opposed to Commissioner Gordon's daughter, but at least make her "look" like Batgirl. The costume was all wrong, her dialogue was all wrong and her hair was all wrong. You can mess with a lot of things in this franchise, but don't mess with hair color. Batgirl is a REDHEAD!!!! Can you imagine if they made Batman a blonde? No I don't think so.
  • Give the rest of the characters more development and you've got your movie. Of course there's no way it could even compare to Dark Knight.
  • The editing in this movie was crap. Characters would talk and the camera would either be too late to catch it, or to close up to absorb what's happening. So a new editor is a must.
  • As much as I love Halle Berry, if she really wanted to do Catwoman justice, I would've made a reboot as opposed to a spin-off. Instead of being Patience Price, I would've had her as everyone's favorite feline gal, Selina Kyle and I would've set the movie in Gotham City. I also would've lost the schizo aspect of the character that they thought would work for this film. It didn't work.
  • Maybe Halle will keep this in mind when she makes that Catwoman sequel she's been talking about producing.


  • Wow was this movie trying so hard to be good, and ultimately failing in every aspect. It contained individual scenes that worked on their own, but as a whole, this movie was so bad. This movie is probably the reason why studios started to take caution in making movie musicals. Well, this movie and Grease 2.
  • So what could've helped this mess that is Xanadu? Pretty much a lot of it's faults were already fixed in the recent stage adaptation of said movie. Characters were fleshed out and made self aware, Mt. Olympus was now Mt. Olympus and not a set reject from Tron, villains were added, song placement made sense. That's all it needed. Now if only they can remake it? Hear that Adam Shankman?
I had more on this list (From Justin to Kelly, The Hottie and the Nottie, etc.), but the changes I wanted to list became repetitive. Pretty much, the majority of bad movies out there lack focus and lack character development, or they rely too much on star power and hype. Here's a tip Hollywood: Marketing a film isn't what makes a movie, a good movie sells itself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Phoebe in Wonderland - Now that's Wonderland

"The books are a kind of Rorschach test, a screen onto which people project their own ideas"
-Jenny Wolf, author of The Mystery of Lewis Carroll-
It's no secret that I love the Alice books by Lewis Carrol - all two of them - and I agree with Jenny Wolf's assertion. These books are so loved because it's different for every reader. It's why there are so many movies, cartoons, series and stage versions (soon my own) of these books. Everyone has their favorite version  or versions. In other words: Your interpretation says more about who you are rather than what the books are.
For that fact alone is probably why I enjoyed Phoebe in Wonderland as much as I did. Phoebe - played by Elle Fanning (Dakota's little sister) - uses Wonderland as a device to explain what she doesn't understand in the world she inhabits. Then she really gets to escape to Wonderland when she gets cast as the lead in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland along with her male friend Jamie (Ian Coletti) who gets cast as The Queen of Hearts.
What really drives this story home though is not Phoebe's tourettes or even when Jamie is called a fag (the movie was a GLAAD award nominee), but in the way that adults just don't understand what it's like to be a child.

Patricia Clarkson (goddess) plays the drama teacher Miss Dodger (get it?) who seems to be the only one in the faculty that really knows how to nurture these children. The best scenes in the movie are the audition and rehearsal scenes for school play Alice in Wonderland, and I'm not just saying that because I can "borrow" their stage ideas. Miss Dodger takes these kids seriously and expects them to take her seriously and that's what children really need. Someone not condescending and someone who commands authority. She owns every scene she is in. The movie also has Bill Pullman and Felicity Huffman as Phoebe's parents. Felicity Huffman does what she does best, play the concerned mother, and Bill Pullman is pretty much Bill Pullman. Elle Fanning as Phoebe was phenomenal. People are going to call her a younger version of Dakota Fanning - and she is for obvious reasons - but she also has an acting style that is purely her own. She also gets to show off her singing voice in one of the cutest recreations of Looking Glass World's infamous "Welcome Queen Alice" scene.
Directed by Daniel Barnz - who's directing the upcoming Beastly, a modern take on Beauty and the Beast with Mary Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris among other famous faces - Phoebe in Wonderland is what it is: It's a movie about a little girl dealing with tourettes. The added layer of Wonderland is just a device and it never takes over the movie completely. It's complementary as opposed to distracting and really does help us to almost fully understand what's going on in this little girl's head as she deals with the frustration and confusion of her world. A world that neither she or the people around her can fully understand.
I enjoyed this movie fully and plan to watch it again and again. It's beautifully filmed and very well acted, especially Elle Fanning and Patricia Clarkson. It's almost sad that it's theatrical release was limited. So go get it on DVD or Blu Ray or The Queen will have your head.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tiana and Charlotte - Princess Evolution

To anyone who has seen Cinderella 2 and Cinderella 3, you'd have to agree with me onseveral things:
  • Cinderella 2 was only good the last 20 minutes.
  • Cinderella 3 was really good
  • It was refreshing to see a friendship develop between a Disney Princess and another Female character. 
Of course I'm talking about Cinderella and the friendship that developed between her and her stepsister Anastasia, the red headed sister, in the sequels, who we all know wasn't very nice to Cinderella in the original film.
Disney Studios have had female to female relationships in the past. There was Pocahontas and her friend Nakoma, and Aurora and her fairy guardians, but they were always under developed.
Princess and the Frog introduces a new female to female relationship with Tiana and Charlotte. The very first shot of our main character in the movie, Tiana, is a shot of both her and Charlotte, establishing very early on in the story that Tiana and Charlotte's fate's are going to be intertwined, especially with their different view points on fairy tale romances... and this is all before the opening titles are shown.
The friendship between these two women is very interesting, especially in this day and age where fairy tales are starting to fade as the years go on by. One just has to take a look at Dreamwork's Shrek to see how cynical we have gotten with these fairy tales.
In Princess and the Frog, we have Tiana, who is very cynical about fairy tale romance. This girl just wants to make her dreams come true, but she won't wait for a prince to make it happen for her, she's going to work hard at it. And work hard at it she does as she juggles two jobs.
Charlotte believes very much in fairy tale romance. She wishes on stars to make her dreams come true and one cannot doubt that they usually do come true for her.
With these two extremes, one would also think that these two women would would be at each other's throats, because after all, doesn't every struggling princess need a stepsister to balance her out?
But alas, we do not get a villain for our hero in Charlotte. Charlotte is a very loyal friend to Tiana and Tiana is established as rock for Charlotte to lean on when things get too crazy in the socialite world she resides in. A world of money and privilege. I have no doubt that Charlotte's world is full of phonies and backs stabbers and her only real friend is Tiana who keeps things real for her and helps her see things in a different perspective. Tiana can also be seen learning from Charlotte as well. Without Charlotte's kind heart and optimism, I don't think Tiana could have ever believed that she could rise above her social status and buy her own restaurant.
Charlotte was created to show what audiences expect a stereotypical princess to be like and Tiana was created to show what it really means to be a princess. While Charlotte in the movie is called a princess mainly because her dad is the king of Mardi Gras, she has all the qualities of a Disney princess with the exception of having a "want song." She's kind, she's sweet, she's pink, she wears big ole dresses, and she wants her prince, and she gets him by wishing on a star. That's a Disney Princess. In fact, if Charlotte met Naveeen as a Frog before Tiana did, the movie would've ended right then and there.
Tiana is not what audiences expect in a princess, and it's confusing. She's poor and has to work, like Cinderella; she doesn't want a guy to just save her, like Belle; she's an oddball, like Ariel AND Belle; she has a want song, "Almost There"; and she's only a princess at the end of the movie, like Cinderella and Belle. Throughout the process of making this film, Disney kept getting complaints about Tiana. She was not a princess in their eyes because she had  a job and she's a frog for most of the movie. Audiences nowadays don't want their princess to have depth or struggle it seems. But Tiana is a princess, in the same sense that Charlotte is a princess, and this is before either of them get the title. Both of these women are strong, caring, loving and heroic in their right. Anyone who can't see Charlotte kissing Naveen as a frog as a selfless act has missed the point of the movie. And Tiana kissing Naveen as a frog turning him into a prince had nothing to do with marriage. It was love baby, and love over everything else really makes you a princess.
Tiana and Charlotte now join the other female friendships that Disney has created, and I hope they develop more of these kinds of relationships for young girls to view. Women are a very powerful sex, especially when they stick together.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010) - Underland is Underplayed

Writing my own version of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll for the stage, I can understand the difficulty in adapting this work for film.
The books are very episodic with little to no story. On top of that, the dialogue in the books are so stylized that it's hard to really make an Alice movie without directly having to reference the original text. Also, people just hate to see their favorite books on screen. Ask any Twilight fan.
Tim Burton presents a sequel, Alice in Wonderland, to the books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and  Alice Through the Looking Glass, so it's hard to compare the books to his film, and that's how it should be, enough said.
Alice (newcomer Mia Wasikowska) is now an adult returning to Underland, a magical place she frequented as a child, but has only vague memories of it. Things are different now with The Red Queen (an amalgamation of The Queen of Hearts and The Red Queen from the books played by Helena Bonham Carter) taking over Underland.
The all star cast includes Anne Hathaway (who turned down the role of Alice to play the kooky White Queen), Crispin Glover as The Knave of Hearts, Alan Rickman as The Caterpillar and Matt Lucas in the scene stealing roles of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Of course there's also Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, but everyone knows he's in this one due to the massive publicity and marketing.
With a script written by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, Lestat and Lion King) and costumes by Colleen Atwood (Sweeney Todd, Memoirs of a Geisha, Nine, Edward Scissorhands) under Tim Burton's direction, can anything go wrong?
Sadly, a few things can. I felt the characters were a little under developed, which makes me wonder if a plethora of character development scenes were cut. I also thought the storyline was too subtle. There is a story that happens in this movie, but it's so underplayed that you can almost forget it's there. I find this sad since Burton has stated that he wants his Alice film to have a story as opposed to being episodic.
He almost succeeds. While there is a definite story, it seems to take a back seat to too much spectacle.
On the good side, the script does an awesome job of mimicking Lewis Carroll's writing style. Other productions simply rehash the dialogue in the book, but in the case of this film, that was not an option due to it being a sequel. The dialogue is a huge highlight in this film.
I also like that as a sequel, it really works. If you know these characters, then the lack of character development won't bother you. As a stand-alone movie, it's visually stunning, but that's about it.
Despite my negative feelings about the film, I have no doubt of it's status as a classic. This movie will be seen over and over again from this day on, I promise you, and not just by me. Remember that Wizard of Oz in 1939 had a less than stellar opening and even the Burton produced Nightmare Before Christmas took awhile to really gain notoriety.
Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday, But Never Jam Today.
As a sequel I think it's also makes an awesome companion piece to anyone's favorite version of Alice. So sit down, pop in your favorite Alice movie, then watch this Tim Burton sequel.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alice (2009) - The Other Wonderland Reimagining

Following the success of Tin Man, their modern day adaptation of the Oz books, the creators of such mini-series like 10th Kingdom, Merlin and the 1999 star studded TV movie Alice in Wonderland, comes Alice, a modern day adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. 
Alice follows the adventures of an adult Alice (played here by Caterina Scorsone, who is every bit as kick ass as Zooey Deschanel in Tin Man if not more so) who follows a White Rabbit into a secret place called Wonderland. Wonderland has been taken over completely by The Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates) and The King of Hearts (Colm Meaney) who use Oysters (people from our world) to harvest emotions out of and sell to the people of Wonderland as Tea.
In her journeys, Alice must find her kidnapped boyfriend, Jack Chase, befriend a Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts) and find her missing father. She also meets Tim Curry as Dodo in one scene. Just one scene.

This is a very impressive production with awesome pacing. The story keeps moving along and never drags, an element that plagues most movie versions of the books.
The look of the movie is also worth a mention. Alice and her friends are in a forest for the most part, but The Queen's Castle and Casino seem right out of a spy movie. The Duchess' look in this version recalls Emma Peel from The Avengers. Sadly her character is a little under developed.
This version of Alice seems to have more in common with sci-fi action films, but there is definitely an element of fantasy and a love for the source material. Almost all of the characters in Wonderland appear in one form or another and they are definitely recognizable.
Most importantly, the character of Alice in this version really commands your attention. I also think she really commanded my attention because she looks like my friend Chelsea. Aside from that though, her acting was very top notch for TV standards.
I highly recommend this for fans of kick ass female shows and movies. Pretty much if you like Charlie's Angels, Buffy and heck even Tru Calling, you'll want to take a gander at this mini-series on Blu Ray.