Tag Archives: Mia Wasikowska

Go Ask Alice

Magic mirror returns plucky lass to Wonderland—or Underland

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Sacha Baron Cohen & Johnny Depp

Directed by James Bobbin

PG

British author Lewis Carroll’s tales of a Victorian lass and her escapades in an enchanted place of talking animals, odd humans and other curious creatures have been made into numerous movies, TV shows and stage adaptations—dozens since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was originally published in 1865. In the early 1970s, the rock band Jefferson Starship made Alice the hook of its hippy-dippy song “White Rabbit,” which used her journey down a rabbit hole as a metaphor for another kind of “trip.” The ABC-TV modern-day fairytale anthology Once Upon a Time spun off a standalone series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, based on Carroll’s novels, in 2013.

Clearly, something about the plucky, curious young Alice never falls out of fashion.

“Go ask Alice,” sang Jefferson Starship’s Grace Slick.

Go ask Alice, indeed, for she is a most resourceful gal in this Disney follow-up to the House of Mouse’s Alice in Wonderland, which reunites most of the cast of the 2010 film. When we meet her in the opening scene, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is the cool-headed captain of her late father’s sailing ship, The Wonder, excitedly exploring the globe, narrowly escaping from pirates and clearly making her own way in a “man’s world” that wants to put her—and keep her—in her place.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

When the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) gets in a bit of a bind, his friends in Wonderland—now called “Underland”—know just what to do: Go ask Alice!

That sets the stage for Alice’s return—this time through a magic mirror—to the enchanted realm, where she again meets up with the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedles Dee and Dum (Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the Dormouse and the Bloodhound.

In order to help the Hatter, Alice must make a dangerous, daring trip back in time. That’s always tricky in any movie, and here it involves stealing a device called the Chronosphere from Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen). The film’s weirdly wacky new character is a clockwork despot who speaks like German actor Christoph Waltz and is served by a staff of comical, robotic minions he refers to as his “seconds”—a time pun, get it?

Once again, Johnny Depp is all tics, weird hair and crazy quirks—three shades of eye shadow, eyebrows that look like florescent orange caterpillars attacking his forehead, ghoulish white makeup and yellow teeth. When the Hatter speaks, he sounds like he’s got marbles in his mouth and a lisp. It’s just too much.

Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen

So it’s practically an invitation for Sacha Baron Cohen to glide right in and steal the show with a perfectly calibrated performance of comedic timing, camp and cleverness, which he does.

British director James Bobbin (who also steered two Disney Muppets movies plus the brilliant Flight of the Conchords and Cohen’s satirical Da Ali G Show) replaces Tim Burton, who directed the 2010 Alice in Wonderland. Burton’s influence remains as one of the producers, however, and the whimsy and imagination of his original are still very much evident.

So: How long before we get our next trip to Wonderland/Underland? Go ask Alice!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Gollywhopper of a Ghost Story

Sumptuous ‘Crimson Peak’ is full of deliciously dark surprises

 

Crimson Peak

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston & Jessica Chastain

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Rated R

Released Oct. 16, 2015

Crimson Peak is a ghost story with a capital G—a couple of them.

The first is for writer-director Guillermo del Toro, the acclaimed Mexican filmmaker renowned for the dark-fantasy, supernatural-horror and sci-fi blowout movies Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Pacific Rim. Just having his name attached has kept fans and industry insiders buzzing for months.

The other big G: This ghost story is a real gollywhopper, a voluptuous, sumptuously festooned saga of love, lust, jealousy, money, madness, secrets, ambition and spirits that refuse to let go, all set in a gigantic Gothic manor on a barren hillside in early 19th century England.

Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, a young New York heiress who falls in love with a visiting British baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). An aspiring writer, Edith believes in ghosts, ever since she was visited as a child by the wraith of her departed mother, who ominously warned her to “Beware Crimson Peak.”

“Where I come from, ghosts are not to be taken lightly,” the baronet tells Edith, which is one reason she falls for him over the objections of her father (Jim Beaver from TV’s Supernatural), who tries to send Sharpe and his coldly aloof sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), packing. But a gruesome incident—that wasn’t the “accident” everyone seems to think—leaves Edith to make her own decisions. She decides to follow her heart and marry the handsome Brit.

When she arrives in England with her new hubs, Edith finds his big, creaking, groaning house, Allerdale Hall, with a hole in the ceiling, leaves in the foyer, and gloopy blood-red clay oozing through the wooden slats of the floor. She also finds things that howl, scream, creep, crawl and go bump in the night.

Crimson Peak

And she learns that estate is nicknamed Crimson Peak—and that ghosts aren’t the scariest things inside the house.

Audiences accustomed to the cheap thrills and gutbucket carnage of many contemporary horror flicks might be a tad disappointed that del Toro is much more interested in meticulous, old-school storytelling and creating a spectacular world for his characters to inhabit. Blood does flow and there are moments that will make you gasp, but they jarring red punctuation marks on a much bigger tale, one with horrors on an even grander, more operatic scale.

And in this big, big-looking, super-stuffed spook-fest, the attention to detail is astounding, from rooms, costumes, furniture, jewelry, kitchenware and candelabras, down to the tiniest of trinkets. The haunted house of Allerdale is a thing of wonder in itself, a real-life, three-story-tall cathedral of gloom (constructed especially for the movie) with a rasping, decrepit elevator, a sweeping grand staircase, murky hallways, hundreds of moths on the walls, locked vats of goo in the basement, and some deliciously dark, twisted surprises.

Sometimes everything feels like a phantasmagoric Downton Abbey nightmare knocking around a forbidden section of Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

“Ghosts are real,” a battered-looking Edith tells us twice, bookending the movie at its opening scene as well as its violent, sprawling finale—during which she discovers not only the power of her pen, but also the brutal effectiveness of a coal shovel. If you ever get put through the wringer like she does in Crimson Peak, you’ll believe they’re real, too.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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