Helena Bonham Carter

Alice in Wonderland (2010, Tim Burton)

Alice in Wonderland has a number of balls in the air at once and director Burton–though he does show a good sense of them each while in focus–can’t seem to bring them together successfully. The potentially unifying elements–like Danny Elfman’s score or Mia Wasikowska in the lead–both fall short. For whatever reason, Burton doesn’t have Elfman design the score to be memorable; even when it’s competent, it just reminds of better Danny Elfman scores. As for Wasikowska, who’s utterly phenomenal whether she’s in nineteenth century England or the titular Wonderland, the film loses her too often.

And that loss of Wasikowska, even though it’s always to bring in the assorted cast of Wonderland, kills the film’s momentum. Alice has a very standard plot–Wasikowska has an unpleasant future waiting for her in reality, will her experiences in Wonderland somehow edify and empower her to deal with them? Even though it’s Alice in Wonderland, it often feels like Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton wish they were making Dorothy in Oz.

But when Wasikowska is on screen, she’s able to sell Wonderland’s generic journey. She’s got able assistance too. Johnny Depp turns the Mad Hatter into a wonderful character, acting against his makeup, and Helena Bonham Carter is fantastic as the Red Queen. Both Anne Hathaway and Crispin Glover are painfully affected but they’re always opposite someone great so it doesn’t matter too much.

Wonderland’s a moderate success, but should have been a much greater one.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based on novels by Lewis Carroll; director of photography, Dariusz Wolski; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsleigh), Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Crispin Glover (Stayne), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee and Tweedledum), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Timothy Spall (Bayard the Bloodhound), Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), Barbara Windsor (Dormouse) and Alan Rickman (Absolem the Caterpillar).


Les Misérables (2012, Tom Hooper)

Thank goodness for Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen… otherwise, someone might confuse Russell Crowe’s performance as the most inept in Les Misérables. Actually, Crowe’s quite a bit better than Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried too. Redmayne just can’t sing–neither can Crowe, but it doesn’t impair his acting too much–and Seyfried’s just misused. Director Hooper–possibly sticking to the original stage production–never bothers to establish her relationship with adoptive father Hugh Jackman. As a result, Seyfried never resonates.

As for Jackman, he’s good but the film takes place around him. It works when it’s Anne Hathaway, who’s absolutely amazing in the film and just one of her songs is worth sitting through the entire boring picture, but flops when it’s Redmayne. Samantha Barks is part of a love triangle with Redmayne and Seyfried and she’s not bad. She can’t carry the second half of the film though.

What’s so inexplicable about Les Misérables is the bad casting. Why anyone put Redmayne in it opposite someone who can obviously sing and act–Aaron Tveit–and then give Redmayne the bigger role is (artistically speaking) beyond me. Hooper mollycoddles about half the cast, which doesn’t do the film any favors.

Of course, Hooper doesn’t do it many favors himself. He can’t direct actors (child actor Daniel Huttlestone is atrocious) and he can’t direct the CG sequences either. The film looks absurdly silly at times, especially with Danny Cohen’s truly incompetent photography.

Hathaway and Jackman deserve a better production.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Tom Hooper; screenplay by William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer, based on the musical by Boublil and Schönberg and the novel by Victor Hugo; director of photography, Danny Cohen; edited by Chris Dickens and Melanie Oliver; music by Schönberg, lyrics by Kretzmer; production designer, Eve Stewart; produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Samantha Barks (Éponine), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras), Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thénardier), Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier), Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) and Isabelle Allen (Young Cosette).


Dark Shadows (2012, Tim Burton)

With Dark Shadows, director Burton and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith find a great formula for humor in the film, which has a lot of inherent humor in just taking place in 1972 and having vampire running around.

While it’s very much comedic, Burton infuses it with a surprisingly dark element. But Johnny Depp’s lead isn’t the evil, of course; instead, it’s Eva Green’s witch.

There’s a lot of good acting in Shadows, but Green’s the most impressive. She delights in the character’s evil, but never makes her unenjoyable to watch.

Depp gives a strong performance, making his vampire both tragic and comedic. He makes the character cute, even when he’s doing bad things. Jackie Earle Haley’s part is too small, but he’s very funny as Depp’s drunken sidekick. Bella Heathcote–who gets lost a little in the script (Shadows could go on quite a bit longer)–is good, as is Gulliver McGrath as her charge.

Both Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter are excellent, playing to the humor in the film in different ways. They have a fantastic scene together. It’s short, but simply fantastic.

The only unimpressive performance is Chloë Grace Moretz. She’s adequate, but lackluster compared to her costars.

The Bruno Delbonnel photography is excellent; Burton’s got a great look for the film, though the CG is a tad shiny.

Oddly, Danny Elfman’s score is nowhere near as compelling as the seventies rock soundtrack.

Despite a couple third act missteps, Shadows is a very pleasant, extremely likable surprise.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on a story by John August and Grahame-Smith and the television series created by Dan Curtis; director of photography, Bruno Delbonnel; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Rick Heinrichs; produced by Graham King, Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski, David Kennedy and Richard D. Zanuck; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Johnny Depp (Barnabas Collins), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman), Eva Green (Angelique Bouchard), Jackie Earle Haley (Willie Loomis), Jonny Lee Miller (Roger Collins), Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters / Josette DuPres), Chloë Grace Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard), Gulliver McGrath (David Collins), Ray Shirley (Mrs. Johnson), Christopher Lee (Clarney), William Hope (Sheriff) and Alice Cooper (Alice Cooper).


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994, Kenneth Branagh)

I’m trying to think of good things about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It starts off poorly, with an opening title seemingly made on a cheap video editor from the late 1970s, then moves into the Walton framing sequence. Apparently, no one involved with the film—Branagh, the screenwriters, the producers—understood the point of these frames in the novel. Here, Branagh uses them as a warning about obsession. I think. He saddles that delivery on Aidan Quinn, who’s absolutely awful in the film.

But terrible performances are Frankenstein’s surplus. Branagh is laughably bad, sometimes so bewilderingly bad one wonders how he thought he was making a reasonable film. Tom Hulce is weak, as Branagh seems to have instructed him to play it like Amadeus. The elephant in the room is Robert De Niro as the monster.

Between De Niro’s risible performance and Branagh’s ludicrous direction, Frankenstein might actually work as a big joke. It’s somewhat unthinkable these two filmmakers—who have done such substantial work elsewhere—really thought they were making a good film. The film reminds one, on multiple occasions, Young Frankenstein is far better.

There are some good performances—Helena Bonham Carter is nowhere near as bad as the two leads, Ian Holm holds it together in his few significant scenes and Trevyn McDowell is good. John Cleese is… out of place, to say the least.

The film’s not an adaptation of the novel, rather an amalgam of every Frankenstein film before it; I can’t believe no one sued.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Kenneth Branagh; screenplay by Steph Lady and Frank Darabont, based on the novel by Mary Shelley; director of photography, Roger Pratt; edited by Andrew Marcus; music by Patrick Doyle; production designer, Tim Harvey; produced by Francis Ford Coppola, James V. Hart and John Veitch; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Robert De Niro (The Creature), Kenneth Branagh (Victor Frankenstein), Tom Hulce (Henry Clerval), Helena Bonham Carter (Elizabeth), Aidan Quinn (Captain Robert Walton), Trevyn McDowell (Justine), Ian Holm (Baron Frankenstein), Robert Hardy (Professor Krempe), Celia Imrie (Mrs. Moritz) and John Cleese (Professor Waldman).


Terminator Salvation (2009, Joseph McGinty Nichol), the director’s cut

Ok, no joke, what idiot thought adding Christian Bale to Terminator 4 was a good idea? Was it McG? Without the dumb connection to the previous films–if it had just been the adventures of Anton Yelchin’s Young Kyle Reese–it might have been fine. Nichol’s direction isn’t anything spectacular (it’s solid enough, surprisingly), but he doesn’t fetishize the Terminator world. The callbacks to the originals are at least amusing, since they’re trying for subtly.

Sure, it’s a knockoff of Road Warrior with a little Return of the Jedi thrown in but whatever, it’s not complete garbage. It’s at least diverting, more than Terminator 3, in fact.

However, then there’s Bale. Oh, wait, no way. Bale’s got the goatee to look tough (and less like a date rapist?).

Sam Worthington’s wasted. If I hadn’t seen Rogue, I’d have no idea he was good. Though he can’t hold his accent.

The script’s awful, but Nichol’s shoots it so large scale (studio franchise pictures with establishing shots, I’d missed those), it’s like Terminator‘s less about its actual content than that content’s presentation. Brancato and Ferris probably don’t have the writing chops of a good “Days of Our Lives” writers’ room and have some of the most lamely predictable “surprises” I can remember. But I suppose the script’s better than their Terminator 3 script, even if the nonsensical items–the Terminator base, the networked machine base, having manual, physical overrides.

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, this post’s going to be double length, just because there’s so much to talk about. Not the content, of course, but the film as an example of the decline of popular filmmaking.

Helena Bonham Carter is really bad. Laughable. She just gets worse and worse, doing some kind of impression of The Emperor from the Star Wars series.

Common’s awful. Michael Ironside’s embarrassing himself here.

Watching Bryce Dallas Howard act opposite Moon Bloodgood is pretty funny too. I’ve never seen Bloodgood in anything before and haven’t seen Howard in years–I figured the former would be bad and the latter okay. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Still, whoever did the special effects went cheap on the big “old” Terminators, which are clearly guys in costumes. And the thing when Worthington’s walking around half-Terminator or whatever, it looks awful, cheaper than a Halloween mask, even if they are doing some idiotic CG composite thing with it.

Terminator Salvation comes after The Matrix, so there are plenty of lifts from it (though the giant Transformer-like robots are not)–the whole prophet thing with Bale feels directly copied and pasted from The Matrix 2.

Unexpectedly first-rate is the Danny Elfman score. As much of a Brad Fiedel fan as I am, Elfman’s pure action score is great. There’s nothing playful to it, which is somewhat non-Elfman (at least the Elfman I know), but it’s such a solid piece of composing, it doesn’t seem at all lacking.

Maybe most offensively, they dedicated this crap to Stan Winston.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol; screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd; director of photography, Shane Hurlbut; edited by Conrad Bluff IV; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Martin Laing; produced by Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek and Jeffrey Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christian Bale (John Connor), Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan), Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Jadagrace (Star), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor), Common (Barnes), Jane Alexander (Virginia), Michael Ironside (General Ashdown) and Ivan G’Vera (General Losenko).


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007, David Yates)

I’m out of touch. I realized I saw three blockbusters this summer, something I hadn’t done since 1999 or so. When the opportunity to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix presented itself, I leapt at it. I figured I could get a good sense of the state of the Hollywood blockbuster. Amusingly, I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t get up and walk out when Phoenix got too bad… which was immediately following the stylized Warner Bros. logo. Oh, my God… it wasn’t shot on DV. It was shot on film. Wow. Now, I’m not sure. Did they film everything against green screens and insert the backgrounds or is Slawomir Idziak really the worst working cinematographer today? Wow. I mean, Phoenix is ugly looking, but I figured they had a technical excuse. Obviously, director David Yates wasn’t going to fix it, because he’s terrible, but wow.

What else… I mean, there’s no point in talking about something so absurdly god-awful, but these big budget movies and the effects are on par with The Last Starfighter for CG and Superman IV for flying effects. Where’s the money go?

I only saw the first half of the first Harry Potter movie, back when Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson were kids and had be judged by kid-level acting. They’re not kids anymore and they’re both awful. It’s a toss-up who’s worse. Rupert Grint’s fine, so’s Evanna Lynch (except her direction probably consisted of “act weird”), most of the adults are terrible–except Alan Rickman. Gary Oldman’s performance suggests a pirate movie, which makes him amusing I suppose, but certainly not worthwhile. Imelda Staunton’s particularly terrible as the villain, but the role’s so bad, what what she going to do? I imagine Yates as bad a director of actors as he is of cinematographers.

I hear from Harry Potter fans, or from one anyway, the adaptation is particularly bad in this case. Michael Goldenberg’s script is heinous (I don’t remember having any serious adverse reaction to Steve Kloves’s script for the first one, or the half I saw).

It’s unbelievable. I reminded of a certain line from Aliens and I’m actually to type it but, I imagine, someone familiar with that film would know the line of which I am thinking. Ripley with the company suits. That line.

Wow, what an ugly movie. It’s so poorly lighted, it’s like a poorly lighted Peter Hyams movie. But four blockbusters in one summer? I think, given the note I’m ending on, it’ll be another eight years.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Yates; written by Michael Goldenberg, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling; director of photography, Slawomir Idziak; edited by Mark Day; music by Nicholas Hooper; production designer, Stuart Craig; produced by David Heyman and David Barron; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Warwick Davis (Filius Flitwick), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Emma Thompson (Sybill Trelawney), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Katie Leung (Cho Chang) and Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley).


Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005, Nick Park and Steve Box)

So how does Nick Park do feature-length? He does really good.

The Wallace and Gromit adventures are always good (is there one that’s less than the rest, I think so, but can’t remember which one), so I wasn’t worried about The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in that way. Maybe I wasn’t worried about Were-Rabbit at all. I suppose, during the endless previews for shitty “family” movies, there was a tingling of possible badness, but it went away during the the opening credits of Were-Rabbit.

Wallace and Gromit are audience proprietary… people show you the Wallace and Gromit movies. When you meet another person who loves them, you sort of nod. There’s no secret handshake, but it’s implied. I suppose that’s the worst worry of Were-Rabbit, that it would somehow fail and Wallace and Gromit would then fail. Nick Park’s done an amazing thing–he’s managed never to disappoint and Park’s got a really varied audience.

I don’t know, necessarily, that I want another Wallace and Gromit feature, though. I want the same methods in making it applied to short films, just so we get more stories. Still, it’s amazing how much Park got away with–he assumes the audience has a real familiarity with the characters, something you probably aren’t supposed to do with films of this nature, something I’m sure DreamWorks had went into a fit about (they also wanted to replace Wallace’s voice).

I don’t really know what else to say about it.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box; written by Box, Park, Mark Burton and Bob Baker; directors of photography, Dave Alex Riddett and Tristan Oliver; edited by David McCormick and Gregory Perler; music by Julian Nott; produced by Claire Jennings, Carla Shelley, Peter Lord, David Sproxton and Park; released by DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Features.

Starring Peter Sallis (Wallace), Ralph Fiennes (Victor Quartermaine), Helena Bonham Carter (Lady Campanula Tottington), Peter Kay (P.C. Mackintosh), Nicholas Smith (the Rev. Clement Hedges) and Liz Smith (Mrs. Mulch).


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