Madame Bovary (DVD Review)

15 – 113mins – 2017


 

FEVER OF DESPAIR

Announced in March 2012, cast over the next year and a half and filmed in Normandy from September 2013, French-American director Sophie Barthes’ period adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s ‘obscene’ nineteenth century masterpiece was granted a premiere at the Telluride Film Festival the following August and then it just… disappeared.

… Keep Scuttling!

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Cinema Review)

PG – 113mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE MATTER WITH THE HATTER

First announced four years ago, The Muppets resurrector James Bobin inherited the directorial top hat from Tim Burton (who stayed on in the capacity of producer) for this slow-tracked sequel to Disney’s 2010 live action Lewis Carroll remake.

“You’ve been gone too long, Alice.”

In the years following Alice’s (Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska) slaying of the Jabberwocky and return to the sexist reality of 19th Century life, she has followed in her sea-fairing father’s footsteps as Captain of The Wonder. Upon debarking, Captain Kingsleigh is distraught to learn her father is dead and her spurned former fiancé, Hamish (Leo Bill), is now her boss, smarmily demanding she be demoted to clerk – no wonder our free-thinking heroine is desperate to escape once more to the dreamlike surrealism of Underland!

Stylistically in keeping with the colour-crowded, CG-heavy Alice in Wonderland, Looking Glass takes an “un-impossible” turn for the darker when the old gang of flamboyant friends tells Alice that the clown-faced Mad Hatter (Johnny Black Mass Depp) is dying of depression following the dim discovery that his estranged family of ginger hat-makers (headed by patriarch Rhys Ifans) have perished.

Desperate to put the colour back in his ghost-white cheeks, Alice tasks herself with entering the Grand Clock Tower and procuring the Chronosphere (think H.G. Well’s antique contraption mixed with General Grievous’ wheel bike) from Time (Grimsby’s Sacha Baron Cohen) himself, allowing her to journey back on the oceans of time to save the tragic Hightopp brood. But can you ever really change the past, or simply learn from it?

The grandiose time travel concept (Time is a he who has automaton Seconds for minions, who in times of need can club together into larger Minutes and giant Hours) is cleverly constructed, however no matter how poetic the plot or nifty the FX, I still don’t ever believe that the human actors are really anywhere but in front of a green screen – no matter how affected their accents or kooky their clothes.

Alice PosterDiverting from Carroll’s prose, Looking Glass successfully manages to pack more of an emotional wallop than its superficial predecessor thanks to an entangled backstory which reveals the reasons for the White (Anne Hathaway) and Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) sisterly squabbles – and the awkward medical justification for the latter’s inflated bonce. However, a lot of the surreal side characters feel like little more than frivolous window dressing in this “curiouser and curiouser” continuation which will put a Cheshire Cat-sized grin on the lips of those who loved Burton’s interpretation, but won’t convert any detractors.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

Crimson Peak (DVD Review)

15 – 119mins – 2015


TRIP THE LIGHT PHANTASTC

Having taken a scenic detour to the Pacific Rim via Middle Earth, acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) returns home to the horror genre with this sumptuously beautiful love letter to gothic masterpieces. The back cover of last week’s region 2 DVD release boldly boasts that legendary scribe Stephen King bestowed the film with the impressive twofold accolade of “Gorgeous and terrifying”.

Well, Mr. King is half right. For Crimson Peak is intricately crafted and adorned with dazzling precision, a true archetype for set designers and light technicians in the industry to aspire towards. The screen is never anything less than a feast of towering bygone architecture, swirling snowstorms, portentous phantoms, maelstroms of moths and precisely-orchestrated plays of light and shadow.

But for all its jaw-dropping visual shimmer, the story is a slow and unsatisfying slog, with the stuffy aristocratic air and over-choreographed atmosphere zapping any tension or chills. Budding ghost story author Edith Cushing (Alice In Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska) narrates the deepening mystery surrounding the dilapidated Allerdale Hall and its inheritors, but by signposting any paranormal activity you are no longer shocked by their arrival, no matter how ghastly their appearance or unnatural their gait.

As more is revealed of the true intentions of clay-mining baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom “Loki” Hiddleston) and his brusque sister Lucille (Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain), the apparitions increase, but become ever-more redundant to the resolution of the plot as an influx of stabbings dominate. For such an otherwise tame horror, del Toro does shock with a profuse amount of blood (well, the colour is in the title), with one early scene in particular sickeningly brutal and unnecessary.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars