Trailer Tuesdays: Alice Through the Looking Glass

I don’t remember a lot about the original 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie. I remember that I saw it during my spring break of that year, because my friends and I spent the week at Walt Disney World and we saw it at the Downtown Disney movie theater. I remember being absolutely obsessed with the costuming. And most of all, I remember… not hating it as much as a lot of people seemed to. That’s about it. So when I saw that they were making a sequel, I—unlike a lot of people I talked to—was cautiously excited about it.

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Trailer Tuesdays: The Lone Ranger

Are you excited for this movie? I know I am. However, I’m a little torn on whether or not I’m actually willing to spend money to go see it. On the one hand, actually supporting this movie by seeing it might be irresponsible. On the other hand, seeing Johnny Depp’s oh-so-not-racist portrayal of a Native American might be too good an opportunity to pass up.

This is not a movie I have high expectations for. To be honest, I really don’t know that much about Native Americans, their cultures, their tribes, etc. Unfortunately, I have the distinct feeling that neither do the makers of this movie, with the possible exception of Johnny Depp himself.

Johnny Depp plays the character Tonto, an imaginary Native American. Okay, no big deal, right? Except, the design of Tonto in this movie is based off a painting from a white man’s interpretation of Tonto. This painting:

ku-xlargeOther than not being a Native American himself, Jack Sparrow does look pretty much like this inaccurate portrayal. In fact, he looks just like Jack Sparrow with face paint and a bird on his head. I’m guessing this isn’t going to do much for representation. Johnny Depp even said in an interview that he took this part to change how things are for Native Americans in movies, to show them that they’re “still warriors.” To be fair, however, Native Americans for the most part seem to be pretty excited for Depp’s portrayal, and Depp is a member of the Comanche tribe. I should mention, however, that Depp is not Comanche by blood, and he only was adopted into the tribe after filming the movie. He has said that he guesses he has some Cherokee in him, but until now, he hasn’t participated in that heritage. I want to assume that the Native Americans interviewed about Depp’s part know more about their culture than I do, but I don’t think anything here is leading up to a non-racist portrayal.

Depp might be part Cherokee. Good for him. I’m distantly related to some Cherokee people too, but that doesn’t mean I know anything about the culture. And it certainly doesn’t mean I can represent it in any manner. In the end, I really think that this movie should have just cast an actual Native American for the role.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I truly hope that this won’t be racist, outside the white-washing. Otherwise, this looks like it would be an interesting movie.

Theatre Thursdays: ‘Into the Woods’ and Onto the Screen!

Oh my! A movie camera!

Oh my! A movie camera!

The beloved musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine is set to be adapted as a movie! If you’re unfamiliar with the musical, it is a re-telling of multiple fairy tales whose stories and characters intertwine when they go on their individual journeys “into the woods”. The well-known “happily ever after” ending of each tale is only half of the musical’s story, which continues to explore how these characters grow and learn after their adventures and realize that “witches can be right, giants can be good” and that “wishes come true, not free”. It’s a really excellent musical that I suggest checking out. The original Broadway production was filmed and released on DVD so you can purchase it from Amazon for as little as three bucks to stream online.

According to broadway.com, Rob Marshall will be directing the movie with theatrical juggernaut Disney producing. I’m seeing this as a double-edged sword, really. Working with Disney should mean ample funds for production costs so we can expect great locations/sets, costumes, and special effects which, though not a definite necessity for this musical, will definitely be appreciated. On the other hand, Disney is primarily a children’s entertainment company and despite the use of fairy tales in this musical, it is a very complex and adult story. There are marital difficulties, dark implications, sexual undertones, and overall just a lot of moral complexity that I worry Disney may try to tone down or gloss over.

So far Meryl Streep is confirmed for the lead role of the Witch, and I have confidence in her ability to handle the character. This is arguably the most important role in the story, as it is the Witch’s plans which make the characters’ paths cross in the woods and brings the stories together. She’s also probably the clearest example of the moral ambiguity of the musical, which presents her as controlling and calculating, but also loving and guarded. Her songs “The Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen” show the heart of her character as well as the show.

This was the only kind of Witchy photo I could find of Meryl...

This was the only kind of Witchy photo I could find of Meryl…

Additional names loosely attached to the project are Johnny Depp as the Baker (though he’s also been rumored as the Big Bad Wolf), Jake Gyllenhaal as Cinderella’s Prince, and Chris Pine as Rapunzel’s Prince. I don’t have much of an opinion on the Princes, but I think Depp could make a fantastic Baker and it would be (or at least should be) a role unlike his usual schtick. The Baker isn’t creepy, offbeat, or larger than life; he’s kind of just lovable and a little goofy with a soft heart. It’d be nice to Depp take on a character who’s not so grandiose.

One of the best things about this musical being made into a movie is that very few of the characters really need to be played by strong singers and since Hollywood seems nigh on incapable of casting people in musicals who can both act and sing, this one should be very doable. I look forward to this movie, and hopefully it lives up to the strength of its source.

Movie Review: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

what's eating gilbert grapeWhat’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a lesser-known movie about the Grape family. Gilbert (Johnny Depp) is the man of the house at a young age, who is responsible for his two sisters, severely overweight mother, and his mentally disabled younger brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio). This movie came out in 1993, so it’s not new.

What I find amazing about this movie (and why I’m writing about it here) is how accurately Leonardo DiCaprio plays someone with special needs. As DiCaprio describes,

I had to really research to get into the mind of somebody like that. I spent a few days at a home for mentally retarded teens. We just talked and I watched their mannerisms. People have these expectations that mentally retarded children are really crazy, but that isn’t so. It’s refreshing to see them because everything’s so new to them.

You can tell that he did his homework. As someone who was (at one point years ago) believed to be mentally disabled and was who once part of a dance group for the disabled, I’ve been around people who have similar issues to Arnie’s and if I didn’t know that Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t disabled, I would have assumed that he was.

While DiCaprio was spot-on, there were a lot of other problems, especially with the female characters. Gilbert’s sisters didn’t have personalities; one was a high school drama queen and the other one baked cakes. And the mother was the most useless character. Everyone in the family is dependent on Gilbert. While Arnie is not necessarily capable enough to not be dependent on Gilbert, the two sisters and the mom can do things without him. They just choose not to, which is highly unfortunate. Even Gilbert’s mistress is highly dependent on him for everything, including groceries.

To balance out those four, you have the strange character of Becky (Juliette Lewis) who I had a really hard time connecting to. She was a stronger character, but I found I could not connect with her on a personal level simply because she just seemed so unemotional. Overall, I think the film needed more women that the viewer can relate to.

If you are interested in the portrayal of disabilities in film, you should definitely check this movie out. If you are looking for an example of good female representation, you probably better off looking someplace else.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare on Elm Street is my all-time favorite horror movie and honestly ranks as one of my favorite movies of any genre. There’s so much that’s great about this movie (and its sequels of varying quality) and so much to unpack (from the characters to the story telling to the strong women and of course the horror icon Freddy Krueger) that I’ll definitely be coming back to it to discuss more in the future, but I couldn’t let the month of Halloween slip by without talking about ANOES at least once.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Jack the Giant Killer

I don’t know why, but lately the movie makers have been going on a spree of interpreting old folklore. I mean, we’ve already had a retelling of things like Alice in Wonderland, and a new Snow White movie is underway. On top of those we’ve even gotten retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood, but since they ended up being cheap, unimaginative Twilight knockoffs, let’s not count them.

But what the hell, I’m not going to complain about real life adaptions of some of my favorite childhood stories—so long as they’re not based on Twilight. This movie in particular leaves me a little apprehensive. Alice in Wonderland, for example, was a terrible remake that sold itself off the fact that Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter, and I’ve yet to see Snow White and the Huntsman, but considering that it was made by the same people, I’m more than a little worried for it, despite how promising it appears to be.

Though apprehensive, I find myself with a bit more faith in this movie. I’ve seen a couple live-action versions of Jack and the Giant Bean Stalk already, made with all the innovative ideas that the eighties and nineties brought us, so as you can guess, they weren’t very good. This newer version is brought to us by the guy behind the last X-Men movie—so I’m not sure if it should surprise anyone that the only notable girl in the trailer is a kidnapped princess—so the movie can’t be too bad.

Despite any negativity I seem to have for the film, this does look like something worth checking out, and hell, it looks like it has the potential to be a damn good movie.

I Guess Whitewashing is Okay Again

There have been many issues around race and comic book movies over the years. Marvel I feel has been the most notable with casting black actors in typically white roles. Alicia in Fantastic Four was black instead of the usual blonde-haired, blue-eyed character she is in the comics. Nick Fury, now played by Samuel L. Jackson is black, and perhaps the most controversial, Idris Elba played the Norse god Heimdall in Thor.

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