On Friday, scores of people will probably be lined up, eagerly waiting their chance to spy Tim Burtons 3D spectacle, Alice In Wonderland. But this highly anticipated film - a creepy, twisted tale inspired by the Lewis Caroll series is just the latest version of this storys rich history of cinematic adaptations. So it shouldnt surprise you that studios are hopping on Alice-mania by releasing a couple of classic and recent versions of the tale and offering a few more films based on beloved childrens stories for home viewing this week.
Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli craft yet another instant classic with a unique take on Hans Christian Andersons classic story The Little Mermaid with Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, Frankie Jonah, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson). The imaginative story follows a young boy Sosuke (Jonas) and a special goldfish he finds near the seaside that magically transforms into a little girl. Ponyos (Cyrus) actions set the natural world off balance, while her father the king of the ocean (Liam Neeson) will stop at nothing to return his beloved daughter back to the sea even if he has to destroy humanity to do so. Aside from the amazing feature, The DVD contains The World of Ghibli feature that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes view of making of the film. RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT.
Touted as one of the most beloved childrens books of all time, the live-action feature Where The Wild Things Are (Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Catherine OHara) is Spike Jonzes homage to author Maurice Sendaks American classic bedtime story. Max (Max Records) a lonely and peculiar kid, frustrated with things at home runs away to a fantasy world inhabited by an oddball lot of monsters that make Max their king. This deliciously dark and inventive story transforms the childrens tale into a mature, intense study of our own insecurities, slowly turning the raw edged fear of a childs indifference into a nostalgic retrospective which made the original books message so endearing. Additional features on the DVD include a series of Where The Wild Things Are shorts by behind-the-scenes director Lance Bang. RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT.
Scrolling through IMDB, Amazon, Netflix and other sites, I counted more than 20 different versions of Alices adventure told in one fashion or the other and now five new iterations can be added to the list. Paramount released their black and white take on Alice in Wonderland (Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant, Charlotte Henry) in 1933 that bombed at the box office but was released in U.S. schools as a series of literary classics during the 50s and 60s. The BBC is releasing their 1966 version of Alice In Wonderland (Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, Peter Sellers, Alan Bennett) as well this week. I dont know much about this Alice but All Movie Guide describes it as a Subversive Victorian gothic satire. This live-action stars screen greats like Michael Redgrave and Peter Sellers so the acting pedigree alone compels you to check it out. RECOMMENDATION (FOR BOTH): RENT IT.
OTHER ALICE-RELATED OFFERINGS THIS WEEK:
Alice In Wonderland (1999, NBC) - A two-part telling of Carolls story is chock full cutting-edge visual effects and an impressive cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Kingsley, Peter Ustinov and Gene Wilder. Unfortunately the effects can't help this lopsided and somewhat boring story. RECOMMENDATION: SKIP IT.
Alice (2009, Catarina Scorsone, Kathy Bates, Tim Curry, Colm Meany) - Syfy Network decided to take a stab with a mature reimagining of the Wonderland story but this British-born miniseries goes a bit overboard with its CGI-intensive stages and adult themes making it feel more like a bad acid trip than epic adventure. RECOMMENDATION: SKIP IT.
Sesame Street: Abby In Wonderland Abby follows a rabbit-eared Elmo into Wonderland in search of her magic wand where she meets Sesame Street versions of Carolls classic characters. RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT (For small kids).
And now for a different type of reading ...
SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE AVAILABLE THIS WEEK ON DVD
Its the end of the Earth as we know it in Roland Emmerichs 2012 (John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton). The Mayans knew all along to stop counting after 12/12/12, and in the film we learn why. Geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor) discovers the horrible truth of the Earths pending demise while Jackson Curtis (Cusack) a little-known sci-fi writer accidentally discovers the series of natural disasters is the preamble of a global cataclysm. Curtis makes a desperate attempt to save the lives of his family including his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) while Helmsley organizes a worldwide effort to protect and sustain humanity. The sheer magnitude of the destruction sequences alone makes this movie worth seeing. The DVD features include an alternative ending of the film and picture-in-picture commentary. RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT.
ALSO AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn, Keanu Reeves, Juliana Moore, Winona Rider) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Plenty (Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, Ian McKellen) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
My Neighbor Totoro* (Dakota Fanning, Tim Daly) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Castle in the Sky* (Mandy Patinkin, Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek) RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT.
Kikis Delivery Service* (Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Debbie Reynolds) RECOMMENDATION: BUY IT.
The Wraith (Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Randy Quaid) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Bitch Slap: Unrated (Julia Voth, Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless) The name alone screams for an audience. RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Cold Souls (Paul Giamatti, Boris Leskin) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Ninja (Scott Adkins, Todd Jensen, Tsuyoshi Ihara) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
Regoregitated Sacrifice (Ameara LaVey, Isabelle Styles, Cinderella Valentine) RECOMMENDATION: RENT IT.
* Disney is re-releasing these Studio Ghibli titles as special edition combo discs.
TV SERIES ON DVD THIS WEEK:
Designing Women - The Complete Third Season
Matlock - The Fourth Season
The Commish: The Complete First Season
Silk Stalkings: The Complete First Season
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