Monday, August 30, 2010

I didn't bother doing funny pictures for this one.

We all have our little berserk buttons. Small things that happen in our daily life that most people don’t notice or care about, but which drive us batty. One of mine is when someone quotes a character from a fictional work, and then cites the quote to the author, making it look like it’s something they said. Another is when something is quoted out of context to make it seem like it means something else. And one writer gets both of those applied to him way too much. So now, with my handy guide, the next time someone says, “Well, in the words of Shakespeare…” you can feel free to correct them. Or just punch their stupid face.

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

What you think it means: “This current time is the winter of our discontent. Metaphorically speaking.”

What it really means: As with many of these, the solution lies in the full line. “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.” Richard is saying that the bad times are over, not present. Of course, he’s also being a sarcastic bitch about it, but hey, it’s Richard, that’s just how he roll.

“Neither a borrower or a lender be… This above all: To thine own self be true.”

What you think it means: “Don’t lend people money. Also, be your own person.”

What it really means: To be fair, these two often-quoted lines do technically mean what they seem to. But the context in which they arrive is to highlight Polonius’s hypocrisy. These aren’t meant to be deep insights, they’re meant to be shallow platitudes that the speaker preaches, but does not practice. "Be true to yourself, son. Now Ophelia, go get yourself tarted up and spy on your boyfriend for me." And the prior line usually has him giving Laertes some money, just to drive the point home.

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

What you think it means: “Shut up. You’ll sound smarter.”

What it really means: Ah, another gem from Polonius. Unlike the previous statements, which served to highlight his manipulation of his children, this one was just a joke. “Hey, the guy who won’t shut up is saying that smart people don’t talk much. He’s stupid!”

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

What you think it means: “I love love! Play some lovey music so I can love some more!”

What it really means: You’ll always hear this one quoted as some lovely bit of romance, but once again, we need to look at the whole line. The Duke continues: “Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and die.” He doesn’t want love, so he’s asking the musicians to feed his love so that it will go away, as the appetite for food goes away when you eat. And if you don’t think that ‘sicken’ was a puke joke, then you don’t know Shakespeare.

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

What you think it means: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. I am Shakespeare, and I mean that.”

What it really means: The line is spoken by Dick the Butcher, and you can already see where this is headed. Dick was part of the Jack Cade gang, who are trying to spread chaos in order to usurp the throne. The reason he wanted to kill the lawyers was because they were moral and kept the law and would stop the rebellion in its tracks.

“Rock thy brain”

What you think it means: I can’t be held responsible for what you personally think it means, but it was at one point the slogan of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey.

What it really means: It’s part of a line from the play-within-the-play in Hamlet, “Sleep rock thy brain, and never mischance come between us twain.” It’s grammatically iffy; it was written, in the context of the play, by a crazy person; and it’s rock as in “Rock-a-bye Baby”, not “Detroit Rock City”. Come on, STNJ. You should know better.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Stupid Wizard Post!

I know I've harped on the guy before, but he's just so dumb. Click the pic to see for yourself.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mega updates and Alice Part 3

Well, schooling is a tricky mistress, and while I’ve kept my blogs going in this busy time, I haven’t been making announcements here. So in case you missed it…

* You know that butler, Jeeves, and that lesbian, Marcie? Follow those links, and the sidekick blog can clear up some things. Also, please enjoy this BRANDY NEWISH post on the sidekicks of Veronica Mars.

* Harry Potter may have a book series named after him, but that don’t make him perfect. Follow the link for some of his more notable failings.

* A remarkable two Robin Hood reviews were posted within weeks of each other. One was a Syfy original movie, and one a 1950s Disney flick. Gary is upset he didn’t get to do an announcement pic for these, but them’s the breaks. Follow the links to see which schlock factory comes out on top!

Now that the housecleaning’s out of the way, let’s get to…


So we’ve dealt with the adaptations, but since Tim Burton’s version is a crazy interpretation rather than a straight adaptation, those aren’t really very apt comparisons. So… sorry.


Okay, seriously,

ALICE IN WONDERLAND: A MUSICAL PORNO (1976) - Sometimes, I have some trouble writing blog entries. For example, it can be hard to write about a sidekick without mentioning too much of their prominent partner. Little John tends to get the short end of the staff on characterization, so how to make his segments on Under The Hood unique? And occasionally, there is something about which saying anything would be redundant. You already know this movie is called “Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Porno”. What more can be said? This was made in a time when porn could be released in actual movie theaters, and this softcore piece was re-released the following year with its X-rating softened to an R after only 3 minutes were cut, so it’s nothing terrible, especially by today’s standards. I haven’t seen it, but that’s less to do with an aversion to porn and more to do with an aversion to mid-70s musical comedies.

NECO Z ALENKY (1985) - AAH! Goddamn Czech puppeteers! Stay out of my childhood classics! This film, by noted lunatic Jan ┼ávankmajer (meaning “John the Major ┼ávanker) uses stop-motion puppetry, surrealist imagery, and bat-fuck insanity to make one of the most disturbing versions of Alice ever. Technically, this one and the porn were straight-up adaptations, in terms of story, but get included here for their (hem hem) distinctive visuals. Notable images from this film burned into my subconscious include: The White Rabbit being an actual taxedermied rabbit whose stuffing is leaking, causing him to refill himself with garbage and raw meat; the Caterpillar being a sock with taxidermy eyes and human false teeth; Alice being trapped inside a doll of herself and having to tear through her own skin to escape; and the fact that not only is every line of dialogue dubbed by the young star, it’s always followed by an extreme closeup of her mouth saying “…said Alice.” Or, you know, whoever the character was that said it. As is often the case, the whole thing is available on YouTube. I won’t make specific recommendations, it’s all equally terrifying.

ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1991-1995) - This aggressively formulaic Disney Channel series followed their previous series “The House at Pooh Corner” and “Dumbo’s Circus” by taking something we loved and leeching all the fun out of it. This series outdoes the ’80s shows by not looking even slightly like the classic movie. Actually, I guess that makes it unfair of me to relate the two, but I’m not here to be fair. In every episode, Alice would have some real-world problem, and would go home and bitch to Dinah about it. She would then walk through her mirror to Wonderland, where, wouldn’t you know it, they’re having a similar problem! So she’d fix their shit, and then know how to fix her own. For 100 damn episodes! Please enjoy the opening sequence, which answers the question that’s on everyone’s minds: What would it look like if Alice in Wonderland fucked the ‘90s and had a deformed baby?

AMERICAN McGEE’S ALICE (2000)- Arguably the starter of the current vogue for Alternative Alice, this well-reviewed PC game picks up shortly after the events of “Through the Looking-Glass” with Alice being the only survivor of a horrible fire that devastated her family home. Racked with survivor’s guilt, she attempted suicide, then fell into catatonia. Ten years later, she emerges, though she must first go through her own subconscious, where her childhood daydream of Wonderland has been twisted by her years of insanity. This interpretation, though owing a whole lot to the film “Return to Oz” is notable for its fantastic visuals courtesy of lead designer/ego-case American McGee. (Yes, that’s his actual name.) McGee has spent most of the time since the release of this game by aiming big, failing hard, and promising that he’s making a movie soon.

THE LOOKING GLASS WARS (2006)- This book is incredibly stupid, and if the author was here, I would say it to his face. Wait, no I wouldn’t. I can say that with some authority, because at the 2007 New York Comic Con, I was passing a table with a friend, and indicating this book said “Oh, I’ve heard of that. The author takes characters from Alice in Wonderland and…” It was at this point that I noticed the nametag of the guy at the booth and the name of the author on the book bore some remarkable similarities, e.g. being exactly the same. So rather than ending my sentence with “…turns them into generic YA epic fantacrap,” I ended with something like, “…and uses them to tell a big… different… I hear it’s good. I’m probably going to get the audiobook. Oh, hey, it’s Dan Parent! Let’s go get an autograph.” Later that day, I may have inadvertently insulted Alex Maleev to his face. But enough of my brushes with fame and encounters with the fabulous Dan Parent.

To go into more specifics, The Looking Glass Wars is about (ugh) Alyss Heart. Alyss is the princess of Wonderland until her wicked aunt Redd invades and takes over. Alyss escapes to England, where she tells her story to Lewis Carroll, who writes a book, and years later she must return to blah blah blah. To give you a basic idea of how this adaptation relates to the original, let’s look at the TLGW version of the Mad Hatter. His name is (uugghh) Hatter Madigan, he’s the queen’s bodyguard, and he’s sane, serious, and his hat turns into bladed boomerangs. The Tweedles are General Doppel and General Ganger. They can join into one person. Guess what their name is then. The Cheshire Cat is an assassin called The Cat. The White Rabbit is Bibwit Harte, an albino who is Alyss’s tutor. Basically, the book forgoes any sort of actual clever references in exchange for surface similarities and blatantly padding world building. It’s the worst, and most common, kind of fantasy.

ALICE (2010)- After the success of writer/director Nick Willing’s bizarre-yet-enjoyable Wizard of Oz adaptation Tin Man, the Syfy channel decided to ask the guy for some more of the same. Well, I guess Nick had got some crazy ideas directing the 1999 TV movie I talked about in the last Alice bolg, because this is what he came up with. In this version the White Rabbit is an organization that lures unsuspecting people, called “Oysters” to the magical Wonderland casino, ruled by the Queen of Hearts. Once they are there, their emotional highs and lows are bottled by the Queen and used as placating drugs. Alice, a martial arts instructor whose boyfriend was taken by Rabbits joins the Mad Hatter, an unhinged and disloyal subject, to stop her. Basically, this is everything The Looking Glass Wars failed to be. It takes the old characters and stories that we know, and twists them to tell a story that’s completely original. The only flaw is the same as the one found in Tin Man, that rather than straight-up remaining, they instead try to tie it in to the original story and make it a sequel, albeit one set 150 years later with a different Alice. But it’s clever and weird in that special Syfy way, and a lot better than their usual crap. Plus, it’s got Harry Dean Stanton, Tim Curry, and Colm Meaney in it, all of whom elevate a work by their mere appearance. Oh, and Matt Frewer, who doesn’t do that, but I like him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Downdate.

I sure hope people besides me like this show, or you'll be pretty lost. Click the pic.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alice Blog Part Two

Who on Earth ever thought it was a good idea to make a movie of Alice in Wonderland? The story follows a dream-based logic, i.e. no logic at all, there’s mostly nothing in the way of plot cohesion, and most of the characters and situations are parodies of things that no one knows about anymore. The dreamlike nature of the story is a particular difficulty when it comes to movies, because we expect things we see to make a different sort of sense than things we read. So the directors can’t just try to film the episodes of the book and leave it at that, but attempts to make a more cohesive story wind up muddled because the essential nature of the story rejects it. In addition, the movies always mash up the two Alice books into one story. And I know this goes against what I said about there not being any logic, but the episodes go together the way they do for a reason, and you can’t just jumble them around as you see fit. And if that seems contradictory to you -hey, welcome to Wonderland. (Or the Looking-glass world. Which are distinct locations.)

But as fruitless as this endeavor may seem, there have been more than 20 attempts to bring Alice to the screen. I’m not going to start a whole blog about them, but here’s a little bit on the six I've seen, and what makes each one… special.

(Hey, superimposed titles. That must have been the hight of technological wizardry.)


Why the hell would you make a silent movie of a story known primarily for its witty wordplay? That’s the question that this very early effort aims to answer. It’s available for free online, and if you seek it out, you’ll just about be getting your money’s worth. Actually, you’ll have to spend 8 minutes on it. Don’t expect much of a return on that investment. The worst scene is the tea party, where Alice sits down, the hare and the Hatter waggle their arms about a little, and Alice leaves. The most annoying scene is the Cheshire Cat’s which consists of Alice waving her hankie to get the attention of a regular cat while the director turns the lights around it on and off. This scene takes up a full minute of an 8 minute movie. That’s like going to see a movie today and having to watch 12 straight minutes of Will Smith trying to get a cat’s attention. Wait, actually that sounds pretty cool.

(And not the less famous book by Edmund Wells.)


Well, it’s been 13 years since the last one, and surely people are better at making movies now, right? Well… technically, yes. For one thing, they know how to make them like 7 times longer. In just a few months, America would see D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, and realize that they could move their cameras, that they could do cuts and close-ups, and that black people were after our womenfolk. But for now, they just sort of stuck the camera in one spot and let it film as it may. And while they have more time and ability to post title cards, the story still loses a lot of its trademark wordplay. Some excuse these as limitations of the time, but I say bull malarkey. If Griffith could figure out how to make a good movie, so can these jerks. Anyway, after spending a tenth of the movie on exposition, we meet the White Rabbit, who is creepily gesturing for Alice to follow him. Once we get to Wonderland, Alice proceeds to overexplain the jokes, recite poetry, which is fantastically boring in a silent movie, and interact with a lot of people in ill-fitting fursuits. The one truly bright spot is the Mock Turtle scene, which not only has better costumes and was filmed on location at a beach, but features the Lobster Quadrille, where two guys in ungainly lobster suits dance around with two guys in ungainly walrus costumes, and I start checking my food labels to see if I’ve eaten anything expired or containing mescaline.

(Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Cary Grant. Or so I am informed.)


Here we go. Now we get into the kinds of things that affect all the major Alice movies to come. An all-star cast, state of the art effects, and loads pf lines taken verbatim from the book with complete disregard to the other lines they’re supposed to be relating to. Actually, I’m not so sure how all-star the cast is as of 1933. I mean, now we may look at it and say, “Wow! Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle!” But I can’t think of a single thing he’s done before like 1938, and if they were getting him for star power, why would they keep his face completely covered? Same goes for Sterling Holloway, who was much beloved as of the 1950s, but here just plays the Frog with a big rubber head and all of three lines. Edward Everett Horton is the Hatter, but I don’t know if he’s a real star, or if I just think he is because of Rocky and Bullwinkle. At least he avoids the big rubber head. It’s one thing for the animal characters, but most of the humans wear them, too, and it’s terrifying. Plot-wise, there’s an interesting step taken in this one in that she doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole, but rather pushes through the looking glass. The two books are always mashed together, but this is the only time I can think of that they used the second book’s intro. The dialogue is horribly adapted, featuring setups without punch lines and vice versa, but it’s the first major sound version, and as I noted in my Robin Hood blog, script cohesion was sort of a novelty back in the 30s.

I’ve included a video here for your edification, the opening credits. Now, we’re all used to opening credits from old movies being a bit long and draggy, but this sets a new standard for pacing issues. Still, it’s worth a watch to see the cast, and all those nightmare-inducing rubber heads.

The second video I meant to show you was the trailer, but I can‘t remember where I saw it, and my searches have proven fruitless. Sadly, it gave no indication of who was considered a star, since it gushes orgiastically over every actor who happened to wander by the set. I do like that it ended with a song explaining the plot. I think all movie trailers should end like that. And speaking of Sterling Holloway…

(Wonderfilm? That's worse than Merry Men-agerie.)


DISNEY! Yes, this is the version known by most, and it’s okay. Could be a hell of a lot worse. It has way more cohesion than probably any other version I’ve seen, which is debatably a plus. The voice acting is stellar. Ed Wynn as the Hatter is particularly notable. The color palette is bright, even for a Disney movie, and set against dark backgrounds for a nice contrast. And… there are songs. I’m sorry if I’m courting some kind of controversy by saying this, because I know how passionate musical people can be, but holy crap, these are some of the worst songs Disney’s ever put in a movie. I think the idea was to give them a frantic nature to match the wildness of Wonderland, but they just wind up confused jumbles of rickety rhythms and simplistic rhymes. Considering that the intricate and literate nature of the songs and poems is one of the most enduring aspects of the books, this is doubly annoying. But all in all, it’s fine. A steady plot may sacrifice some of the book’s dreaminess, at least it’s not just a random collection of scenes, which is more than can be said for most of these.


I can’t really say anything about this one, since I’ve only seen a few bits. It’s a videotaped performance of an semi-avant-garde stage version. It tries to play it pretty much straight, and on the level of an adaptation it’s a failure of the standard collection of episodes variety. But I would recommend checking out on Youtube the Tea Party, which stars “My Dinner With” Andre Gregory as the Hatter, scary-ass character actor Zeljko Ivanek as the Hare, and a before-they-were-stars Nathan Lane as the Dormouse. Also, dig the Cheshire Cat scene. It’s… well, it’s kind of rapey. Anyway, check out the cast, featuring Old Alice and her Famous Dad.

(With Larry King as the Red Knight! Tim Conway as Tweedle Dorf! And Dean Cain as Dinah!)


This all-star TV adaptation is likely to be remembered vaguely by most of you reading this, which is fine, since I’m remembering it pretty vaguely myself. The mid-late 90s were a fine time for network TV miniseries based on books, both Stephen King and otherwise. Eventually, someone had the bright idea to scrape together all the celebrities that weren’t up to much else, and have them do this movie. Some of them are the kinds you expect to find on a TV movie. Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat, George Wendt as Tweedle Dee, etc. Some are a little more unexpected, like Robbie Coltrane as Tweedle Dum or Miranda Richardson as the Queen of Hearts. Some are just bizarre, like Ben Kingsley as the Caterpillar, or Peter Ustinov as the Walrus. In this version, Alice runs away from her parents’ party because she’s afraid to sing a song for all the adults. After her visit to Wonderland, she sings a song she learned from the Mock Turtle (Gene Wilder), after the characters in general teach her to believe in herself and have confidence.

It’s a good adaptation, though not a great one. The effects are nice, and with actors this good, you can’t help but get good performances. The ones that stand out most in my memory are Christopher Lloyd’s melancholy White Knight, Ben Kingsley’s randomly militaristic Caterpillar, and Whoopi Goldberg’s Cheshire Cat, which is generic and not crazy enough to be good, but holy hell, you try and forget a cat with Whoopi’s head. The moments where it really shines are when it abruptly changes style. The Walrus and the Carpenter is done as a puppet show, with Peters Ustinov and Postlethwaite acting inside of a tiny box. The Tea Party takes an extended break to showcase the Hatter (Martin Short) and Hare singing a bizarre little song called “Auntie’s Wooden Leg” as the tea-table becomes a music-hall stage. The effects are good for the TV budget, particularly Short’s digitally embiggened head, and the various Henson Creature Shop puppets. Frankly, this is probably the best a straight up film adaptation can be, due to it’s actually making an attempt to adapt, rather than simply portray. Oh, and Alice is Deb from Napoleon Dynamite.

So there you have it. All the versions I’ve seen. There’s plenty of others, but since I had basically the same complaints about most of them, I doubt you’ll find much better. Too much devotion to the original dialogue, a lack of understanding of why it originally worked, orphaned punch lines and setups, hammy actors, and jumbled scenes in a non-plot are the order of the day. Of course, the movie currently in theaters isn’t a straight adaptation, it’s a twisted take on the original story, which is SUCH an original idea, I’m sure I won’t have four more versions to talk about in my next entry. Stay tuned for part 3.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alice Blog Part One

(What do these have in common? Journey on, dear reader!)

There are some movies that I look forward to because I think they will be awesome. Often I go see these in theaters and have a lovely time, rarely disappointed. Others, I look forward to out of a sense of obligation, because they’re based on something else that I like. I almost ALWAYS go to see these in theaters. I don’t know what it is, but my nerdy nature won’t let it rest. Even if I know they’re going to be crap, I still find myself there. When they announced that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was to be made into a movie, I knew it would suck. They were making Allan the hero and Mina a vampire, they couldn’t use the proper Invisible Man and were inventing a new character, Tom Sawyer was added so they could have a hot young American, even though he should have been at least 60 by the time the story took place. Yet for every stupid piece of news that emerged, every bad review, every idiotic picture… I knew that I would find my butt in that theater. Probably opening night. It always happens. Ghost Rider, GI Joe, the lesser Harry Potters, War of the Worlds, The same week, I had my mind blown Pan’s Labyrinth, I paid the same amount to watch the unpleasant, cluttered, and vaguely racist mess Michael Bay had made of Transformers. I’m doing right now, with (speaking of vaguely racist) the upcoming film The Last Airbender, based on the amazing television series minus all the Asian cultural references and plus a bunch of white people.

(Yeah, they're white.)

But there is one director who holds a special place in my heart because I look forward to all of his films in both ways. I love the director and think he’s amazingly talented, but his spotty track record, particularly when it comes to adaptations, leaves me nervous and fidgety, fearing that each new film is going to be… Well, Planet of the Apes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I refer to Tim Burton.

(What an awkward date.)

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Burton’s capable of greatness. But I still get nervous. Plenty of his movies I just have not enjoyed, and they’ve all been adaptations, usually of something I quite liked to begin with. I’m not going to get into a huge analysis of what I liked and what I didn’t, it’s just that sometimes, he gets a little too into himself and makes a movie which I find crappy. Now this Alice isn’t exactly an adaptation, but it’s still based on a book, and when Burton gets it into his mind to put a unique stamp on a book, I get nervous. I also feel that he casts actors he likes at times when a different actor would be far better suited for the part, and when the first ad, released a year or so before the movie comes out is just a picture of Johnny Depp, I get nervous. Burton sometimes lets his unique visual style that get in the way of the plot, and when he’s got a huge-budget CGI fantasy world story, I get nervous. So, you know, I’m just a little wary. Maybe he’ll hit every note and I’ll love it. I’m certainly hoping that’s the case, and half of my mind is really looking forward to this. The other half is just kind of worried.

(I hope this essay doesn't make you think of me as a Mad Hater.)

And feeding the other half is the fact that this is based on Alice in Wonderland. Has that ever worked out? Come back to this spot tomorrow to read my thoughts on that matter.

(Besides, he wanted to dress Superman like this.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Wizard Post

Well, I went home with the waitress
The way I always do
How was I to know
She was a Death Eater, too

I was gambling in Knocturn Alley
I took a little risk
Don't send lawyers, guns and money
Those wizards don't know shit

Now I'm hiding out in Hogwarts
I'm tired of this bull
Don't send lawyers, guns and money
Unless you're a muggle