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.