Alice in Wonderland: People on the internet sure like to complain about Tim Burton! Every time I’ve come across any kind of Alice-related thread on a movie blog, it’s mostly composed of a bunch of comments that read like parodies of Simpsons fans, talking about how his movies haven’t been good in five/ten/twenty years and/or ever, his shtick is tired, he panders to overgrown adolescents, blah blah blah. The thing is, that blanket rejection of Burton sounds just pretty adolescent itself; film geeks, if you want to pretend that, say, Peter Jackson (or an even more superficially grown-up director like Paul Greengrass) makes more interesting movies than Burton, go on with your bad message-board selves, but I’d put Burton’s filmography up against any number of big-studio directors. If he has a problem, it’s his willingness to embrace projects that seem so pre-Burtonized that his involvement comes off as slightly redundant. His very best movies are informed from the tension between, say, superheroics and the director’s interest in freakshow psyches (Batman Returns), or benefit from his eye for locating the absurd in the real world (Ed Wood; Big Fish). Then again, even his gimme projects like Sleepy Hollow tend to be lots of fun; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is actually way better than the Gene Wilder soft-focus soft-shoe version, and his Alice in Wonderland will probably be more entertaining than the Disney cartoon from the fifties.
Brooklyn’s Finest: Since Ethan Hawke’s cheeks went all sallow, he’s been playing a lot of low-level cops and robbers: Taking Lives, Assault on Precinct 13, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, What Doesn’t Kill You, Staten Island, and now he’s reuniting with his Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, for another ridealong of sorts. When I first heard about this movie, I was pretty sure someone put one over on naïve new distribution arm Overture Films and actually just sold them a beat-up print of Street Kings. But no, this is a movie of its own. Though Cheadle and Hawke are the main attractions, doing their best to balance out the Gere factor, I’m most interested in this movie because it brings Wesley Snipes back from DTV land. Former movie star badass Wesley Snipes! Get him into a Statham picture, stat! Is it too late to CGI him into Stallone’s Expendables movie?
Stolen: I wonder if Jon Hamm saw a chilling vision of his future while working with conspicuously failed leading men James Van Der Beek and Josh Lucas. Just remember, Hamm: ain’t nothin’ wrong with character acting.