September 03, 2004

Ella Enchanted and Wonderland

So my two latest DVD rentals were both very much worth the time I took to watch them, though they will likely appeal to very different audiences. Probably my favorite Roger Ebert moment of the last year was his tirade against The Princess Diaries II in which he took the time out to note that there were vastly superior movies that should appeal to the same demographic, notably Ella Enchanted. Ebert was lauding movies in which the themes were more interesting, probably more appropriate for today’s girls and young women, and made with much more style and imagination. Given that, I thought I’d give this less commercially successful Anne Hathaway vehicle a look. Ebert’s praise was very much on the mark. This is a fairy tale, but one with a resourceful and strong heroine. It’s probably one of the best “girl power” movies I’ve ever seen. And it is quite funny in parts, albeit sometimes in ways that are designed to appeal to viewers much younger than I am. Though for people my age, and older than me, it is filled with 1970’s and 1980’s standards. The visual look of the movie is outstanding (both the CGI stuff – apparently the first minute of the movie took over half a year to put together – and the lovely photography), and it has some highly amusing villains (including a scenery-chomping Cary Elwes). And, being a Miramax movie directed by Tommy O’Haver, it ends in a rousing musical number.

Wonderland is a very different animal. I rented it on the strength of the cast, not expecting much more than some potentially interesting performances. But really it’s a very well-crafted crime thriller. It’s tightly directed and suspenseful, told in sort of a Rashomon style. While the topic might be worthy of VH1 or Unsolved Mysteries (the Wonderland murders in L.A. in 1981 that purportedly involved porn star John Holmes), this is a first-rate when-celebrities-go-bad film. It might be a bit grisly for some (and the DVD actually includes a LAPD video of the crime scene including the battered bodies), but if you’re into true-crime stories you’ll probably enjoy this. It also features some great period music.

Posted by armand at September 3, 2004 10:55 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Movies

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