Alice in Wonderland
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (A-2,
PG): Alice Kingsleigh (Mia
Wasikowska, Defiance) is the
daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate
(Marton Csokas, Kingdom of
Heaven) and of marriageable age. One
beautiful summer day her mother
(Lindsay Duncan, Rome) takes Alice to
a Victorian garden party where it is
expected that the boorish Hamish (Leo
Bill, Me and Orson Welles) will propose
and she will accept.
Alice shocks everyone when she wanders
off to consider the proposal
vis-à-vis her dreams of a future
traveling the world to continue
her father's business. When Alice
sees a rabbit in a waistcoat, she
follows him and tumbles down a
hole into a place called "Underland."
She drinks a potion that makes
her small and eats cake that makes
her big. She encounters a "Mad
Hatter" (Johnny Depp, Public Enemies),
who is in charge of some
strange characters she meets.
These consist of the twins Tweedledee
and Tweedledum (Matt
Lucas, Astro Boy), the Cheshire Cat
(voice of Stephen Fry, V for Vendetta),
Absolem the Caterpillar (voice of Alan
Rickman, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham
Carter, Terminator Salvation), the
White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Bride
Wars), the Jabberwocky (Christopher
Lee, Corpse Bride), and the list goes on.
Alice in Wonderland is based on the
classic 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The first
(silent) film version was released in
1903, and the book has been made into
more than 20 movie and television
adaptations since then.
Director Tim Burton (Corpse Bride)
and screenwriter Linda Woolverton
(The Lion King) present a more mature
Alice here. She is no longer a confused
adolescent, but a young lady who
comes of age via the exercise of her
moral imagination. Through her afternoon
journey she is able to consider the
consequences of choices and qualities
of character that make up a mature
person. This leads her to make an adult
decision of her own. The transformation
of the Caterpillar into a butterfly
symbolizes the entire film—the dying
of childhood and taking free flight into
the beauty of the future.
Alice in Wonderland is a delightful
visual feast that pulls in the viewer so
much that it doesn't really matter that
the narrative is rather prosaic. There is
a beginning, a middle and an end
which are somewhat disappointing,
given the amazing dreamlike universe
that the filmmakers went through such
trouble to create and populate. Some
fantasy action and violence.
The Mighty Macs
THE MIGHTY MACS (not yet rated): It is
the early 1970s, at the dawn of the
women's movement and just before
Title IX programs for athletics were
extended to women. The president and
mother superior (Ellen Burstyn, W.) of
the small Catholic all-girls Immaculata
College, northwest of Philadelphia,
hires a new basketball coach, Cathy
Rush (Carla Gugino, Race to Witch
Rush, who is non-Catholic
and newly married to Ed (David
Boreanaz, Bones), discovers that
the team has no uniforms or a
gym to practice in and that the
school itself may soon be sold.
But she takes on these challenges
with sheer determination. Ed
thinks that she is just trying to
find a way to spend her time, but
becomes confused by her dedication
and their marriage suffers.
Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton, W.) is questioning her vocation
and wants to request a leave of
absence from the community. But
Rush notices her interest in basketball
and invites her to be the assistant
coach. They become friends, and the
young nun grows in her understanding
of her own calling.
With the energy and talent of the
team, coaches and nuns, the Mighty
Macs power their way to the first
AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate
Athletics for Women) national championship
in 1972. They would subsequently
win in 1973 and 1974, as well.
The Mighty Macs is based on a true
story, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Sisters were consulted on the film. The
story was developed for the screen by
first-time writer/director Tim Chambers
and producer Pat Croce.
Themes of hard work, faith, character
and heart permeate the film. Coach
Cathy tells the girls before a game: “'Do you know that in a race all the runners
compete? But only one receives the
prize. So run, that you may obtain it'—Corinthians. You've earned the right
to run the race tonight and it's O.K. to
want the prize. Do you know why
teams get to championships?"
A player answers, "Trust."
Rush continues, "That's why they
get to the championships. But do you
know why they win championships? I
want all of you to point to yourselves.
That's right. Look where you are all
pointing [to their hearts]. This is why
championships are won. One team,
one beat, one heart."
Though the film gives off a low-budget
vibe, the feel is authentic and
consistent with the story. The acting is
frank, open and moving. Cathy Rush,
a breast-cancer survivor, was inducted
into the Basketball Hall of Fame in
2008 with Pat Riley and Dick Vitale, and
the little college is now Immaculata
University. Mature themes.
THE PERFECT GAME (not yet rated, PG):
In the mid-1950s a ragtag bunch of
boys on the outskirts of the industrial
city of Monterrey, Mexico, formed a
baseball team under Padre Estaban
(Cheech Marin, Beverly Hills Chihuahua)
and a washed-up janitor, César (Clifton
Collins, Jr., Star Trek), who once worked
for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The story takes off when César sees
Angel Macias (Jake T. Austin) trying to
pitch. César, who has always loved
baseball, begins to train Angel, but lies
about his history with the Cardinals.
Angel, in turn, convinces him to become
the team's coach.
This small team of underdogs from
mostly poor families joins the Little
League Organization. They overcome
racism, family and financial challenges
to make the playoffs in the United
States and go on to win the 1957 Little
League World Series—the first non-USA
team to do so. And Angel Macias throws
the second perfect game in Little League
history. (In a perfect game, a pitcher
does not allow anyone from the opposing
team to reach first base.)
The Perfect Game is based on the 2008
book by W. William Winokur, who also
scripted the film. Director William Dear
(Angels in the Outfield) draws credible,
inspiring and entertaining performances
from the young actors.
Some aspects of the script and movie
reveal lazy filmmaking, however. The
filmmakers include one regrettable
scene of a Mass where their lack of
knowledge and sensitivity about Catholicism
required a consultant and
may irritate viewers. Some of the typical
clichéd comments boys make about
girls could have been easily left out.
But all in all, the film is a David and
Goliath story about teamwork, character
and good baseball. Some mature
SUNSHINE (PBS, May 4, check
local listings): A look at two
generations of Catholic unwed
mothers in Victoria, Texas, and how
social and religious reactions to unwed
mothers have changed.
V (ABC, Saturdays, 10 p.m.): V, which
stands for "visitors," is a "re-imagining"
of the 1980s sci-fi miniseries by the
same creator/writer, Kenneth Johnson.
It stars Morena Baccarin as Anna, the
leader of the aliens who wish to enter
into diplomatic relations with the
Scott Wolf stars as a gullible, smitten
television news reporter. Joel Gretsch
plays Father Jack Landry, who must
decide to fight the aliens or sit back
and run the parish.
The beautiful and creepy aliens seek
to draw in Americans by offering universal
health-care clinics and other benefits.
The show seems almost too
overtly political, given the ongoing
debate on health care and immigration.
But with space aliens and science
fiction, anything can happen.