Alice (2009)Overview -
Abandoned by her father as a child, the independent twenty-one-year-old Alice is accustomed to men being unpredictable, but Jack Chase is something else. Just moments after surprising her with a rare family ring, he's suddenly kidnapped by two thugs and driven into darkness. It is then that Alice is confronted by a sharply dressed stranger who calls himself White Rabbit, and who promises to know more about Jack than she. Where Alice follows him is through the liquid glass of an ornate mirror. Where she lands is Wonderland, an outlandish underground city of twisted towers and parapets, staircases conceived in a Dali dream, and an otherworldly purple horizon. Soon, the word's out that Wonderland has its most prized captive. It seems Alice has the ring that controls the looking glass - the key to the power of the Queen of Hearts. It was mad folly for her son Jack to give it to a girl he barely knew. But Jack had his reasons. Discovering them is up to Alice.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
It's just a coincidence that Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' hit theaters at the exact same time Lionsgate's made-for-TV movie hit Blu-ray shelves, right? Yeah, this pretty much smells like a money grab on the part of Lionsgate, thinking they can cash in on the 'Alice' hype as the new Disney film rakes in money at the box office.
I doubt any of the savvy readers here at High-Def Digest were confused, but there may be some out there who might be. Just for the record: This mini-series is in no way connected or affiliated with the Tim Burton film now in theaters.
With that said, on down the rabbit hole we go. Well, this time it's a mirror in an old warehouse which sucks Alice (Caterina Scorsone, from the TV series 'Crash') through some type of wormhole resembling the ones in 'Contact.' In the real world Alice is a karate master, with a new love named Jack. Jack is apparently from Wonderland, and he's stolen the Stone of Wonderland, which controls the power to the Looking Glass. It turn out the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates), who rules the world with an iron fist (Yes, yes, you know… "Off with their heads" and all that), has kidnapped Jack. Oh, and this Wonderland is a bit different from the Wonderland we're used to seeing in movies. This is a more advanced, industrial world, with infinitely tall skyscrapers and spaceships shaped like bugs. The residents are unable to feel emotions. Or they feel them, but they're just really dull. Whichever it is isn't quite clear, but what is clear is that the Queen and her minions kidnap unsuspecting people from Earth, bring them to Wonderland, and suck the feelings out of them. The feelings –- lust, excitement, happiness etc. –- are bottled up and sold to the highest bidder. Drink one of these and you'll feel whatever word is printed on the bottle. Let's just say, it's an interesting take on the story. Soon Alice meets up with the Hatter and they're on their way to conquer the Queen in a quest for a happy ending.
Made-for-TV movies often suffer from the same things. One, 'Alice' and its visual graphics are simply subpar. Yes, they're working on a smaller budget, but when they start flying around on motorized flamingo carts it looks like their hanging by fishing line in front of a green screen. Two, it's overly long. In order to span two days of television viewing these types of shows are usually stretched out to a whopping runtime rivaled only by movies like 'Braveheart.' Here 'Alice' is an astounding 184 minutes. Each scene is far longer than it has to be. I suggest watching it in two sittings at least. That way you won't get bogged down with the bloated runtime.
This new updated Wonderland is exciting, but not as colorful as one would expect it to be. Maybe they're trying to tell us something about urbanization as a whole, but even when they get to the vast forests, they just feel like nothing special. At any rate, there are plenty of other interpretations of Carroll's famous story out there to satisfy your Wonderland appetite, this one is just middle-of-the road.
'Alice' is a wavering jumble of a film when it comes to its 1080p/AVC encoded transfer. It's strange how irregular this video presentation can be. At times the colors abound and fine detail is ratcheted up to near perfection, then poof all the colors are muted, fine detail is thrown out the window, and extreme softness rears its ugly head. It would be easy to blame this presentation's problems on its lower budget and its origination on TV, but that wouldn't explain why it can look so stunning at times. It's a mystery. The incessant flickering on black backgrounds is nauseating. I experienced this phenomenon on another TV show Blu-ray from 'Nurse Jackie.' It's one of the most annoying occurrences that can happen during an HD movie.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio presentation is much more stable and consistent throughout. LFE is an ever present force for the duration. It rumbles as the Jabberwock chases Alice through the forest and hums as the Scarab-shaped flying ships soar through the air. Dialogue is consistently clear. Panning effects are done with care, creating an immersive soundfield. Ambient noise in places like the casino add to an already lively audio track. There's a truly enveloping part during the film where Alice and the Mad Hatter enter an elevator apparently made for a bus. As the elevator shoots to the top it crunches, squeaks, and squeals. The resulting sound is completely encompassing. While this won't continuously rock the house off its foundation with its sonics, it will put your sound system through the paces and come out as a perfectly acceptable, and at times surprising audio presentation.
A very unhappy unbirthday to you. There are no special features here other than a commentary.
- Audio Commentary - It's actually listed under the Audio Options. There's no "special features" section. Writer/director Nick Willing and Scorsone join together to give a very informative, but utterly dull commentary. You can tell that this is Willing's pet project, and he treats it as such, offering more information about the production than you'll know what to do with. If it wasn't so dull, this would be a fun commentary to listen to.
I understand why Lionsgate tried to piggyback on Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland,' likely hoping unsuspecting buyers will pick it up just because they're caught up in the hype or don't exactly know what they're getting, but it still stinks just a little. Oh well, I'll just chalk it up to creative marketing. I'm recommending this for a rental for a few reasons. First, I don't think that in my entire life I'd sit down and actually rewatch this. Second, the HD presentation is just too uneven. The audio, at times, is beautifully rendered, but as for the video… "Off with its head!"
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