REVIEW: WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

CAST

Gene Wilder (The Producers)
Jack Albertson (The Fox and The Hound)
Peter Ostrum (Sicko)
Roy Kinnear (Watership Down)
Julie Dawn Cole (Camille)
Leonard Stone (Soylent Green)
Denise Nickerson (The Electric Company)
Nora Denney (Splash)

In an unnamed town, children go to a candy shop after school. Charlie Bucket, whose family is poor, can only stare through the window as the shop owner sings “The Candy Man”. The newsagent for whom Charlie works after school gives him his weekly pay, which Charlie uses to buy a loaf of bread for his family. On his way home, he passes Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. A mysterious tinker recites the first lines of William Allingham’s poem “The Fairies”, and tells Charlie, “Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out.” Charlie rushes home to his widowed mother and his four bedridden grandparents. After he tells Grandpa Joe about the tinker, Joe tells him that Wonka locked the factory because other candy makers, including his archrival Arthur Slugworth, sent in spies disguised as employees to steal his chocolate and candy recipes. Wonka disappeared, but three years later began selling more candy; the origin of Wonka’s labor force is a mystery.Wonka announces to the world that he has hidden five “Golden Tickets” in his chocolate Wonka Bars. The finders of these tickets will be given a tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. Four of the tickets are found by Augustus Gloop, a gluttonous German boy; Veruca Salt, a spoiled British girl; Violet Beauregarde, a gum-chewing American girl; and Mike Teavee, a television-obsessed American boy. As each winner is heralded to the world on TV, a sinister-looking man whispers to them. Then, the fifth ticket is supposedly found by a millionaire in Paraguay, South America, much to the dismay of Charlie and his family.The next day, Charlie finds some money in a gutter and uses it to buy a Wonka Bar. After eating it, he uses the change that he has left to buy another one for his Grandpa Joe. At that time, the newspapers reveal that the Paraguayan millionaire had faked his ticket, and when Charlie opens the Wonka bar, he finds the real fifth golden ticket. Racing home, he is confronted by the same sinister-looking man seen whispering to the other winners. The man introduces himself as Slugworth and offers to pay him for a sample of Wonka’s latest creation, the Everlasting Gobstopper.Charlie returns home with his news. Grandpa Joe is so elated that he finds he can walk as Charlie chooses him as his chaperone. The next day, Wonka greets the ticket winners at the factory gates. Each is required to sign an extensive contract before they may begin the tour. The factory is a psychedelic wonderland that includes a river of chocolate, edible mushrooms, lickable wallpaper, and other marvelous sweets and inventions. Wonka’s workers are small men known as Oompa-Loompas.During the tour, Augustus falls into the Chocolate River and is sucked up a pipe to the Fudge Room. After a horror-themed thrill ride through a tunnel, the group go to the Inventing Room and are each given an Everlasting Gobstopper. There, Violet blows up as a blueberry after chewing an experimental three-course meal gum, against Wonka’s warnings. The group reaches the Fizzy Lifting Drinks Room, where Charlie and Grandpa Joe disregard Wonka’s warning and sample the drinks on purpose, only to break the rules and get in trouble. They are not caught in the act, but have a near-fatal encounter with an exhaust fan. The next room is the Chocolate Eggs Room, where Wonka uses geese to lay chocolate eggs. Veruca demands one and sings “I Want It Now”, then falls down the garbage chute leading to the furnace. Her father too falls while trying to rescue her. They go and test out Wonka’s Wonkavision to find that Mike has teleported himself and turned a few inches tall. All of this misbehavior has Oompa Loompas singing about their bad conduct.At the end of the tour, only Charlie and Grandpa Joe remain, but Wonka dismisses them, without awarding them the promised lifetime supply of chocolate. Grandpa Joe follows Wonka to ask him why. Wonka angrily tells him that, because they had violated the contract by stealing Fizzy Lifting Drinks, and also because of the expense to clean the Fizzy Lifting Drinks Room afterward, Charlie and Grandpa Joe would receive nothing. Grandpa Joe becomes livid and, seeking revenge, suggests to Charlie that he should give Slugworth the Gobstopper that they got in the Inventing Room, but Charlie can’t bring himself to hurt Wonka intentionally and returns the candy to him instead.Image result for willy wonkaWonka immediately changes his tone, and declares Charlie the winner. He reveals that “Slugworth” is actually an employee named Mr. Wilkinson, and the offer to buy the Gobstopper was a morality test for all the kids. Charlie was the only one who passed. The trio enter the “Wonkavator”, a multi-directional glass elevator that flies out of the factory. Soaring over the city, Wonka reveals to Charlie that his actual prize is the entire factory itself because Wonka had created the contest to find an honest child worthy enough to be his heir. He informs Charlie that he and his family can move into the factory immediately.Image result for willy wonkaWilly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of the all time classic children’s’ films ever made and even after some 35 years since its original release, this version remains as fresh, as bright, as delightful and as exciting as ever.

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REVIEW: ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1999)

CAST

Tina Majorino (Veronica Mars)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Martin Short (Mars Attacks)
Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: Generations)
Simon Russell Beale (Into The Woods)
Ken Dodd (Hamlet)
Gene Wilder (willy Wonka)
George Wendt (Cheers)
Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter)
Richard Coombs (Labyrinth)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Elizabeth Spriggs (Impromptu)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Peter Ustinov (Animal Farm)
Pete Postlethwaite (Solomon Kane)
Donald Sinden (the Day of The Jackal)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)
Joanna Lumley (Corpse Bride)

The film follows the storyline of the book closely, save for adding some scenes from Through the Looking-Glass. It also changes the opening real world scene from Alice and her sister sitting at a riverbank to Alice in her bedroom, reluctantly practicing the song “Cherry Ripe”, which she is expected to perform at a garden party. (The party guests are played by the same actors as the Wonderland characters, and are shown as resembling them in appearance and personality, in a similar manner to the MGM version of The Wizard of Oz. The toys in Alice’s room also reflect the residents of Wonderland). Thanks to stage fright, and constant nagging from her confident governess (Dilys Laye), Alice runs out of the house and hides herself in the woods nearby until the party has ended. However, an apple floats down from the tree and seems to hover in Alice’s face. She is suddenly distracted by a human-sized White Rabbit (voiced by Richard Coombs) rushing by. Curious, Alice follows the White Rabbit, falling down his rabbit hole and ending up in Wonderland.

Alice travels throughout Wonderland, meeting a large number of bizarre people and challenges. Alice first has problems keeping her size the same while attempting to go through a small door leading to a beautiful garden, eventually she grows massively tall and floods the room she is in with her tears before shrinking to the size of a mouse. She then meets Mr. Mouse (Ken Dodd) and his avian friends who participate in a Caucus Race, where everyone wins. Alice encounters the White Rabbit again who directs her to his house. There, Alice comes across a bottle of liquid that makes her enormous and trapped in the house. The White Rabbit and his gardeners Pat (played by Irish comedian Jason Byrne) and Bill attempt to remove Alice by going down the chimney, but Alice shrinks again. Wandering in a forest, she encounters Major Caterpillar (Ben Kingsley) who advices her to not be afraid before transforming into a butterfly. Alice grows back to normal size by eating part of a mushroom. She ventures to a nearby manorhouse where she meets the musical Duchess (Elizabeth Spriggs), her baby, her pepper-obsessed plate-throwing cook (Sheila Hancock), and the Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg). The baby is left in Alice’s care but it turns into a pig and is released. The Cheshire Cat advices Alice to visit the Mad Hatter and his friends the March Hare and the Dormouse.

Meeting the trio at a tea party, Alice is given rather odd advice on how to avoid stagefright, the Mad Hatter (Martin Short) leaping onto the table to do his performance he previously did at a concert of the Queen of Hearts. Alice eventually leaves when the Mad Hatter and March Hare begin smashing cups and plates. They also try stuffing the Dormouse into a teapot. She comes across the small door and using her intelligence, succeeds in getting through it into the garden which is actually the labyrinth maze belonging to the Queen. The Queen of Hearts (Miranda Richardson) invites her to a bizarre game of croquet, but her love for decapitating people annoys Alice. The Cheshire Cat’s head appears in the sky and is ordered to be executed, but reasoning from Alice stops the Queen. The Duchess arrives to answer the King’s question of who the Cat’s owner is, but the Cat has vanished. Alice leaves the croquet game, meeting the Gryphon (voiced by Donald Sinden) and the Mock Turtle (Gene Wilder). The two sing with Alice, teaching her the Lobster Quadrille and encouraging her. Alice then wanders into a darker area of Wonderland, meeting a White Knight (Christopher Lloyd) who encourages her to be brave and also shows her his newest invention.

Alice meets some talking flowers: a Tiger-Lily (voiced by Joanna Lumley) who is the most sensible out of all of them, some Roses which are not too bothered about Alice being lost, and some Daisies who are rascals. Having the flowers helping her, Alice walks off. Alice then meets Tweedledum (Robbie Coltrane) and Tweedledee (George Wendt) who have some antics with her before getting into a fight over a dropped rattle. Alice is then taken to the royal court where the Knave of Hearts (Jason Flemyng) is put on trial for apparently stealing the Queen’s jam tarts. The Mad Hatter and his companions appear as witnesses but he is accused of stealing someone else’s hat and is recognized by the Queen for singing at her concert, prompting him to sing his Twinkle Song. Alice is then called to the stand but she uses some mushroom pieces to grow to great heights. She sees the jam tarts have been untouched and the trial is pointless. She openly criticizes the Queen, the King and Wonderland. The White Rabbit, who is present at the court, reveals he deliberately lured Alice into Wonderland to conquer her fears. He does so by first asking her if she is self-confident. Upon Alice answering yes, he simply states, “then you don’t need us anymore.” He then sends her back home using the same hovering apple that brought her there in the first place.

Awakening back home, Alice courageously sings in front of her parents and their guests, but instead of singing Cherry Ripe, she sings the Lobster Quadrille which she finds much more interesting. The audience enjoy her performance and applaud. Alice spots the Cheshire Cat in the audience who smiles at her in a term of congratulations. The film ends with the lobster quadrille, beautiful soup and some back ground music all during the end credits.

The acting and visual effects in this adaptation are second to none in my opinion. Just check out the actors involved. Impressive! The perfomance by the young Tina Majorino is nothing short of excellent, and I can’t imagine anyone improving on Martin Short’s Mad Hatter. It is wonderful treat to find films that can be shared with enjoyment by both children and adults. This is a film that achieves this – the difficult art of mixing “adult” an “naïve” qualities. It is only too rare to find these days. In short an excellent film!