A busy Monday in movieland…

…And not a whole lot of time to talk about it.

* Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” tested as the most memorable film commercial during last night’s hugely rated Superbowl and understandably so, it’s genuinely beautiful stuff. Past versions of the classic, however, have been somewhat hampered by the episodic — you might even say pre-Pythonesque — structure of Lewis Carrol/Charles Dodgson’s freewheeling children’s literary classic. (The first work of art to ever really blow my mind, I think.) The idea this time is to get around that problem by turning the film into something like a sequel to the original as concocted by writer Linda Woolverton. Storylines, or the lack thereof, have been Burton’s Achilles heel in the past, so this should be interesting.

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* The late Michael Jackson’s doctor has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

* We’ve had movies based on toys and board games, so why not a new movie based on this blog?

* In the seventies and eighties, horror films were often named after holidays. Now it’s ensemble romantic comedies, apparently.

* “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” meet “Mr. and Mrs. Jones.” (I guess “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Episode 1” didn’t do well in focus groups.)

* I’ve always loved Robert Wise’s great film of “The Andromeda Strain” and there are few movies I’ve detested more than Wolfgang Peterson’s “Outbreak.” (A virus is threatening all of humanity and I’m supposed to be distracted by an adorable monkey on loan from an overrated sitcom and helicopter chases???) I’m sure Steve Soderbergh’s “Contagion” will at least try to be closer to the Wise approach. Soderbergh may be uneven because he’s so unafraid to take huge chances, but when he pulls a movie together, few are better.

* Yet another item from Deadline|Hollywood’s ace, non-venomous reporter, reporter, Mike Fleming. Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of Michael Mann, is directing her first big feature (but not her first feature). It’s an intriguing sounding fact-inspired thriller about a series of unsolved Texas murders tied with the drug trade.

  

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Encounters at the End of the World

I’m a reasonably big fan of Werner Herzog, the film performer, documentarian, and wryly humorous, neurotically heroic philosopher-poet. When it comes to his hugely acclaimed fiction films, however, I can become impatient with their emphasis on pure thought over pure storytelling. Though it is a reasonably straightforward documentary, “Encounters at the End of the World” has elements of both sides of Herzog’s output. Instead of being driven by a sharply dramatic real-life narrative like the one in Herzog’s brilliant 2005 nonfiction, “Grizzly Man”, 2007’s “Encounters” is basically a quasi-philosophical and psychological exploration of just what it is that drives a certain species of extremely intelligent people to frozen (still, for the time being) Antarctica — a place that, as Ernest Shackleton learned the hard way, might as well have had a giant “no human beings allowed without space-age technology or a death wish” sign pasted on it.

Herzog obviously loves the hyper-intelligent rebels and happy misfits the place attracts as much as its sometimes mind-blowing beauty. There’s also plenty of cinematic and verbal rumination, including a soliloquy by Herzog in which he muses about what he sees as the impending end of all human life in a more or less fatalistic matter — not so much an “if” as a “when.” On the other hand, in a brief, intriguing interview with a former linguist, the director also appears to be deeply concerned with preserving dead languages for future generations…so, maybe he’s not expecting the end tomorrow. Still, for all its bone-deep beauty and for the sweetness of its intentions, its Herzogian concern with reality-based eschatology makes “Encounters at the Edge of the World” easily the most disturbing G-rated inquiry into science and possible end times since Robert Wises’ “The Andromeda Strain.”

Click to buy “Encounters at the End of World”

  

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