The food was pricey, too.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

MOVIES Luxury theatres sound fantastic in theory: ginger cocktails, bacon popcorn, plush seating, and, did we mention, bacon popcorn? But how often do you want to pay $17.50—or $20 if it’s in 3-D—for a movie? It took about three months for the new Showplace Icon in the South Loop to play something other than Avatar or [insert Mel Gibson/Denzel Washington/Matt Damon action flick here] in one of its two VIP theatres, and last Thursday, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland convinced me go all the way with the opulence. If you read The Chaser, then perhaps you saw Amalie Drury’s excellent post about her visit in January.

I commend her for doing the smart thing: Not paying for the VIP seating. The advantages to paying an extra $5? I could bring my cocktail and panino into the theatre. Oh, and the seats are a little bigger and have small tables next to them. That’s it. But I still had to pick up my food when it was ready, which meant I missed part of the movie. My meat-enthusiast companion ordered the bacon-laced popcorn ($5), but after some contemplation, she said, “I think this is the first time I can say that bacon doesn’t make everything better.” Sad.

The screen, though, is stunningly gorgeous and crystal clear, which made watching Burton’s visually inventive (despite mixed reviews) take on the classic tale worth it . . . almost. After paying $20 for a ticket, plus $25 for food and drink, I realized I would have been just as happy seeing the movie in good ol’ 2-D using my Five Buck Club membership while it’s still valid. AMC recently bought the locally owned Kerasotes, so I assume that means the end of cheapo movies, unless you count the Logan or the frat party at Brew & View. Now I’ll be forced to sip cocktails while relaxing in my oversize seat.

Speaking of cocktails, Icon’s ginger martini ($12) had a lovely bite, but if you’re serious about spicy cocktails, then just buy this book by Kara Newman. Her shipwrecked recipe—a glammed-up version of a dark and stormy—is genius.

GO:  Showplace Icon, 150 W Roosevelt Rd, 312-564-2104. Showtimes and advance tickets

  • The Chicago Sun-Times review by Roger Ebert, 3/3:
    "Why does Alice in Wonderland have to end with an action sequence? Characters not rich enough? . . . Little minds, jazzed by sugar from the candy counter, might get too worked up without it? Or is it that executives, not trusting their artists and timid in the face of real stories, demand an action climax as insurance? [three stars]"
  • The Chicago Tribune review by Michael Phillips, 3/4:
    "Top-billed Depp doesn’t really dominate the film so much as unsettle it, slyly. While he doesn’t confine the Mad Hatter to as brittle (and misjudged) a shell as he did the eerily Michael Jacksonian Willy Wonka in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (a film I found less enjoyable than this one), Depp remains a risk-taker, and an affecting one. [three stars]"
  • The New York Times review by Manohla Dargis, 3/5:
    "The queen herself is a horror: Bette Davis as Elizabeth I and reconfigured as a bobble-head doll. Ms. Bonham Carter makes you hear the petulant child in her barbarism and the wounded woman too. She rocks the house and the movie."
  • The Los Angeles Times review by Kenneth Turan, 3/4:
    "Through no fault of its own, Alice also has the misfortune of being the first major 3-D release to come out after the Avatar revolution, and when you add in that Burton chose to shoot in 2-D and have the footage converted, it inevitably plays like one of the last gasps of the old-fashioned ways of doing things."
  • New York magazine’s review by David Edelstein, 3/8:
    "Alice in Wonderland is (in many theaters) in 3-D, but Burton doesn’t seem the least bit interested in Avatar-like immersion. The faker the better. The topiary and hedges create orderly layers of space, and the foreground figures often resemble cardboard cutouts—which strikes me as exactly how it should be, given the characters’ playing-cards origins."


PHOTOGRAPH: walt disney pictures