The dark underside of Boogie Nights is tracked in Wonderland, a sleaze-filled look at the notorious "Wonderland Murders" of 1981. The movie attempts to explain how the legendarily endowed porn actor John C. Holmes was invo... more »lved in the killings, while deliberately suggesting the difficulty of knowing the truth of a murky case. The police procedural aspects turn out to be less intriguing than the weirdly hapless domestic life of Holmes (Val Kilmer at his most dazed), who despite his promiscuity continues to rely on his starchy, clean-cut wife (an unflattering role for Lisa Kudrow, but the most interesting character in the picture). Well-known actors--notably a near-unrecognizable Dylan McDermott--slouch through the story, which rather distracts from the aggressively realistic approach. In the end, the unclean aura makes one yearn for the stylized ingenuity of Boogie Nights, or at least a reason to be watching this story this way. --Robert Horton« less
Eric James Cooper | Highlands Ranch, CO USA | 02/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film gives you two points of view of the Wonderland murders. One from Dylan McDermott and one from Val Kilmer (as John Holmes). I think the sheer brutality of these murders are enough to captivate, but the film basically goes nowhere. You don't learn anything about Holmes other than the fact that's he's a major drug addict. The film has nothing to do with porn or sex. It's a true crime movie that just never really gets off the ground. The second disc is a documentary on Holmes himself. That is the better disc. It gives you an in-depth look at the life of a guy with a practical-joke sized piece of anatomy. This documentary is far more interesting than the film Wonderland.There is a 25 minute crime scene police video included as well. It is as graphic as graphic gets. The bodies are still there as the police carefully document the bloody scene. I assume it's there for shock value. Don't let your kids anywhere near this."
Val Kilmer is back to doing what he does best...acting!
C. Law | USA | 10/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the film, WONDERLAND, Val Kilmer comes back to doing what he does best...acting! Yes, after several flops and what the hell were you thinking roles (AT FIRST SIGHT, RED PLANET, HARD CASH a.k.a RUN FOR THE MONEY), Kilmer returns as infamous porn star John Holmes.WONDERLAND chronicles Holmes after his `fame' in the porn industry and his `supposed' involvement in the murder of four drug dealers (including Josh Lucas, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Tim Blake Nelson, and Janeane Garofolo) who were brutally murdered in a house on Wonderland Ave. in Los Angeles in the summer of 1981.Much like BASIC did earlier in the year, WONDERLAND tells its story in a RASHOMON like fashion, showing two different interpretations of the same events. One story is that of John Holmes, while the other is that of career criminal David Lind's(Dylan McDermont), leaving the audience wondering who they should believe. You see, neither one is a reliable source. Actually, both characters are very unlikable. For that matter, there isn't a likeable character in WONDERLAND, which will make some people find the experience uncomfortable and others, like me, fascinated by the sheer stupidity of the characters and the way in which the director and the screenwriter have pieced together their `tattle tale' stories. That's one of my favorite aspects of the film. The stories. I loved the fact that the film tells the story from several different points of view. It actually made me feel like a detective as I watched the film. Who's lying? Who's telling the truth? Who's guilty? Who's innocent? Is anyone innocent? These are all question's that police detectives are more than likely faced with every day and it was fun to see how these stories come about What did happen out in WONDERLAND? Did porn king John Holmes actually participate in the murders? AS the film sort of does (even though I think it's clear where the film itself stands), I'll let you make your own decisions.One thing I will say is that Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, and Dylan McDermont, yes Dylan McDermont (he's almost unrecognizable), are absolutely wonderful in this film! Their performances are worth the price of admission alone. The bottom line is that after WONDERLAND is over, you may feel the need to take a shower to wash off all of the slime its grimy characters have just drug you through, but, while you're watching the film, it's a hell of a journey through the human psyche and the violence of mankind.B"
Indispensable package for Wonderland aficionados
John | Southern California | 07/05/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I felt that this movie was unfairly bashed by newspaper critics. I got the impression that none dared venture anything positive once a consensus had been established.
I was so curious about this affair after reading the Rolling Stone article years ago that I saw this movie when it was first released in theaters; I wanted to see if it corroborated the article. So did it? That's the movie: two different versions of the heist are presented --John Holmes' and David Lind's. It's one thing to hear a story, but something else to see it enacted. John Holmes' version was amusing to see enacted because it made his lies obvious; some things could not have happened as he told them (ridiculous) and the audience laughed on those. Toward the end is a chilling Roman holiday of a murder scene that I believe, all things considered, is as close to the truth as we will come. For example, I believe it was Deverell who answered the door, and I am convinced that Holmes was there and probably coerced into participating in order to implicate him and thus prevent him from turning against Eddie again by testifying.
This two-disc set also includes omitted scenes, a Crime TV segment, and telling interviews with Sharon Holmes, Dawn Schiller, and people who knew Holmes from "the industry." There are photos taken of the victims when they were alive which I found very interesting, just to see what they looked like. The LAPD crime scene video was not as hard to take as I had expected, mostly due to the then-poor quality of video tape (it has come a long way since 1981 and this will jog your memory); three of the four just look like they're sleeping except that their hair is caked with blood. There are also interviews with some of the actors. I didn't know who Josh Lucas was before seeing this; his performance was outstanding. "
Make sure you get the 2-disc set!!!!
Timothy P. Molthan | 02/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two different releases of this out there. One is the movie (with, I think, a few extras) on one disc; the other is a two-disc set which includes the documentary "Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes". Watch the documentary FIRST, as "Wonderland" will make a lot more sense and be ten times more enjoyable if you do. That said, "Wonderland" is a fantastic, gritty film that I can count as one of my all-time favorites! Val Kilmer is so good as porn star John Holmes, you won't believe it. Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, and EVERYONE in the cast is outstanding! Watch for a cameo by Paris Hilton as well. Everyone chews the scenery in this realistic film that went unnoticed in theatres but is becoming a cult classic thanks to the magic of DVD! I can't recommend it any more highly!"
Interesting But Flawed Account of the Notorious Wonderland M
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 11/28/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the 1970s, when pornographic movies became increasingly available to mainstream consumers, John Holmes (1944-1988) parlayed his supersized endowment into stardom. Those who knew him well describe him as likeable but somewhat dim; when his stardom began to fade he had nothing on which to fall back, and he became just another drug-addicted has been, trading on what was left of his dubious celebrity for a line of cocaine here and a line of cocaine there. In 1981 Holmes tended to bounce between big-time drug dealer Eddie Nash and a group of smaller-time dealers who lived on Wonderland Avenue in Los Angeles--and found himself greatly over his head.
Police described the Wonderland murder case as the most gruesome murder scene since the 1969 Manson family killing spree. Although theories differ in details, they are consistent in outline: Holmes set up Nash for robbery by the Wonderland dealers; Nash responded by having Holmes set up the Wonderland dealers for a mass hit, carried off by people weilding pipes. Four people died, one survived with serious injuries and without memory of the attack. The 2003 film WONDERLAND attempts to portray both the crimes and the conflicting stories that Holmes, Nash, a Wonderland insider, and others gave during the course of the investigation.
Val Kilmer is unexpectedly convincing as the whining John Holmes, unable to focus beyond the next score, coming up with one silly idea after another. Lisa Kudrow is particularly memorable in the role of Holmes' estranged wife, Sharon; Kate Bosworth equals her as Holmes' current girl, Dawn Schiller. Although the movie is littered with cameos that actually tend to distract--Paris Hilton and Carrie Fisher, among others--the supporting cast is also quite fine. But the script, editing, and overall concept lets them down: it begins well and finishes well, but the middle portion of the film is weak and the overall movie lacks emotional or psychological depth.
WONDERLAND's characters are not likeable, and director and co-writer James Cox doesn't even attempt to find a means of bringing us inside their heads and lives in a way that makes them understandable, much less sympathetic. The film instead attempts to jump from character to character and idea to idea while also sliding back and forth in time--and in the process never quite stays in one place long enough for you get a firm grip. Everything does eventually link up, but all the same you'd better not blink too often as the movie plays out: if you do, you'll be lost when the final credits role.
The film is also plagued by a lot of hand-held-camera cinematography, presumably in order to convey the drug-laden atmosphere through which the characters move; there are also quite a few graphics, split screens, and so on. I find that a little of this goes quite a long way, and between the camera tricks and the constant shifts WONDERLAND looses focus and at times becomes a little wearing.
Even so, WONDERLAND still manages to be an interesting film, the sort of film that you wish had been undertaken by a great artist instead of director and co-writer James Cox, who would be most gracefully described as somewhat unpolished. There are at least two DVD issues of the film, one that is the film alone, another which also includes a documentary on John Holmes that is actually more interesting than the movie itself; if you have to pick between the two, go with the latter. Recommended, just don't expect too much.